Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas Isn't Over Until Harper Sings

Here is the video clip I was trying to get off the computer earlier this week. The only Christmas song Harper knows entirely is "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," and getting her to stay in one place long enough to catch her singing on video was a bit of a challenge. (Note to self, remember to use the light on the video camera!) Please enjoy this little post-holiday performance:


video

*****
Harper got way more than her share of Christmas gifts (and we still have round two, up in Wisconsin, to go!) and several of them were pseudo learning games/toys. I have mentioned before that I don' t "work" with Harper on learning things in a let's-sit-down-and-do-flashcards kind of way, but lately her level of interest in numbers and letters (the symbols themselves) has gone way up, so it seems to make sense to encourage her. She's also been expressing and interest in reading her books, by herself, and then doing a very dramatic and sorrowful monologue about how she doesn't know what any of the words say. We have had the discussion about many kinds of reading, and I have told her that she can tell the story based on the pictures or what she remembers, but over and over she replies, "But Mo-om, I don't know the words!"

Trust me, I'm not delusional enough to think that I'm going to actually teach her to read before age four, but she does seem ready to learn some basic concepts.

The other night we were sitting in a restaurant and Harper asked Matt to write her name on that little paper piece that wraps around the napkin and silverware. He wrote her name with a crayon and passed it back to her. She took one look and said, "No Dad! Do it the right way!"

Matt looked perplexed, so I asked him if he used lower case letters (many of which she doesn't recognize yet).

Harper heard me say this and piped up, "Dad, use higher case letters!"

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve

This is the fun part. . . Harper was so excited she was totally off the wall all day. She did not nap, which is usually disastrous, but worked fine today because she fell asleep right away this evening. Now the gifts are under the tree and I am enjoying a few minutes of satisfied peace before the mania that will likely ensue in the morning.

We have started a tradition with Matt's parents (and sister and Auntie M, depending on who is in town) of going to Christmas Eve Mass, then having a simple dinner at our house. We have potato soup and bread for dinner which is not fancy, but I did make both from scratch this year. Then we just have a quiet evening. Tonight it was just Matt's parents and us for dinner. We did a puzzle with Harper afterward and then played cards once she was in bed. There was Christmas music playing, a fire in the fireplace, and it really did feel to me like our own little Christmas card. I kind of like that we don't really do any gifting on Christmas Eve, especially since there will be three rounds of gift opening tomorrow and another one or two when we drive up to Wisconsin. Don't get me wrong, the gifts are fun! I just enjoy the fact that we, for now, have a wonderful Christmas Eve tradition that isn't even a little about the presents.

We usually go to church very early on Sunday mornings, when there aren't many people there. Tonight we went to a children's service and it was packed!!! It was neat to see the place so full of families and all the children dressed in their best holiday garb. During the first reading Harper leaned over to Nana and asked (in a loud whisper), "Are they talking about Santa Claus?!"

During the gospel and homily of this one mass, the children are all invited to sit up on the altar. Harper got really excited while the priest read the gospel about Jesus' birth. It is probably important to note that they didn't really use Jesus' name; the priest referred to him as a baby and the first born son. When she came back to the pew she told me, "They talked about my baby brother!!!"

Tonight, before bed, Harper chose treats for Santa very carefully. She asked Nana to put her to bed and then sent Nana out to us with two messages:

1) That if Santa should leave any treats on the plate, she would like to eat them herself.

2) That Nana and Dziatku better go home soon so Santa could come!

I can't imagine a year with children when Christmas won't be fun, but this? This is the best one yet.

Behold the Power of Stickers

A package of alphabet stickers came in the mail the other day with a magazine offer. Harper found them and proceeded to stick them all over herself.


And she even managed to put one or two on her own back.


She was truly proud. The girl loves stickers, and you will too, once you realize that they actually possess healing powers. . .

Friday morning I woke up with a cramp in the arch of my foot (Oh pregnancy, you are a fountain of endless physical wonders!) and Harper walked into my ow-ow-ow-owing. Apparently a role reversal was in order. She climbed up onto the bed and asked me what hurt. Then she asked to see my foot. I told her I had a cramp and she said, "Oh I see it. I'll be right back."

Then I heard her talking to Matt in the bathroom, telling him she needed something, "to fix Mommy's crimps." She returned with the box of stickers we'd used early on in our potty-training. She carefully peeled off two stickers and put them on the bottom of my foot, asking, "Does that feel better Mommy?"

