Monday, March 31, 2014

Snow in the Morning, Flowers in the Afternoon

The sun came out just hours after the snow...and so did these.  Too bad if we miss the blooms.


NOT April Fool's!

Okay, even I'm shocked that it's snowing outside (for more than 2 hours now!)--and you know how I look for snow!  Love it, one last little winter's gift.  We called Gommie, way too early, but she was happy to hear from us, and Pop, but his phone was off (he's out of town helping my aunt.)  It's very icy, though.  so I've delayed my morning plans a bit.

NB:  I LOVE my bumper stickers!








Saturday, March 29, 2014

Say No Evil

0980ca86f53b31eda79ef9d34313ad68.jpg (240×320)

I first heard the questions, or "three sieves," as "Is it true?  Is it kind? Is it necessary?"  But the Pinterest version above adds letters and colors. "Inspiring" and "helpful" are good, too, but probably not, well, necessary.  Buddhists also know it as "right speech," or
"abstinence from false speech, abstinence from malicious speech, abstinence from harsh speech, and abstinence from idle chatter.”  In the vernacular this means not lying, not using speech in ways that create discord among people, not using swear words or a cynical, hostile or raised tone of voice, and not engaging in gossip.  
I've been working on this recently, the right speech.  And have had a few challenges, on at least three recent occasions, when I was bothered (read:  indignant, hurt, and/or angry) by something people had said. Of course, blogging about it is not really different than speaking about it, so I won't give the details.  Besides, I've dwelt on it repeatedly in my head--you know, making up mocking comebacks, sarcastic retorts, withering replies.  I was terribly vested in the stories I was telling and retelling myself--Buddhists would say "unskillfully"--and, in doing so, keeping quite alive the hurt and angry emotions that had arisen.  But, I didn't respond.  And in doing so, this post to the contrary, in many ways divested myself of those hard emotions.  Now I'm just looking back, thinking, "Wow, maybe there is something to that right speech."  I just have to include that small voice in my head next time.

Amazing Rain

Amazing rain,
how sweet the sound,
that hasn't been here in months.
I love the snow,
as all of you know,
but I love thunderstorms as well.

--Mommy Hungry

Friday, March 28, 2014

Just Can't Stand It

We're going to England!!!!

Not long now.

And amid all the buying of stomach remedies and packing extra socks, I just keep thinking of the plans and possibilities:
  • Hampton Court
  • Harry Potter Studios
  • Cardiff--Doctor Who Experience and Cardiff Castle
  • Viking exhibition at British Museum
  • "Downton Abbey"/Highclere Castle
  • Stonehenge
  • Winchester
  • St. Pancras and Platform 9 3/4
  • Trafalgar Square, the National Gallery, and brass rubbings at St. Martin's in the Field (also tea)
  • Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, the London Eye
  • Evensong at Westminster Abbey
  • Tower of London
  • St Paul's 
  • Museum of London
  • Globe Theater and Southwark
  • afternoon tea at Fortnum and Mason's 
  • lunch at Cheshire Cheese
  • Harrod's
  • Victoria and Albert Museum
  • yes, the food:  scones, clotted cream, strawberry jam, Earl Grey tea, Ploughman's lunch, Branston pickle, Cornish pasty, wonderful Indian food, traditional English breakfast, chocolate refrigerator cake, yogurt and marmalade, roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, treacle sponge/summer puddings, digestive biscuits, steak and kidney pie, bubble and squeak, fish and chips, lemon curd, shepherd's/cottage pie, flapjacks, elderflower drinks, etc etc etc
  • The kids have even been practicing the lingo (boot, biscuit, bobby, petrol, lorry, tube, pounds, pudding, trousers vs. pants, chips, crisps, dustbin, loo, chemist's shop, car park, car bonnet, lift, post, Wellies, brolly?, etc) . . . 
  • and trying to keep a hold on the history (Celts, Romans, King Arthur, Vikings, Henry VIII, Queen Elizabeth, Pilgrims/Puritans, Victorians, WWII . . . yes, there are some holes, but they're 8!)
  • and, last but not least, Lambeth and Mrs. Lambeth!!!
Ya-hoo!!!!!

Not Much

Beyond the really big trip coming up, I don't have much to report.  There haven't even been too many funny stories from the kiddos.

But we're here and doing well.

Getting ready.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Yay, Crochet!!

My wonderful PT has approved testing out my right arm (with compressed radial nerve) with some crochet!!!  I have missed it so much and was so glad to pick up my hook and yarn again.  I did half a row on an existing prayer shawl, just to see.  And it was exactly what I'd missed.  My arm is a tad sore today, to be expected, and I'll keep trying a bit until I can do more (or the PT says stop for a bit.)  Yay!

