Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas Recap

A quick (or notsoquick) recap of a Ruff Christmas.

Christmas Eve is spent with the ILs, brother/sister ILs and all the first cousins. That puts the number at 22 (when all are there, one BIL was in the hospital). I try and get everything done for Christmas (at our house) on the morning of Christmas Eve. That includes, making my appetizers to take to Christmas Eve (this year my middle daughter wrapped 88 potstickers on Wed afternoon), making my dessert for Christmas dinner, usually a vanilla bean cheesecake (more on that later), cutting up fruit for Christmas breakfast and making homemade cinnamon rolls, also for Christmas morning. The cinnamon rolls I had done on Wed evening and chilling in the fridge. I made the cream cheese frosting, cut up my veggies, made shrimp salsa. I got a list made of everything we needed to bring...from clothes to change into after church, to gifts we need to bring and gifts that would travel with my ILs to their Christmas Day celebration. Then I have to rotate 4 children through showers. Then of course the husband and myself. OH...and I should mention...the snow. The lots and lots and lots and lots of snow we got...and were still getting.

So, I got my things done, my cheesecake in the oven, all was going well. The timer went off on the cheesecake and I opened the oven door and said those immortal words.."DO NOT let me forget to take the cheesecake out of the oven before we leave", preferring to let it cool in the oven. Slowly the kids rotated through the shower.

My oldest daughter had decided to straighten her hair, my middle daughter wanted hers in big bouncy curls, which my oldest willingly helped her accomplish. Beanie...she wanted hers curled as well but she wasn't willing to dry her hair so it could be curled. And I was not willing to fight with her over it, so I just said nothing. And of course, as I'm getting dressed to leave, she is following me around, with still wet hair, curling iron in her hand, wanting me to curl her hair. Uh, no.

We make it to the ILs and partake in th annual ritual of Tom and Jerry's. If you have never had a HOMEMADE Tom and Jerry, then you're missing out. It's something like a dozen eggs, whipped together with powdered sugar and some spices into a batter (those who are not OK with raw eggs should not partake). The batter is then placed in a mug with hot water brandy and rum (yes, I DO DO both!) Tom and Jerry's are a necessity for attending catholic service, with small children, and no place to sit. Seriously. They're like prozac without the RX.

Normally we take our Christmas picture after church but we broke tradition and did it before church. You'll note the carefully co-ordinated outfits. That is my doing. No, I don't make them match, but I do co-ordinate them. OH, and the outfits also cannot be a one time outfit. It must be something my children can wear again that won't scream..."I WAS A CHRISTMAS OUTFIT". This is not always an easy task (esp when I choose some bizarre color...like voilet as a main color).
After church appetizers appear, seemingly out of nowhere. And that's what we ate all evening. Potstickers were delicious, as was the shrimp salsa. Santa arrived and dropped of bags of gifts for the children. A "tied over" til they can get their hands on their exchanged gifts with the cousins and Grandma and Grandpa's gifts. They were all pleased with their gifts and ran off to play (or watch movies). The adults refortified and began our White Elephant. We have never done this before and I think this will become the new tradition. It worked out very well and we had lots of fun with it.

Surprisingly it was later than we expected when we started packing things up to head home. Because home is where Santa stops with the "real" gifts. We arrived home, got the kids all situated in bed, cookies and milk out for Santa. I got my jammies on, was checking my websites when someone mentioned just sliding a cake into the oven and I thought OH SH!T...my cheesecake. I raced the 3 steps to the oven and sure enough...there it was. Looking as if the San Andreas fault had taken up new residence down the center of my cheesecake. I won't mention how much in...creamcheese and vanilla beans went into that cheesecake because it would make you cry...it did me. Since it was 130am, and there was NOTHING I could do at that hour, I chose the Scarlett O'Hara route; I'll worry about it tomorrow (or more aptly, in the morning because technically it was tomorrow).

I know everyone's house is different, but here, Santa doesn't wrap. His gift (as it is only one per child unless it's a combined gift for all) is left by the tree with the child's filled stocking next to it. Yes, I know, it doesn't prolong the unwrapping but there is usually plenty of gifts to unwrap.
Santa brought the boy a new soccer ball and Madden '10, the oldest daughter a track suit from her dance studio, the middle daughter a new coat with matching hat and gloves and Beanie got her own rollerblades and a new helmet. Mom and Dad provided the "necessities"...the clothes, the new bedset, the new (second) camera, the Favre jersey, yadda, yadda, yadda. My favorite part is, though this was a pretty scaled back Christmas, EVERYONE was happy with ALL their gifts. So, no returns for ME!

