Sunday, December 31, 2006

Waiting for the new year

Waiting, at this moment we watch the preparations for the battle of Helm's Deep.

Our original plan for New Year's Eve was to spend time with friends at one or two kid-friendly parties, one early and the other later, probably heading home late in the evening but before midnight. That's not how it worked out! One party was cancelled due to illness, one of us is fighting a cold, and two are tuckered out from their four-day, three-night campout with Scouts.

So, plans were adapted. We enjoyed attending our usual early evening church service-and-dinner. LOVED the chicken pot pie; our offering was homemade biscuits and they went well together, yay. Once we were back at home, the boys opened their season-of-Christmas gift of new fleece pajamas and promptly put them on, heehee. Then we settled in to watch The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, from the trilogy super-duper extra-special ultra-extended-version set we received at Christmas (we watched the first movie Christmas afternoon, I think?).

The elves have arrived at Helm's Deep, and the Ents are deep in conference. I'm going to sign off and enjoy the rest of the movie and the last minutes of the old year.

Farewell and Godspeed, 2006. You were a good year.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Busy but it's good

The boys are out walking around the block, to help Son1 break in his new light hiking boots. What a great idea, dear husband! The full dishwasher is running, a load of laundry is in the washer, most Christmas gifts are on their way, I have a thorough list of household To-Dos, AND I have a nice list of fun Christmas To-Dos for the kids to pick from.

Now, while the kids are gone, I'm going to quickly put away a bunch of cluttery things around the house and get ready for an errands run when the kids return. If we can accomplish that, keep the laundry moving along, and prep for dinner, then by late afternoon the kids can choose from the Christmas To-Dos. Ornament making, pie making, game playing with me, cookie dough making, or finishing the Christmas decorating; I wonder what they'll pick?

Eek, they're back!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

A shopping day

We don't shop often. Oh, groceries, sure, sort of. But clothes? gifts? objects to fill household needs? Well, we pretty much do our utmost to avoid shopping, but sometimes it just needs to be done. And turns out to be rather fine, and even fun. Thus it was today.

Our plan: when dear husband returned from a prior commitment in the early afternoon, we would head out to Nearby City and shop our way homeward for the rest of the day. Yikes, you might say, but our itinerary was clothing surplus store, possibly Scout Shop, military surplus store, Big Box Store in our town, and finally our favorite Christmas tree lot. And that's exactly what we did!

Our main goal: to acquire at least some of the most necessary gear for dear husband and Son1 to survive and perhaps even be vaguely comfortable for the upcoming Dead of Winter Scout campout of four days and three nights. Our other goals: to, if possible, pick up a few leadership resources at the Scout Shop. To give dear husband his first look at the new Big Box Store in our town. To bring a Christmas tree into our home. Again, that's what we did -- whew!

We had a very enjoyable time over about five hours, all told. We saw a lot of Nearby City. We thoroughly explored every overstuffed aisle of the clothing surplus store and acquired warm socks, sock liners, glove liners, and long underwear for both guys, as well as a great hat for Son1... with earflaps! We also discovered Son1 really wants a neck gaiter in soft microfleece, hmmm.

Next, dear husband and I tracked down the Scout Shop, to which we had previously traveled separately and from different directions. We found it! and it was closed, oh well. Onward to the military surplus store, passing on the way an upscale mall and its vast parking lot that was very very very crowded. The military surplus store was oh so thematic, with lots of memorabilia along the walls, and mostly clothing. I could've picked up a copy of the book The Happy Handgunner, though, I think that was the title! The kids enjoyed exploring the store while dear husband and I looked for some wool pants Son1 might be able to wear. We found a candidate pair, and they could be cinched to fit somewhat, but in the end we decided to put that purchase off. We left with a new wool watch cap for dear husband.

Next, we bowed to kid needs and ate dinner at a fast food place, a somewhat restorative task. Time to drive back to our town for the visit to Big Box Store. Amazingly, the only thing we bought from that fine establishment was a pack of 4-Watt nightlight bulbs! Er, and I picked up a decaf peppermint mocha and a pound of whole-bean Starbucks decaf Christmas Blend coffee.