No Snow

I was so looking forward to the forecast--there was snow!  Not much predicted, at first 1-3" then a coating to 1".  I'd be happy either way.  I love snow.  It's my happy place.  Perhaps I'm making up for those first 22 years without any.  Perhaps I like it because I don't shovel it, nor have to go out in it usually.  I love it.

And I said so on FB.

And mercy, all the flip-flop-wearing, beach-loving, sun-worshipping snow-haters went nuts, just like they've been calling for the execution of Phil the Prognosticating Groundhog!!

As if I had some kind of direct line to the weather gods . . . .

Which I obviously don't because it didn't snow.  It just got cold and blew hard all day.

The snow sure would have been pretty in the wind.  And what use is plain ol' cold?

I miss winter already.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

No Fat Ladies

In excitement over our upcoming trip to England, we've been watching some British tv, like "Rosemary and Thyme," "The Catherine Tate Show," "Michael Wood's Story of England," and of course "Doctor Who."

And our first favorite, "Two Fat Ladies."  We love their crazy motorcycle, blunt talk, literary references, breaking out into song, on-location trips, and, of course, their food.  So entertaining, so fascinating, so funny.  We haven't ever cooked any of it--I've read that their recipes don't often work--it's more like how I like to read cookbooks rather than repeat it myself.  And I did read Clarissa Dickson Wright's book on the history of the food of England--witty, erudite, obscure. fun.

And then last week, Clarissa died.

(Jennifer Patterson had died years ago)

And so we're watching our way through the series again, in their honor (I got the dvd set for Christmas) and for our trip.  When we get to London, we'll raise a fork in their memory.

-=-=-=-=-=-
Raspberry and Strawberry Shortcake

12 ounces fresh raspberries or frozen raspberries
7 ounces self raising flour
1 ounce ground almonds
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
4 tablespoons/2 ounces butter
3 ounces caster (superfine) sugar
1 egg, beaten
1/4 pint (1/2 cup) milk
2 tablespoons raspberry jam
1-ounce icing (confectioners') sugar
1/4 pint (1/2 cup) double cream
DIRECTIONS

Thaw the frozen raspberries, if using.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Sift the flour, almonds, salt and cinnamon into a bowl and rub in the butter, mix in the sugar. Add the beaten egg and milk to make a scone-like dough. Divide the dough in 2 and gently shape each half to fit into greased 8-inch sandwich tins. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 to 15 minutes.

Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack. When cold spread one of the layers with raspberry jam, then generously with the double cream and raspberries. Sprinkle raspberries with icing sugar, cover with the second layer and top with more cream. Decorate with a few raspberries. Best eaten when fresh.

© Recipe courtesy Jennifer Paterson and Clarissa Dickson Wright

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Hockey Conundrum

We've been to a few hockey games in the last few weeks.

Mama and I have also had to referee a few disagreements at home.

So when the crowd at the hockey games began cheering on hockey players hammering on each other, "Fight!  Fight!  Fight!", and then they showed fight highlights on the big screen, I leaned over to the kids, "If you try that at home, we won't be cheering."

They were very confused that hockey players were not only allowed but encouraged to slug each other.  "Why do they need to hit, Mom?"

There's no simple answer for that, is there?    Men out of control?  Gladiator/hockey enforcer sports culture?  The love of violence in America?  Brain damage?

None of those would fly at our house.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

"Potatoes!"

We got the giggles something fierce last night playing the Game of Life.

You know, the one with the rainbow spinner and the little cars with pegs.  My paternal grandmother had the game at her house, but we didn't actually play the game so much as play with the pieces.  So I hadn't realized there were lots of fun mini-challenges among the action cards.  Those are my favorite part--describe a cake you would make, play a rhythm on pretend bongos, show off your skateboarding moves.  It's sorta like my favorite if-questions games.

And last night, we got "tell your best joke."  I blanked.  So Mama told one for me.

Three space aliens are hiding from humans on a freight train, very nervous they'll get caught.  And then they heard a conductor.  What should they do?  So they hid in some nearby crates just as the conductor entered.  The conductor walked up to the first crate and kicked it.

"Woof!" barked the first space alien, panicking.  That was odd, the conductor thought, but kept going.

He kicked the second crate.

"Mooo!" bellowed the second alien, hoping not to be caught.  That was strange, the conductor thought, but walked to the last crate.

The third space alien was very scared and wasn't sure what to do.  The conductor kicked the third crate.

And the third space alien whispered, "Potatoes."


Sis and Bud cracked up; we call did.  And "potatoes" became our by-word.  Later, when the challenge was to make someone laugh, all we had to do was say the word!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

So Proud of Goo

We were talking with the kids the other night about Goo's match with a hospital and his upcoming graduation to be Dr. Goo and how proud we are of him.  More than pride, we were talking about how we were so inspired by all of Goo's persistence, resilience, and hard work.  It hasn't always been easy for Goo, this doctor journey, but he has stayed the course and is almost there.  Besides being a fun (Pokemon!  Piano!  Silliness!  etc) and kind uncle, he is also a great role model.  We love you, Goo!!!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Kidbits

We were talking about the Earth and how it is not flat, which I said I believed that sailors on the ocean could see as the horizon curved before them.  And kids talked about how weird it would be to be upside-down at the South Pole.  And I asked, "upside-down in relationship to what?"  And they said, in unison, "The North Pole!"