Of course I said yes.

So remember, the next time you get a "crimp", putting a sticker on it should fix things right up!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

A Holiday Tour

Ah, it has been a long, adventurous (sort of) and overall fun day here in our household. We woke up just in time to see the power go out around 6:45 a.m. It was out for a few hours and then went out for several hours twice more during the day. The second power outage occurred as I was in the middle of dipping pretzels in crock pot melted chocolate -- oops! I dipped at a furious speed and managed to make enough pretzels before the chocolate became too set. I did this by partial daylight and partial candlelight, it was an interesting experience.

Harper had a sleepover at Nana and Dziatku's with her Aunt Meaghan (who is visiting for the holidays), allowing Matt and I a chance to get away for dinner and a movie. We saw National Treasure 2 and it was a lot of fun -- thoroughly enjoyable.

Tonight, I'd hoped to post a video of Harper singing "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer," which is adorable, but alas our video camera does not want to release that video to the computer for some reason. And we are having USB issues -- bleh! However instead of getting too frustrated about it, would you settle for a holiday tour of our home?

The decorations Harper helped to make. The middle kitchen window has become a sort of bulletin board.


The not terribly creative dining room centerpiece and a fluffy dog.


The Santa shelf, a place on our bookshelf normally reserved for various framed photos.


Snowmen along the mantle, which does have a wreath above it too, albeit one far too small for the space.


Our stockings, which my mother made for us. I have two now, my original is at my parents' house. I was so sad at the thought of them hanging my brother and sister's stockings, but not mine, that my mom made me a new one for when I got married and had my own home with Matt. Now that's love. Somewhere she's got a stocking to start for the baby. Oh, our Christmas CDs are there, too!


That jolly Santa holds a votive candle and makes a nice light against the wall when lit.


The other end table holds a Christmas candle, my (new!) holiday coasters, a snowman dish, and Harper's first picture with Santa.


Our Willow Tree Nativity set sits in a very holy place atop the television. . . and please ignore the fact that there's a copy of Knocked Up resting underneath it. (At least we had the sense not to set it next to the angel!)


The Christmas books! This basket might be my favorite of all the holiday items we pull out each year. When I was little my parents hid the Christmas books because I wanted them to be read over and over all year long. In hiding them from me, they inadvertently started a new tradition. I always knew Christmas was getting close when those books came down from the high shelf in the closet. I'll put them away the first week of January and they'll stay packed up until we decorate next year.


Of course it isn't a holiday without Christmas movies. One of these years we'll have to invest in our favorites on DVD because these tapes are getting old. Two of my favorites, sadly, cannot be found on DVD. :-(


This is the very fun Christmas countdown tree my sister, Shannon, gave Harper when she was one year old. The ornaments have little magnets in them and you add one to the tree each day (or three or four at a time, when you forget for a few days). Then you press the star on top to hear a zippy rendition of "Jingle Bells." I know Harper will have fond memories of this tree.

The cheap-o star-topper we've had since getting married. I love it. Look how pretty the light is on the ceiling.


A Willow Tree Angel ornament. (At this very moment the identity of the person who gave this to us is escaping me.)


A Mary Englebreit ornament my sister sent me about seven years ago. Probably from the store at the Mall of America, near where Shannon attended college.


Our skinny, well-loved, Christmas tree, which is looking a little crooked up top this year. I love the Christmas tree lights so much, I like to close the blinds and leave them on all day. There are a lot of lights on the tree!

So, there you have it, a tour of our holiday mishmash. Professional decorating it isn't, but most of the items I put out each year I associate with a special person or event. The decorations make me happy and I have a hard time doing anything other than just sitting on the couch in front of that tree in the evening. Hope you are feeling warm and festive, wherever you are!

Friday, December 21, 2007

This Post Brought to You By Insomnia

Okay I'm pretty sure this doesn't qualify as insomnia just yet. . . but one of pregnancy's real cruelties is the fact that you know you aren't getting any sleep once the baby arrives, but being pregnant makes it pretty difficult to sleep before the baby is even here. Sigh.

Harper woke up at 3:30 a.m., calling for Matt, and whining like she could medal in it at the next Olympics. I stumbled into her room (Matt's a really heavy sleeper, which is mostly great as he's the one that gets up and goes to work every morning), gave her a hug, rearranged some covers and told her to go back to sleep. Which she did.

