Friday, December 29, 2006

'Twas very merry!

We had a wonderful Christmas. Most of the family came over for Christmas dinner and then the kiddos got presents, then the adults had our annual fun-filled Chinese auction. The food was wonderful, mostly thanks to my sister, Kathy, who provided the bulk of our dinner, including the turkey. I made Swedish meatballs, another family tradition at Christmas. The only thing that could have made it better was if the whole family could have been here (we missed the Miller part of the clan!). Oh, and snow would have been nice...

For once, Kev and I were up & awake before Joyce & Sam. That seemed a little strange. We had a nice, relaxing morning opening our presents together.

Even Reilly had fun. He loved his "Heave a Beaver" toy.

Joycie seemed happy enough with her haul.

While Sammy was beyond thrilled with his new cell phone. I sure had him fooled... he was convinced he wasn't going to get one.

After dinner, we all ended up sprawled in various places in the living room, with Michelle, Michael & Joycie claiming the sofa and, having stuffed their bellies, then stuffed their noses into their books.

While a few other family members took their hands to their crochet. This is my niece, Alana, whipping out another crochet masterpiece. With her are Jim Sr., Jim Jr. & Jim III. Our 3 Jims.

The part I was happily anxious about was giving everyone their gifts from me. I took the old photographs of my folks on their wedding day and of Dad in his Army uniform, scanned them and had 8 x 10s printed, and then I framed them all to give a set to everyone. Considering the original photos are well over 50 years old, the prints turned out really nice. Everyone was happy to get them.

Getting Joycie's graduation photos framed and hung up on the walls... & not procrastinating on that, has got me in gear to get to the framing and hanging I've been planning to do for ages. I finally got a couple of pieces of artwork from Joycie's 8th grade year and from Sam's 5th grade year into frames and hung on the wall. I've intended to do that for years, & I bought frames for it about 3 years ago... so I hauled out the frames and chose 2 pieces from each of my kids & got them done. They look so nice. I want to get a couple more framed & hung... it was really difficult to choose only 2 from each of them. Will have to post a photo sometime soon.

Christmas came and went too fast... so much to get ready for it, and it's always over too soon. We will de-decorate tomorrow, and then it will truly be over... *sigh* But we've decided to have a New Year's Eve party. Yay! We're having an air hockey tournament this year, and we're going to do homemade pizzas. And, oh yeah, get a good buzz on!!!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Sunny Christmas Eve

Kev is working and the kids and I haven't gotten around yet to anything constructive... our "to do" lists today are very, very long, but I'm busy teaching my children the fine art of procrastination, focusing on Chapter 5, "How to Ignore a To Do List."

It is a gorgeous sunny, warm day outside. Which totally sucks. Give me winter and snow... for Pete's Sake, it's Christmas!

Sammy and I got up super early yesterday morning and were in town by 7:30am. We did some shopping, primarily groceries. We were leaving town around noon, and the traffic was really starting to pick up then. Kev & the kids went shopping Friday and spent a lot of time stuck in traffic near the mall area. I heard it was beyond horrid. Sam & I planned it well, and our plan included two trips to Starbucks, so it was a pretty nice morning. Also, I didn't have to carry in or put away any groceries when we got home, so that's a Big Plus. I should, however, take a photo of our pantry to show y'all the creative way my children decided to put away groceries... it looks like they stood back and threw everything toward the shelves. It's like a modernistic pantry, representing the chaos of society. On second thought, no photo. It's a scene best forgotten. (Can you guess what one thing is on their to do list today, hmmm?)

Sammy made dinner for us yesterday... a recipe called "Bunkhouse Chili" that he learned in his home economics class recently. Michelle & Michael came over and watched a movie with us while Sammy cooked, and when Kev got home from work at 8pm, we all ate dinner together. Sam's chili was sooooo good! Good job, Sammy! You can make dinner every day!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Only a hippopotamus will do...

This morning on the drive to the middle school, Sammy and I had an interesting conversation. Today is "red and green" day at school, so Sammy wore a green t-shirt with a red hoodie, long, black basketball shorts, one bright red kneesock (from baseball) and one bright green kneesock (from soccer, borrowed from Joycie's friend Allison) with his white and green Converse shoes. What a sight! He looked so darn cute.

We got in the car and I saw him pulling down his shorts over his bare knees...