But of course.

=-=-=-=-=-=-

Today as we were outside playing and building our first faerie house of the season, Bud heard a raven crying and said, "That bird is in despair."  Indeed, it did sound quite upset.

-=-=-=-=-=-

Discussing things at dinner last night, Bud decided that the best day of his life was last year at Disney World, "when I rode Thunder Mountain three times!"

Sis decided she would withhold bestowing that title until we went to the Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff and she got to go in the Tenth Doctor's TARDIS!

Bud said he would revise his list after our trip to England.

-=-=-=-=-=-

Upset tonight that Sis was going to a "Frozen" party to which he wasn't invited, Bud said, "I've never been invited to a party that she hasn't."

-=-=-=-=-=-

Getting out of the car tonight and spotting several stars in the clear sky--we can usually see Orion at the end of our driveway (and tonight we saw his belt and even sword!)--I said that we might see different constellations (or even just Orion from a different angle) in England.  The kids were ecstatic.  Amazing what excites them.

-=-=-=-=-=-

Bud got all serious the other night:  "how are we going to buy things if they don't take dollars?"  I reminded him of British pounds, but he was then concerned about how we would get some.  No worries, we explained, we had it taken care of (but don't have to sign dozens of traveler's checks at the bank like I had to in the 80s and 90s!)

Catch as Catch Leprechaun

The kiddos built a leprechaun trap last night with their babysitter, Miss H, while I was at a St. Patrick's Day fundraiser for the historic house (it was wonderful--crowded, jolly, and with an old 17th-century setting, not too unlike some British pubs, no doubt.)




Leprechaun traps seem to be a thing now, at least here in CT (unlike pinching people who don't wear green.) Lots of elementary-school kids make them as part of their celebration.  Our kids' classes never have, so it was fun that they got to make one last night, consisting of tempting chocolate coins and a hidden pit.

This morning, Bud and Sis raced downstairs to see what had happened.  The trap was clearly sprung, with all the chocolate coins in the box . . . and some British pounds for our trip!  So, a question, why do leprechauns leave presents for people who try to trap them?  And why do we even try to trap them?  Mama thinks the leprechaun tried to take the chocolate, fell in, losing his money in the process, and then escaped without taking his stuff, never intending to leave anything.

I think the cats ate him.

The kids didn't like either theory.

And how creepy is it that the kids like the idea that a tiny man was running around our house amok last night?

Breakfast at Our House

While the kids polished off the last of their loaves of soda bread, I had a piece of the whole wheat sourdough soda bread that I made yesterday.  It's good, but it's better with butter.


So we were all passing the butter around and it soon took on a weird shape.  And so we started intentionally to carve shapes, first a pyramid and then:


VoilĂ , the Eiffel Tower!

Mama said, "Wrong country."

-=-=-=-=-=-
Whole-Wheat Sourdough Soda Bread

2 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 1/4 cups unbleached flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sourdough starter, fed or unfed
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) melted butter
3 tablespoons honey
3/4 cup milk

1) Preheat the oven to 400°F. Lightly grease a cast-iron skillet.
2) In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, and salt.
3) In a separate bowl (or in a measuring cup), whisk together the starter, butter, honey, and milk. Pour this mixture into the dry ingredients and stir to combine. The dough will be stiff; if it's too crumbly to squeeze together, add another tablespoon or two of milk.
4) Knead the dough a couple of times to make sure it's holding together.  Place ball of dough in skillet and slice top with a cross.
5) Bake the loaf for 40-60 minutes, until it's golden brown and a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven, and brush top with melted butter, if desired.

adapted from King Arthur Flour

Monday, March 17, 2014

Congratulations!

To Goo, my BIL, who matched with a hospital today!!!  We don't know where until Friday, but it's one of his choices.  Yay!!!  Well done, Mr. You'll-Be-Dr. Goo-in-May!!!!

Children of the Corned Beef

Happy St. Patrick's Day to those wearing o' the green!

