Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas books that make me cry

Helen's preschool teachers gave each student in her class two books.  However, I think Snowmen At Christmas is for the children (Cute snowmen!  Hidden pictures on each page!), and Tonight You Are My Baby is really for the moms.  It's written from Mary's point of view on the night Jesus was born; the refrain is, "Tomorrow you will be King, but tonight you are my baby...."

I cry every time I read it.  "This star will bring the others and I will start to share.  But tonight you are mine to give my tender care."  This is SO how I felt in the hospital after each birth. You are mine for this 48 hours!  MINE MINE MINE.
Then, the author goes in for the kill with an illustration of Mary nuzzling the baby's head saying,  "I smile into your loving eyes and give you one more kiss./This quiet time with you, my son, is what I'm going to miss.  As I sing a peaceful lullaby, you close your eyes to sleep./This night will be the memory that forever I will keep."

Excuse me.  I need a moment.

Yes, it rhymes and is cheesy.  I don't care. This is exactly how I felt with each newborn, and it makes me cry.  In a good way. Right now it is $100 on Amazon.  Wha?  I'm sure the teachers got a good deal on Scholastic.

For Christmas, my parents are giving Helen A Christmas Like Helen's, which a granddaughter wrote about her grandmother's childhood.  "To have a Christmas like Helen's, you'll need to be born on a Vermont hill farm, before cars, or telephones, or electricity, and be the youngest of seven children."
My mom let me read it ahead of time because there is a page that talks about Helen being sick from scarlet fever and almost dying.  "Your parents will give you a locket with their pictures inside, and your father will carry you out to see the candles on the tree, thinking it will be your last Christmas.   But it won't."

The illustrations are so beautiful and the story makes me weepy.

So, if you want to cry along with me, I recommend trying to read these books aloud to children.  Uh, Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Two more gift ideas

A couple more gift recommendations that have been successful at our house:

All images from Amazon

Bristle blocks: Our preschool has these, and they were Eli's favorite toy.  He and some of the other boys liked them so much that the teachers were unable to move them out of the toy shelf rotation--the boys got too upset.  At our parent teacher conference his first year, his teacher said, "Do you have a set of these at home?"  Me: "Uh, no."  Teacher, who has never recommended we get a specific toy for any of our children before or since: "I REALLY think you should get a set."
So, I looked online and couldn't find a set for less than $30, which... really?  Then, that summer a friend of mine found a set in mint condition at a yard sale--for TWO DOLLARS.  A set complete with a family and a dog.
I see a variety of choices on Amazon for way less than $30, but you might luck out at a yard sale, too.  All of our kids play with these--even the baby can get them to stick together on his own.  I think this will be a toy I always keep for visiting children and grandchildren.

A neighbor gave Helen My Giant Sticker and Activity Book last Christmas, and she still plays with it.  Yes, it's all princesses/fairies/ballerinas/mermaids but!  They look as if they were drawn by a talented child, not by a man locked in a prison cell fantasizing about heaving bosoms.  They are so pleasing and little girlish.  It is FULL of paper dolls and stickers and activities and cut outs and I love it.  I might even buy a back up copy.  The illustrator is Sandie Gardier, and I've seen some of her other books on Amazon, although the prices vary wildly.

Apparently the publisher is Igloo Books in the UK and has lots of Sandie Gardiner works available.

YOO HOO!  Igloo Books!!!  I really, REALLY like your stuff!  Hurry up and export some more to the United States, please!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Milk of human kindness

I had my Christmastime meltdown at our neighborhood Christmas party last weekend, so I can cross that off the list.  Very close friend who has five children: "So, expecting number five?"  Me:  "Ha ha.  NO.  A thousand times NO."

There's just so much stuff.  All. Month. Long.  Chirpy magazine article on relieving holiday stress: "Just say no!"  Oh sure, I'm going to be the pinehole who doesn't send canned goods for the food pantry to each of my three children's schools or not give each teacher a gift or not bring dairy-free cookies to every event or not send in each child's advent offering or not attend my husband's work-related events or not let my children be in the Christmas pageant or not send photos to each far away and/or old relative.  Thanks, Women's Magazine!  You just cleared it all up for me!  Where's the peppermint bark?