Me: Knees cold?
Sammy: A little.
M: If you were Scottish, you'd be used to it. And just think, those Scots don't even wear skivvies under their kilts. They go commando.
S: They're probably smart enough to wear underwear in the winter.
M: No they don't - those Scots are tough men.
S: That'd be cold.
M: Yeah, imagine the winter breeze on your nuts.
S: Their nuts probably shrink.
M: Yeah, their penis must shrink, too... EH! COLD! *sssurrrp* (sucking sound)
S: How do they go pee then?
M: Well, I suppose--
S: Nevermind. I don't want to talk about this anymore.


Also, I heard this song on the radio after I dropped Sammy off... "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas." I have never heard that song before... and now I can't get it out of my head. But I like it.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Livin' for the weekend

This past Saturday evening, my sister and brother-in-law, Janet & Bob, held Christmas at their house. This way, we all got to see Rogan, their grandson, and Susan, their No. 1 daughter & Rogan's momma, Stewart, Susan's fiance, Austin, Stewart's son, and Sara, Daughter No. 2, & her fiance, Derek. We won't see them on Christmas day, so it was super nice to get to spend our "Christmas" evening with them. Rogan made the most adorable little Santa.

Janet made a ton of good food, and they had a houseful of people. It was really fun. The boys got way excited... people, food, cookies, camera flashes, lots of talking & laughing, and oh, yeah... PRESENTS!

Kev had to leave the party and head into work for his 12-hour midnight shift. That sucked. One would think I would get used to his having to work this swing shift, but I just can't seem to do so... I wish he could take an early retirement. But the mortgage and Joycie's upcoming college fees scream an emphatic No. Ughhhh...

And speaking of "no"... seems like I spent most of the 2 days of our weekend telling the kiddos, primarily Sam, "no" and "shhhh" so that Kev wouldn't be disturbed. When he's sleeping on these weekend midnight shifts, it's like our world grinds to an almost-halt. It's amazing the things that turn out to be noisy. Especially in the hands of Sammy. Well, ok, that part isn't so amazing. Sam could make noise with a kleenex. In fact, he did. A lot.

I didn't get much done for home, no vacuuming or pounding in of nails... but I did get into a lot of the paperwork I brought home from the office. Nice quiet sh...stuff. I don't like doing work from my job at home, but on the other hand, I'm thankful I can be at home and still get some of that stuff done... so I don't have to be into the office so much on the weekends. Come to think of it, an early retirement for me would be nice, too... (like I don't think of that pretty much daily)

I did manage to watch a movie with Sammy. We got out my DVD, "Love Actually." One of my very favorite movies. I haven't let Sam watch it before, as it's R rated. But I let him this weekend (anything to keep him quiet!), and then when the first scene came on with the couple that does the stand-ins for the movie... ummm... I kinda sorta remembered why I hadn't let him watch it before. Pillow up, Sam, and cover your eyes, quick! Anyway, a great movie. Sammy liked it, too, in spite of the many pillow in the face moments.

Wrapping up the weekend... the best finale of Survivor ever. Yay for Yul! Cool that Ozzie won the car. And Becky... well, she must be gay. Not have a romantic thought about Yul? Yeah, right. I liked her, though. The tribal council where she & Sundra could not make fire was one of the most entertaining yet. We were all busting a gut when the jury started in with the yawning. Can you imagine trying to strike that flint over and over for an hour and half? Amazing they had any hand control or strength left to strike a match. Really good season. Be a hard one to top. The finale & reunion were both great and well worth feeling so darn tired this morning.

Friday, December 15, 2006

The Sycamores

At my folks’ place, over on the West 20 down by the river, there are quite a few sycamore trees. I love the bark on these trees. My dad calls them buttonwood trees. I took this photo back in June.

This made me think of another poem I like from my old book of Whittier poems...

There is so much about that poem that I don’t understand, like the references to Hugh Tallant, Erin’s outcasts, Aronia by the river, Keezar, Tadmor... I keep meaning to do some research, but I haven’t felt inspired to do so... I think it’s because I like the poem so much now & I’m happy in my ignorance. I love how the words roll off your tongue... this is a good poem to read aloud.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Wide awake

It's late (for me) and I should be sleeping, but instead I'm looking up stuff in Wikipedia... like onomatopoeia, malapropism, inherently funny words, cellar door, ugh, interjection (look here for the wiktionary list... ), profanity, minced oath, ejaculation (grammar) (not biological), discourse marker, holy cow, catch phrase, snowclone, neologism, memetic phrase (... oy vey!), meme (where I read this sentence, "The idea of memes has proved a successful meme in its own right, achieving a degree of penetration into popular culture rare for a scientific theory." Cool, huh.)... and, like, you know, so on...