Breakfast was scrambled eggs, maple smoked venison sausage, homemade cinnamon rolls w/cream cheese frosting and fresh fruit. Need a pic? Happy to oblige.
The rest of the day was spent preparing for dinner, for me. For the kids/husband it was playing in the 15 inches of freshly fallen snow, using the snow toys to build a snow fort (or half of one...we definitely suffer from attention deficit here). From the front door AND back door. (I had no desire to experience the snow first hand).Making Christmas dinner is all a matter of timing. The prime rib comes out of the oven (and needs to rest) and, unless you have two ovens, WHICH I DO NOT, then the popovers go in AFTER. My prime rib looked like this:My popovers looked like this:And the Christmas dessert? Well, I decided since the San Andreas Cheesecake was not worthy of the above, I would make ONE attempt to find an alternative and ran to Holiday (gas station) and what should my wondering eyes should appear? 6 half pints of heavy whipping cream! All the makings of Creme Brulee. And it was YUMMY!

So, the trees are still up, but I am exhausted. The thought of taking them all down and putting everything away makes me break out in a cold sweat. I may just change out the decorations and start a tradition of Valentine's Day Tree.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Saturday Sledding

We took the girls sledding today (the boy, well, he's maxed out his family time allotment) at the husband's old elementary school. Met up with our brother in law and two nieces for an afternoon of frivolity on a somewhat snow covered hill.

We brought the mock snowboard and most of the girls made it about a quarter of the way down the hill, some all the way down. I think that was luck.

The pics seem to show exactly how much fun was had by all:

It's when you get a shot like this...of your girls, in proximity, without pulling out the other's hair...well, it's worth the effort of dragging all the stuff, making a thermos of hot chocolate, and freezing your toes off...

Saturday, December 12, 2009

A Day in the Life of an Elf

That is the name of this year's display at Macy's 8th floor (formerly Marshall Fields, formerly Daytons). It was the same display as last year and looking at the yearly schedule this is the first year they have done the same display two years in a row.

And c'mon...it's not like I don't know what it's like...for an elf...being married to "Buddy the elf's separated at birth" brother...ahem...

And yes, the picture is a couple years old (and No, Beth, I couldn't hate you for providing me with so much ammunition. *smooch*)

So...figure the kids all being about 4 years older (not me though...I don't age) and taking them to a mechanical display of "A Day in the Life of an Elf". Better yet, let me show you the pictures:

Here are my girls:

Then of course, there's me and my husband (he came as his alter ego here...no sense in dealing with the mob of autograph seekers):

And at the end of the production, were pictures with Santa. Sadly, my older two chose to forgo the experience. But the younger two chose to partake in a little brown nosing:
Just to cover their bases dontchaknow.

You'll note the absence of my son. Oh, he was there. Lovin' every second of it...

You really can't tell because of the distance, but he had a look of pure unadulterated JOY on his face. He tried to keep it from spreading to his siblings by holding himself aloof...but we could read it. No...really.

A good day. Had we gone later in the day, we may have stayed for the Hollidazzle parade. But as it was, we had fun...at a day in the life...

Monday, December 7, 2009

Somewhere in the Middle

That phrase, "the truth lies somewhere in the middle" came to me repeatedly this weekend, so I looked it up and frankly, I wasn't really happy with what I read. It seemed to apply mostly to politics and how extreme views in politics make room for moderation "somewhere in the middle". And yes, when you have an extreme position, it's difficult to find compromise, especially when such a compromise means your core principles are in jeopardy. I won't get into a political debate but rather switch gears and reflect on how "somewhere in the middle" applies to me.

I have 4 kids. When something happens, one will inevitably run to me with their version of what happened. Usually it's the youngest and she is pretty good at making herself out to be a victim of those mean oppressing older siblings. If I go to the next youngest, I will get a version a little closer to the truth. My oldest daughter usually tells me what happened straight up, accepting responsibility if she's in the wrong.

I know, when dealing with my youngest two, that the truth of what happened usually lies somewhere in the middle. IF I take the time to get both sides. Sometimes I don't. Sometimes I react to a blood curdling cry of my youngest, POSITIVE her siblings are ripping her arms from their sockets. I react first and ask questions later. This is my fault because I truly believe she wouldn't respond that way unless it was dire. Well, I'm learning she knows this about me and plays to this character fault in me. She now releases a blood curdling scream if someone tells her no, looks cross-eyed at her, or heaven forbid, refuses to give her a sip of their pop. Yup...I'm learning, but I have to fight against all my instincts to react and that's not easy. I remember a story my parents told me of my sister and two cousins playing in my grandma's kitchen. My sister was around 4, the older cousin was 5, the younger 2. The younger cousin got her finger stuck in a cabinet and screamed bloody murder. My dad came running in, immediately went to my sister, wanting to know what happened. She was a little shell shocked and didn't say anything immediately when the 5 year old piped up with "Michelle, Michelle (my sister)..." trying to say she, Michelle, didn't do it, when my dad grabbed her and spanked her, thinking the cousin was saying Michelle did it. He didn't have the full story. He reacted on instinct. And to his day, he never touched one of us again. Ever. A horrible lesson to learn a very difficult way.

