Wednesday, December 30, 2009

writer's block

From the time Sam could put pen to paper he made books. He would sit with a box of markers and a spiral notebook and write away to his hearts content. He became quite a prolific author. I often found his stapled together books strewn over the living room floor and supplies were constantly across the kitchen table. Sam wasn't an author who disdained his audience. Oh no...he invited the audience in adding an "I hope you enjoy this book" or "this one's a really good one!" to his title page. He even dedicated his self published little volumes. This pile of books grew and grew and grew. I confess, but only to you!, that I'd periodically cull through his stack of books and shred those that didn't make the cut. He never really noticed. There were a few narrow misses when he'd ask "Where's my book of mixed up aliens volume 2?" or "Have you seen my Pond life book?" but I always managed to dodge the bullet.

I'm using the past tense because last year Sam stopped making books. Last year was a really rotten rotten year. My creative talented young author was unable to push past his anxiety to even take part in a pasttime he loved. He just lost all zest for an activity he could hardly get enough of a short time ago. Writing was now all about capitalization, punctuation, spelling, following a set formula. He was told he couldn't write about certain topics anymore. He was made to copy over entire pages of work. He was made to cry when he got scolded because his writing was no longer legible due to erasing and scribbling out. It became a punishment when he had to stay in and watch his peers playing at recess out the window while he finished a journal assignment. I didn't realize. It still hurts my heart that I just didn't realize what was going on. I can hardly fault him for not wanting to write anymore. It wasn't fun. It had evolved into something that made him feel shameful and lonely and wrong.

After discovering all that was wrong about last year, I realized why Sam no longer churned out one best seller after another at home. And as much as I missed the little books and as much as I knew how he adored creating and sharing them, I would not push him back into writing. I figured if I did he'd just resist and I was not about to become part of the problem. I heartily hoped that given time, the joy that writing books was to Sam, would return. I gave him spiral notebooks and markers and at first he just made lists. He listed all his favorite jungle animals, foods he liked, foods he didn't like, snakes he wants to meet, natural disasters that scare him, and on and on and on. He filled an entire three subject notebook with his lists. Sometimes he illustrated them but mostly he didn't. He likes to number his lists and tally things up every so often. Sometimes when he was making a list, I'd lean over and ask him to share it with me. I'd give him my input (umm...there aren't ANY snakes I want to meet!). Still no books but I could tell that the stress and anxiety was beginning to ebb away.

A couple nights before Christmas I had tucked the girls in bed and Sam was tucked in on the couch. I was wrapping presents or working on the Christmas cards or something when the cat began doing something that had Sam and I in stitches. The girls joined us and the four of us were literally holding our sides from laughing. After all the hilarity had passed, I tucked the girls back in and came out to find Sam at the kitchen table with a pen and several pieces of scrap paper. Even though it was past his bedtime, well past his bedtime, I let him be. He left this little gem of a book on the kitchen counter for his Dad who was at work.

To Dad
Last night's news Kitten vs Reindeer food

I was minding my own business when Marie who was in the kitchen called me. Marie told me that Baadaabooty had jumped on top of the counter and grabbed the reindeer food.

Then I saw Benjamin Baadaabooty Ben 10 Blotner had the bag of reindeer food in his mouth. I took the reindeer food went to tell the girls and put the bag on the counter.

And he did the same thing over and over again. Then we decided to put the reindeer food in the fridge. The End

Here is the accompanying illustration

It may not be Pulitzer prize material but it's a start. And he smiled the whole way through, from beginning to end. I adore a happy ending.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

a Christmas tradition

I have been going to visit Edaville Railroad to see the Christmas lights since waayyyyy back when I was a very little girl. I have fond memories of watching to see the lights as the train wound it's way through the woods and bogs.

I cannot express how happy it makes me, or even why it makes me so happy, to pass this tradition down to my children. My kids love, no...adore, Edaville. They have no need of a park map because they've been so often they know where every last ride, popcorn stand and train engine is. We decided to head to Edaville on Christmas Eve to take part in this years Festivel of Lights. I still have no idea how to take photos of lights in the dark but I think it looks kind of cool anyways.

There must be millions of lights strung on trees, buildings along walkways. The archways above line the walkway when you first enter the park. There are dozens and dozens of illuminated figures too. Many having nothing whatsoever to do with Christmas. Like dinosaurs, pirate ships, and much to Sam's delight...bison.

There are several of these little rooms along the walkway too. They date back to the early days of the park because I remember them from my childhood. In each one is a different Christmas scene...Santa's reindeer, Mrs. Claus baking cookies, elves crafting toys.

On the train waiting for it to pull out of the station. There was no pulling them away from the windows because they didn't want to miss a single figure.

