There's a great horned owl calling from the backyard of one of our neighbors. It's only hooting every few minutes, so I can't exactly record it to share ... but just imagine it's like this, only without the snow:
Want a cool closeup of how the owls hoot without even opening their mouths? Check out this video.
This is the time of year when I look at all the catalogs and commercials enviously, thinking how nice it would be to have this or that. Wouldn't it be fun to shop for new Christmas ornaments and decorations, find just the right festive handmade gift on etsy, or buy cute holiday clothing before the actual holiday?
I visit my friends' houses and see their holiday decorations tastefully sprinkled throughout. Their decorations seem to have a home - they fit with the rooms, with their lives. I doubt any of them have to scrub the cat hair off of the baseboards before they put up their trees. And we seem to be the only ones who have a ton of Christmas decorations but no flat surfaces to put them on ... our everyday stuff expands instantaneously to fill every available open space, so a table can be clean at noon and full to overflowing by dinnertime.
And then I read "my" blogs, the ones I subscribe to, written (mostly) by crafty ladies I admire. Their families celebrate simply, bypassing the mall for the handmade, trading the tinsel for a warm fire and good friends. The decorations their children make are adorable, and take center stage in their holiday scenes. Their photos of their holiday preparations practically glow with love and warmth and intention, making the commercial holiday onslaught seem that much more tacky.
And each year, I have to decide who I'm going to be this year. Mall rat? Decorator? Crunchy granola matriarch? Part of me wants to do each. I want the thrill of the hunt, and the chance to be the one who finds the perfect, over-the-top gift for each person. I want to have the cozy, glowing home with tasteful decorations that photograph well. I want to skip the craziness, make hot cocoa, and tell stories by the fire.
When we moved to this house almost three years ago, I had to face up to the fact that the decorating strategies I had used at the house in Kentucky just weren't going to work here. Our house is 1,000 square feet smaller than the one in Kentucky, for one thing, and it's a totally different style. A brass hunting horn on the wall in Kentucky looks festive - but on the wall of a 1970s split level in Cleveland, it looks ridiculous. So we've been weeding through the decorations each year, sending some on their way to Goodwill and keeping the ones that fit best. Wreaths that used to hang in every front window of our house with a candle burning every night of the holiday season? Gone, because we have a total of 1 window on the front of this house. Icicle lights we used to hang along the straight front roof of the house? Gone, because they inexplicably have burned out at both ends but shine in the middle 1/3, so even if I wanted to use the tangly little bastards, they'd look dumb.
I think this year we'll be paring down the candle selection, seeing as how many of them date to before we were married, and they just sort of sit randomly around the house not looking particularly decorative for a month before we put them back in the box in the attic. I've got to do something about the Advent Calendar Situation, as well, since I've got several paper ones that I had when I was a kid, plus the Pooh one I bought in college, plus the one I cross-stitched, plus a new Playmobil one for this year. And the kid is only interested in them for the first four or five days, anyway.
I'm going to try to continue the handmade gift thing. We made it through the gift exchange with the in-laws already, which is half the battle. And I did manage to find some pretty kick-ass gifts for the kids we buy for who I know won't appreciate a quirky handmade anything. But I honestly don't know what I can make for Liza that she'd actually appreciate as much as she would a new set of Tinkertoys or a dress-up skirt that plays the Nutcracker music. I'm even coming up blank on etsy ... but maybe something will turn up.
So tell me, what do you do to celebrate the holidays? Are you a decorator? A mall rat? A crunchy granola parent? We want details!
Because I just had to put all my clothes back on, reboot the computer, convince it to find a signal, and come here to post, just so I can participate in NaBloPoMo. Now THAT'S dedication!
Also, if I kill the kid before Christmas, do I get to keep any presents that were purchased for her before her untimely death? Because if she bites me on my arm hard enough to leave a mark - again - I swear, those toys are mine.
1. When we were in the car yesterday, Liza and her friend were pretending that they had buttons that would turn the car into a roller coaster or an airplane. As we were going up an on-ramp onto the highway, the friend yelled out, "We're on a roller coaster! Hold on to your underpants!"
2. Apparently, it was cold enough where Jason was in China to make this hat seem like a good idea:
Joking around with Liza this morning, I threw the hat to her, and I realized what this thing reminds me of: the panda heads that come flying at you when you're playing the soccer game on Wii Fit. I think I'll just start randomly throwing it at her when she's practicing (real) soccer in the yard, just to entertain myself.
Third time casting on for a pair of socks with really great yarn (thanks for the birthday gift, Susie! Wait til you see this stuff in person!), and the suckers are STILL too large. Fixable problem, but boy, is this starting to irk me. Irk, I tell you! Irk! Irk!
I can't tell if I'm just mojo-less this week, or if the Great Craft Goddess is trying to convince me I should be working on something different right now, but, gahhh, the irk!
I'll be over in the corner, taking deep breaths and looking at a pretty picture of the yarn, okay?
