A Boring Little Christmas

I was at Target yesterday with The Athlete and the rest of the world. She was picking out hats to go with her new bright yellow dress coat. The Athlete is all about color.

She found a really cute navy blue beret that it was clear no one else in the eighth grade would wear and she had to have it. Also there was the T-shirt she found with a giant bluebird on the front wearing a glittery scarf.

So now she will know at least two of her presents that are going under the tree.

The Brainiac was in New York last week looking at a college and managed to do some damage at the mall. But no regrets. She spread the stuff out all over her bed and told me to go shopping. Now she will know ALL of her presents under the tree.

And I find myself missing the old Christmas. The one where my cart was filled with games and toys.

The one where I wasn't working and the week after Christmas was spent lounging about in my pjs and working at a giant puzzle or reading a book while the kids hopped about the neighborhood comparing presents and building snow forts with their friends.

There was always a kind of magic in that week and I would give anything to get it back for one more year.

So if you have it, if you are home with the kids the week after Christmas, savor it. Let the house get messy. Keep the tree up until New Years. Build a snowman and then make some hot chocolate.

And take lots of pictures to help you re-live the magic later on.


Happy Thanksgiving!

The Athlete making place settings like she does every year.

All the kids are here and this afternoon three of the S.O.s (Significant Others) will arrive for our Thanksgiving feast, which will be cooked primarily by The Entrepreneur and his sous chef, Mr. Nice Guy. I will be on the fringes, making pies, setting the tables and doing the clean up.

Later, I will post some pictures of our gathering.

Hope you all have a wonderful day spent with people you love!

Jacquie Lawson e-cards


Soul Song

Someone sent me a song the other day. Just popped off a link to a song that they saw performed on a talk show and wanted to share. Because this friend is thorough, he also included an earlier version of the song from more than 30 years ago. And that is the song I have fallen in love with.

I had never heard this song, but it is sung by one of my favorite artists. When I heard it, it was like a gift because it was something old but undiscovered, because of the perfect clarity and beauty of the artist's voice, and because the lyrics seemed like they were written just for me.

Sometimes the Brainiac or The Athlete will get hooked on a new song, and they play it over and over again on the kitchen computer until I want to kill myself.

That is what I am doing now with American Tune by Paul Simon. Pretty soon I will know all the words. I will find an old CD with it in the play list and listen to it over and over in my car, the way I do with my other favorites like Johnny Cash's Sunday Morning and Vice Gill's Key to Life. I will think of the genius of the words and the beautiful soulful way they were sung and how listening to it brought tears to my eyes.

I will realize the wonder of true talent and the benefit the rest of us get when someone who has it does what God intended and shares it with the world.


The Sleepover

Just a few snacks for the Crew

The other night The athlete had a sleepover. With four friends. Yes. That was a crazy idea. But Maggie and Maddie were already invited, and then Shannon and Allie decided to go ice skating too and if they got left out "their feelings would be hurt."

I couldn't say " no" to that. The Athlete is always worried about other people's feelings and that is sweet.

However. Skating was cancelled due to bad weather, and then The Entrepreneur and I faced a long Saturday night trapped in our house with five 14-year-old girls who were now bored.

He had a great idea: He decided to take them to the grocery store and buy them a cart full of junk food and then to the movie store for some Chick flicks.

They purchased two flavors of ice cream, waffle bowls and caramel sauce, chocolate sprinkles, Funyuns, Salt and Vinegar chips and a 12-pack of Sprite.

Apparently, the recession does not apply to sleepovers.

The next morning, I peeked in on them, sleeping sprawled all over The Athlete's bed and I missed the sleepovers of my youth. I bet that after we went to sleep they were prank calling (or texting) boys, playing truth or dare and revealing important secrets.

Next year is high school and everything will change. The rule at our house is no sleepovers past eighth grade, because of what we have already learned from three teenagers.

So I hope until then The Athlete will enjoy many more sleepovers.

I think the only thing better than being 14 is watching your child enjoy it while she mixes salt and vinegar chips with her ice cream.


Lucky Boy

The Prince

My sister Jen (Eight of Nine) is a new mom. She had her first baby a decade and a half after I had my first, and she is so much smarter. I am having such a good time watching her bring that baby up.

