Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Calvin's take on snowmen

Okay, just a little Calvin and Hobbes snowman fun. Thanks for the forward, Austin's work!

The Horse and His Boy

Austin and I just finished reading the Horse and His Boy by CS Lewis out loud to each other. It's the third book in the Narnia series, and is excellent. I haven't ever read fiction out loud to someone else, besides a few times as a counselor at summer camp, and it takes a little getting used to.

I read very quickly to myself, and am in the habit apparently of almost skimming some words, especially the details. It's a very different experience reading out loud, because you can't skimp on the details. Every word is read, and takes more emphasis and time than reading to yourself. So it's interesting in that way, annoying at times, but also very fun.

Why are we reading the Narnia tales out loud to each other? Why not? We might as well practice for when Tucker gets old enough to have them read to him, right? Seriously, though, he's years away from hearing Narnia, and we were given this wonderful gift set of the Narnia books, and it just isn't possible to wait to read them for the first time with Tucker. And then a year or more ago we came across my brother and his now-fiancee (Hi Kat and Mike!) reading fantasy out loud to each other during a holiday. Of course we secretly laughed at them, but you know, maybe they had a good idea.

Anyway, I am not into spoiling plots. But what I love about the Narnian books is that they inspire you to chivalry, and honor, to gird up for the battle between good and evil. It is fun to think about worlds that are unseen sometimes, and where the good guys win. The plot is so gripping, I always go too fast and then end the book trying to remember what all the important, noble truths were that Lewis wove in there.

Also, I have to say, CS Lewis has characters with great names: Cor, Corin, Darrin... better than any baby name book, in my opinion (not that we are looking for baby names now, so don't go getting ideas!!!!).

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Spirit of Giving

Tucker is a generous little guy, and loves to give things. In the mornings if he's playing on our bed, before we drag ourselves up for the day, he often tries to stuff his pacifier into Austin's mouth. A very sweet gesture considering he loves his nuk, but not necessarily what either of us really wants to put in our mouth first thing in the morning.

Tucker also likes to feed us at meal times. It's a reciprocal thing: we feed him a spoonful of his dinner and he jams a ketchup-encrusted fist of soggy bread at us. Yummy....

Where the spirit of the season really takes hold for Tucker is with the dog. He has a compulsion these days to chase the dog, and give Ben whatever treasure he is holding. This weekend alone, Ben was given: a package of altoids, a sippy cup, a spoon, numerous food items, small wooden blocks, and Tucker's ducky. There are obviously several problems with this. First, unlike us, Ben doesn't give these items back to Tucker. Maybe this is good training for future sibling rivalry and the laws of sharing, but right now it is getting tiresome. Equally challenging is trying to teach the dog not to mooch food off the baby when the baby seems to desire to chase him and give him his food at every opportunity. Also, as discussed before, the dog actually eats inedible things (fabric, plastic) so it is with some trepidation that I see small wooden blocks getting crunched in his mouth

Wine Tasting

It's time to get caught up on my holiday blogging. All of our families were in town, which means lots of fun, lots to do, and lots of fodder for this forum.

I am not an oenophile (wine lover). It ranks somewhat above beer, which I detest, but not very far above. I believe the best uses of wine would either be in sangria or in a wine cooler, but just as good to leave it out completely.

My brother in an oenophile, or at least claims to be. He carefully swirls the wine and inspects its legs on the glass when we're out to dinner, and spends a lot of time smelling it. Anyway, I decided to put him to the test this Christmas Eve. We had on hand four cabernet sauvignons, and everyone was supposed to rank the wines in their order of preference. Originally, I had intended to purchase wines with various degrees of cost, to determine whether to my family's "discerning" taste buds, expensive wines truly taste better. Unfortunately, this intention broke down in the implementation process and we ended up with only three varieties (four bottles) of cheap (under $10) wine. (Note to self: work on the implementation next time).

Still, I poured four plastic cups for each participant, with wines A, B, C, and D.

