Saturday, December 31, 2011


 For Christmas this year, because she turns every toy she holds into a "BABY!", I bought Miss V an American Girl Bitty Baby.  I don't usually figure a doll needs to be expensive to be loved, but these are supposed to be great, long lasting dolls, and plus, they had one with red hair and blue eyes.  :)

 It was love at first sight.

 She also received a doll cradle and a doll stroller.  The stroller is particularly handy, because she takes her baby with her EVERYWHERE.

 I "suggested" about fifty names, and the one she kept repeating was Ruby ("WooooBY!  WooooooBY!), so Ruby it is.

 Oh, how she loves Ruby.  She doesn't want to let her out of her sight.

I know the feeling.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Different Boy

It's been over a week now, since the J-bird got his ear tubes put in, and I can honestly say, with no reservations whatsoever that he is a different child.  We keep expecting it to wear off, but James and I continue to marvel every single day over the massive change in the J-bird's behavior.  And I feel like an enormous jerk for a) not knowing the score earlier, and b) all the times I got so frustrated with him for his behavior before.  Yes, I get it, mothers get frustrated when their children misbehave, and yes, his behavior was BAD.   And no, I'm really not trying to make it about me, when he's the one who had the surgery.  It's just that we had reached a point where most days felt like a battle, full of constant arguing and deliberate defiance and disobedience.  I was struggling to control my anger and frustration, to be calm and gentle, to be the kind of mother I want my son to remember, rather than one who constantly hollers and sends him to his room, who looms over him with an angry face, who can't find anything nice to say.  I was feeling completely overwhelmed, and I know the J-bird was too.  I blamed myself, because bad behavior is always Mommy's fault, right?, and I couldn't figure out what I was doing wrong - I'm not a perfect mother, but I feel like I'm consistent and firm. I'm loving, I don't belittle my kids or tell them they're bad.  I've read the books and asked for advice, tried everything that seemed relevant, but nothing seemed to get the results I was trying for, and I was waking up each morning with the feeling that it was going to be a very long day.   Then those tubes went in, and it was like a switch flipped in this kid.  Parenting techniques suddenly work again.  Arguing and temper tantrums are few, far between, and easily defused.  He's still HIM - stubborn, rambunctious, ornery (and hilarious, sweet and kind) - but we're finding that he CAN, in fact, relax and "go with the flow".  Seemingly implacable behaviors that I thought were my fault are now almost non-existent.

I think that he was having more trouble hearing than we knew, for longer than we knew, and I'm haunted by the unanswerable question: How long was his hearing this bad?  How long did it take for me to get him some help?

I think that situations escalated so quickly, because we were already in a constant state of escalation, caused by his frustration at not being able to hear, and by our frustration with his reactions to not being able to hear (though we didn't know the cause).

I think I underestimated what a big deal this was,

But, on the VERY bright side, we now find ourselves with a child who closely resembles the sweet, charming, delightful little boy he used to be, just older and even more verbal (if that's possible).  He's clearly, visibly relieved, and so are we.  And now I wake up each morning, excited to greet him and get started on our day.  It's like a miracle.  I've been told this is just a psychological reaction to the trauma of surgery, and that he'll revert to the way he was, but I'm going to hope that's wrong, because I'm an optimist.  I'm going to hope that our days together will go on being full of renewed joy, and that my sweet, sweet boy has finally gotten the relief he didn't know how to ask for.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Felt Circle Place Cards

I'd planned on making some super cute cutlery holders for our Christmas lunch with friends, was a busy week, and I didn't get around to making anything until Christmas Eve, around 9pm.  I ended up going simple and cutting out the first letter of each person's name from red felt, then gluing it to a circle of white felt.

I cut out one strip of white felt for each place card and glued it at the top and bottom to the back of each circle (leaving a space to thread a pipe cleaner through).  I used sparkly silver pipe cleaners to secure them to the napkins, which were wrapped around the silverware for each place.  Totally simple, but a nice statement at the table.  Each person also got a little note, placed next to their plate - saying something I love about them and a little "Merry Christmas". 

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Cameo Plaques

 I got this idea, like so many other great ideas, on Pinterest  I'd like to make some smaller ones, to use (or give) as ornaments, but I love this slightly larger version as well.

 I started by taking profile photos of both my munchkins.  Didn't need to be perfectly focused or artistic, just...profile-y.

I re-sized them a little with Gimp, a free photo editing tool, so they'd be roughly the same size, then had them printed.

 I got these little plaques at WalMart, but I know they sell them at Michael's and Hob Lob and Joann's (etc...) as well.

 I cut the profiles out.

 Then turned them over.

 I painted them black, using your basic, cheap-o craft paint.  Took two coats.

 These are intended as holiday decor for my mom, so I painted one plaque green and the other red.

I used Mod Podge to attach the profiles to the plaques, and then I gave the whole shootin' match a couple more coats of Mod Podge to seal.  I wrote each child's name and age on the back of their plaque.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Candy Coffee

 I love coffee, but I like it sweet and white - what my mother calls "candy coffee".  I like lots of Splenda and non-dairy creamer, and I'm not sorry.  :)  Having the ugly containers out on my counter bugs me though, so I decided to change it up to something I wouldn't mind leaving out sometimes, something I wouldn't mind drop-in guests seeing on my counter.

 I found these inexpensive little bowls at WalMart - less than $3 apiece.

 And I had this frosted glass spray from an earlier project that didn't work out.

 I sprayed a tiny amount of the frosted glass spray onto a paper plate and used a fine brush to add an "S" to the sugar/Splenda lid and a "C" to the one for the creamer.

 Voila!  Took maybe five minutes, and I love them.  Very simple and subtle, but way better than what I had sitting out before.  I do think I will add some felt to the bottoms, because I am very clumsy and don't want to break these :)

Monday, December 26, 2011

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Whirlwind

 Last night

 This morning.