Where I grew up, even with (or because of) so few people of Irish descent, we would wear green and pinch those who didn't.  There was one boy who would wear green only on his socks and trick us all into pinching him, which meant he got to pinch back.  But they don't do that up here and my kids didn't care if they wore green today (which can be part of their uniforms.)  They like eating traditional American St. Patrick's Day foods though:  corned beef and cabbage, Irish soda bread, which we've eaten for two meals now, both times while listening to Riverdance.  And, if I'd made it, I imagine Sis would've liked colcannon.  Otherwise, even though we found out last year that we can trace a relative to 17th-century Ireland, we don't really go in for all the drunken, stereotypical "kiss me, I'm Irish" debauchery (see here, for an interesting discussion of this.)  But, I think they'd both make great Irish stepdancers!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Kidbits

Yesterday, Sis and Bud were playing with the little girl who recently moved in across the street.  It was so warm and beautiful that the kids pulled out their bicycles and were riding back and forth in the cul-de-sac while I walked and talked with the other mom.  When the little girl couldn't keep up on her Big Wheel (love the Big Wheel!) and she couldn't pedal her own big-girl bike yet, even with training wheels, Sis and Bud played running races with her.  And Bud even pretended to get tired and not make it to the finish line so she could beat him!  Later, they taught her how to play hot-and-cold as they took turns hiding her toy Brachiosaurus. Of course, Sis would stand right next to the "hot" place.   It was so cute!

-=-=-=-=-=-=

We went to a great school math night, each kiddo accompanied by a mom (that is, after we had a pizza picnic in my car--Sis and Mama picked it up on the way home from the doctor's--she's still coughing, we're going to wait and see 'cos there's no chest congestion--and Bud and I met them in the school parking lot beforehand.)  Bud and I had lots of fun.  You should have seen him scootering across the floor to get math facts to complete BINGO.  And he was six feet away, with the last fact we needed, when the boy next to us won.  And you know what Bud did?  He walked up to the winner and congratulated him, saying "Way to go!" and "Well done!"  I was so proud of him.

Later in the evening, we estimated the size of things using Twizzlers.  Bud figured he was six Twizzlers high and I was 10--he was right about him and off by one for me (I was 9.)  The teacher awarded him an extra Twizzler to eat for concisely defining estimation.  Again, I was proud.

And then we built a tower as a team with rolls of paper and flat sheets of paper.  Our Empire State Building-esque creation was about 8' tall, as was the other teams.  The kids were all having so much fun and cheering each other on.  It was fun to see them so excited.  (And the two dads, who had climbed on chairs in competition to build the highest tower--don't get me started on the meaning of that!)--gamely stopped at the same height.

Sis and Mama were having just as much (and the same) fun, but in a different rotation.

-=-=-=-=-=-

Bud had a work of art exhibited at the Board of Education as part of a show of our school's third and fourth graders.  So today, while Sis and Mama were at the doctor's office, we went to check it out.

And we couldn't find it.

Had the teacher made a mistake?  Could it be on another floor?  I could see the rising disappointment in Bud's face.

We looked at all of the paintings and noticed that one of the artist's was the boy in his class who has the same name as Bud and Bud thought it might have been his picture (they were all derivations of a Matisse, so they looked quite alike.)  I wasn't so sure, so we went to find someone who could help direct us to perhaps more of the exhibition.  And she actually took the picture off the wall and checked the back--sure enough it was Bud's name!  The woman made a new name tag for us and rehung the picture, even taking a picture of us with it when my cameraphone gave out.  I'm grateful (and will be writing her a thank-you email shortly.)

To celebrate, Bud got a blue raspberry slurpee, his new favorite treat (especially since the little ice cream place not far from us closed recently.)

-=-=-=-=-=-

Sis has been having quite a lot of kitty love recently, the best being when Hermione sat on her lap and purred.  Cats won't do that for just anybody and our cats have been a long time in sitting with the (usually in motion) children.  Albus has also been known to kiss her forehead repeatedly.  Awwwwww.

Funny, we still get kinda excited when the six of us are all in the same room or even more amazing on the same bed!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Separate and Not Equal

With two kids, and perhaps particularly twins, parents strive so hard to make things fair and balanced.  Bud takes kung fu; Sis takes gymnastics.  Sis gets to go to the American Girl store; Bud gets a special seafood lunch.  We go to Bud's competition and Sis's recital.  I switch off whom I sit next to at lunch; Mama and I switch back and forth at open house.  Sis gets chocolate; Bud gets strawberry.  Everybody gets a turn and a fair share.

I'm realizing that even fair and balanced isn't a tenable parenting strategy.  The real world isn't like that.

And I'm setting us all up for disappointment if I pretend that it is.

Right now, the inequalities are coming in spades.  Small ones, but still.  Sis got invited to a party, but Bud didn't.  Bud's art was chosen to be exhibited in a special show at the Board of Ed; Sis's didn't.  I can't make it equal.  Sis got to do her piano concert; Bud didn't.  And offsetting disappointment with sushi or Legos or whatever doesn't adequately prepare them for other disappointments later in life.  We can't fix it.

And there will be bigger ones on the way, no doubt.

So we've been talking about how they are individuals, with different interests and skills.  And sometimes things will happen to or come to one and not the other.  And that's okay.  They are different.  Just like Mama and I are different. We love them both.

