Monday, January 25, 2010

Going Over My Head

"Mom, do we have a remote-control helicopter?" asks Willem.


"Can I get one for Christmas?"

"Probably not."

He stops to think for a moment.

"Mom--how do you talk to Santa when he's not here?"

Friday, January 22, 2010

Back to "Normal"

Random Stuff

-Our thoughtful refrigerator waited until the very day our last house guests departed and then promptly pooped out. Fortunately we are every bit as classy and environmentally conscious as the people we bought our house from, so when they moved out and left a perfectly good fridge in the garage, we filled it with beer and carried on the proud tradition.

It was kind of a drag to shuttle everything down to the garage, but it was a lot less of a drag than throwing everything out would have been. And, let's be honest, the fridge was way overdue for a good cleaning out anyways. Thanks to the magic of the internets, Shaun was able to diagnose the problem and order the necessary part and make the repairs. I couldn't believe how much my willingness to go get a snack dropped just by virtue of having the fridge on a different floor than the kitchen. Probably should have left the food there.

-One of my "intentions" (hate to use that word "resolution") for this year was to get my sleep back on track. So far I've failed miserably. But boy howdy was I well-rewarded on one rare morning when I did manage to drag myself out of bed for the sunrise.

-On a less "rainbows and unicorns" note, the boys are now armed. Nels has a cap gun, and Willem has his dad's old air rifle. THEY LOVE GUNS.

-The other day I made this barley stew with leeks, mushrooms, and greens, though I figured the kids wouldn't care for it much. Willem didn't. But Nels said, "it's OK with me" and then shoveled the whole thing down in record time. I was exultant. Sweet, sweet, unexpected victory. I think the secret to my success was that I used too much chicken broth base and the end result was extra salty.

-I've been reading The Brothers K at the suggestion of my friend Dave Shackelford, who is always good for a book recommendation. I liked it enough that it became part of my staying-up-too-late problem. But I did have a hard time getting into it, mostly because it's set in Camas. In our teeny tiny little town of Camas. Have you ever read an epic novel that is set in an out-of-the-way place that you know all about? I never had. I found out that it's very distracting. I kept trying to figure out where everything was taking place, because I knew exactly where a lot of the action was happening. Eventually the book went to other places and the plot and characters took center stage and I was able to get past it. Very strange experience, though.

-Well, that ought to do us. I'll leave you with a picture of Willem in his fine-wale cords. Every time I see this I just want to hug him.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A New Year

New Year's Eve provided us with the perfect opportunity to host friends who have hosted us a'plenty throughout the year, which we have greatly appreciated. I decided to start the festivities early so everyone could get the kids to bed at a decent hour, yet still feel they'd had their money's worth.

What was I thinking?

Good friends, good food, good drinks...nobody was going anywhere. Except for me, that is. Too little sleep, too little food, and too many cocktails and I had to settle in for a long winter's nap. I woke up with a start at five minutes to midnight and was pleased to find the party still in full swing. I joined in admiring the fireworks, but I did skip the champagne toast.

(Shaun beat me to posting this time, so most of these pictures will be familiar.)

The Mullins family evaluates the self-portrait they had just taken. This may have been what prompted us to take a picture of the whole group. I'm not really sure, since I had just woken up.

Places, everyone, places!


The valiant Ezra finally conks out at about 12:30.

We totally wrecked our kids by letting them stay up so late. But it was really fun.

One couldn't ask for a more beautiful morning on the first day of the new year:

Alas, it poured for the rest of the day. But we had our fifteen minutes of sun and it was glorious. I washed up the dishes from the night before and Shaun went to the grocery store. Between Christmas and New Year's Eve I was all cooked out. So Shaun took over and fixed us some balsamic chicken wings to eat while we watched the Rose Bowl with his cousin Jason and family.

The next day we made some spur-of-the moment plans with the Olympia Shackelfords who came and spent the night; we spent Sunday sledding in the mountains together. Again, we had a lot of fun. But, verily, I say unto you, it took an entire week for our kids to stop being total basket cases after all the excitement and lack of sleep. As I mentioned on Facebook, at one point Nels was so tired of being bad and out of control that he wailed, "I'm such a FOOL! I'm nothing but a fool!" It was sad.