I know it's blurry but it's the only picture of me from the night so I'm including it. This is a tame enough ride, not sure why Kate's clinging to me for all she's worth. It was quite the opposite story on the ferris wheel. She gleefully threw her arms into the air each time we came over the top and shouted "MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL AND TO ALL A BRIGHT NIGHT!"

Katie and Daddy on the Drummer boy ride too.

Sam and Teresa went on it as well. Rest assured we went on just about every other ride in the park. I, however, was lazy and cold and didn't continue to pull out the camera.

There was a time period when Edaville was closed down and I was delighted when the year we moved back to the area it reopened. My In-Laws came down for a visit around the holidays and I thought Edaville would be the perfect place to take them. My Mother in Law couldn't walk long in the cold without her asthma bothering her so she used a wheelchair. Little did we know that wheelchair came with an express ticket. As we stood in the very long line for the train a conductor came over and escorted us past all the cold people standing there in line, all the way to the special car ecquiped with a wheelchair lift. Unfortunately the wheelchair lift was not working that night and they fiddled with it and tried coming up with alternative ways to get the wheelchair, with Mother in Law in it, onto the train. After several minutes my exasperated Mother in Law shouted "To HELL with it!" and she stood up and walked up the steps. At my Brother in Law's "IT'S A MIRACLE!!!" we all collapsed in laughter. I'm not so sure the other passengers watching the whole thing were laughing with us though.

The millions of lights, a broken wheelchair lift, family stories that have become legend, kitschy decorations, hot chocotate warming my hands, laughing at the delight in a four year old's face as she surveys "the whole world" from the top of the ferris wheel, childhood memories of riding the same train to see the same lights, racing to keep up with the kids as they run from one ride to the next and back again, for all these reasons and more I agreed with a sleepy Sam later that night, that Edaville is the best most favoritest place!

Friday, December 18, 2009

gingerbread decorating is serious stuff

You wouldn't know it from the pictures but the kids really did enjoy decorating their little gingerbread houses. It is a tradition of ours to decorate the houses sometime in early December. Sam has, from the first time we first decorated a gingerbread house, been all about minimalism. He has perfected this tecnique of putting frosting to each candy without getting it on his fingers at all. Heaven forbid he get his fingers dirty! He studies his house and his choice of candies and makes a plan and then gets started. He's usually finished in all of fifteen minutes. My girls, however, are a different story altogether. Teresa could bathe in the frosting and it wouldn't bother her a bit. She dabs her fingers in it, smears it across the roof and does not stop until she has run out of frosting. Katie is not quite so hands on but getting a little frosting on her fingers means she gets to lick it off her hands and that there is reason enough to decorate a gingerbread house. The girls tend to haphazardly decorate; jumping from door, to roof to walkway. Katie often decides Teresa's ideas are exactly what she was planning, which annoys her sister to no end. They bicker, I say decorating will be over if fighting doesn't stop and there's a truce for a few minutes. Until Teresa uses Katie's candy or Katie copies yet another one of Teresa's designs. Teresa keeps globbing on frosting and candy until her roof can hold no more. While Katie tries to keep up but loses steam before Teresa does. When we first started with this back when Sam was three and Teresa just over a year, I had to hold myself back from "fixing" their handiwork. I've come to realize though, that their creations are far more whimsical than anything I could dream up. Now I just sit back and let them show me the right way to decorate a gingerbread house. The finished houses are unique, despite the copying, and delightful to behold.

candy canes

We made some festive candy canes with Crayola model magic dough. I LOVE this stuff. If you've never used it, you don't know what you're missing. I don't use it for playdough play but for projects to dry and save it is perfect. It is soft and pliable and dries lightweight and quickly. I gave the kids some red and some white dough and told them to roll them out into snakes. Then we used a plastic play knife to cut the ropes of dough into little pieces. I demonstrated how to squish the pieces together and let the kids loose. I told them we were making candy canes so when they finished they should shape it to look like a candy cane. However, what Katie heard me say was "candy K" and she made a perfect little candy K. Kids, you just never know how they'll make you laugh next. Her friend A decided she wanted to make a candy A after she saw Katie's K. The other kids were too young to join in on the letter making and decided to stick with the candy. They dried overnight and ours are hanging on my kitchen curtain rod. A fun, quick and festive activity that can keep little hands busy while you're making cookies.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

We won!!!

I say "we" because while it was my name that was chosen as one of the winners to Liz's bow giveaway, my girls reaped the benefits of the winning. Liz was so sweet to include a bow for each of the girls even though we won just one. Thank you SOOOOO much Liz...they LOVE their new bows. She addressed the package to the girls. I got home from a meeting after school yesterday and Teresa came running up "Mumma! Mumma! Katie and I got a package in the mail!!!! Can we open it?" At my yes, they grabbed the package up (I noticed one corner had already been pried open...further interrogation revealed Teresa to be the guilty party) and tore it open. Each bow was wrapped in tissue and they squealed with delight after unwrapping each one. They also insisted on wearing them immediately. Adorable!