There is a line I recall from Return of the Jedi, after Yoda dies and Ben Kenobi appears to Luke, telling him about his father, confirming for Luke that he, Anakin, is not, in fact, dead. Ben says, "So what I told you was true, from a certain point of view." We all have our biases and will put our spin on any given situation to justify our behavior. That, I think, is human nature. Does anyone ever want to portray themselves in a bad light?

So, two things I am trying to remember: Truth will out. It will. Eventually. Like with the situation with my dad, once the waters calmed. And when you make decisions based on "a certain point of view" you had best be prepared to live by those decisions and consequences. I believe that to be harder than we think. And two...there are ALWAYS two sides to every story. Sometimes, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

It's a Grand Slam!

First, I thought it's just a fly by, given only one child being affected. But no.

On our trip back from Thanksgiving Friday evening, we stopped at a regular spot with my BIL's family to have an early dinner. We had been back on the highway for no more than 5 minutes when my middle daughter said those dreaded words..."I think I'm going to be sick." Frantically we looked about the inside of the truck for something to contain "it". The best we could come up with was a travel coffee mug. No bags (that we usually have in the event we bring the dog someplace and have to pick up after her). NOTHING. We coached her in some Lamaze breathing (I knew those would come in handy) and made for the closest exit. We made it to a gas station and she headed to the bathroom. She came out and said no, she wasn't sick but the, uh, southern hemisphere was under attack. But she still felt nauseous. I had the foresight to ask the clerk for a couple plastic bags, explaining the situation. She took them and went out to the car while I waited for Beanie to use the restroom. Daughter number 1 came in to tell me that daughter number 2 was currently emptying the contents of her stomach on the side of the gas station. We had about 45 minutes to drive to get home and luckily, we made it without any further incident. She slept most of Saturday and by Sunday she was right as rain.

Then Sunday night, Beanie starts complaining of an upset stomach. Now, let me say, this is the child that is known to cry wolf. Loudly. With a bull horn. So, we sent her to bed with a bucket, just in case. 1 am, she came to tell me there was throw up all over her bed. Oh, great. Looking at her, I knew how it got there. As an aside...can I just ask...why doesn't the vomit fairy ever visit during the day, when an 8 year old child has at least a chance of making it to the toilet? Why must she make her visits nocturnal? So, I stripped said child and got her in the bathtub (let's just say that was critical). I stripped the bed and poured baking soda all over the wet spots. I did a superfluous (for the time) clean up on the carpet, the bookcase (who knew pizza could fly?), got said child back in clean jammies, assisted with round 2 and we (at this point the husband came to investigate) got her set up at the foot of our bed (on my nice down comforter) with a bucket at both sides of her head and finally went to bed. Oh, not to sleep. I got to lay there just waiting for round 3. Each cough, each grunt, each movement had me ready to leap to her aid*. But alas, apparently round 2 rectified the situation. I was finally, around 5am, drifting off to sleep, when daughter number 1 tapped me to tell me she was nauseous and dizzy. I said go back to bed with a bucket.

So, I send my son off to school and daughter number 2 off to school. Daughter number one comes to the kitchen and attempts to drink some water only to have to make a mad dash to the bathroom. I sent the husband off to rent "the rug doctor" and bring home some ginger ale. After warning daughter number one that one should let one's stomach settle at LEAST an hour before attempting to put anything into it, my advice went unheeded. I knew better than to stand in her pathway to the bathroom as it didn't take long for it to come right back up. Luckily, she made it both times.

Whatever it was that hit them seemed to be fast and furious with a residual effect in the southern hemisphere. Tuesday, the husband was hit but only with the residual effect. I figured we were done. Nope. Tuesday night my son came into our bedroom saying he felt nauseous. I warned him to take a bucket to bed. I didn't hear from him all night (his room is in the basement). I went down to check on him and yes, he'd been hit.

So. The perfect quadfecta. When does the vomit fairy EVER hit all your kids in the same week? This was a first for me. A hat trick plus one (two if you include the husband). A grand slam. (sorry...out of sporting analogies).

Ever the realist, I understand that this is me being punished for my arrogance. I have, in the past, commented on how MY kids are NEVER sick. Ouch. That one bit me in the fanny. Never say never.

And the pessimist thinks she'll strike again. Christmas day, when I'm removing the giant prime rib cooked to a PERFECT 135 rare degrees, studded with garlic and seared so nicely, I see myself, the one who seems to have escaped this malady, turning green...

*aids=grabs a bucket and holds her head firmly over it so that there is no possibility of spillage