Monday, December 22, 2008

Wrapping It Up

Most of the presents are wrapped. A few Christmas cards were mailed. The teachers' gifts have been bought (succulents...a nice houseplant in a pretty pot. Thank you, Ikea!). The tree is up, the house is decorated, the Christmas dinner menu has been planned, and the groceries have been bought. Just have to hunt down some fresh cranberries.

Tonight the cookies will be baked.

Renee and Jeff will come by tonight for a round of baking and, at least when it comes to Jeff and Ian, helping the kids with their new Lego kits. My ex-husband's father positively spoiled the kids this Christmas, taking them to Toys R Us yesterday and allowing them to PICK OUT what they wanted. Sean picked out the Star Wars Federation MTT. For the uninitiated, that means Sean picked out a $100 kit that contains 1,326 pieces.

Exhibit A:

Upon returning home yesterday from his trip to the store with Dad and Grandpa C., Sean walked through the door with the Lego box that is nearly as big as him, and he announced, "I got to pick out the MTT!!! Grandpa C. had more than a hundred bucks in his pocket!"

Obviously. I hope he at least said thank you.

Nolan picked out two smaller items, in addition to a Spider-Man Megablock kit.

After their dad deposited them in the kitchen, shared with us the horrors of the icy roads between New Haven and Woodbridge, and then split, Ian and I were called into action. Ian spent a fair amount of time helping Nolan assemble his Spider-Man kit. Sean simply required assistance locating pieces. He had more than 1,000 Legos on the living room floor, separated into piles and bowls by color. He was somewhat organized, but it was still tough to find some of the smaller pieces.

As of this morning, Sean was about 1/4 of the way done with his new ship. Normally he rocks through the Lego kits in a couple of hours. He literally worked on that one yesterday for close to five hours. Impressive. At least he can focus. And at least he and his brother were kept busy while Ian went to the Rudy's Christmas party and I hung out at home, sewing.

Back to tonight: It's cookie night. Renee is bringing a bottle of wine and I'm supplying a few pounds of butter. The kids' last day of school is tomorrow, when they'll go in for the morning, during which time they'll have Christmas parties and eat bucketloads of candy and cookies. At noon tomorrow, the Christmas holiday will have officially begun for them--and for me, sort of. At the end of my workday on Tuesday, I'm off until the 5th. It's my first real "vacation" in a while. The first time I will have taken any time off to do...nothing. I'll hang out. Eat. Sleep. Play with the kids. Enjoy new Christmas toys. Sew. Crochet. Hit a few yoga classes. Walk the dog. Go to a play (Sedaris' "Santaland Diaries"--thank you, Ian!). I will not be moving from one house to another, which I have done my past TWO vacations. Nor will I be out of work and looking for a job, as I was last Christmas.

Hold on a sec...lemme just knock on wood.

Tonight's cookies: Chocolate chip, gingerbread, and some simple Rice Krispie treats made with Skippers, which are nut-free candy-coated chocolate candies from the Vermont Nut-Free catalog. M&M's are decidely unsafe for Sean, since they are "processed in a facility that has peanuts". I actually like the Skippers better. They taste fresher and more chocolately than M&Ms. And they're from a regional merchant. Support your indy candymaker!

I have lots of pics I need to post, too. I've completed several sewing projects lately, and I'd love to share them here. Don't hold your breath, though. I'm swamped for the next few days. And I don't want to add a single thing to my to-do list right now. I'll be on VACATION. After that, it's the new year. And Ian and I have an upcoming wedding that needs attention.

Time for me to retreat into my Domestic Goddess bubble. Merry Christmas & Happy New Year! Stay safe & healthy, get your rest, enjoy the moment, and take deep breaths!


Monday, December 15, 2008


Sometimes the best thing you can do is stop right in your tracks. Last weekend--not this past weekend, but the one before--I did just that. I had purchased (surprise) tickets for me, Ian and the kids to the Polar Express on the Newport Dinner Train months ago. But when Sunday--the day of the event--arrived, I had absolutely no desire to make the four-hour round-trip in the Subaru for 90 minutes on a train.