My brother and mother's favorite was Wine B, the cheapest at $4.50.
My husband ranked his wine A-B-C-D and my future sister-in-law ranked hers exactly the opposite: D-C-B-A. The interesting thing is that D and A were the same wine, albeit from dfferent bottles.

My conclusion? Just hide the label and buy the $4.50 wine. No one can really tell. BUT, I will repeat this experiment next year under more optmal conditions (pinot noirs, variety of prices, etc.). Mike, Kat, Mom, Austin: get ready!

Ketchup, it's what's for dinner

Tucker has taken to pointing at the refrigerator during dinner time and yelling. What is the valuable prize in the fridge? Ketchup. Tonight's dinner was some baked beans, pineapple, some breakfast sausage... and ketchup. Lunch was some leftover spiral ham, cooked carrots, applesauce... and ketchup. And when I say ketchup I don't mean a teaspoon of ketchup on the side. Tucker enthusiastically attacks ketchup like he would a good soup, often needing seconds. It also REALLY helps me keep our meals tidy... riiight. Anyway, at least he hasn't started trying to demand it for breakfast.

Friday, December 26, 2008


We enjoyed a glorious holiday dinner at the Clifton Inn, a treat from my mom. It was wonderful food, though I think I am on rich food overload. There is a place for rich, buttery sauces, but really, only so much. I am ready for salads now. A lot of salads. But I guess I'll still make room for the peppermint bark in the freezer

Anyway, on to the mortification. Tonight, I employed my second babysitter for Tucker. I found a great one, with great references. I am so excited to be developing some contacts for reliable, responsible babysitting.

But I almost sent her out the door after an evening of work with only $5, instead of the $50 bill that I meant to. The going rate is $10/hour, and we live in the country and it takes time and gas to get out here.

So it was a simple mix up--I saw the "5" and thought it was the $50 and it wasn't! I thought I had no cash in my wallet besides the $50 bill!!!!! She must've been so surprised and shocked. Thankfully, as she was about to go out the door, she spoke up and told me. Oh, mortification. How horrible! It would be one thing if she knew us, knew that our intentions are to be honest and generous and all that. But this was her first time babysitting, so she didn't.

I've already sent an apologetic email, and at times like this there is nothing else to do but to file away a mental note to be more attentive in the future (why am I not more details oriented???) and to cut myself some slack. And also to remember that God is bigger than all of this.

Oh, sure, it's embarrassing and cringe worthy. Who likes to make a mistake and look bad? And yet, I'm thankful that at the end of the day, I can trust my life, myself and all these petty little details to the God I serve who is so much bigger than all this. And sure, I'll still take the wrong bill out of my wallet, still burn the popcorn, and who knows what else. But in the light of eternity the significance of these things really mellows.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Primal weight lifting

Last night Austin went outside and lifted weights at 8 pm in the unheated, unlit shed. It was 20 degrees and pitch black. I heard some primal screams as he flung weights around but I tried not to pay too much attention. Apparently changing it up sometimes is good for the soul, and for the workout.

I'm not quite sure how physical austerity and deprivation is linked to manliness, but there seems to be some link, at least in our household. A couple summers ago, Austin practiced hiking up the mountain behind our house barefoot so he could toughen up the souls of his feet. He lifts weights barefoot, even when the cement is so hot in the summer it burns his feet. I think he even lifted in 100 degree temperature with stifling humidity, inside our little oven of a shed. If it was just him living in this house, I don't know if he'd ever turn the heat or AC on.

The photo is from (Testosterone Nation: Unapologetic Muscle Building Elitists), one of Austin's must-read websites.

Sick bear

Poor kiddo, Tucker's sick. He actually did a lot better today than yesterday, but his nose was a faucet and his eyes are all red (pink eye?), low fever, diarrhea. It's tough being a little sick man.

When he doesn't feel well, all he wants is me, but it is a very helpless feeling because I know all I can do isn't enough. I can hold him, but I can't make him feel better. Plus, all bets are off with our routine when he's sick. Yesterday was the most miserable and inconsolable I've ever seen him. He felt horrible, but couldn't nap because some work was being done in the bathroom near his room, and he refused to go down in an unfamiliar place. At 2 pm, I finally put in ear plugs and put him in the car and drove around till he fell asleep.