All the while, in my head is the song, "One thing leads to another"...

Where I work there is a very tasteful, strong looking, ominously black iron fence around the compound. (I'm not sure why I chose the word, "compound." I am also not sure the fence is made of iron.) Anyway, the place is very well guarded. Several times now, in roughly the same area, I have seen several wild turkeys together pecking away at the ground. They can obviously fly over the fence, but since the fence was installed they seem to be settled in that one area. Each time I see them, I think to myself, "take a look at the turkeys where I work." Ha!

I have almost all of my Christmas shopping done. This is early for me. I haven't got the cards out yet, but since I'm taking the easy way like I did last year... no problemo. Also, Kev and I have been wrapping as we go, so that's a load off... usually we don't, and it ends up being this huge job instead of a pleasure. Nice.

And speaking of nice, the nicest, friendliest conversations I've had lately have been with cashiers at the many stores I've visited lately. Ain't that weird.

And speaking of weird... I recently changed my blog comments so that I didn't have to review before they posted, but then some assholes left strange and also somewhat rude comments... so it's back to approval-ville.

Dear Asshole in Wisconsin, Merry Christmas. Love, Julie.

I'm testing my karma. My old LeSabre had the "check engine soon" message lit up for a while, and I did nothing. At one point, Kev noticed there were actually 2 messages of that nature lit up on the dash, but 1 went away. Then the other was gone Tuesday morning. It came back on Wednesday, but gone again today.

I thought of something really cool to give for a Christmas present... but I can't write about it because my family reads my blog (Hi, Kathy!). I am so looking forward to Christmas!

Joycie bought a new CD of Christmas music at Barnes & Noble today; it's called "Celtic Christmas" or something like that. When I got home from work, she put it in the stereo for me to listen to it. It's beautiful. But then she went upstairs to practice her violin and play her guitar, so I made Sammy get up off his bum and turn the stereo off for me so I could hear her.

On the radio this morning, the DJ was asking the question, "if money was no object, what would you get for your spouse for Christmas?" One guy called in and said he would buy his wife a Barnes & Noble store because she loves books so much. Now that would be a lovely gift.

Whether I like it not, it's off to bed with me now. Work in the morning. Dammit.

Tatty bye, sugar.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Love my dog, not so much in love with the dog smell

In the mornings, Reilly likes to come up and say good morning to me with his nose nudging my hands. We do a pretty regular morning routine of my petting him all over, kind of like a doggie massage. Whenever he is outside with Barney & Betty, running around all day, Reilly's hips must hurt him because he is pretty slow getting up after he's been laying down and going up the stairs. So I like to massage his back and hips, and he loves it. Sometimes when I'm petting his head and ears and under his chin, he'll move his body along my hands and nudge at me with his butt. His butt-nudging thing is so adorable... I mean, really, who could resist that cutie pie nudging his butt at you? Not me.

I like to pet him like that in the mornings before my shower because anyone who owns a dog knows that usually your hands smell like DOG after you've spent time petting them. Reilly gets a bath regularly, and still, right after his bath, he will smell like dog. So taking a shower after helps remove that smell from my hands. But when I pet him, like just now, I will go wash my hands with double the liquid soap and double the time... but the dog smell can still linger faintly. I have found that a mixture of Dial and Lavender liquid soaps does a pretty good job. I once read or heard that rubbing your hands on stainless steel can remove onion smell, so I've even tried that. Didn't work. I've tried vinegar, too, but smelling faintly like vinegar isn't appealing either. I also tried a squirt of dog shampoo, & that didn't work. This morning, I found the ideal answer to post-petting dog-smell hands.