And maybe trying to find a pattern that doesn't rely on gauge (and doesn't end up looking like a [really beautiful] gay pride flag ... not that there's anything wrong with that ...)
With the holidays approaching, we're going to be in the car more and more often, sometimes for, oh, say, nine hours at a stretch. But now that the kid can read, I've got a really cheap way to keep her entertained:
Free holiday printables.
You can find them all over on the internet, free resources for teachers or homeschoolers to use to add a little variety to their lessons this time of year. Coloring pages, mazes, word searches, dot-to-dots, jokes, math puzzles, games, etc - it's a wonderland of stuff I can print to keep the kid busy in the backseat while we cruise the lovely and scenic Pennsylvania Turnpike.
All of these have at least some content available without any registration or payment. All it costs is some printer ink and a few minutes to pick which pages you want, and you've bought yourself at least an hour of blessed silence from the backseat. At least until they find the page of jokes, which you may want to hide until you're less than an hour from your destination, because seriously, who wants to hear the same 20 jokes over and over again for the better part of a day? Every four-year-old in the country, that's who, so just save yourself the headache and keep that sucker under wraps until you're desperate
"Alternative Energy" (get it? windmills?) is on its way to its new home, where hopefully it will be hugged and loved and puked on by cats. Pattern will be available in my etsy shop soon, assuming I don't go completely insane this week.
If you painstakingly scrape all of the mildewed caulk out of your bathtub, clean the tile with alcohol, apply new caulk, smooth the new caulk, let the new caulk cure overnight, and then decide to hit the remaining stains in the grout above the new caulk with some Tilex ...
... the new caulk turns to pudding everywhere the Tilex touches, and has to be squeegeed out, rescraped, recleaned, and recaulked?
NOW YOU KNOW!
* That's a shout out to your favorite television scientist and mine, Bill Nye, whose shows frequently had a segment that began with a voice shouting DID YOU KNOW THAT? and ended with the voice shouting NOW YOU KNOW!
I may have the only child on the planet who, when expecting and dreading a vaccination, freaks out at the idea of getting the inhaled version instead. The nurse at the county board of health H1N1 clinic that was in town today had no idea how to handle that one. How did I handle it?
"Look, I can't be the line leader today, I'm not in the high-risk group. Oooh, a lady with a bag of lollipops! I'll let you eat one even though it's 9am if you just shut up, sit still and sniff when the nurse tells you to."
She got grape.
Parenting skillz - I haz 'em.
Also ... every time she reads any flu literature, Liza calls it a "vacation" instead of a vaccination or a vaccine. Understandable mistake, but it's pretty funny when you're following the "vacation" route signs to get to the clinic.
"Look, you can balance much better on skates if you bend your knees a little. I can even shake my buttocks at you! And I didn't even fall over!"
This, this is why we will only go to open skates that happen during weekday afternoons, because I don't want there to be dozens of witnesses to any similar exchanges that are required for motivational purposes.
On the positive side of things, at her request, Liza spent a whole hour on the ice today, and I had to drag her off when open skating was finished. She can now get back up off the ice without using her hands for balance, tiptoe around in a circle on the ice while balancing on her toepicks (don't ask), march-march-march-march-glide-on-two-skates, and march/glide all the way across the width of the rink without falling down (sometimes). And whenever she starts to lose her balance, I tell her "bend for balance," and darned if she doesn't bend her knees and (usually) avoid a wipeout.
If only I had settled on "buttocks!" as the cue to bend her knees, all this standing around waiting for her to get a move on would be much more interesting. As it is, I have to entertain myself by etching rude words into the ice with my skate tracks while I circle her as she stomps along. You'd be amazed what you can spell out in cursive if you've got decent balance and are really bored ...
Opened a new etsy shop for my photographs, that's what. I'm still in the process of deciding how to present my work to stock the shop, which means it's empty right now, so there's not point to bothering to share the url right now.
Eventually I plan to offer images on notecards, plus prints that are mounted and ready to hang, among other things. It may take a while to get this set up - I'm aiming for a "soft open" in December, with it officially up and running and heavily promoted in January. I'm running a bit late for the holiday season for this year, which is a shame, but I really don't want to list things until I know they look good and are something I'm proud to sell.
In the meantime, if there are any of my images that you thing really should be in the shop, I'm happy to take requests. And if anybody is willing to be a guinea pig and wants to place an early order, give me a yell. You can contact me at lazymamadesigns (stick an a.t. sign here) yahoo (stick a d.o.t. here) com.
I'll let everyone know when the actual shop is up and running. Should be fun!
Okay, so we know Liza was pretty good on roller skates, but how is she on ice?
Keep in mind that the kid's total experience with ice skates before today was to clomp around on them for five minutes last year before refusing to come onto the ice with me. I think this year she was ready, although I'm starting to question the wisdom of watching the ice dancing videos on YouTube right before we went to the first class ...
Seasonal flu vaccine down, H1N1 vaccine not yet located.