Really I am.

It's not like I am re-living the days with my son, who is all grown up and doesn't call me back a lot of the time in spite of my cheery but desperate messages.

Why not at all.

But I have to tell you I am amazed. Because Jen is an achiever. A person who gets things done. Really kind of a perfectionist. And she is just so easygoing with this nephew of mine. She is just helping him be who he is.

And that makes me so proud.

She is O.K. with how he wrinkles his forehead if you are a new person or if he is trying to figure something out. If he doesn't want to stand up. Who cares. He is an EXCELLENT crawler! She is the head cheerleader of Team Little Prince!

Here is what is different about that son of hers and the one I had a bit too young.

She knows he is a miracle.

She knows that he is perfect.

I think I was too busy juggling the demands of four children to appreciate my miracle.

But now I do. Only he is 20 years old and he thinks it is a bit cheesy that I hang on his every word. That I agonize over what to put under the Christmas tree for him. That I wish I understood him better when he was a toddler chasing toads and ignoring his friends.

What's done is done.

But I remember a few years ago, at Thanksgiving dinner, we all had to say what we really knew for sure, and he said: " I always knew my momma loved me."

So I guess I did O.K.

But if I could go back, older and wiser, and tell the boy that if you are different, you are still perfect in every way, that would be bliss.

So, GO JEN! One chance. You are doing a great job. He is perfect because he YOURS.

From now until he is all grown up, I'll be cheering you on.


Kids Say the Darndest Things

There are so many blog services out there for which you pay big money. There are little banners and buttons that you can have made that say the name of your blog with a cute little graphic that represents what it is about.

You can have little widgets made for features that you bring back again and again to your site.

I aspire to have a blog like that. But a blog that puts me in the red sounds like a bad idea.


A new feature that I want to have on here every now and then is one that tells you all of the very funny and poignant things the preschoolers at the center where I work say. It's going to be called KidzTalk. Someday I will have a cool banner or button for this feature. But for now, I am going to borrow the free colored type feature offered by blogspot.

Here we go with the first KidzTalk:

Victoria, age three, said that yesterday in preschool they had to go around the room and say what they wanted to be when they grew up.

"What did you say?" I asked.

"Oh. I want to be a bluebird," She said.

Excellent goal.

What's Old is New Again

My Best Recycling Moment

It's all about recycling now. And not buying things made in China. And buying local. I get that.

But beyond that, there is something so appealing to me, especially this time of year, in finding things that were made by hand long ago and have ended up in junk shops and garage sales, just a moment away from the landfill.

I love it when I find something like this and bring it home.

I feel like the person who made it and has probably passed on is up there giving me some extra points because I noticed the beauty in the thing they created.

My pine cone wreath is an example.

I found it this summer when The Entrepreneur and I were hopping garage sales in search of a cabinet to house Mr. Nice Guy's T.V. for his new apartment. We were batting zero and The Entrepreneur was doing what he usually does, which is making friends with the garage sale C.E.O. and they were talking about how the man was selling the house because his wife had died and he was tired of living in the big place alone.

Looking through the tools for an addition to my trowel collection, I glanced up and spotted a beautiful pine cone wreath with a $4 price sticker.

"The Missus made that one year with pine cones she found at our cabin," the man said.

"It's really beautiful," I said. "I'm going to take it home."

And so it hangs from the living room mirror this year. I added a few pine cones where some had fallen off and dressed it up with a satin bow.

When I look at it I think of a woman walking in the woods collecting pine cones. I think of her husband, alone at the end of his life and moving on to a new place with the hope of a new beginning.

And I'm very proud I recycled.


Something Fun

I found this fun site where you can plug in a picture of yourself and it will tell you what celebrities you resemble. I was worried about my results, so I plugged in a picture of The Athlete.
I was very concerned to see Britney Spears in her results. I hope she doesn't ACT like her too!


I'm Feeling all Holiday

I'm not sure why, with my big pumpkin still sitting on the front porch from Halloween, but I'm getting all excited for the holidays.

Yesterday I stayed in bed all day with some horrible virus that I attribute to not getting my flu shot this year.

And even though my body was just laying there in misery, my mind was busy making plans for another Big Wonderful Christmas.