But now the boys have a whole week of school and a nice restful weekend under their belts, and they are starting to resemble human children again. They had fun watching Shaun design and build a garage workbench in one day. They pounded nails into their stumps alongside him and also did some sawing. Yep. With a saw.

Nels came home from school today SO EXCITED to tell me he'd gotten to use a microscope. This has always been one of his fondest dreams. So 2010 is looking pretty good so far. As long as we remember to get the kids to bed on time.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Awww...His First Real Joke!

Willem: "How do you spell 'shark'?"

Nels: "With the alphabet."

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Our Merry Christmas

We celebrated Christmas at our house this year. I haven't had a lot of practice hosting big holidays, so I tried to keep it simple and do a lot in advance. My version of keeping it simple involved a lasagna that took two days to make. Don't laugh.

My mom came from Bend and my sister Hillary drove up from LA, stopping in San Francisco to pick up her (French) friend Alain who was visiting from London. Shaun's folks came out and joined us all for Christmas Eve, and Shaun's grandma Laurel joined us on Christmas Day.

I'm hoping that someday I get proficient enough that I can do presents/stockings/shopping/meals, and still find time to go to church and reflect on the reason for the whole to-do. I was disappointed that I didn't manage to do that this year.

Cultural exchanges kept things lively. The first night that Hillary and Alain were here I hadn't planned a dinner, so we ended up having grilled cheese sandwiches (sharp cheddar on sourdough) with tomato soup. As someone who enjoys feeding people, it was thrilling to learn that I had just introduced Alain to the grilled cheese sandwich. He came into the kitchen to watch me make him a second one, so he could reproduce the culinary experience at home.

I figured it might be a novel experience for Alain when we said grace before dinner.

"Just like in the movies!" is what he said to Hillary later. The thought of us as an All-American family cracks me up. Unless...perhaps he was thinking of the Griswolds.

"Usually we hold hands," she told him. We actually don't, but we used to, growing up. What Hillary said is "Usually we hold hands," but what Alain heard is "Usually we dance." They figured out the misunderstanding, but I was still sorely tempted to get up and do a little jig after grace the following night.

The cultural exchange went both ways, of course. On the morning of Christmas Eve, Mom and I were sitting on the couch, chatting over cups of tea. We heard a commotion on the stairs, and then a parade of sorts passed right in front of us. First, the kitty went streaking by in a blur of black and white. Next came Willem, shrieking with delight, waving his arms and looking back over his shoulder. Nels followed hot on his heels, yelping and grinning. And finally; Alain. He was wearing brightly patterned silk underwear (NOT boxers) and a tight sleeveless v-neck undershirt, and he was being an evil robot; growling with menace and lurching after the boys with his arms extended. I think they did one more lap around the living room, but I was laughing too hard to notice.

Though I kept the meals simple, there were many gifts of food and drink. With contributions from my mom and Shaun's mom added to the cookies I'd made, we had a grand total of eight Christmas treats on hand. Hillary had visited a wine maker friend of hers in Napa on the drive up and arrived with much nicer bottles of wine than we are accustomed to having. Also some lovely homemade fig jam that I forgot to make sure to send home with her. (Sorry!)

The special grappa Hillary brought took us all right back to Italy and made for excellent late-night sipping and conversation.

Christmas Eve. I wish I'd tied my apron more carefully.

We liked this soup so much last year that we had it again. It wasn't quite as good this time--too much cauliflower, I think--but it was still very tasty and about as easy as special food can be.

A dollar to the person who comes up with the best explanation for why we're making these faces.

Christmas morning, blinding sun, and two wackadoos. At the point this picture was taken, they were starting to get antsy about opening their presents. I was surprised at how late everyone slept. Nels asked if he could sleep longer when he woke up. "I think on such a big day like Christmas it's important for me to get my rest."

The gorgeous weather gave us a great view of Mount Hood from the living room.