I even introduced the Buddhist concept of mudita, or sympathetic joy--happy for someone else's happiness.  Yes, that's a bit advanced.  And probably a bit too much to ask for from 8 year olds.  Since 40 year olds have trouble with it, still.

They just nod.  (They are very used to my long-winded teachable moments.)

And I know I'm saying it for myself because I'm having a hard time knowing that one of them is disappointed or discouraged.  Even if I'm trying to remember that teaching them to cope with such feelings (and to be graceful as winners as well), moreover recognizing and accepting our own weaknesses and strengths as well as those of others, without competition or jealousy--is one of the best things they--and I--can learn.

A is for Autonomy

My parenting lesson this week is autonomy.

Independence, self-rule, self-determination.

Freedom.

As the kiddos get older, we're having to (yet again) readjust our parenting.  Recently this includes not directing or advising the minutiae of their lives.  You know, like, "put a coat on!" or "eat with a fork" or "don't leave your shoes there."  Ad infinitum.

It's not that we're allowing a free-for-all with rules and behavior, just that we are trying to set up some basic rules and then just not nag.  In other words, we're trying to give them a chance to do what needs doing without correcting them immediately or even directing them beforehand.  And we've stressed that with new freedom comes new responsibility, a very grown-up kind of thing.

We're trying to let them do and decide so much more.  They choose their snacks, help with breakfast, pack their backpacks, pick their own cold-weather wear (I only insist on a real coat under 20F), put away their clothes, do house chores (dishwasher unloading, laundry moving, fetching cat food, sweeping floor, wiping table), brush/floss without supervision, cut their own finger and toenails, order at a restaurant and/or ask staff in stores questions, run down the street or around the corner on errands/to visit neighbors, among other things.  But now we're also trying to get them to choose when to take a bath/wash hair (every season but summer is bathing approximately every other night), set their own alarm clocks and wake up to them, decide on the end of their own bedtime reading (within reason), practice their musical instruments, run short errands within a store by themselves--out of my eyesight! (which SHOCKED moms at a recent party; they couldn't believe I let them out of my sight in Target, even in pairs.)  And the biggest one of all:  police their own screentime!

Yep, we've worked out a system whereby they get 5 hours a week and I'm no longer going to say when.  Only caveats:

1.  They have to have finished homework first.
2.  If they fudge their times, they lose all screentime for the week.
3.  One consequence of misbehavior can be losing the option of using their screentime for a day or days.

They are so excited to be in control and I will be glad when I'm not.

Hospice Thoughts

I have two hospice patients right now, a man and a woman, both quite old (mid-90s) and in nursing facilities.  I'll visit them every other week.  In only one visit each, they've gotten me to thinking.
You know the saying, "You can't take it with you!"  I realized talking to my gentleman that not taking it with you begins before death for so many.  Regardless of their station in life, I come to my hospice patients pretty much all in the same place:  alone, with very few belongings (and that's counting clothes, some pictures, a rosary, a blanket--pretty much it, even for the woman in her daughter's home.)  Even if they have large families or a living spouse, they are rarely accompanied even most of the time, even when living at home.  Even the finances don't seem to have much of an effect, though perhaps the food is better and the care more attentive at some places than others.  Still, I generally find them all alone, in rooms overwhelmed by loud tvs next door and beeping machines, with the same institutional smell, whether they are paying (large sums of) cash or covered by Medicare or Medicaid.   But things like Harvard degrees or law practices or many languages or baking skills or WWII vet status or lots of travel or church membership (even my most religious person hold little sway, except perhaps as the memories keep them company.  I'm not saying those experiences and accomplishments have no value, only that they seem to recede in importance towards the end.

What is important, then?  I would say the patient's outlook, almost more than anything else, has the most influence over their lives in the end.  We have a saying in hospice, "patients die as they live, only more so." The content ones seem to adjust; the angry ones lash out.   Same with the joyful, the anxious, the chatty, the quiet, each in his or her own way.  My woman now has two mantras that she repeated to me today:  "I mind my own business" and "What are you gonna do?" in the vein of "it is what it is" (which was the mantra of one of my other patients.)  So, perhaps all of those experiences and accomplishments do, in the end, go with you, insofar as they perhaps influence and affect your outlook at the end (or do they reflect the outlook?  A little of both I suspect.)

I hope that my hospice experiences will be something I take with me to the end.



Monday, March 10, 2014

MONDAY!!!

So, yes, it was very dark and early when the alarm went off this morning.

But both children went to school.  Coughing, but still.

Though, with the time change, after 12 days combined of illness, it was a hard day to start back to school.

For them.

I, on the other hand, am catching up on more than a week's worth of delayed errands, activities, and appointments. Today was a visit with a new hospice patient, an Ivy League-trained lawyer and WWII vet who speaks several languages and loves music.  He was in good humor, laughing at his hospice team chatting away and teasing each other.  Tomorrow continues our teen docent program at the historic house.  And then a variety of other things the rest of the week.