So today I'm going to bring my tissue with me down to the crawlspace and drag out the Christmas boxes and begin my decorating plans.

This year there will a party before Christmas to celebrate the Overachiever's graduation from college, and there will even be people to share the decorating with.

I know I have to shorten up my shopping list, but it will be hard to get me to cut back on my decorating.

Here on my blog I hope to share some great family recipes (please send me yours!) and traditions and give you some great economical gift ideas as well.

Out my window I see a few snowflakes coming down. Bring on the holidays!


I'd Prefer Preschool

My Dream Car. Mine. You Can't Have it!

I've been thinking lately that it would be really cool to be a preschooler. Here's why:

All of the preschoolers at the place where I work get to say exactly what is on their minds and no one gets mad at them for it.

Like the other day. Jacob shows up. Cute kid. Kind of a germaphobe. Uses WAY to much Purell. Anyway, I say: "Hi Jake. How are you today? Are you excited to be at school? And he says:

No. Not really. I'm tired and I really think I should go home and take a nap."

You know what? That made a lot of sense to me. I was tired too. And the heat in that place was broken, so I was also cold. I wanted to go home and crawl in my big bed under my covers and take a nap too.

But when my boss asked me how I was doing, I didn't say that. I lied. I said "Great! How are you?" Because that is the grown-up thing to say.

Later, Jillian grabbed the hot pink marker from Kate.

I said: "Jillian. Kate is using the pink marker. It is not polite to take things from other people."

And Jillian said: "Why not. Pink is my favorite color so I have to color my house with it!

I thought about how earlier in the week I talked to a friend who owned the car I have wanted ever since I drove around a different version in high school. That car was beautiful, but when I told my friend how much I loved it, she said: "I hate this car. It's too small and I wish I never would have bought it."

"Well then you don't deserve that car, give it to me!"
Is what I wanted to say. That's what Jillian would have said.

But I just said: " That's too bad."

But this is my blog. And I am going to channel my preschooler and say that today I am irritated by the number of leaves on my lawn, the fact that my carpet steamer is broken and I can't get my hair to do what it is supposed to do. I don't want to keep cleaning out my crawlspace and I really hate the printer for messing up my order and charging me too much because now I have to drive over there to get my $13 back and that will probably cost me $2 in gas.

Wow. That was really cool.


Computer Maven

The Entrepreneur likes to make fun of my slowly developing computer skills. He calls me a Computer Maven. He tends to be a bit sarcastic.

I'm really trying on this computer thing. I realize that I need to step up my computer knowledge in order to fit in with today's world. But I'm going to tell you something. I don't like computers. And I never will.

I don't like the fact that when I can't get the computer to do something it is supposed to be doing, like when my blog won't post even though I keep pushing the POST button, there is nothing I can do. I just have to keep pushing the button again and again and screaming "POST!" until at last the computer decides to upload my post. It is so aggravating!

Today I was working on my website for my Green Thumb Design business. Some guys in India made it for me because they screwed up The Entrepreneur's web site and they owed us some money. It has it's limitations.

I was supposed to be able to log in as the administrator and press the different catagory buttons and make changes. Then I was to press SAVE and then go back to the main page and press REFRESH. Only that wasn't working and so I just started banging on the keys a little bit and shouting "REFRESH!"

That didn't help.

If this were the old days, I wouldn't need the dumb website. People would have to call me on the TELEPHONE.

Then I could let them know if I was frustrated and they would maybe do something about it.

But who needs communication? After all, we have this beautiful new thing called Technology.


Duty Calls

Today I am putting on My Garden Designer hat and assembling several plant baskets that have been ordered and delivering them all over what my dad used to call: "Hell's Half Acre."

But it's all good. I LOVE to create plant baskets.

And, in case you are a local reader, remember that The Green Thumb now has a plant hospital where we will care for the plant you tried to kill :) and bring it back to life!

Maybe while I'm driving around town I will dream up some new ideas to blog about next week.

So check back on Monday and enjoy your weekend!


Hair Today Gone Tomorrow Part Two

My New Do

Yesterday I told the terrible story of burning my hair with a straightening iron and left you all hanging as to the final result.

After spending a couple of days at the salon with my hair caked with several different kinds of conditioner, it was determined that nothing could be done to improve the quality of the singed hair.