Here's some loot from Shaun's stocking. The mysterious brown sticks are artisanal sausages from Hillary. The beer is a sour ale. Our friends Tim and Veronica who work at Deschutes Brewery introduced it to us. Sour beers are rather hard to come by. They are sour.

Tom Selleck, eat your heart out.

Opening a package from Auntie Nancy that included something from every stop on her European grand tour!

Aargh! Grandpa Scott and Grandma Juli sent an amazing pirate chest full of assorted booty.

Our little Lego man spent all day putting together his new Lego sets. I wish I could get him a new one every day.

Note the dish of peanut butter pretzels for keeping his strength up. He didn't want to stop for an actual meal.


Here's that dratted lasagna. It was actually really good, just a lot of work. It's a traditional Italian Christmas dish, a white lasagna with a vegetable ragout that includes celery root, fresh and dried mushrooms, shallot, leeks, prosciutto, and lots of fresh herbs. It also had fresh mozzarella and of course a little Parmigiano-Reggiano. It must have weighed twenty pounds.


Great Grandma Laurel checks out the strangest figure in our Nativity set, which is not in fact the giant elephant (!), but an ass that is totally out of proportion and in a completely different style than the rest of the set. I almost wonder if it ended up in there by mistake.

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.
-Is. 9:2

Monday, January 4, 2010

Hey, I'm Only Three Weeks Behind.

There are lots of things I love about Willem's preschool. And usually I'm fine with the fact that it's trying to grow into a private Christian elementary school. Unfortunately, along with the whole "private school" thing comes an onslaught of fundraisers and elaborate Christmas and "graduation" programs which tend to veer into "overkill" when one's kid is only four years old and just needs to get out of the house for a few hours every week.

Case in point: the Christmas program they put on three weeks ago. To facilitate easy costume changes, every child had to wear a white turtleneck and black pants. So I had to go out and buy a white turtleneck and black pants, which were frankly not items I felt Willem's wardrobe was lacking.

I wasn't even sure if I could find a white turtleneck. I'd never looked for one before. My first try was J.C. Penney's (seemed like a sure thing) and I found one on clearance for $4.99. THEN I found one at Target for $3.99! I'm totally taking the Penney's one back. After dithering over some off-black cargo pants, I happened upon a pair of true-black cords which seemed to me way more acceptable than black slacks for a four-year-old.

The DAY OF the program they told us the kids needed to wear black socks. Sheesh. A four year-old needs black socks about as badly as he needs a pair of shiny black pointy tuxedo shoes. Which is not very much. I actually forgot this little tidbit of information and brought Willem to school that night in his usual white socks. He was returned to me in a pair of thin black nylon ankle dress socks. I didn't know such a thing existed.

Willem was thrilled to finally be up on the stage where he'd seen his brother the year before. I was expecting a night of carols and a re-enactment of the Nativity. We had that, but the first part of the program was an adaptation of the Nutcracker, and each of the classes performed a little ballet. Willem is really into his ballet class, and when I happened to run into his teacher at the school, she told me she really enjoys having him in class. "He has a really dry little sense of humor already." Uh huh. But he also has a lot of enthusiasm for dancing, and he often comes home and demonstrates his new moves without any prompting on my part. I quite enjoy watching him jump around the living room yelling "Changement! Changement!" in a very respectable French accent.

Hi, mom!

Willem is a cow here, in case you can't tell. He was really into the hand motions, which the older kids in the two back rows that you can't see were doing. This was their song; he was just supposed to be waiting for the group number. Like the kids you see standing behind him.

Here the kids were all lined up to put a new toy under the tree to give to Doernbecher's Children's Hospital. You can see how pleased Willem is to be giving away the Playmobil helicopter I picked out. Actually, he was crabby because the toys were being collected here in Camas; he wanted to take it to the hospital and give it to a doctor to give to a kid himself.


Every school family was asked to bring a dessert to share after the program. When faced with a thirty-foot table crammed with every Christmas treat imaginable, my boys chose these bright blue-frosted store-bought cookies. They are suckers for sprinkles.

One show down, one to go at the end of the school year. I'm hoping for more ballet.