Thursday, December 29, 2011

Fa La La (Paint the Walls)

We have been Christmas-ing and Birthday-ing and hanging out together and having a grand old time for the past week.

Christmas weekend was spent in the company of JP's sister and family, including a niece recently off the plane from Bulgaria, and a nephew soon headed to Japan. The girls, as always, enjoyed the company of their older cousins. L's favorite activity is to play with the Nativity figures

We arrived back home late on Christmas night. After a bit of a sleep in, the girls were ready to attack the pile of gifts under the tree. Mom and Dad invited us over for a Post-Christmas dinner, complete with flaming Plum Pudding with Rum Sauce.

For her 6th birthday, L wanted to visit the "Dino Museum". We spent the day at the Natural History Museum, checking out the Dinos and other exhibits, then came home for Chinese at her favorite restaurant, cake, and more gifts.

This morning, J & L helped me paint the last half of the garage. They were good helpers, and enjoyed the chance to make an enormous mess.

I have to head back to work tomorrow. I didn't get very far on the list of things to "catch up on" during break, but you know what? I don't care. It was wonderful to sleep in mornings, and spend time doing nothing more significant than being with my family. It was rejuvenating...perhaps I'll be a more well adjusted teacher in 2012!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Ready For Santa

J still believes in Santa. We have never told her that he exists, but do not deny it either. Instead, we try to open her young mind by asking her questions like: "How many children do you think live in the entire world? How long do you think it might take to go down one chimney to put presents under a tree and fill, say, 2 stockings? How long did it take us to fly from Pittsburgh to Tampa, Florida last year?" And leave her to draw her own conclusions. She has. Santa, she declares, puts presents in the stockings, but Mommy and Daddy put the presents under the tree.

JP is incredulous. At the tender age of nine, he had long before discounted the jolly old elf. I think she is teetering on the edge of fantasy and reality; unwilling to let go of the Fairy Tale for the harshness of the real world.

So, ok, we're not really ready for "Santa", just for the transformation he represents. The tree has become a glittering showcase for years of Christmas memories, each ornament with its own story. Gradually, gifts from friends are appearing under the tree, parties are attended, gifts exchanged, Merry-Merry's tossed across the counter at the bank, the post office, the grocery store. All the shopping is done, all the gifts wrapped, all the Christmas cards mailed, and as of this afternoon, all of the cookies baked.

This year, I have been telling the girls, "Christmas is for children." But that's not really true. Their anticipation is building and they are nearly crawling out of their skins with excitement of the festivities yet to come. I am almost as excited to see their smiling faces as they shred the paper off all of the carefully wrapped gifts.

I love it all: the lights, the Christmas music, the Santa neck-tie my boss wears, the jingle bells. I love snuggling up with L on my lap to watch "It's a Wonderful Life". I love the excuse to eat more cookies and chocolate, the extravagance, the decadence.

All too soon, the girls will want to be somewhere else for Christmas, so I'm soaking it all up now. I'm breathing deeply, and inhaling the joy of Christmas, and hoping that it will warm me through dreary February.

And now, my dears, much bustling awaits. Travel ensues, as does Christmas-ing and Birthday celebrating, so I am unlikely to tap out my musings again for a while. So Merry-Merry to all of you, and may you enjoy the lights of the season with the joy of a child. "God bless us every one!" said Tiny Tim, the last of all.

Have Yourself a Scarey Little Christmas

I just happened to catch the end of the "Michael Buble Christmas Special" last night on NBC. In fact, I tuned in just as he was introducing the tween heart-throb, Justin Bieber. The camera panned across the audience and zoomed in on girls with tears running down their cheeks, so thrilled were they to see Mr. Bieber himself. It seemed that he was walking somewhat oddly, as he came on stage, and he kept his right hand in his pants during the entire song. It became clear soon enough what the problem was, the first time that he bent down to tenderly caress the hands of several young ladies in the front row: his jeans were belted just below his buttocks, and exposed his gray underpants every time he leaned over. What? What?

I too, became nearly speechless and teary eyed at this spectacle. I had to switch the channel after about 90 seconds because I just couldn't watch any longer. The vision of Justin's grey undies is now permanently tatooed on my brain.

Go ahead, watch the clip...IF YOU DARE!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Miracle of the Milk

The strangest thing happened last week! The girls and I did our regular Wednesday morning thing: went to violin lessons, the library and grocery shopping. Of course, all that was interrupted by the accident that L & I witnessed outside of the Post Office, that just happened to (very minorly) involve our parked van. The waiting around in the cold and rain for an hour to give my report to the police sort of put us behind for the day. Apparently I was in such a hurry to unload the groceries once we got home, that I neglected to remove the gallon of milk from the back of the van.

Fast forward to our regular Saturday morning pancake breakfast, during which we finished the gallon of milk that had been in the refrigerator. I assured JP that I had purchased another gallon that week, so we were good. That afternoon, however, while loading up the van to head to J's violin recital, guess what I found in the back of the van? Right...the extra milk I had referred to!

I left it in the garage to deal with upon our return. Miraculously, when I checked it that evening, the milk was still good. This morning we finished up that gallon. Serendipitously (is that even a word?) the weather was cool enough for those 72 hours, that the van acted like a refrigerator and preserved it.