I, however, have been laying (lying?) in bed for the last hour, thinking about how hungry I am. Thank you for that Baby Number Two! I have to sub today so when four-thirty rolled around and I realized falling back asleep would entail being woken from the equivalent of a too short nap, I decided just to get out of bed. I walked into the kitchen, because the baby obviously wanted me to eat a Christmas cookie, and there was a car in our driveway. A car that doesn't belong to us. Huh? I was freaked out for a minute, until I realized it was just the paper being delivered. Apparently our paper arrives at about 4:38 a.m. Ack -- remind me never to think having a paper route would be a good idea!

So what does one do when one can't sleep and it's not even five a.m.? Why, blog, of course! I know all of your days will be more complete thanks to this fascinating early dispatch.

Several people have asked how I've felt with this pregnancy, especially through the first super-secret trimester, and I have a lengthy post brewing which will answer that very question. I will place ample warning at the beginning of said post, because I intend to be very specific and let's face it, not everyone wants to read all those fun details.

*****

It's almost time to go eat some real breakfast (more Christmas cookies?) and think about taking a shower, etc. (I refuse to do either of those things before five a.m. because I am not insane.) But I feel as though I should take a deep breath here because today is going to feel like an official start to the holiday madness in many ways:

1) I believe all the shopping is finished and most of the wrapping, so much stress-induced panic has slipped away.

2) The school where I'll be subbing today is having their all-school-sing this afternoon. If memory serves (from my days of full-time employment there) the children will all be worked into a holiday party/sugar induced frenzy by singing time, and the singing will probably turn into shouting by the end of the afternoon. Good times!

3) Matt's sister Meaghan got into town late last night/early this morning and we'll all be together for dinner tonight, sort of kicking off the festivities.


I hope you are feeling festive wherever you are, and that you have the good fortune not to be in my vicinity around three-thirty this afternoon when I will likely be hit hard with the fact that I've already been awake for twelve hours.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Scaredy Cat

I have no idea where it came from at this point, but we have a giant cardboard tube (probably close to five feet long) that Harper enjoys setting up like a slide and passing various toys through for kicks. Today she held it completely vertically and, to our surprise, two pretzel twists fell out. Now we have often cautioned Harper not to eat food off the floor (more specifically, items that have been discovered days after they were originally served) saying that it might have germs on it. When I asked Harper to pick up the pretzels and throw them in the garbage, she refused to touch them, claiming she was afraid of "bug drips." I'm guessing bug drips = germs in Harper-logic?

*****

Tonight, when I was putting Harper back to bed, she suddenly piped up saying she didn't want Santa Claus to come to our house. She refused to give me a reason, but asked, and I quote, "Can you just cancel Christmas Eve?"

Something tells me she would regret that Christmas Morning.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Reminder to Be Grateful (for me)

I've been having some Scrooge-ish moments lately. Holiday gift-giving is always a little joy-tainted-with-stress situation for me. We can't afford to spend very much on anyone, but really want to give good gifts that people want. I also start to feel guilty about how generous our families (especially our parents) are with us. It seems so lopsided. Sigh.

Really though, much of the Christmas-stress is my own insanity with no basis in reality and I just need to relax and enjoy the season. . . so many things could be worse for us right now.

On the way home from gymnastics today a car turning left drove right out in front of us. There was a man shoveling snow on the sidewalk immediately on our right and oncoming traffic on the left. There was no place to go. I slammed on the brakes, honked the horn, and manage to swerve just enough to avoid both the car and the snow-shoveler, who may have needed to change his pants after the incident. How we made it through that moment with no one getting hit or hurt in anyway is completely beyond me. We were driving on a road where the speed limit is 45 mph. Due to a little traffic I don't think we were going quite that fast, but if you'd been a bystander watching the whole thing unfold, you would have been certain I was going to drive right into the woman's driver's side door and possibly kill her.

After a quick moment, everyone just seemed to get on with their business, but I had to pull over and take a mommy time out because I was sobbing with relief. That probably sounds mellow-dramatic, but it was that close. Harper was in the backseat asking why I was crying and telling me she wasn't scared of cars; which only made it worse because I can't imagine how scary it would have been for her if we had slammed into that car.

So. Deep breath.

