Monthly Archives: December 2012

Christmas 2012

There’s a lot to catch up on, so please bear with me over the next couple of days, gentle readers.

Christmas was lovely. We had a wonderful day with our families. I received books and gift cards and chocolate as gifts, plus new baking sheets and silicone muffin pans and little kitchen things. The children adored all their gifts and were beautifully behaved. The food was excellent and the turkey much complimented. At the end of it all I was tired, and I’d done something to my lower back, but I was very pleased indeed with how the day was managed. Making Christmas for others is really special.

I have felt very peaceful and happy this Christmas. We seem to be between colds, we have had good snow and now it’s bright and clear, we weren’t scrambling at the last minute for anything, and all the food was planned. I remembered to pick up sausage meat and peas this year, and I remembered to set a batch of dough for rolls to rise when I got up on Christmas Eve morning. I think Owlet’s kitchen has had a lot to do with how much I was looking forward to it all this year. It has been so much fun planning and executing it. (What? Have I not mentioned Owlet’s kitchen here? HRH built her a play kitchen. We designed it and he started putting it together after classes ended at school and the workshop was pretty much empty. Read on for pictures!)

In our house we are heartless and cruel, and no one opens gifts on Christmas morning until the grandparents get here late in the morning, after Owlet’s nap. (We’ve always done it that way, so Sparky doesn’t know that other kids wake up before dawn, heh heh.) Owlet’s kitchen had been placed in our kitchen, but she hadn’t seen it because HRH whisked her right downstairs to open her stocking on our bed when she woke up. (Sparky does that, too; he wakes up and his stocking is hanging on his doorknob, and he can open that and play with whatever’s inside it; the candy is fair game to snack on, too. Although he came down at 5:45 to excitedly catalogue everything that had been inside it, and then again to make sure that it was okay to eat some of the jellybeans.)


There was a chaise longue waiting in my attic office Christmas morning. Apparently HRH didn’t want me to be jealous of Owlet’s kitchen, so he built a chaise longue for me.

I just. You know? Words failed me. And then I think I started to laugh, and laughed for a while. I adore chaises longues, and we toyed with the idea of getting one for the living room when we bought the house, but they were all too big for the space and expensive. He’s been building this on and off with scrap bits of wood at work for over a year, and keeping it a magnificent secret. He hid it in the shed after bringing it home, and wrestled it up the stairs on Christmas Eve. Sparky must be commended for keeping the secret, too, because he was with HRH when he bought the goosefeather-filled linen pillows for it at Ikea when they got the Christmas tree.

More pictures! Owlet meets her kitchen! It was her first gift of the day. She looks so serene. And yes, those are owls in the shelf brackets.

She wanted to start messing about with it right away, pointing up at our pot rack and making imperious little “ah! ah!” sounds, so I gave her the little saucepan and wooden spoon she usually plays with on the floor while I work in the kitchen. She got lots of felt and wooden food throughout the morning as various gifts, plus a set of pots and ladles afterwards, so it’s very well stocked now.

And the last gift, a co-present from both sets of grandparents: the Wheely Bug. It’s the bee, not that you can tell because it’s hidden by the skirt of her lovely velvet dress. (That’s a tiny purse hooked on the antennae.)

I love this age at Christmas. Owlet kept picking up random presents from under the tree and bringing them to people with a beautiful smile. And she wanted to examine and play with everything she opened, bless her, but we had to keep going.

I think we have a picture of Sparky immersed in a book he’s just unwrapped every year, don’t we?

Sparky was very efficient without being careless, was terribly excited about everything he opened, and dashed off to put each thing in his room as it was unwrapped. His list was pretty much checked off, thanks to cooperation between parents, grandparents, and Santa. Not that it was horrendously long; we set him a limit of five items for the list, five special things he particularly wants, and we remind him that he may not get all of them. This year’s theme was Skylanders, a video game designed for kids that he was introduced to by his best friend at school. He asked for both the original game and the new release, but his grandparents co-gifted him with the original starter set, we actually found a set of original figures, and a guidebook (he adores guidebooks, and pretty much memorizes them). He was over the moon.

I think all round, it was a successful day indeed, and we are all very, very grateful for the generosity of our loved ones.

It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like…

No, we still have no decorations up. But the candles I am burning daily have frankincense oil in them. I have a bag of pine cones from Jan and t!, a spool of Christmas ribbon, and a glue gun; who knows what can happen. Sparky has been enjoying his Christmas playlist. And HRH and the boy are currently off selecting our tree, which will wait patiently outside till Saturday when we can put it up and decorate it. The handmade gifts are almost complete (the play kitchen HRH is building for Owlet is to die for), the previously purchased ones are all tucked away in the attic cupboard, and other than picking up gifts for a last couple of children once HRH gets paid this coming Thursday, we are just about done.