Very merry.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

One More Sleep

We've had a wonderful Christmas Eve this year, enjoying traditions that go back to our families of origin and traditions that go back to last year.  It's all so good.  I spent the day baking and cleaning.  We've video chatted with grandparents, opened some gifts, made cookies and chocolate milk for Santa, prepared everything for tomorrow.  Now, I'm sitting in the quiet, in the last few minutes before midnight, enjoying the stillness of my living room, all ready for my sweet family in the morning.  I look forward to this exact moment every year.  And here it is.  All the preparation and planning come to fruition, all the anticipation teetering on the brink of discovery.  Tomorrow morning will be wonderful, and I'm really looking forward to it.  I like to savor this moment though.  The before moment, when my work is done, and my cup is full. 

Here's hoping your holidays have been lovely, and that you feel love and joy and peace and safety tonight.

Always - G

Greetings From The Houx Fort Christmas

Friday, December 23, 2011

Lookin' At Lights

 There's a house about five minutes from ours - out in the country a bit - that decorates their whole yard with Christmas lights each year and synchronizes a light show to music.  It's so cool - you just pull up across from the house and tune your car radio to the right station, watch until you're done watching, and then drive away.  We loaded up the kids, along with sippy cups of hot chocolate and went out to see it tonight.

 The kids got out of their car seats and sat on my lap for the best view.  It sounds so sappy, but I really do cherish these moments, when my arms are full of my children.

 After we'd had our fill at the first house, we drove around town, scoping out all the cool ways folks have decorated their houses.  We saw such a wide variety and felt like schmos for not putting anything other than a wreath on our house.    Isn't this manger scene neat?  It was super cool in person.

And, of course, there was a house with a leg lamp in the front window.  It made me want to immediately watch A Christmas Story!

Miss V let us know when she was fed up and ready to exit the car (like, IMMEDIATELY), and we dutifully headed for home.  James and I heard the J-bird saying "Well, bye bye, Christmas lights!  I really love looking at you, and I wish we could stay and didn't have to go home.", which was simultaneously sad and hilarious - like so much of life with little kids, who are growing a mile a minute.  Each of these moments become frozen in time as precious, precious memories.  Yes, even the leg lamp.

Happy Anniversary!

To my dear parents, who've been married for 32 years today, and who continue to find ways to keep it fresh and fun - I love you both.  Thank you for providing a loving home, a wonderful upbringing, and a great example.  Though I may never get James on a Harley, I hope we're as solid and happy as you are when we've got 22 more years under our belt!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Tubes, Glorious Tubes

 The J-bird got his ear tubes today, and he did great.  We got there early and got all checked in, then changed him into his hospital jammies and waited for our turn.  He colored, played with "his" iPhone, investigated the hospital bed, experimented with an extra anesthesia mask that the nurses gave him and was pretty calm.  I have nothing but great things to say about the Pediatric Surgery staff at St. Vincent Hospital.  They were amazing and thought of everything.  Seriously.  They were amazing.  It was like the Disneyland of hospital experiences.

About half an hour before his surgery, they gave him some Versed to make him sleepy and to keep him from being scared when they had to take him away from me.  I cuddled with him on the bed as he got sleepy and silly, and then James and I walked back as far as we were allowed with him.  The actual procedure only took about 15 minutes, though it was a looooooong 15 minutes for me.  In addition to putting in the tubes, the doctor removed a big plug of...stuff that was stuck way down in his left ear.

As soon as he was awake, we sprinted back to the "Wake Up Room" and found him sitting on the nurse's lap, eating a popsicle.  The minute he saw me, he burst into piteous, confused tears that continued clear through the next ten minutes of wake-up time, another popsicle, getting dressed and checked out, walking out of the hospital and getting buckled into the car.  I would have felt badly about it, but the nurse said that most kids his age do this when they come out of anesthesia.  OK.  Sounds fun.  We set out for home and got as far as the road before he barfed.  *sigh*.  That was a low point.  We pulled over so I could clean him up a little and move to the back.  I sat in the back seat for the rest of the trip home, twisted sideways in the seat, arms awkwardly wrapped around him in his carseat as he cried and then, when the crying subsided, moaned.  I'd have sat there twice as long, knowing it comforted him.

Once we got home, I got him cleaned up and ensconced on the couch, and he started to feel a lot better.  The ibuprofen kicked in, so his left ear stopped hurting, and as I was sitting next to him, speaking in a low voice, he looked up and said, "Mommy!  I can REALLY hear you!".  I, of course, burst into ridiculous, relieved tears.  He hugged me and said, "Oh Mama, don't cry.  It's a GOOD thing!".  I cried harder, then laughed.  That was a nice. 

He took a little nap this afternoon, and now he's feeling like a million bucks, be-bopping around and frequently asking us why everything is SO LOUD.  Seems a little like a Christmas miracle.


 There's a lovely Santa in our town, who holds photo hours each year before Christmas.  You can take as many photos of your child(ren) as you like, and he only asks that you leave a donation for the Leukemia Society.  We've never waited longer than 5 minutes for our turn, and he's wonderful with children.  I expected Miss V to want nothing to do with the whole thing, and James and I were prepared to scoop her back up, but she went right to him and was cool as a cucumber.  She even said "Santa!" and allowed him to charm her with a candy cane.  The J-bird loves going to see Santa each year, and was recalling details of his visit two YEARS ago to us.  That kid has a memory like an elephant.  Anyway, the photos aren't professional quality or anything, and the neighbor's RV is always in the back of the shot, but it's a snap of a fun memory, rather than one of fussy kids who just waited three hours in a line at the mall, and I love that.

(The J-bird, putting our donation in the stocking).