The Christmas stuff? My dirty house? The laundry? Not that big a deal.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Tidbits

Last night Matt was getting Harper out of the bathtub and I heard her say to him, "I'm shaking like a leaf!" She cracks me up, that kid.

*****

I think we could have 100 Christmas presents for Harper under our tree Christmas morning and I would still be worried that the sight won't be "magical" enough for her. I know, I know, that's completely insane. I just want it to be so special. . . she's at such a good age for the magic of Christmas.

*****

The theme of any snow we get all winter is surely going to be, according to Harper, "My stupid mom won't let me bring snowballs into the house." She tried to sneak snow in today, clutched in her mittened hands and was exceedingly disappointed when I made her dump it on the stoop. I am no fun at all.

*****

Harper is suddenly obsessed with time (Darn it, should have added a clock to the pile of presents!) and asks me often, "What time is it?"

She does not like it when the answer is not an o'clock or something-thirty. When I answer her by saying something like, "It's almost one-o'clock," she'll ask, "What happens at one-o'clock?" I often have no good answer for this. (Christmas gift idea for self -- book of creative answers to three-year-old-type questions.)

Although I taught her to ask, "What time is it?" I miss Harper's earlier incarnation of this question which was, "What minutes is it?"


*****

I subbed in a early childhood center (preschool) today. Kindergarten, I could teach, preschool? That is a very special calling indeed. I do not know how those women do it day after day after day. It is like having 24 of Harper, but there's no TV time, or "play quietly on the floor while Mommy rests her eyes on the couch" time.

Also, it is distinctly more difficult to be in a preschool classroom while pregnant, my brain is already feeling scrambled, and then there's 24 little ones talking over each other all day long.

Parents of preschool age children should have mandatory time helping in a preschool because it sure does make you appreciate having just one of them at home!

(I actually had fun today, despite feeling a little like I'd been run over by a truck before it was over.)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Santa Visit 2007

First of all, I'm too lazy to do a past-Santa-recap again this year. So if you'd like to check out the trauma inducing Santa experiences of years past, visit last year's post.

This year I had high hopes for our Santa visit because, oh my, look how excited:


She was excited about Santa last year, but not like this. She really, really gets it this year. And swore she was going to sit on Santa's lap, tell him what she wanted, etc. My confidence in this plan waned as we approached Santa's couch and Harper would not come out from behind Matt.


Despite Harper's uncertainly, at age three, we officially took our first non-crying series of Santa photos:


Okay people, I'm not dead yet.


Whatever you do, don't make me look at him.


Woah Santa, keep those hands away from my face.


I will not tell you my name, I will not tell you how old I am.


I think I'm finished now.


Fortunately Harper is not afraid of her Uncle Jamie. We had a fun time visiting Santa, despite the fact that photographic evidence suggests otherwise. As soon as we walked away from Santa's area Harper said, "That was great!"

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Season's Greetings

Our family Christmas card to the Internet:

Happy Holidays!

(If you're thinking, "Hey, that's sort of equal parts funny and creepy," I'm right there with you. But I have seen a few of these now and I just couldn't resist.)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Reindeer Games

Yesterday Harper and her friend, Dana, had their final play date of the year. These two three-year-olds are like oil and water in some ways. They get so excited about seeing each other, but, if left to their own devices, they tend to fight over everything. Now I am not going to plan three hours of directed activities for the two of them, but I do try to provide at least one or two "projects" during their time together and I find it makes things a little easier on all of us. After they spend time together I realize how spoiled I am that Harper entertains herself so well. I have to keep an eye on her because her version of entertainment is often not on the list of parental-approved-activities, but still. . .she plays contentedly on her own much of the time.

One of the project we did to keep busy yesterday was decorate reindeer cookies. I can't take any credit for the idea, because it came straight from Pillsbury, but I will take credit for doing this project with the two of them. The only change I made was to use cinnamon candies for Rudolph noses, instead of the gum drops Pillsbury suggested. It's actually hard to find gum drops without a peanut warning on them (I know!) and I already had safe red candies here.


I decided to do the frosting, since it was important for the decorations to adhere to the cookie. I gave each girl a baking tray and a container each for pretzels, chocolate chips, and cinnamon candies. They each had the number of items needed to decorate their cookies and I told them no eating while they decorated. I was pleasantly surprised at how well they followed that direction, they even used napkins to wipe their fingers instead of licking the frosting.