Then London in less than four weeks!!!  We're finalizing plans and arrangements, especially on either end at the airports--parking, transportation, etc.  Mama and I are watching Michael Wood's Story of England, a study of the history of Kibworth through archaeology and documents as a representation of the whole nation.  It's fascinating.  I'm also walking on my treadmill 45-ish minutes everyday.  And we're even starting to make packing lists! What can we bring you, Lambeth?  Really can't believe it's happening.

And, of all things, signs of spring this morning in the snowdrops peeking up by our rock wall, in one of the few uncovered spots in our yard, as snow fell gently again this morning for a few hours.


Friday, March 7, 2014

Nine-Days Mom

I've had sick kids at home for 9-days running, since last Wednesday night.  Sis missed four days of school with a chest cold and Bud has missed five.  I'm not worried about them catching up, just about yet another break in our routine.  It could've come at a much worse time--our trip to London, my historic house tour season in May-- or a much-worse illness, so I'm not really even complaining.  There have been rough spots; none of us are at our best when we are sick or tired or taking care of the sick and tired.  But it's been ok. Not that I like it--who wishes for sick kids?  But at least I'm not going to be beheaded like Lady Jane.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

FLU

AAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!

Doctor just called.  Bud has the flu, per his nasal swab yesterday.  He has to stay home the rest of the week.

And we have to hope we don't all get it.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Still Sick

Mama took the kiddos to the doctor this morning (because of course, I'm working today, of all days--it's our first historic house teen docent program meeting very shortly and I have to be there.  Talk about irony--a stay-at-home-mom having working mom issues the whole 2 hours in months that I am working.)

They are sick.

Sis's cold, which kept her home two days last week, has moved to her chest and she needs antibiotics.

Bud has some kind of virus (they did a test and wait for the results).

Both must stay home today AND tomorrow, only maybe going back on Thursday.

My Quirky Party To-Do List

I haven't hosted a party in years.  When we talked about it, we guessed it had been about three years--a couple of moms' parties (Wildtree, I think, and a Christmas party that came two days after Newtown, where we all came together and supported one another) and one big family party, probably Applepalooza, some fall after my second back injury (2010?  2011?)  So it's been a long time and I've missed them greatly.  See, we used to do a big outdoor fall apple-extravaganza called Applepalooza and a much smaller, winter, indoor Groundhog Day brunch.  There would also be the kids' summer birthday and for a few years anyway a moms' December cookie swap.  Which meant, I was hosting a party seasonally.  And I liked it that way. One, it reinforces the bonds of our own little community across social group lines (meaning church friends, neighbors, and playgroup/school friends get together).  Two, it allows us to offer hospitality and generosity to our friends.   It also provides the kids with valuable hosting/entertaining skills and opportunities.  Finally, it's a deadline for house projects that we just ignore!!!  And I'm not actually kidding about that.  Nothing gets your butt in gear like 20 people coming over.

Anyway, with snow and such, plus the Super Bowl, the Groundhog Brunch didn't resonate this year.  And as we were ordering our annual family King Cake for Mardi Gras, I struck on the idea of hosting a Mardi Gras party.  I can cook New Orleans food, thanks to dear Miss Betty, who used to host, along with my mom (casually or even unplanned hurricane parties), many of the neighborhood gatherings I remember so fondly as a child and aspire to for my own kiddos.  Gumbo.  Muffalettas.  Red beans and rice.  King Cake.  It was a party!

The hardest part for me is choosing a guest list, which I type even now knowing that several of my local readers weren't on it.  But our house is small and winter makes available space even smaller.  And so I limited it to only playgroup friends this time, the friends at other schools whom we hardly see anymore.   Many of us remarked how much the kids had grown since those gatherings so long ago--taller, talking, not under foot, no diapers, no sippy cups, no Cheerios, actually even playing together, on other floors, without direct supervision or guidance.  We all had such a good time that we'll be having more!

And when we do, here's a list of "how."