A while ago, shopping with Sammy, he showed me the Crest scratch and sniff toothpaste packaging. Why I thought Crest Whitening Expressions Lemon Ice would be a good toothpaste flavor is a mystery to me. It's like brushing your teeth with furniture polish or floor cleaner. And then drinking coffee after brushing your teeth with lemon... yuck. *shudder*

This morning, after an especially long petting session with sweet Reilly (and I wonder how many search hits that sentence will get!), I washed my hands and then washed them again. Still smelled like dog. Then I noticed the Crest Lemon Ice tube... a huge squirt and voilĂ ! No dog smell. And it doesn't smell strongly of lemon, either... just clean. We've bought so many toothpastes, mostly at Sam's request, that end up tasting so awful... and now, instead of throwing them out, I can put them to good use. Yay me.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Frozen stiff competition

Yesterday morning Kevin, Joyce & I drove to CMU for Joyce to participate in the Centralis Scholarship competition. They had events planned for parents, as well as the actual competition for the students. It turned out to be a day of unexpected experiences, mostly good stuff.

The day started with registration and refreshments. The coffee was excellent. Everything was very nicely done.

First on the agenda was a presentation about scholarships and financial aid options, so we were all led upstairs to an auditorium. The speaker did a good job, and it was interesting.

Afterwards, we were escorted over to another building, located right next door, to another, larger auditorium for more speakers. Again, very nice.

All the students were then escorted back to the original auditorium for the test. The Centralis competition gives the students one hour to complete an essay about a topic provided to them by the university staff administering the competition. Joyce thought there were 2 topics provided, and she was pleased with the one she received. It had to do with U.S. security measures since 9/11 and consitutional rights.

While the students were away, the parents remained in the large auditorium, where there was a panel discussion held. Everyone was given the opportunity to submit questions. Again, very interesting, and very well done.

When the students were returned back to the parents in the auditorium, Joyce looked just fine, very relaxed. The first thing she said was, "it was pretty easy." She finished about 4 pages, had time to proof it, then had a few minutes to wait. She said she was about in the middle as far as who was done when... some people near her finished much earlier, while others were still writing when time was called. Better to finish and wrap up with your conclusion paragraph, I think, than to have to just stop writing.

I was thrilled that Joyce felt so good about her effort. The thing is, she has always been good at writing (composition). But the setting of the Centralis is different with the time limit and the location, and the outcome... makes for feelings of uneasiness. Joyce seemed a little stressed out about it through the morning before the essay, her worrying manifesting itself as crankiness. Kev and I tried to assure her that it was not a big deal, but well worth the try at the offered scholarships. Should she not get a scholarship out of this, we won't be disappointed. It was a good experience.

The University even provided a free lunch. As the old saying goes, however, there ain't no such thing as a free lunch...

We were again escorted from the auditorium to the location of the lunch. I thought the cafeteria was in a nearby building, but boy, was I wrong! After walking about 10 minutes in the extremely cold and windy outdoors, Joyce turned and looked at me and said, "Mom, I can't feel my face." It was so very windy, with strong gusts as we walked by various buildings, and the temperature was about 20 degrees. It took about 20 minutes of walking to get to the cafeteria. Criminy. We arrived frozen.

Once there, it was very nice. They had reserved a large room at the back for the Centralis folks, and it was beautiful. Not like a cafeteria at all, more like a very nice restaurant setting. There was a fireplace at each end, both burning cheerfully. The selection of food available was amazing, and what we chose for lunch was very good. Again, really good coffee. We took our time, and it was very pleasant.

Joyce and I waited a while after Kev left to get the car, and he picked us up... we had to walk about 1 minute in the cold. Much nicer! Then we hit the CMU book store. Centralis participants all received a coupon for 20% off everything we purchased. We bought some hoodies, and Joyce bought a couple of things for her brother for Christmas. Then I had Kev & Joyce go wait for me in the car while I chose some Christmas gifts for Joyce. My 20% off coupon saved me $76.08. Yeah, I spent way too much. Guess I got a bit excited about Joycie attending CMU next year... I'm just so darn proud of her.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

We've been buying our Christmas trees from the same tree farm for about 20 years. When the kids were little, we would go out to the farm and cut down our own tree, but now we just go to the lot they set up in town. The novelty of freezing our tootsies off so cut our own Christmas tree has worn off. We went over to the lot and bought our tree yesterday evening, and then we let it set in the house overnight to warm up. Sitting on the sofa last night, I could feel the cold coming off the tree... yay for the wood stove. We always get a Frasier Fir because the needles last longer than a spruce, and it's such a beautiful tree... I prefer the short needles for our Christmas tree. It's warm now and makes the house smell so good.

The kids and I sorted through all the boxes of Christmas decorations in the basement and brought them upstairs. Kev put the lights on, and the garland, with Sammy's help, this afternoon. We just finished decorating it this evening.