The final stop was our favorite Christmas tree lot. The boys, again, explored while dear husband and I told the tree lot guy our preferred price and that we were looking for kinda tall and skinny, looked at the two Michigan firs he showed us amid a brief lament that the rest in that price range had sold, chose one 'cause we liked them both fine, and bought it and a premade Noble fir wreath (a splurge this year!). The boys didn't seem to mind missing most of the process! We drove home with a bundled tree and a nice wreath, as well as our other purchases, and hauled everything into the house.

Now the kids are asleep in a bedroom lit by the very gentle glow of a yellow rice-paper star lamp I got for that purpose nearly four years ago when we moved into this house; they love it.

We have a pile of clothing that will go a long way toward keeping my guys comfortable even if they have somewhat challenging weather on their campout after Christmas. We also have made some decisions about what else to get for that. I'm going to dig into the long-forgotten box of my old outdoor and skiing gear. I know I have good long underwear Son1 can wear; possibly more socks and liners; and a monster pair of felted, super dense wool mittens. We're working our way with some success down the list of recommended gear.

A card table and various objects and piles that tend to come to rest on it have been moved or put away. The Michigan fir drinks water as it stands between the piano and the entryway, with two paper chains perched in its now-relaxing branches. The scent of fir drifts through the house along with songs such as "Coventry Carol."

It has been a very good day.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Friday Five: Yuletide Favorites

From the RevGalBlogPals (see blogroll and go check them out!)...

For this mid-December Friday Five, let's explore some Yuletide favorites.

1) It's a Wonderful Life -- Is it? Do you remember seeing it for the first time? Definitely a major, major favorite, from time immemorial.

2) Miracle on 34th Street -- old version or new? Old, I think. We just watched it this evening, colorized. Now we need to record and watch the black and white version (the kids don't expect to like it!), and the Richard Attenborough version. I remember enjoying them all, actually.

3) Do you have a favorite incarnation of Mr. Scrooge? Love Patrick Stewart. And the, er, 1940s? 1937? movie. And Bill Murray in, I think, Scrooged. I think the story can take quite a lot of the adaptations done to it and still shine, but those three come to mind right away!

4) Why should it be a problem for an elf to be a dentist? I've been watching Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer for years now, and I still don't get it. I have no idea. I think it's really odd. Don't like the coach-like reindeer who is obnoxious to Rudolph in an adult-to-kid way, either. And yet, the story as a whole is great.

5) Who's the scariest character in Christmas specials/movies?
* The Bumble
* The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, Muppet Version
* That Mean Magician Who Tries to Melt Frosty
* Your Nomination

I nominate Whoopi Goldberg as a female Scrooge; she just didn't have the Scroogeish magic for me.

In this household we LOVE the Christmas shows, and the vaguely Christmas shows, and the shows that have a Christmas scene in them, and so on! From Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer to The Polar Express, from Harry Potter movies (great Christmas decor in the great hall, you know) to The Santa Clause I, II, III, and of course the classic Grinch cartoon and A Christmas Story, we love them.

We do, though, have a Must-Not list: the Jim Carrey Grinch movie, and many of the made-for-TV movies and shows. There can be gems, but some years we don't try to find them and other years we have fun seeing what's on the airwaves. Mr. St. Nick: not bad. Nestor the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey: have it recorded to watch for the first time since I was a kid.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

So how's it going?

I'm in a blogging mood again lately, but haven't had much time to write up posts. Be warned, there may be a flurry of blog posts soon! is being glitchy after their update, so I might at long last set up a Moveable Type or WordPress blog. In the meantime, I feel a desire to spell out what our homeschooling looks like nowadays, two weeks before Christmas.