I made one cookie ahead of time, so they had a sample to work from:


Overall both girls did a wonderful job with the cookies; many of them were recognizable as reindeer.


There was one that even turned out looking a bit like a reindeer themed Rockette:


And then there were a couple that looked like they played a little too close to a nuclear waste facility:



If we haven't learned by now that reindeer don't have to be perfect, then Rudolph taught us nothing. And, trust me, the mutated reindeer are just as tasty as the regular looking ones.

Friday, December 07, 2007

A Day (or at least 20 minutes) in the Snow

First, the bad news. . . by the time we got out, the day after the big snow, it was no longer good packing snow. So we still haven't made a snowman, much to Harper's distress. At least there is still a lot of winter left.

The good news is that it doesn't take much for a three-year-old (at least for my three-year-old) to be entertained by a romp in the snow.


Snow angels came first. A smarter mother would have stood on the other side, so as not to leave a big shadow across the snow angel. Oops. It was bright outside so I couldn't see how the pictures turned out and didn't really notice my shadow error until it was too late.


We happened to find a couple of different looking sets of animal tracks in the yard. This was surprisingly entertaining. We followed them around, speculating on what animal might have made them. The choices around here should be pretty limited in terms of the type animal that might be tromping through the yard.


What do you think we were looking at?


The two pictures of tracks are from different animals. Maybe a deer for the bottom one?


I kept trying to take a picture of my boot prints next to Harper's in the snow. She trampled most of them before I got a chance. That, by the way, is also a fun game.


When track following/speculation become boring, Harper just flung her body around in the snow for a bit, until she got a few face-fulls; then it was time to go inside!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Did We Get the Big Snow?

Yes! In fact, we did get the Big Snow! But I was too much of a wimp to take Harper out and play in it today. (It was only 19 with the wind chill.)


Tomorrow it is supposed to be more sunny and less windy before it rains on Friday and everything melts. So I guess that makes tomorrow Official Snowman Day. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Weather and Philosopy (And a Shameless Plug)

So much for continuing to blog every day in December! Moving on. . .

Item the First:

It is officially winter in our area of Ohio. Since (I'm not kidding even a little) 8 this morning there has been a snow advisory posted which continues through tomorrow afternoon. Not a flake has fallen yet, but the meteorologists and snow-fearful folks are in a complete frenzy. We are supposed to get 1-3 inches (yes, if you live in Minnesota or western New York, you can laugh) which is actually a fairly significant amount in these parts. In the seven or so years that I've lived here I have witnessed, on many occasions, everyone get all riled up about a Big Snow and then watched as we got not even one inch. I will wait until tomorrow to get excited.

For her part, Harper is still bitter that we never got a decent snowman out of last year's snow. I'll be happy for her if we do actually see some decent accumulation this winter.

Item the Second:

Harper is beginning her study of philosophy early. She has apparently been questioning her existence. While driving in the car this morning we had a rather lengthy discussion after she asked, "Why was I born?" and,"Why did you name me Harper?"

The constant why-mode is not new, but her questions are getting less concrete. Would you care to explain why Monday comes after Sunday? "Because it does," is not an acceptable answer to my (or any) three-year-old.

Item the Third:

I've been web-published, by someone other than myself! Even though it is a completely dorky thing to get excited about, I'm sure none of you are out there harboring any illusions that I'm cool. Last spring I wrote a post sharing my opinions about teacher-gifts. As the holiday giving season is upon us, I recently read a post on a site called Work It, Mom! which discussed the same topic, and left a link to my afore mentioned post. One of the site's editors followed the link, read the post, and then emailed me to ask if I would submit it as an article to their site.

So I did.

And they published it!

If you have any interest in teacher-gifting, or just want to see for yourself that someone unrelated to me was interested in what I had to say, go here:

http://www.workitmom.com/article-1212

I'll be back tomorrow with an update on The Big Snow of '07.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Harper and the Baby

The questions/discussion about this coming baby have hardly let up and I'm thinking it's going to be quite a long wait for Harper. She, by the way, has a baby in her tummy, too. Although, hers is a girl baby. The other day she asked if we could lift our shirts up and put our tummies together so the babies could talk to each other. Of course I obliged.

Tonight, as I was putting her in bed, Harper asked me if she could carry the baby down the hallway. She looked at me very seriously and said, "I promise I will put two hands on him."