This was unusual. I am normally fired up when it comes to day trips or long drives to just about anywhere.

Because this was out of character for me to feel completely and totally apathetic about the trip, and because the kids had no clue what we had planned for the day, I bagged it. Call it a hunch. Call it intution. Call it being totally ridiculous and wasting money, but it wasn't going to happen. I made the call mid-Sunday morning, as the kids rolled around in the snow with their friend Nicky oustide church, and Sean and Nolan told me they wanted to get a Christmas tree.

So I decided to go with the flow of things. In our highly scheduled lives, the boys and I enjoy lots of activities and events on a weekly, if not daily, basis. What's more, the kids spend almost every Friday night at their father's, and consequently some days they are burned out on "going" anywhere but home. Home is where the Legos are. Home is where the dogs are. Home is where they can play with good friends and neighbors. Home is...well, there's no place like it, right?

The kids and I went home after mass, and I quietly informed Ian in the other room that I had decided we'd skip out on Newport. He was surprised, but he was down with getting a tree. After all, we had just enjoyed our first snowfall of the season. What could be more idyllic than going to the tree farm to cut down our "first" tree together for the first Christmas together in our new house?

I threw together some lunch and called the Newport Dinner Train, encouraging them to "rehome" my tickets (which were will-call), if they could. Then we hopped into Ian's truck and took off for the tree farm in North Guilford, where the snow had accumulated a little more than in our shoreline neighborhood. The boys, Ian and I trekked through rows of trees, stomping through patches of snow and delighting in the fresh stuff that fell from the sky while we shopped around for the right tree. It seemed unbelievably perfect: fresh snow falling from the sky while two little boys ran amok, chasing rabbits and hiding behind trees. Once we found "the one", Ian got down to the business of sawing, and Sean helped. Later, home, we decorated the tree and enjoyed a long, quiet, relaxing night with a nice fire, cookies, hot chocolate and Christmas movies.

It beat sitting in a car for four hours on I-95.

As the boys headed upstairs to wash up for bed, Sean protested the end of the weekend. "I had so much fun today," he said. "I wish we could do today all over again."

And at that instant, I was completely and totally satisfied, at least for a moment. Sure, I had bailed on taking them on a fun Christmas train ride--a state away. But in doing so we all enjoyed the gift of each other's company on a relaxing, snowy Sunday. Instead of feeling hurried and racing down exits on the highway, we sat in our house by the light of our tree and felt completely content with each other at home. As my friend Cindy, the mother of Sean's best friend Nicky, said, "Sometimes we get so crazy planning to do stuff for the kids, and really, we're doing it for us. They're happy to just hang out, and sometimes it's better to just do that."

And so it was.

Happy Monday.


Friday, December 12, 2008

My Little Sister is a Whore!

My 16-year-old sister Grace landed a role as "The Prostitute" in her high school's recent interpretation of the play "Father Knows Best" (the script from which the television show was born). The director wrote in 12 new parts in order for the play to be done, since high school plays usually require a large cast. (That's the reason high schools usually do musicals, because those casts are already huge...)

Grace had never officially "acted" before, although she spent two summers at camp doing performance art, including trapeze (how cool is that?). But her role as the unnamed hooker in last week's play was her first real role, and she rocked it. She received huge applause during her mid-scene stage exit during each of the play's three performances (none of the other actors snagged such a response, and those kids were all excellent). She was dry, funny, quick, and sassy--a sharp contrast to the teeny-bopper roles held by the other girls on stage. It was the perfect role for her, and she LOVED it. She loved it so much, in fact, that now she wants to go to Emerson College. And I want to help her get in there any way I can.