Maybe washing all of the curtains and slipcovers with my free water will put me in the Christmas spirit!  Or maybe I should just flood the backyard and make an ice rink.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Christmastime's a comin'

Any bluegrass-loving banjo players in your house? No? You mean you don't know the joy that is listening to "Christmastime's a Comin'" over and over? Sung by your husband? AND his two brothers (when they come to visit) just to annoy you? What a sad, sad time December must be for you.

I finally ordered our Christmas card. Just when Graham's stitches came out, he fell and bruised his right cheek. Then the next day he hit his head again and got a huge goose egg opposite his scar. So I gave up on a current photo and pulled out one of all of us from the summer. That everyone I'm friends with on FB has already seen. Also, I think this might lose me points because we're all summery, but I did choose a summery card design to match the photo.... Which is weird and not at all like me because I am a snow person, not a palm tree person, but hopefully it looks all right.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Melissa and Doug need to pay me rent

I've been working on a post about toys that have stood the test of time in our home because I LOVE reading posts about toys people recommend.  (HINT. HINT.)  I have purchased so many great items on Swistle's recommendations alone.  Then I saw that today is a one day 50% off sale on Melissa and Doug items on Amazon.  Although, as Mir says, you have to be vigilant with the prices.  We lurve Melissa and Doug toys.  Yes, even though they are made in ChinaThis is not sponsored or compensated FTLOG, although it should be based on the number of their toys littering my floors.  The links are through my Amazon thingy but by all means bypass it. 

The current favorite is the Slice and Bake Cookie set.  The three-year old plays with this all. the. time.   And the other kids do, too.  And possibly the grownups.

A close second is the Birthday Cake set.  Or, some odd candle/cake/cookie combination of the two.  We celebrate a lot of events with them these days.  The server comes to take your order on a pad of paper with a crayon, and your choices are cookies, cake, or drink.  Currently your choices are Christmas cookies, Christmas cake, or Christmas drink, but they're pretty much the same as the regular ones.  For some reason, the baby doesn't put the round pieces in his mouth.  Go figure.

We also have the cutting foods box, and I see that they now slice the carrot lengthwise instead of into little choking-hazard rounds that my babies DO like to put in their mouths and walk around with, as it is in our set.  Which is why our carrot lives on a shelf.  But it is a fun toy, and the sound of the knife 'cutting' through the Velcro is very cool.

I was about to list all of the Melissa and Doug items we have that aren't 50% off, aaand  then I realized just how many things that is.  Stamp sets!  Magnetic dress up dolls!  Paint your own train!  Pull frog! An easel!  Man, we have a lot of toys.

So let's just keep it to food: we also have the food groups set (Don't worry, my kids assure me the cheese is dairy free) and the fill and spill picnic basket.  Because even though three-month old Graham didn't need or want any Christmas gifts last year, there had to be something under the tree for him.  The grape soda bottle is his favorite part; he still carries it around chewing on it.  He also actually does like to take everything out of the basket and put it back in.  The other kids use the Velcro sandwich parts a lot in their 'cooking.'

Under the Christmas tree this year, Helen will find the grill set. I'm sure the skewers are going to have to be put away immediately, but I couldn't resist.  She will also find this sticker book because I needed a quick, cheap replacement for a game I planned to give her that her uncle gave the kids instead.

I have debated forever about the cupcake set.  So cute!  But...the icing markers!  So messy!  But Swistle recommended it!  Helen will get it for her birthday.  Because I am a sucker.

I wanted to put photos in, too, but you should go look before the sale items are gone, and I need to get out of my PJs and go pick up a preschooler at her Happy Birthday, Jesus party.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Pet peeve, recipe

I am left handed.  I carry bags and babies on my right arm so my left hand is free to grab runaway children open doors.  But!  Businesses and doctors offices and post offices like to play tricks on unsuspecting lefties and unlock ONLY the right-hand door of a set of double doors.  Why?  WHHHYYY?  This necessitates shifting the baby/diaper bag/purse combo to my left arm, all the while keeping track of the children orbiting around me.  The children who aren't quite strong enough to open big doors yet because I like to run errands when at least ONE child is in school, preferably two.  Every once in awhile I'll be prepared for this, as at church yesterday, where I reached for the right-hand door, and... it was locked.  Just unlock both doors, people, as a Christmas present to me.  I promise I will stay out of the way of the people exiting in the other direction.