So... I wrote a bunch here, then moved it over to A Bit of Bubbly, my homeschooling blog. I found a good Mac browser (Firefox!) for, so perhaps I'll be blogging over there more regularly now that my posts are less likely disappear in the midst of being written. Oh, and blogging a bit more here is a possibility, too!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Second snow day: sun and fun

Today was pretty fun, as snow days go. The beginning of the day was quite crisp, 19F at 8:30 am when Son1 ventured outside for the newspaper (these kids are all about the comic strips, and are no longer satisfied with the Sunday color comics). It was gorgeous -- little drifts of wind-blown snow providing terrain and texture in the simple whiteness covering the ground everywhere, all dazzling in the bright sunlight. And the blessed stillness! No wind! By 9:30 am the boys were champing at the bit, so I let them bundle up and head outside.

They stayed outside for nearly three hours!!!

They made a beeline for the park behind our house. The temps steadily climbed, maxing around 47F after noon. With the moderate temps, no wind, and the sunshine I noticed they had unzipped their coats and, eventually, removed their hats. It turns out what finally brought the boys in was a combination of cold, wet feet (no snow boots) and unfamiliar kids showing up who were happy to throw snowballs at faces, grrr.

While they were out, though, they explored snowdrifts and broad expanses of snow in the park behind our house at great length. After a while the next-door-neighbor kiddos showed up, and they all played for a long time. There seemed to be snow fort construction, snowball throwing, falling prone into snowdrifts, and on, and on. In yesterday's stormy, windy snowfall the kids were only able to throw snow flurries -- the snow was too cold to pack well -- but today the now-packable snow was pretty decent for snowballs and snowpeople and snowforts.

The boys went out again in the late afternoon to attempt to build a snowman. They got about two-thirds of the way done and were just too cold to stay out longer (still-wet shoes, hard to get around that). They warmed up with a change of clothes and another round of hot cocoa and settled in to play indoors. Our boys were so tired and ready for bed at the end of the day!

We still have snow on the ground, but a lot melted during the day in areas exposed to the south. The snowman attempt was in the front yard, on the north side of the house, shaded by our two-story abode. It's already 25F at not quite midnight, and supposed to be cloudy tomorrow and not much above freezing, so maybe the boys will get to play again in the snow remaining from today.

Oh, arrggh! I just realized I forgot to get out our Calvin and Hobbes books after the snowman attempt. I want to introduce the boys to Calvin's idea of snowpeople ("I'm melting!", or snowmen at war, or, well, gee, I don't remember the rest). That'll be fun to do tomorrow!

Advent Friday Five

From the RevGalBlogPals, as Advent begins this Sunday.

1) Do you observe Advent in your church? Definitely. Advent wreathmaking workshop with volunteer-created booklet of prayers and readings; Advent-oriented readings and prayers and hymns in the services, and I'm sure some small changes to the liturgy that I don't think about; Advent wreath lighting at the beginning of each service on Sunday; Advent liturgical color used in hangings and such in the church; Advent quiet day mini-retreat some years; Advent family activities on Wednesday evenings some years.

2) How about at home? Again, definitely. We have worked to develop traditions for Advent as preparation, Christmas (12 days) as celebration, Epiphany as a good ending to this time of year -- and it's really helped relax this time of year for us. Better than the cultural, sustained, intense anticipation-celebration-preparation mix that starts in November and ends abruptly sometime on Christmas Day. Off soapbox!

Our home traditions for Advent include lighting the Advent wreath every evening before dinner, and saying the prayers and readings on Sunday evenings; decluttering the house and kids' things and giving away excess toys, etc.; having simple, easy dinners; decorating the house but no Christmas tree until nearly Christmas.

Edited to add: There are a bunch of tips and ideas for Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany over at my Web site Faith at Home, should you be interested.

3) Do you have a favorite Advent text or hymn? O Come, O Come, Emmanuel -- 'cause I love that minor-key stuff, and the connection with first-millenium Christians through the Great O antiphons on which it is based.

4) Why is one of the candles in the Advent wreath pink? (You may tell the truth, but I'll like your answer better if it's funny.) Joy, celebration, or is it... pink for us girls!

5) What's the funniest/kitschiest Advent calendar you've ever seen? I dunno; I think Sara over at Going Jesus has a lot of examples of truly awful such stuff, though.