Tonight I head back out to my mom's shoreline town to see my brother perform in "A Midsummer Night's Dream". Jack is 12 and pretty shy, so I cannot wait to see him on stage tonight. He's never acted before. He was behind the lens of some shorts he filmed with friends up at camp this summer, and he also put together an animated Lego short that was pretty hilarious. This is new territory for him, though. I can't wait to cheer him on.

Tomorrow I'll cheer myself on--at yoga and at the pedal of my sewing machine. Most of the Christmas shopping is done; all that's left are some craft projects, wrapping, and lots of baking. I'm trying to slow it down this season and really enjoy the little moments, alone or with the kids. Of course, I'm never really "alone". That's impossible with two big, needy, affectionate dogs. But I wouldn't have it any other way.

Happy Friday!

Monday, December 1, 2008

A Better Mouse Trap

There is a new member of our household. Bingo is a taupe-colored tiny little field mouse who lives in our walls, eats crumbs the dogs missed, and leaves a trail of tiny mouse poop everywhere he goes.

Bingo. The kids named him. They haven't seen him, but they've named him. Sean said, "I think he wears a little sweater," and proceeded to draw an elaborate scene of what he imagined Bingo's little mouse hole looks like. As Sean sees it, Bingo has a full set-up, complete with a couch, books, and choice artwork on the walls.

It's cute, in a way, having a little field mouse take up residence in our walls. Or maybe we took up residence in his walls a few months ago when we bought the house. Still, cute as it is to hear the boys talk about Bingo the way they talk about the dogs or the fish or the turtle, it's also disgusting to find trails of mouse poop everywhere. So, Ian and I resolved, Bingo must go.

Let me be clear about something. "Bingo must go" does not mean "Bingo must die". In a previous life with a previous husband in a previous home, we had a few mice. According to the previous husband, the only effective way to get rid of them was to kill them with spine-breaking, old-school mousetraps laid out with cheese as the bait.

"Are you sure?" I whimpered, heartbroken.

"Trust me. We had tons of mice growing up. This is the only way."

I deferred. It was not a new pattern, however. I deferred a lot in that relationship. Silly me.

So the ex laid-out the traps in the basement, and within mere minutes we heard an undeniable "SNAP". I felt sick. He investigated. "Got 'em!" he yelled up the basement stairs. I started to cry.

That is not the scene I wanted played out again with Bingo. Poor little mouse. He's just cold and hungry and found this great place to shack up for the winter. I don't think that means he deserves to DIE, even if his little poop crumbs are so totally gross. Remembering my experience at the old house, I gasped when Ian mentioned the word "trap". He laughed and reassured me. "We're not going to kill him," he said. "They make no-kill traps." Phew. Of course!

Reason #1985928749287349238492389027 why this relationship makes sense.

So this weekend the traps were laid out. The first round didn't work, and we still had mouse poop on our counter in the morning. Smart little guy. So Ian bought a different style of no-kill trap, laced it with soy nut butter, and placed in our "spot" on the kitchen floor.

I forgot all about it. The kids went to bed, and Ian and I dozed on the couch, watching a few episodes from the first season of "Arrested Development". Suddenly, I heard a clear "CLICK" from the kitchen. I lifted my head.

"What is it?" Ian asked.

"I heard something in the kitchen."

We investigated. Ian took the trap and went out to the back porch with it. He peeked inside.

"He's in there!" he smiled. "And he is scared shitless."

"Let me see him!"

I tried to get a good look, but I could barely see the little guy.

I looked up at Ian. "You're going to set him free?"


I talked to the mouse. "I'm sorry to send you out on such a cold, wet night, little guy. Be safe." I felt terrible.

Ian let him go. "Don't worry. He'll probably find his way back in."

Before bed, we reset the trap in the hopes of catching one of the many cousins Bingo no doubt has living in our walls. Where there's one....

This morning we found the trap had been tripped again overnight. Sean was excited to finally meet Bingo. But when he and Ian opened the trap, it was empty.

I smiled. Bingo found his way back in alright.