My favorite part - the look on the nurse's face when I told him that some people on the internet are calling H1N1 "hamthrax." I think I made his day. Not hard, considering his day consists of being locked in a supply closet with a bunch of vaccine and potentially contagious people, but I still feel like my good deed for the day is complete.
"Mom, when we get back to our house, will you please take the training wheels off my bike so I can learn to ride a two-wheeler?"
Since I lack the necessary skills to simultaneously run beside the kid and take video, I wasn't able to record her first attempts on the bike. Instead, you get to see Jason's first attempt at helping her ride.
I believe tomorrow I'll be going to Target to get the handle for the back axle of the bike, because leaning over and supporting a 40-pound kid who's used to leaning at a 10-degree angle on her bike is no fun at all.
I hate spending two hours paying bills, filing papers, making phone calls, scheduling appointments, and doing other busywork. At the end of the time I have a clear desk and a lot of little scribbles on my calendar. That's it. Making things is so much more fun - at least then I have something I can brandish while talking about how soul-sucking the activity is.
At least while I was on hold I could watch the chickadee that's searching for bugs on the branches of the tree outside my window. Cute little bugger.
So basically, my afternoon consisted of soul-sucking boredom punctuated with an occasional, "Awwwww!" What have you been up to?
You know, if you take your four-year-old to a kids' orchestra concert on the morning of Halloween, you may end up with a kid who decides to go trick-or-treating dressed as "orchestra girl."
Apparently Orchestra Girl wears a polarfleece shirt, an adult-sized purple sequined mardi gras dress, silver slippers, and grey yoga pants. Light-up wand from Sea World is optional, and just gets in the way when you try to carry 48 pounds of candy in a little plastic pumpkin.
At least her partners in crime (her best buddies from the neighborhood, who were super nice and asked her to go with them to trick-or-treat on our street) were properly outfitted in recognizable costumes, somewhat mitigating the "WTF are you supposed to be?" response Liza might have gotten otherwise.
Add to this the flower-girl-dress princess outfit she came up with for the party at Jason's friend's house the previous weekend, and the Sleeping Beauty Fairy Princess With A Wand Made From a Silky And A Tinkertoy from preschool, and the kid came up with four Halloween costumes.
And not a one made any sense to anyone but her. Sigh. And all I wanted was to make her a pirate costume ...
Kids these days, with their fancy-schmancy weddings that require fancy-schmancy quilts as gifts! The nerve, giving me only six months to procrastinate until I started the thing two weeks before the wedding! Picking out hard-to-find colors, like "blue" and "green," and "whatever you think looks nice."
Now I have to go rub some liniment on my ancient arthritic hands and get back to quilting The 15-Pound Wonder Quilt. Bah! Oooh, my aching back!
Liza really, really wants to learn addition, but she doesn't quite understand that you basically have to memorize the answers so that you don't have to count on your fingers every time you're asked what 3+4 is. She doesn't want to do the flashcards if we just sit down with them, and she can't do the addition worksheets if she's wearing mittens, so I had to come up with another approach.
That's where the pirates come in. A few weeks ago Liza decided she wanted to play pirates, complete with a boat (sofa), Jolly Roger (silkies tied to a yardstick) and both swords (pvc pipe) and bandannas. I put together a treasure map, hauled Jason's chest-shaped toybox out of the basement closet, and we were in business. We searched for hidden treasure, fought off sea monsters, ate goldfish-shaped sea rations, and tried not to whack each other too frequently with the pipe.
So yesterday I made up a new treasure map. It's a key of which rooms various numbers are in. She gets a flashcard "clue" to start, and she has to figure out the answer, go to that room, and check under the number to see if she's right. If she is, she finds the next flashcard, which leads her to another room, and another, with the final clue sending her down to the toybox in the basement.
You would not believe how fast the kid is catching on to the +3s when there are pirates involved.
Also, she refuses to practice her handwriting ... unless I write out some of the words from a "science experiment" we did this morning, and then she's happy to copy them until they look right. Which is why we've got a sheet of paper that says in very decent preschool handwriting, "rub balloon salt pepper oatmeal electricity." We've also got a journal page with a drawing of me blowing up a balloon, and thanks to the wonders of really crappy preschool drawing perspective, my lips are coming out of my ears. That would be a pretty good trick if I could pull it off, though, wouldn't it?
Good thing I got some serious knitting done last week while Jason was out of town ... otherwise I'd be trying to type blog posts with one hand while knitting Very Intricate Lace, and that's just all kinds of a bad idea.
Look! Pretty colors, and all I had to do was keep knitting 10-stitch rows while the yarn changed colors for me. Score!
Anybody want a shawl that looks like this?
This is just the edging, the main body of the shawl looks like the topmost part. It's very nicely finished, and I love the pattern, but the colors just are NOT doing it for me. Should have stopped when I first decided I was only meh about the combo, but I was too far along to quit at that point. Plus, it's alpaca, and therefore sheds like a mofo all over my clothes when I wear it. Nice and warm, but I look like the cats exploded all over me.
Off to do some - gasp! - quilting. Silly friends and their silly weddings requiring silly presents ...