In the meantime, we had a visit to Santa:

Wow, does this slight upshot from the photographer ever make the kids look more like one another than any other photo I’ve seen, although Sparky still looks more like me and Owlet looks more like her dad. The angle of the shot rounds out Sparky’s face the way it isn’t in real life; he looks younger here. And how serious does Owlet look? She walked across the red carpet toward Santa with her arms out, but paused when she got to his chair and then wasn’t as excited to actually be with him as she’d seemed to be before she got there.

It was a new Santa at a new mall, and we are always very nervous about new places since we are so sensitive to energy, but the VERY RED redesign of the Christmas set at our previous mall of choice was so offputting that we needed another option. A friend recommended this one out here on the south shore, and we loved it. We got there just before the awesome Santa went on duty, and he was walking slowly through the mall in his long cloak with brown fur trim, sprigs of holly in his hat, saying hello to children. And the mall had the old-fashioned moving scenes inside little cottages as decorations, the way they were when I was a kid. The photo was printed right there when you left Santa, and you could choose which photo of about five you wanted done; none of this waiting an hour for development and having to go with whatever the photographer caught or decided on him/herself. We’re definitely going back next year. Hurrah!

We were actually on our way out to see Santa yesterday morning when Sparky’s old preschool/daycare director called and asked if we wanted in on a breakfast with Santa party that was starting in half an hour, as she had an extra ticket. A bunch of his old friends were going, too, so we said sure! The kids had a blast colouring and eating pancakes. The Santa was… well, he tried hard, but the suit was patched with duct tape, and the pillow in his jacket was very obvious, and his blue-tinted transition lenses weren’t standard Santa issue. But he was very jolly, and Sparky hugged him, and Owlet wasn’t scared at all. And it was marvellous to see some of the old parents we used to see when Sparky was there for two years, and to see the fresh batch of babies, and the toddlers Owlet will be pals with when she starts there next fall, who are the little brothers and sisters of kids who were there when Sparky was. The preschool alumni were running around together afterwards, and it was interesting to observe how they’ve all grown and become big six-and seven-year-olds, but you can still remember and see the little three- and four-year-olds you knew.

We had an early Christmas present this year, too:

When I got back from taking Nixie to the vet for the last time, there was a digital piano waiting for me. We inherited it from Ron’s aunt, who is destashing various things from her daughter’s childhood, and my in-laws brought it over when they came to stay with Owlet while I went out. It’s a Roland ep-7, so it’s technically a digital piano and not a keyboard. I’m actually impressed at how much more like a piano it sounds and feels like than the keyboards I’ve messed around with in the past. We’re pretty excited. Both kids love it, and both play on it often. I can even play a version of ‘Good King Wenceslas’ on it, complete with what I want to call left-hand double stops, but which are really I-III chords missing the V. It’s got surprisingly good tone for a digital, and the keys are weighted. It has 76 keys, so it’s short one octave, but I’m not complaining! We are very, very grateful.

And so we enter the final week before Christmas. I leave you with some photos of the Christmas cookies that Sparky made yesterday:

Christmas Is Creeping In

In the car today on the way to school I had the local classical station on the radio. They started slipping the occasional Christmas song into rotation on Dec 1, every five pieces or so. It was a string arrangement of a carol, and I started singing along. Sparky said, “I don’t know this one. I don’t know a lot of Christmas songs, Mama.” And he’s right. Mainly because I worked in retail for about fifteen years and developed a violent aversion to Christmas music that way, but also because I’m an admitted music snob and I dislike most “popular” versions of carols, preferring instrumental arrangements.

Now, every year we get together with a family of dear friends (we’re godparents to their girls, they’re Sparky’s godparents) and we have an intimate Yule singalong. I play the cello, Jeff plays guitar, the kids play bells or bodhrans, and if we’re lucky Pasley plays one of her recorders for a song or two (and I wish she’d play it more often, because it’s a beautiful sound, and yes Paze, I am talking to YOU) and we sing all sorts of stuff, from really old ones to some popular Christmas songs the kids know well, like Frosty and so forth. But every year, Sparky’s stumped by the more classic ones I used to sing in church as a kid.