Sam asked why he didn't get a present in the mail. He was none to pleased when I told him he was welcome to wear the bows too.

Thank you Liz! They are beautiful!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

habits...not bad, just...a little odd

I am the only one with odd little habits that are virtually ingrained into the soul? Things I don't know if I could change, even if I wanted to. I read an article that said if we could change up some of our little habits and ways of doing things it would strengthen the connections in our brains and make us sharper. I am all for that. So I gave it a try. And...I utterly failed. I just didn't feel comfortable. My world just didn't feel right when I switched things around. Oh well, I guess I'm just going to have to resign myself to being stupid.

What silly habits could possibly be more important than strengthening the synapses in my brain. Well now, how about I enlighten you?

When I put on my socks and shoes, I always put on one sock and then the shoe then move on to the other foot and do the same. Putting both socks on then moving on to the shoes seems like such a waste of time and motion.

My towels in my linen closet MUST be facing with the fold out. I actually take the towels out of the closet and fix them if Joe has put them in the "wrong" way.

I always eat the foods on my plate in order of least liked to most liked. I like to save the best for last.

I look at my food very carefully before I eat it. Someone actually commented on this habit when I was in college. I think it stems from the time the food closet/pantry in my parent's house had a moth infestation. Finding moths floating in my milk after eating all my Raisin Nut Bran will do that to a person.

I like making foods like shortbread because it requires so few ingredients. Just goes to show you that foods don't need lots of fussing to be real good. Plus it just tickles my fancy that the pioneers who settled the prairie a hundred fifty odd years ago probably made shortbread. Flour, butter, water and a little bit of sugar. I'm sure Laura Ingalls' pantry contained those basics.

I'm realizing many of my quirks revolve around food...I wonder what that means?

I cannot start anything, cooking, quilting, scrapbooking or whatever, with a mess staring me in the face. Even if I know I will make more of a mess with whatever I am about to begin, I HAVE to clean up beforehand.

I talk to myself in the supermarket. I mutter about my list, menu, and any items I forgot to get and need to return to a previous aisle for.

I know I'm not alone in this. I can't be the only person wandering around the supermarket mumbling about acorn squash and whole wheat wraps. What pray tell, are some of your quirky little habits?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

eye candy

Remember ribbon candy? Every Christmas my parents received a box of it from friends or a family member. There was never very much of it in the box, especially when there's thirteen people all hoping to get a taste. I actually didn't love eating ribbon candy, I just liked looking at it. The colors were eyepopping and each piece was so unbelievably delicate. They shimmered like glass ribbons and I used to open the lid of the box every time I passed by just to get a glimpse.

For one of our crafts this month, I decided we would make some ribbon candy ornaments. I didn't think it would be all that hard. What I thought would be the easiest part of this project was actually the most difficult; finding the right ribbons. I didn't find exactly what I was looking for. The ribbons we used were Christmas colors and ribbon candy uses more tropical colors but I figured they would do. This craft is only for the preschoolers or older. Besides the ribbon (I used wire rimmed ribbon) you will need pipe cleaners, pony beads, adult scissors and a hole punch.

To prep for this activity I first cut lengths of ribbon. I actually made a test one first to work out the kinks and I found a ribbon about 18" worked well. Then starting from one end I punched a hole about every 2". This was also difficult. My hole punches had a hard time coming through the ribbon. I actually broke one (the spring release mechanism broke). If you can think of an easier way to punch the holes through the ribbon, please share! For each ornament, thread a bead onto a pipe cleaner all the way to one end and twist it onto the end. Now you can let the kids loose with this.

It's actually very simple. I told my 4 year old and 5 year old you work in a pattern...poke, bead, poke, bead, poke, bead, poke, bead. And as they worked they chanted "poke, bead" to themselves. The children poked the pipe cleaner through the first hole in the ribbon and pulled it all the way through and then took another bead and threaded that on and pushed it all the way down. They continued to do this until they ran out of holes in the ribbon. Add one final bead and then using the excess pipe cleaner twist it to make a loop. Cut off the extra pipe cleaner, fluff up your loops of ribbon and voila!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Need a bow...or two?

Liz over at These are the days is having a giveaway. She recently started making beautiful hairbows and has made so many she doesn't know what to do. What better than to have a giveaway for two of them to a lucky little girl...hopefully my little girls. ; ) If you have a little girl who likes to get all beribboned head over and enter...or not...because then I will win. Hee! Hee!