The Invitation
  • Send out invitations a month-plus in advance, knowing that people, especially families, commit their calendars early.  And knowing, beyond that, that people still won't RSVP until a few days in advance!
  • If I send out an Evite, also send a follow-up email.  Evites go to spam a lot.  :)
  • My general ratios of invitees to guests:  20 people invited, 17 will RSVP, 14 will come.   Approximately.  It's somewhat more than half.  Still I always over-invite.  I hate to leave people out, even though I should also hate to crowd them into an overstuffed party.  We have definite groups--old church friends, new church friends, playgroup friends, neighbors, school friends, "other" friends (those who don't fit in the above categories), and that's just our local townspeople, not our further afield CT friends or even further NJ/NYC friends--and our house is just too small in the winter to accommodate more than about one of those groups.  I think that is why I like Applepalooza--it's our fall party, which can be held outside, and I can invite 40 people!  Look for your invitation in September.  For the first time, the kids really wanted school friends, most of whose families we've never had to the house before.  And I wasn't envisioning that kind of party (less comfortable, a lot more people.)  So, instead, they were reacquainted with old friends . . . with a promise to invite everybody to birthdays and Applepalooza.  And it worked really well.
  • I love potlucks and open houses.  It means help with the food (which then relieves me of worrying that I have enough) and a wider swath of guests able to fit the party into their schedule than if it were a more time-specific dinner party.  Plus, I always get to try a few new recipes.  
  • Speaking of recipes, as you know, I often post them after a party.  This time, I printed out my three NOLA recipes and passed them to guests.
  • I like themes--apples, Mardi Gras, brunch.  And I try to announce what I'm serving and ask people to bring desserts, or the flexible "nibbles."  I've started mentioning "drink of choice."  We don't drink alcohol for the most part but not because of any moral high ground.   And I'm fine if people want to bring beer or wine.  As long as they'll drink it out of plastic cups!!  (I don't have wine glasses . . . well, I might have 2.  Somewhere.) 
  • Okay, so you might say this is less like a party that I'm hosting and more like a gathering I'm facilitating, with the work spread around.  Probably true.  But it's the only way I manage to have parties and people seem to be pretty comfortable.  And that is my goal.  I'm not trying to impress with china (don't have any!), silver (ditto), linens (ditto),  flowers (cats will eat them!), or menu.  I like happy, relaxed people enjoying conversation with each other and a variety of tasty dishes, without so much work on my part that I am a). discouraged from giving parties or b). injure my back in the process so that I can't enjoy the event.   If I can distract their kids with an activity so that they can relax a bit more, all the better!  
Prep Time
  • I like food you can prepare the day before, which means shopping a few days before, which means menu planning up to a week in advance.  Though, really, I know the menu before I send out the invitation.
  • Cleaning.  There are always cleaning projects at my house.  And I'm not talking minor clutter removal.   For instance, before this party, we had 400 books stored on the enclosed front porch looking for a good donation site.  We'd thought about selling them to a local bookstore, but their buyback was complicated . . . and off-season.  We were hesitant just to take them to Goodwill, because many were academic tomes.  The local book swap opportunities fell through.  So at the last moment, I made a deal with our old church to take them all as donations for their book sale.  Whew.  Similarly, with our bad backs, we move things in stages--numerous, heavy Christmas boxes had been relocated to the basement but not stacked in the storage area.   They had to be moved.  So, I have to give Mama and me plenty time to do these projects, though, regardless of warning, we still do them the night before.
  • As I mentioned, I like themes.  In the past, we've had a few designated activities for the kids--coloring, pin the stem on the apple, paper bag groundhogs.  This time we skipped the activity.  The kids are older and didn't need our input, so they had a snowball fight outside, played dolls, played on our various instruments, built with Legos, and, at the very end (and with permission) looked at Minecraft together.  But, if there is an activity, pull it together and pick the spot the night before.
  • Night before:  
    • bathroom cleaning; 
    • litter-box change; 
    • finalize food prep; 
    • pull out all tableware and serving dishes (we use disposable--it's not green, but we don't have dishes for more than 8.  Besides, glass and kids don't go well at these things.)  
    • If winter, put drinks on front porch to chill!!  And always, always there is that last run to the store (followed by another last run the morning of!)  
    • We let the kiddos hide a few select things that they can't bear sharing, be it beloved Lego sets or stuffed animals; they didn't feel the need to this time--and were really evening keel when some Lego things were dismantled.  It's also the first time that the kids had their own rooms to play in, so they straightened those the night before.  It's been so long since our last party that I think the kids were all mostly underfoot and needing to be within view of parents, which meant everybody was squeezed into our first floor.  (Well, except for the time they went downstairs and one girl cut another's hair with the supposed hair-safety scissors.  We all still laugh about that.  And the cutter was here on Saturday!)
  • Day of:  
    • put kitties in locked room with food and water so they can't escape out the front door (or be terrified by children); 
    • sweep kitchen; 
    • rearrange tables for food service (this generally means taking our small family kitchen table out of the kitchen and putting it on the porch and bringing up our 6' long plastic table against the back wall of the kitchen for a buffet); 
    • put Sharpie pen next to drinks so we can at least pretend to keep track of cups;
    • scatter chairs around house (and put away all the extra pillows, blankets, and bean bags that make it cozy.)  
    • Keep the kids from making new messes as they pass the slow time before the party.
  • Ice.  The ice maker never makes enough ice.  I just need to remember to buy ice.  Every time.  I always send Mama out halfway through the party, but, by then, people think there is not enough ice and so don't use anymore.  
  • Ask for help.  And accept gracefully.  I have a few dear friends who know I like parties and who go out of their way to make them happen here.  You know who you are.  This time, one of them came and helped cook the day before.  Without them, I'm not sure I could host.  Thank you!
  • And order pizza. Do not bother cooking dinner the night before--there are other things to cook AND then you'd just have to clean.  
Party!
  • This is really the easy part.  Greet everyone at the door, find a place for coats.  Let them take off their shoes or not (not required.)  Direct them to the kitchen while describing what's on offer.  And really, before we even get that far, we're distracted with other people and greetings and hugging, etc.
  • Mama doesn't enjoy socializing in large groups like I do, so she is in charge of food refills, mid-party ice runs (see above), checking on the cats, taking out garbage if it fills up, and keeping an eye on wayward children.  She will absolutely enjoy talking one-on-one to whomever seeks her out while she's doing these things.  We both try to clean up discarded plates and cups.  Especially with kids, there are always strays.
  • Music.  With kids and a small space, music here sometimes compounds the noise.  It just depends.  I think we had Preservation Hall Jazz on this time, but I'm not sure anyone could hear it until most people were gone.
After-Party
  • I always find forgotten and unlabeled dishes that people kindly brought food over on--and I have the darnedest time returning them.  There are four in my house right now.  Nice dishes, one ceramic and three glass.  It will be weeks, I know, before I get them where they go.  Please, please either label your dishes, remember to take them home, or use disposables.  I hate hoarding your stuff (and now I sound all ungrateful).  I got three pie plates one year that way from Applepalooza and everyone I asked said they weren't theirs!
  • I try to give away as much food as I can.  Always have containers on hand for this purpose.
  • Do the basic level of clean-up (meaning food storage and trash pick-up) and leave the chairs and tables, etc., for later--relax, watch a movie, and eat leftovers!
  • Start talking about the next one . . . .we've tentatively scheduled an end-of-school backyard ice cream social and Applepalooza!!!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Monday