Pretty wild, no?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Merry, Merry

Well, the deer are safe for another year - regular rifle season is over. I sat out again on Friday night, and saw the back end of a doe about 5 minutes before quitting time, waaaaay off down the hill. Now Kali and I can resume our morning walks...thank goodness! I took this picture of the garden and chickens from up in my parent's gazebo while I was hunting on Friday.

It was nippy last night, low of 15*! I worry about the chickens out there in the cold. They are so stupid, I'm certain they will forget how to get back into their coop and turn into hen-cicles. Their water was frozen, but they were fine...stupid as ever...couldn't figure out how to get out of their coop to where I temporarily put their food. We got a second waterer for them a month or so ago, so I can put fresh water out every day while the other one thaws.

The kitties, though, are staying toasty in their Kitty Kastle.

The girls finally wore me down with their begging for the Christmas tree, so we finally got it up and decorated this weekend. I already had the super glue out to fix a record number of 8 ornaments this morning. I'm hoping the casualties slow down in a couple of days after the novelty wears off a bit! The girls were busy downstairs with scissors, paper, glue and tape, and decorated the family room and their rooms with paper snowflakes and colorful paper chains. Now it is looking festive up here on the hill.

J's violin recital went without a hitch yesterday, and there was a good turnout to hear the 7 kids play. They all did great! The piece she played is called "Gavotte", written by J. B. Lully.

JP and I snuggled on the couch to watch "Love Actually" last of our favorite movies with a Holiday theme...LOVE the beginning and ending footage of people hugging at an airport, it's lovely! That about sums up our weekend!

JP is currently out at the store, the girls are exploring in the woods, and I'm going to take this quiet opportunity to wrap a few gifts. I hope you all are starting to get into the Christmas Spirit too!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Back in 1937...

Last winter, a huge old oak tree fell down in our woods. It toppled over, pulling roots and all out of the ground, but no one noticed until I found it some days later while taking my morning walk with the dog.

JP and my Dad marveled at the potentials for this wood for woodworking, etc. JP would like a table made of a cross section of it. This summer, they cut it into managable lengths, and moved it out of the woods to where we can keep an eye on it while it cures and dries.

I have been wondering how long this tree had been growing in our woods. This morning, J had a science lesson entitled "Methods of Studying Ecosystems of the Past." We talked about tree rings, and did a little activity trying to find the oldest tree from a group of tree ring sections. I decided that the time had come to find out exactly how old the oak tree was! We stuck a pin in every 10 rings, and counted 74 rings in all.

Back in 1937, this enormous tree was just a tiny sapling in our woods. Today, a piece of it served as a lesson in Science for my girls. Next year, part of it may be a small table in our house.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Morning Has Broken

I went out at Dawn to hunt on Saturday morning...the first time I've ever done that. I sat with my Dad up in the cupola above his house, watching for deer as the sun rose. It was beautiful to watch!

I had a completely open view of the entire Southern sky, which slowly became swathed in peach, rose and plum. The black sillouttes of the skeletal trees against the bright sky was unbelievably beautiful, especially with the foreground of white frosted meadow.

Once the sun was almost up, the birds began to arrive. Chickadees, Tufted Titmice (Titmouses?), tiny Finches, and Red Bellied Woodpeckers flew to and from the bird feeders and suet to the trees. A flock of crested Blue Jays arrived, chatted awhile, then moved on. It always amuses me to see the little Nuthatches scamper up and down the tree trunks head first!

Later on, we saw a flock of 25 or 26 turkeys meander out of the woods behind our barn, make their way, scratching and pecking, below the orchard, and disappear into the woods behind the compost bin.

I sat for almost 3 hours, scanning the tree line with binoculars periodically, and saw not a single deer. Dad saw the tail end of one through the trees, but we could not identify gender or size, and didn't want to shoot that end anyway, so it made it's way further into the brambles and out of our sight.

It wasn't a completely wasted morning, though. I was able to spend the time with my Dad, and see the beauty of the sun warming up the day, which is not something that I usually get to do. I hope to go out again this week in the evening, to look again for deer.

The rest of the day, we spent building this winter Kitty Kastle for Bert and Ernie on the back porch. Last year they had a temporary sort of shanty made of packing pallets and plywood...resembles some of the housing further down our road!

I also took down a section of the deer fence around the garden and wrangled the chicken coop inside. Now the hens are free to come and go out of their coop for the winter, and I'm hoping that their scratching will help till the beds and fertilize them a bit...get them ready for Spring planting!

Today we refilled the wood stashes near the house, and grilled burgers and dogs for dinner while it was still warm enough to do so. Grilling in December...who would have guessed?

The girls decided that they didn't want to go to the Christmas Parade this year. It made me a teeny bit sad, since it's the first year since we've been here that we didn't go. The sorrow was short lived, but flashed on and off several times this weekend.

The girls have been begging to put the Christmas tree up. I am not ready to give up that space yet! I did break down and put up their tiny tree downstairs, and got out my snowmen, with which I decorate the bookshelves every year.

As we move so swiftly into the Christmas season this year, I am desperately trying to not be so overwhelmingly busy that I can not enjoy it.