Old Blue Eyes

Fun in the snow

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Snowy poetry

Go here and read Molly's poem about her Snow Day!

Our long & winding driveway

What a beautiful morning! We got a lot of snow yesterday, and it's the kind that is sticking onto all the tree branches and every surface. The sun was out early this morning and everything was sparkling like mad. Our driveway was like a crystal entrance to a winter wonderland...

I shot those photos above about 11:30am, after the sun had been doing its work for a while melting some of the snow already... early this morning on the way to Sam's basketball game, it was amazing. I love this first snow, especially when it sticks to everything.

The ice underneath is pretty darn wicked, though. Walking through the parking lot into the gym this morning was a real treat.

Sammy had a great game... I lost count of how many points and rebounds he got, he did so well. Some days he is just on fire with the ol' b-ball...

Yesterday evening, on the way to our friends' house, Sammy was wondering out loud why everyone calls basketball b-ball, but we don't say v-ball for volleyball or f-ball for football or s-ball for softball or s-ker for soccer... "oh, wait," he said, "that one doesn't really work." Duh. We found that conversation really funny. Guess you had to be there...

Friday, December 01, 2006

Sometimes you get what you ask for...

Quite a change from Wednesday afternoon to today:

I love the snow, but unfortunately it started with sleet this morning, so the roads were icy. Kids got the day off from school, so they were happy. I didn't even try to get into work on time... I waited until daylight and for the traffic to clear a bit. I saw 4 cars off the road in the ditches on the way to work, one with a wrecker and another with a sheriff car with it with all the lights on. Then an ambulance came up behind us, and it was cruising pretty fast. It was difficult to get off to the side of the road and stop... and then get going again... so icy. Then I had to stop & get gas, and leaving the gas station, I nearly pulled out in front of a guy riding a bicycle. Freaked me out. He sure looked cold.

It was snowing big, fat flakes by noon, and my wonderful boss came around and said we could leave anytime if we lived out of town. That was nice, because the drive home was ok, but I would rather drive it in less traffic.

The snow is so wet and heavy, and the tree branches are starting to droop with the weight. It sure is pretty! And 2 days ago this view was of green grass & I was outside in shirtsleeves. I love living in Michigan!

The fallout of NaBloPoMo

I'm a big fan of "good enough"... I'm not a perfectionist and would never want to be one, live with one or raise one. (I've worked with those types, and it ain't pretty.) Did I say big fan?... I'm a ginormous fan of "good enough"! And of gray areas. Love those gray areas. People who exist where things are always black & white are missing out Big Time. (I've also worked with those type of super-analytical people, and that goes beyond not pretty all the way to ugly.)

So when I started NaBloPoMo, I knew it was an all-or-nothing situation. Not my favorite environment, but ok. I didn't have any trouble posting each day. November was good timing for me. Now, December, January and February... forget about it.

I didn't tell my kids about NaBloPoMo, but they saw it on my blog and became interested. I explained the all-or-nothing commitment, and they still wanted to participate. I have LOVED reading their blog posts. Even though they didn't complain, at least to me, I know they didn't find NaBloPoMo as easy as I did. And Sammy missed the very first day, so he knew he was out of the running, but he still kept at it. Joycie's posts were so entertaining for me, and insightful. Did I say I loved their blog posts? I really, really loved them. Really, really! It is not only great practice for them for writing, it's so fun to read about something they are thinking of day-to-day.

But then I noticed they both forgot they didn't make it every day. Or probably it's more like almost every day is "good enough" as every day. Both of my kids are self-motivated, so I have actually had many, many discussions with them through the years about the importance of not being a perfectionist. I've taught them well. And I am perfectly happy about that! Good enough doesn't mean do an ok job, it means do your best, your very best. Perfection exists far too infrequently and if you constantly worry about perfection, if you constantly strive for perfection, you will worry in vain and set yourself up for disappointment. (That's one reason I don't like it when elementary students get an award at the end of the year for "perfect attendance"... because you know those kids likely went to school sick one day in their desire for the perfect attendance award... and gave their cold or flu to my kid!)

So this morning, we talked about their blog posts and they corrected themselves. They both thought I was unhappy with them, but I wasn't. It's the opposite. I'm so proud of them! And now I'm just hoping, really, really hoping, that the black & white of NaBloPoMo doesn't dull their enthusiasm for blog posting.