I am praying that he doesn't have pink eye, and that his illness won't be the Christmas present that keeps on giving throughout the extended family. My hands are chapped from how much I have washed them today!!!

He certainly will not be able to be in the church nursery for the Christmas Eve service, at this rate. That will be a challenge. Good thing his Jo Jo and Uncle Mike will be there to play--maybe Austin and I will sit in a different pew entirely. :)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas present from Benny the Wonder Pup

This morning Ben the dog gave us a Christmas present... four to be exact! I thought he was a Dumb Dog, but it turns out he must be a very smart dog to be able to time his gift giving so well.
You may think that socks are a boring Christmas present? Not when Ben gives them. In fact, today he gave us three of Tucker's socks and a bib that have apparently been in his stomach for an undisclosed amount of time. Gee, thanks Ben!!! Good morning to you, too!

Austin and I had opposite reactions to Ben's three piles of "gifts."
Austin: I don't think I'll ever be able to eat breakfast after looking at that.
Me: I'd rather clean up partially digested socks than anything else that would be in a pile from Ben.
Austin: I hope Ben isn't getting any presents for Christmas.

My take on the situation: obviously he's a sick dog, a total addict... to fabric. He developed a taste for baby bibs last winter, and apparently failed to learn his lesson when one got lodged in his small intestine, requiring surgery. Some people think socks get gobbled up in the dryer, but I KNOW where the baby's lost socks go. Usually I find them out in the yard, decomposing. On a side note, it is amazing how long they can stay in his stomach. When he needed surgery, I think the bib was in there about three weeks before it finally got stuck.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Spitting camels in Bethlehem

We went off to a live nativity that a couple local churches put on every Christmas, and it was fantastic, besides being bitterly cold with a biting wind. I know, I know, I grew up in Vermont, I have gotten SO soft since living in Virginia, calling an afternoon like this cold. It was cold, but the kind of cold you can still take your one-year-old out in, and that Austin can go out in just a fleece and no hat and be fine because he's a Tough Guy, at least for a few minutes.

These churches have put together a whole little Bethlehem Village with lots of little huts where people are portraying activities that would've happened in Bethlehem at the turn of the millenium. So, there was a weapons hut where a couple little boys got to hold a replica Roman sword, some lentil soup in a marketplace, some shepherd kiddos tending their sheep, some open fires, and lots more. The biggest hit were the two camels. I have no idea what these two camels are doing in central Virginia, but they were the star of the show. One of them tried to nibble off my blue mittens, and the other one spit at Austin and Tucker and shocked the Little Man by reaching out its long head at him.

Definitely something to do again next year, but maybe on a warmer day. Heck, we live in Virginia--I think the high is supposed to be in the 50s on Christmas day. That is what I'm talking about.


Ah, the Christmas festivities have begun! Thankfully, the house didn't burn down in the process of cooking and decorating this afternoon but it turns out neither my husband nor I know how to use a fire extinguisher off the top of our heads. But, also thankfully, quick-thinking Austin thought to bring the flaming pot of oil outside BEFORE any damage was done. The baby's nap was not even disturbed by two screaming smoke alarms and smoke smell so bad we had to leave the doors and windows open, at about 30 degrees and really windy.

So, I was multi-tasking. I was popping popcorn on the stove (why have a popcorn maker when you can just use a bit of oil and a pan you already have?), working on some peppermint bark (GREAT recipe... think I'm getting the hang of it--thanks Helen!), when Austin needs some help with the tree, because it happens to be 8 feet tall, which I think I mentioned before. :)

I leave the oil on the stove, on high (I'm not a patient cook) and become a living prop to hold the tree up while we maneuver it into a stand that is almost too small (do you know how many stores have been sold out of tree stands this year in our area?). I hear the test kernels pop in the kitchen, my cue to put the rest of the popcorn in, turn down the heat and start shaking. But, I think, the tree is about up and I can rush in to save the popcorn, no harm done.