So today, I find myself in the slightly odd position of developing a Christmas music playlist so he can hear the songs and learn them. I don’t have many recordings (see above about my snobby tastes and violent dislikes), so I’m digging through what I do have to find what I can put together. I may have to record myself singing some to fill out the playlist, which is a frightening thought.

And as every year, I find myself wanting to do something to decorate the house for the season, but coming up with a blank. Pinterest has me wanting to string pine cones on red ribbon and hanging them from found branches above the windows — so simple! — but really? And where would I find the time? And can you even get pine cones that aren’t drenched in cinnamon oil? (Hmm, this would be the perfect excuse to finally check out the new Michaels.) Candles we do all year round, so adding more seems pointless. HRH hung the Christmas lights along the peak and eaves of the house this past weekend, and they look wonderful, but that’s a night-time thing (and even that has me uncomfortable because it’s so early in December and there’s no snow again). And we don’t buy the tree and decorate it till Solstice, so that we can enjoy it during Christmas week without it drying out and having to be taken down right after the 25th. The boughs and swag for the front door don’t happen till the week before Christmas, because they’re fresh, too. I need to think some more about what we can do that is baby-friendly, works with our decor and layout, and isn’t expensive or overly time-consuming.

Part of the problem, I think, is that we have one box of Christmas stuff in the shed, and we take it out when the tree arrives, so I don’t have lead time on the non-tree decorations. Maybe we should separate them into two boxes, one marked ‘early Christmas’ and one marked ‘immediate Christmas.’ Because, you know, that would be intelligent and foresighted, two things that do not characterize my state of mind when we pack everything away in early January.

Owlet: Sixteen Months Old!

I didn’t keep notes this month, which was dumb. It means I have to try to remember stuff off the top of my head, and that never works very well when it comes to reviewing a month of child development. It also makes for a more disjointed post.

Basically everything is refining: She moves better, she speaks a bit more clearly, her actions are more focused and concise. She has figured out her straw cups, so she no longer tips them up like a regular cup to try to get at what’s inside to end up sucking air through the straw instead. She’s dropped her early morning nursing session, but she’ll often touch base after breakfast for a bit.

Owlet has used “go” for a while now. A couple of weeks ago, she learned “stop” when we were driving somewhere. So it was an enthusiastic “Go, go, go!” and a somewhat annoyed “stop” all the way home as we obeyed stop signs and traffic lights. “Thank you” is becoming clearer and is sometimes volunteered before she is reminded to say it, but most of the time we have to prompt her. She’s just at such a different verbal level than Sparky was at this age, and I have to keep reminding myself that this is more within normal parameters. I think I caught her singing the other day, but I didn’t recognize the tune or any of the words. HRH taught her how to tap her foot, and she does it in a hilarious stompy way when she hears music with a strong beat.

HRH cut down the legs of her sidecar crib-turned-changing table, and it is now a little daybed/settee for her in the living room, as we had originally envisioned. It’s wonderful: she can climb up on it with much more ease than she can the regular loveseat, and she can stand on it to look out the window.

I finally found winter boots that open far enough so that we can jam them onto her feet and actually fit the tops over her chubby calves, in a box that Debra had passed along to us. The downside to that is they also fall off her feet after a while, unless she’s walking.

Walking! Yesterday she walked the entire block from where we park the car to Sparky’s school, and she adored every second of it. We practised ‘stop’ and ‘go’ along the way: we’d stop and say, “Stop!” Then she’d wait a bit, say, “Go, go, go!” and start walking again. She’d never been into holding my hand before, preferring to clutch them close to her chest like a little squirrel as she stumps along, but yesterday she actually held one of my fingers as we strolled. It was just lovely.

The crayons were going well until the molars started really annoying her, and biting them became more interesting than colouring with them. Her right lower molar finally cut a couple of days ago, though it still has a lot of growing to do. Now the left one, stuck in a huge swollen lump on her gum, can join it at any time, thank you. For the first time, she’s got a fever in relation to teething and she has an inconsistent appetite (unless it’s yogourt, blueberries, or raspberries, or cheese, which are anytime foods). Although it’s possible that she’s actually ill, I suppose.

She has taken to wearing a plastic star-shaped cookie cutter as a bracelet. It was in a mixing bowl of random kitchen stuff I assembled for her to play with one day, and she puts it on every morning. She even insisted on wearing it out to pick Sparky up from school the other day, over her mitten and puffy snow jacket cuff.