Well, here's my day:
  • Bud is home sick with a fever up around 102F and that's on meds.  I'm guessing he'll be home until Thursday.  Already can't go tomorrow because of fever, doubt he'll go Wednesday unless the fever just disappears.
  • I'm getting ready for tomorrow's first teen docent meeting.  Exciting.  But it also means--because I have no back up, no substitute, no real co-workers--that I'm taking a sick kid with me.  Luckily, it's not a "real" job, being less formal than that, so I can stash him on the couch in one of the rooms of the historic house (don't worry, reproduction couch--nothing is "no touch.")  Still, it's the closest I'll get to the working mother's sick-child conundrum.
  • Might have two new hospice patients lined up for next week.
  • Getting ready for GS COOKIE BOOTHS!  Yes, the cookies are here.  Customers, Sis will be contacting you shortly with your order.  And if you didn't get any and are in CT, I can set you up at our upcoming booth sale.  For now, I'm begging parents to come help.
  • I wish it had snowed.  After dire predictions for it last week, up to 10" in the forecast late in the week, I'm disappointed it hasn't even flurried.  I like snow and snow days.  Besides, I already have a kid at home.
  • We had a Mardi Gras party on Saturday--our old playgroup--and it was wonderful.  I'm hoping to blog that.
  • Didn't get enough sleep because of the Oscars, but enjoyed it.  Tired today, but still walked 40+ min on my treadmill.  The countdown to London has begun and I'm in unofficial/unscientific treadmill training to handle all of the walking.  

Stayed Up Way Too Late

But really loved watching Idina Menzel sing "Let it Go!" and also hearing the acceptance speech of its composers, when they won (an Oscar to go with his Emmy, Grammy, and Tony!)  And Frozen won animated feature.  Too bad it was all too late for the kids . . . . they slept (and coughed) all the way through (and he's still quite feverish, poor lad.)

I'd comment on the other races, having read about them in the papers (from Act of Killing to the Lady in Number 6, the Woody Allen/Blue Jasmine/Cate Blanchett conundrum, Lupita Nyong'o at Yale, Matthew McC's weight loss, a bio on Chiwetel Ejiofor, etcetcetc), but I didn't see any other movies this year.

I did like many of the speeches, from Jared Leto's devotion to his mom to Bill Murray referencing Harold Ramis, and especially Lupita Nyong'o's speech about everyone's dreams being valid.  Plus Pink's performance in her ruby red dress and the long list of memorials (thankfully without the applause o'meter.)

And I don't want to be one of those people who talks about anyone's face or clothes or whatever.  I'm trying to follow the golden rule, not only in posts and FB, but in my mind as well.   Because you know that if Cate Blanchett makes an off-handed remark about the hard work of making her beautiful, that it's no wonder we all have body/beauty issues.

Last word for Ellen, who was wonderful:  I'd help pay for pizza if I could share it with Meryl Streep and Emma Watson and Benedict Cumberbatch and Glenn Close!!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

It Worked

Remember how Bud asked Sis to breathe on him so he could be sick and stay home.

Well, it worked.  102.2F, headache, and aches.

I think he might have changed his mind.