We had corn pudding last night.  This is the easiest corn pudding ever, from our local library cookbook.  (Another business that unlocks only one door. *cough*)

Corn Pudding, adapted from library cookbook, and Leftover Corn Pudding Cakes

2 cans creamed corn (Creamed corn is dairy free.)
1 package Jiffy corn muffin mix (They sell Jiffy at Aldi now!)
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup Fleischmann's unsalted margarine, melted (Only the unsalted is dairy free.  Go figure.)

I melt the margarine first in a 2-quart casserole dish, then mix in the rest of the ingredients to avoid dirtying a bowl.  Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Now, here's my mother's brilliant invention.  The next morning, shape the leftover pudding into little cakes and pan fry them in margarine.  Serve them with warm maple syrup for breakfast.  Mmmmm.

Friday, December 02, 2011

I scarred my baby

Two weeks ago tomorrow, I was changing 14 month-old Graham on our very high bed, and I turned to grab the wipes.  He fell off the bed, hitting his head on the nightstand on the way down.  I picked him up and he looked fine, until he turned his head.  On his beautiful, perfect forehead was a 1-inch gash, pushed in, with blood streaming down his face.  "Out is good, in is bad," I remembered a nurse told us once regarding head injuries.  "SCOTTTT!"  Scott was bathing the two middles but came running.  "I'M TAKING HIM TO THE EMERGENCY ROOM!" I yelled.  Scott got my keys, an extra diaper, my purse, made me take a few deep breaths, and let me go.

I burst through the emergency room doors and ran over to the nurses station, with both of us crying.  The nurses quickly... turned their heads with no visible change of expression or large body movements, then... turned back to what they were doing.  ER has a lot to answer for regarding my emergency room expectations.

I ran over to the admission desk where the grandmotherly lady there said, "OH! This baby needs to be triaged!"  Thank you.  A little companionable panic is all I ask.  She sent me right into the triage room.

After a few minutes of crying and rocking Graham, a nurse came in.  "Let's see, you hurt your head, and Mommy is very upset.  Let's just cover that with gauze so it doesn't upset Mommy so much."  Oh please, you think covering his gaping head wound with a bit of gauze is going to--oh, that is much better.

The nurse took our information then sent us back to register while they prepared a room.  After registering with the nice, grandmotherly lady who calmed me down a bit, we were sent to our little cubicle.

We waited and I cried and nursed and cried and rocked and wished I could have that moment back to do over again.  Another nurse came in saying she would be taking care of us.  "So, I hear you hit your head and your Mommy is very upset!"

Okay.  Now, I wasn't tearing my hair out and rending my garments, I was just silently crying.  I'm sure they see everything in the ER, but...  isn't it more unusual if the parent isn't upset?  (My friend who works in the hospital proper:  "Yes. That's when we call CYS.") Yet apparently the news of hysterical mommy with baby had already made the rounds.  Awesome.

She put some sort of numbing agent on Graham's head and he was able to fall asleep.  The doctor came in and looked at the cut and said he needed stitches.  He didn't say anything about checking for concussion, so I asked if we should be worried about that because of the height of the fall and force of the hit.  Doctor: "OK, we'll order a CT scan."  Dude! I just wanted you to check his pupils or something.  But now I feel like I can't refuse.  That bill is going to be fun.

He slept through the CT scan, and then we went back to our little room to wait for the doctor.  And I tried to be rational about why I was so upset.  I've been here with my other children for injuries and life-threatening allergic reactions for pete's sake.  Why was I coming unglued?  Yes, he's the baby, but I think there's more to it.  For me it goes back to how his birth story almost had an unthinkable ending.  And it's not just me who thinks so  My OB often sees my parents at various social events, and he always asks them about the baby first, my parents always thank him, and he always says, "It wasn't me.  It was God."  He talks about his concern and how he went into the next room to pray before delivering Graham and how never in his career had he seen anything quite like that.  Graham is our miracle baby, and I SCARRED HIM FOR LIFE. 

When it was time to do the stitches, the nurse explained the procedure and then told, did not ask, me that I was going to wait in the waiting room.  I didn't argue.  Sitting waiting for Graham while I listened to him scream was terrible.  Just awful.  Then the nurse came through the door carrying him and said, "He needs you."  Wow. If that was supposed to be comforting it sure missed the mark.  I KNOW he needs me.  YOU kicked me out.

We got our discharge information and went home, where Graham played with Daddy for a bit like nothing was wrong.

Now the stitches are out and the scar is healing.  He's fine, and I'm getting there.  This parenting thing is a hard gig, sometimes.  I'm sorry, Graham.