Unfortunately, I missed a teensy-tiny consideration: "in seconds, the oil can ignite, burst into flames and cause a house fire." Turns out this is not government safety propaganda, but the truth! We left the tree to its own devices once the smoke detectors started to go off. I ran to the kitchen and opened the lid to the pot, which promptly caused the flames to shoot up out of the pot. Thankfully, Austin whisked it outside, and no harm was done besides a pot that is going to be HARD to clean.

I even succeeded (eventually) in making popcorn and stringing enough for (almost) our whole tree. Thankfully, my mom arrives tomorrow and I have just enough left over popcorn to put her to work putting the finishing touches on the tree on Tuesday. The one problem is that both the baby and the dog REALLY like popcorn, so the bottom most strand of popcorn is in dire jeopardy. I fully expect it to get munched on by one or both parties several times this holiday season.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


I wrote a little book for my son for Christmas (shh! don't tell him!)... it features his lovey which we affectionately call Ducky. I took a bunch of pictures of Ducky having adventures around our house and put together a simple story. Of course, I'm not a good enough photographer that plain pictures of Ducky really look all that good. So... what's a non-artist like me to do? Search the internet, of course.

I found a fabulous program called Fotosketcher (freeware), that converts pictures into art that looks like anything from a pencil sketch to a water color. It is really cool. I was experimenting with some pics of the dog, and created some fun portraits. The effect doesn't come through very well on the internet because the size is so small, but it looks very interesting in person.

Vegan Christmas Cookies

I gave up my vegetarian ways long ago in college, but my old cookbooks from my vegetarian commune days (I'm only half joking here) are coming back in handy with Tucker's allergies (dairy, egg, nuts). How do you Christmas cookies without milk, eggs, and butter? Answer: find vegan recipes. (Answer #2: just buy oreos--they're vegan! Answer #3: make lots of pies because it's easy to find great dairy-free pie crusts).

Okay, so these cookies are NOT as good as the real stuff. How could they be? But they really are passable.

This is the link to the recipe:

Of course, I prefer butter or cream cheese frosting so made some modifications, and the amount of frosting they called for was obscene (I think I dumped 3 batches of frosting in the compost).

Still, all in all, a good first foray into the Tucker-safe Christmas cookie realm. He definitely thought they were good. But then again, he so rarely has dessert, whenever sugar passes his lips it rocks his little world.

O Christmas Tree

We got our Christmas tree today. We want it to last through the 12 days of Christmas till Epiphany (January 6th) so we've been super restrained in not putting it up too early.

Our romantic family trek to cut down a live Christmas tree was a bit less than sublime. Tucker has been a bit sick yesterday and today, and it was cold and rainy. The first Christmas tree farm didn't have any trees over about 5' tall, and even the 5 footers were skinny and scraggly. Austin thought we could find something if we looked hard enough, though I boycotted the place and stayed in the car with Little One. The Tree was obviously not there.

So, I casually mentioned on our way to place #2 my assumption that we want an 8' tree (hey, we live in an old farm house with 10' ceilings, plus, in my family we get BIG trees). Austin nearly keels over. Have I lost my mind? Or at least my Christmas marbles? Anyway, we leave the issue lingering when we approach Christmas Tree Farm #2. A great college kid takes us on Tucker's first ATV ride out to a back field where there are many glorious Christmas trees. We keep picking out the "perfect" tree and then finding another to take its place. I notice, but discreetly choose not to mention that our picks are getting larger and larger each time. We eagerly pick the best one. Our first real Christmas tree. We go to pay. Guess what? It's 8', just like I had wanted.... I knew it would all work out. :)

I'll post a pic as soon as we get it up, but first Austin's cutting and mudding some drywall and putting a final coat of paint on our new mudroom bench/window/pass through. (THANKS, HONEY!!!) Oh yeah, the plumbers were here today, and we still don't have a working master bath... maybe by Christmas?