She’s still great at understanding directions. She can push her high chair over to the table when I ask her to before lunch. She has become very interested in the animals and people from the Fisher Price sets, and likes arranging them in the Fisher Price school bus. She can identify a picture of an Angry Bird at any size, thanks to her brother’s obsession with them. She likes to pull open the drawer with the miscellaneous kitchen stuff it it and pull out measuring spoons, scoops, and cookie cutters. She also likes the drawer with all the tea towels and oven mitts in it.

She loves books, and will choose known ones over and over again. You can see her looking at each page with a little smile, recognizing everything on it. She still contributes little ‘no’s here and there, if the text has something like ‘no’ or ‘never’ on it. She said “tinkle tinkle” this morning while reading a Twinkle Twinkle Little Star board book, and supplied the “are” at the end of the phrase when I waited for her to tell me what came next. She also likes trying to put books back on the shelf… with the emphasis on trying.

She’s pretty miserable right now, with this final molar. She’s running a low fever, and is kind of listless (actually sitting down to watch TV is kind of unknown, which is what she’s doing right now; she usually buzzes around with toys and snacks and pauses now and again to watch while standing in the middle of the room). It’s the quietest she’s ever been. It’s also a bit unusual, because usually she gets crazy when she’s in pain. She is waking up crying frequently, but averaging more hours asleep than usual.

Her daily schedule looks like this these days: She wakes up between 6:30 and 7:00, has breakfast, then plays and reads books. We take Sparky to school at 8:35, then we come home for about 9:00, and she naps from about 9:30 to 11:00. When she wakes up we run errands if necessary (or if we have the energy, ahem), then have lunch between 12:00 and 12:30. After lunch we watch Sesame Street, and the afternoon nap happens from about 2:00 to 3:30. Then we go get Sparky from school. Everyone has a snack around 4:15 after we’ve unpacked, and then I try to juggle supervising Sparky’s homework, keeping Owlet occupied so she doesn’t blow a gasket or distract Sparky too much, and getting dinner going. HRH gets home around 5:00 and whisks her off to play downstairs while Sparky finishes up his homework and I do the bulk of dinner. We eat dinner at 6:00; if it is a bath night then the bath happens around 6:30 or 6:45, and she is in bed by 7:00.

She’s fun, even though she never stops moving, and that’s kind of draining. I love it when she and her brother play together; they enjoy one another’s company very much, something for which I am very thankful.

Farewell, Nixie

I am back from the vet with an empty pet carrier and a Nixie-shaped hole in my heart.

It was time, but that doesn’t make saying goodbye any easier. It also didn’t help that her veins were collapsing so they couldn’t insert the IV properly, and had to inject her in the abdomen, which meant that she went more slowly (although with the sedative and painkiller they’d already given her, she wasn’t feeling anything by that point). At least I got to hold her close in my arms until she stopped breathing. It felt right, like it was a fitting bookend to how often I had held her as a newborn kitten to feed her, to make sure she lived.

Born to a feral cat being fostered by a friend who lived a few blocks away, Nixie was the tiniest one of the litter, very tiny indeed, and we didn’t think she’d make it without help. So I went over once or twice a day to give her extra meals and cuddles. Naturally, when she was old enough, she came home with me. She never really got very big, remaining the size of an adolescent kitten. She was perfect the way she was.

She used to sleep behind a row of books on the bottom shelf of a bookcase. If she’d been rolling on the floor and had motes of dust in her fur, when she walked through a sunbeam she looked like she was the velvety blackness of space with tiny sparkling galaxies scattered through. She liked to sleep in tiny hidey-holes, particularly shelves. In her later years, she slept next to my pillow at night, though this past year she’s slept on a blanket upstairs in the attic office. Her fur was the silkiest I’ve ever felt on a cat. I loved her purr, and how she would delicately reach out with a paw and just the tiniest bit of unsheathed claw to pat my hand or my cheek, to coax me into stroking her.

We had just over ten wonderful years together.

She was light enough to be able to jump up and balance on my cello in its soft case (and don’t think I didn’t find her napping inside the empty case when she thought she could get away with it!):

She would lie on my desk and keep me company while I worked:

Sparky took a really neat photo of her when he was about four:

But this is how I will always remember her, lithe, with big green eyes, sitting in the sun on my bookshelves.

Thank you, sweet little cat, for being my dear companion, for loving us all, and for enriching our lives with your delicate personality. Say hello to Maggie, Gulliver, and Roman for us. Sparky told me last night that Maggie would be waiting for you, to show you the best sunny spots and grass to play in. And I’m not going to argue with the eerily insightful seven-year-old, because honestly, I think he’s right.