I sat in the chair while my stylist Annie tried to pull a comb through the burned and matted mess.

"Cut it," I said.

She got a bad look on her face.

"But your hair has never been short as long as I have known you," she said.

"Cut it," I said again, and all of the ladies in the salon held their breath.

It turned out O.K.

I miss my long hair a little bit, but it's nice to only need 10 minutes instead of 40 to style it every day. My friend Angela says it's sassy and The Entrepreneur says he wants me to keep it this way.

Chalk one up to Serendipity.


Hair Today Gone Tomorrow

Looking Scary with my Fried Hair

Yes. That is a very scary picture. But this is a very scary story.

A couple of weeks ago I flew to Minnesota to see siblings four and eight and to spend some time with my adorable Godson.

I had left my straightening iron, which I often use to tame my curly hair, at home. I did this because my girls have all inherited the bad hair gene from me and the straightening iron is an important part of their everyday lives. I thought it would be mean to take it with me. I thought that one of the siblings, who both also have the bad hair gene, would be happy to share theirs with me.

And that act of kindness cost me dearly.

One day during my visit, Sibling Eight and her husband and son went to a baby shower.

While they were away, I decided it would be a perfect time to complete the hour-long task of straightening my hair.

I searched around until I found the straightening iron and plugged it in. I came back to the bathroom a few minutes later and grabbed a big chunk of hair from the top of my head and started pulling the iron through the curls.

Suddenly, I noticed a bad smell. Looking down at the iron, I saw several pieces of singed hair clinging to the hinge. Thinking they were just pieces that were left behind from the last time the iron was used, I grabbed another section of my hair, snapped the iron in place and began to pull.

And then I smelled the bad smell again. Leaning forward over the counter, I took a good look at the top of my head.

And then I let out a terrible yell.

Tune in tomorrow to find out if Five of Nine found a way to rescue her burned mane . . . . .



I am so excited to vote today because that means the Republican Party will quit calling my house every five minutes to remind me and I won't have to hear Sarah Palin's annoying voice telling me that "as a mom" she understands everything I am facing. Please.

Now that I am done with that rant, I should tell all the coffee drinkers that they can get a free cup of Joe today from Starbucks as a thank you for casting your vote.

Now a little something for the trivia buffs who might not know the origins of the Elephant and Donkey symbolism:

The now-famous Democratic donkey was first associated with Democrat Andrew Jackson's 1828 presidential campaign. His opponents called him a jackass (a donkey), and Jackson decided to use the image of the strong-willed animal on his campaign posters. Later, cartoonist Thomas Nast used the Democratic donkey in newspaper cartoons and made the symbol famous. Nast invented another famous symbol--the Republican elephant. In a cartoon that appeared in Harper's Weekly in 1874, Nast drew a donkey clothed in lion's skin, scaring away all the animals at the zoo. One of those animals, the elephant, was labeled "The Republican Vote." That's all it took for the elephant to become associated with the Republican Party. Democrats today say the donkey is smart and brave, while Republicans say the elephant is strong and dignified.



The Brainiac gets Equestrian

Yesterday we took a little drive to watch The Brainiac compete in a horse show. We have done this many times before. But this time I was the most proud I have ever been because The Brainiac has some new obstacles that make being in a barn an absolute misery, but she keeps on competing anyway, because it is something she has a passion for.

You see, we recently found out that The Horse-crazy Brainiac is allergic to grass. And because hay is basically just dried-up grass, a barn is just about the worst place on earth for her to be.

Her eyes get red. Her nose turns into a faucet. And then she starts to sneeze like crazy.

It wasn't always like this. Back when she started riding at age nine, she didn't show any symptoms. But over the years things have gotten gradually worse.

But she is not giving up. She shows up for her weekly lesson and comes home clutching her kleenex.

Yesterday I held my breath while she rode around the arena, paying attention to the perfect transitions from walk to trot to canter, knowing that while she was focusing on signaling the horse she was also doing everything in her power not to sneeze.

Finally came the time for the riders to ride to the center of the ring for the ribbon ceremony. I heard them call The Brainiac's name.

And then I heard the sneeze.


Matt is Having More Fun Than Me

I love this video from a guy named Matt who found an awesome way to document his travels.