Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Reflections on 2009

It’s been a year today since my fun and loving grandmother left us to go be with my grandfather. I never got around to a Christmas letter last year, as her loss brought with it the blessing of a nice family reunion to celebrate her life, and I got to catch up in person. So I am going to try the electronic version this year, and hope that she, the rest of my grandparents, and my Dad enjoy it.

It’s been a great year. Bookworm started it off by turning 8 and being baptized four days later. I still have a hard time figuring out how my toddler turned into this lovely young lady. She continues to be a voracious reader, and loves to work new vocabulary into conversation. I’m also thrilled to have our piano receiving regular use again since she started lessons at the end of the summer. Hearing her playing Christmas songs for the last month has been a real treat.

The rest of the winter was a blur of Girl Scout cookie sales…being troop cookie manager was a workout, but the really memorable part was Aslan taking a bite out of a Tagalong and having her first major allergic reaction. So when she started preschool in September, she got to take an Epi-pen along. She has taken it in stride, though (helped by the fact that Mom has finally mastered the art of eggless cake baking) and loves the art projects, songs, and playtime with friends that she eagerly reports to us after each class.

Spring brought the long, long, long-awaited day that Doc received the title in earnest. After whipping out his dissertation in about three months, he received his Ph.D. in education leadership, and is well on his way to turning that dissertation into his first professional publication. He celebrated by landing the principalship of the largest middle school in our county a month later. We are thrilled that not only does he finally get the opportunity to captain the ship, but he managed to do it at the only secondary school in the county closer to home than the one we moved here for.

Summer was a typical whirlwind, especially with Doc working to get ready for his first school year as principal. We did enjoy a short trip with the kids to Pennsylvania Dutch Country on Daisy’s first birthday, and whiled away much of the rest of our time on park and library trips and lessons in art and dance. I spent a few mornings each week staffing a preschool-age summer camp, and though it was a lot of fun I resigned my toddler-fitness instructorship in the fall to spend more time at home. So now I have to get my professional fun at the National Air & Space Museum, where I still volunteer when I can.

Almost before I knew it, Buzz was following Bookworm onto the bus for her first day of kindergarten. She is taking it on with her usual enthusiasm, and I never have to work too hard to get her to tell about her day. Her teacher reports that in addition to being a diligent student, she has an excellent memory…in fact, she can always be relied on to remember any reward promised to her or the class, no matter how much time has elapsed since the promise. She definitely has a future in any profession requiring sharp negotiating skills. She is also very proud of her daddy’s academic prowess, dubbing him “Mr. Dr. Dadhead.”

Daisy has been busy this fall too, learning to walk and demonstrating her determination not to allow being the littlest to keep her out of anything she wants to get into. She is fiercely independent, but also very social and loves the attention she gets from her big sisters, who still think she is the coolest plaything we ever brought home.

So that’s the year in a nutshell. Best wishes to all our friends and family for a happy, safe and blessed 2010.

Aaaaaand...cue winter!

I guess it's old news by now, but the 22" snowfall we got a couple of weeks ago did make for some fun Kodak moments...well, in my case, Sony moments, though I did get a little irritated at how short the battery life was at 28 degrees. So the following took several tries and a few trips back inside to thaw the thing out, but I think the results were worth it.

The flakes started falling around 9:00 Friday night. This was the view out our front window about 12:45 pm on Saturday, Dec. 19th. It didn't stop coming down until 8 hours later.

Gotta hand it to my industrious neighbor, but I think I will add this to the many reasons why I will never own a dog.

This part was great. However, the mess in our front hall when they all came back in...and yes, the snow across the street really did come up to the hem of Aslan's skirt. Both she and Daisy were a bit intimidated by their inability to take a step.

We decided we'd better take the first foot off the car while it was still coming down. Thank goodness we had the other one in the garage.

The next morning, we had a lovely excavation block party. We have some really neat neighbors, a few of which were making rounds helping dig out anybody who was out there working.

The front door before...

...and after. Don't worry, Mom, I just took off my gloves to get the camera out.

Fortunately, my next-door neighbor didn't have any pressing engagements that day.

And of course, the slightly scary irony is that this took place two days before the official start of winter. Here's hoping for an early spring!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

It's beginning to sound a lot like Christmas

The tree is up, the stockings are hung, and I only have two presents left to buy. Well, plus the ones for the kids' teachers. Christmas gets a little more interesting each year with more kids in school...all three of their classes are having different gift donation programs, and two of them have a class book exchange. And while they don't generally sing Christmas carols at school, they have picked up some classics on the school bus, like the "Jingle bells, Batman smells" version of Jingle Bells. Hearing my very ladylike and rules-conscious (at least at school) six-year-old sing this at the top of her voice is amusing all by itself. The really funny rendition, though, is the one now sung regularly by almost-four-year-old Aslan, who is learning the real words in preschool for their holiday program, but who has trouble differentiating between the traditional verse and the one she hears from her big sisters, and who has therefore been singing for the past several days:

Jingle bells, Jingle bells,
Jingle all the way.
Oh what fun it is to ride
And the Joker ran away. Hey!

I sang it through with her several times in the car yesterday to try to help her remember the correct last line, but somehow the other one kept coming back. I guess a "one-horse open sleigh" is a little abstract for her. Should be an interesting preschool program!

Smoothie Move

One of the few disadvantages to being a mom, at least in my case, is that I have a tendency not to take adequate care of myself. Other than necessarily being quick on my feet to prevent kids from taking spills off of kitchen stools or knocking over the Christmas tree, I haven't been getting as much regular exercise as I'd like, especially now that I've let go my employee gym membership. At lunch, by the time I've got food in front of the kids I'm usually too tired and hungry to really cook myself something, so I do a lot of sandwiches and carrot sticks on the fly, and then have to try to find creative ways at dinner to get the whole family to get a balanced meal using the very short list of vegetables that everyone will eat.

But I'm pleased to report that I've found a new ally in the quest to get the requisite number of fruit and veggie servings into everybody, including me, on a daily basis: I'm becoming a smoothie junkie. I've always been a fan, but I've also been hobbled for the last 10 years by a low-end blender that whines better than it grinds, and then is a pain to clean. So this past week I upgraded to a fabulous machine that actually blends. Without becoming an infomercial for my new blender, my interest was caught by a demo suggestion of putting things like spinach in smoothies to help kids get the veggie servings they need. While I certainly want them to learn to like vegetables for their own sake, on a practical level I'm tired of having to fight every day to make sure an apple or some carrot sticks goes down with the sandwich or mac n' cheese. I let them try the demo smoothie and they loved it. So I got one, and now both they and I are having smoothies daily. Sometimes we have them at breakfast alongside the Cheerios; for lunch today I put together a concoction of strawberries, banana, orange, and a little yogurt, then threw in carrots, baby spinach and a roma tomato. A little apple juice for liquid and sweetness, and my kids sucked it down and begged for more. And this machine pulverizes the stuff so well I don't even get strawberry seeds stuck in my teeth. It's not going to solve all my nutrition issues, but it's a start.

Now, if I could just figure out a better way to work out at home...