Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas Time

On Christmas Eve eve, we had a little celebratory dinner of our own at home. Note to parents:  if a celebratory dinner is what you're after, don't sit down hungry at the table with a bowl of smallish Dungeness crabs and two hungry young children.  Let's just say the champagne had done its work by the time I actually got anything to eat.

It wasn't until the day of Christmas Eve that we found out if our plans would be thwarted by the weather.  Though other flights were delayed and canceled, Shaun's sister and her family made it in to PDX.  And the road to Shaun's parents house, which had been closed off and on for a few days preceding, was open.  Behold Highway 26:

The packed snow above was fine.  I had a few white-knuckle moments on areas of the road that had some ruts and more of a mix of things on the ground, but we all made it safe and sound.

I think you'll agree when you see our destination, that a more Christmas-y place could not be found in all the land:

Did I mention there was a LOT OF SNOW?

The power was out at our House o' Christmas, and that made things a little more adventurous (and a lot more work for my father-in-law) than they would have been otherwise. The rumble of a generator is not my favorite winter noise, but it sure beats the alternative. Shaun's mom managed to work around the inconvenience of only getting to use one major energy-gobbler at a time (water heater, oven, cooktop) and prepared us many delicious and festive meals. Adding to the element of adventure was the periodic dumping of snow off the roof.  It would come down at odd moments with a big crashing noise and shake the house.  Made me a little jumpy.

Shaun's folks were planning to host a big family get-together on Saturday, but that was relocated to his aunt and uncle's house in Salem because the power still wasn't back on.  Much of Shaun's extended family was there, and that was fun as always.  Shaun's cousins and their spouses are all fun to be with, and the kids all love running wild together. 

I got to hold the happiest little baby Nora.

As our kids change and grow, they create fun new Christmas memories.  It will be a long time before I forget the sight of my almost three year-old nephew sitting on his dad's lap, perusing the ceiling fan section of the Lamps Plus catalog he received in his stocking.  And Nels's joy at opening the Wall-E and Eve figures I got for him and Willem was something.  Later in the day he told me that his "dream really came true," and that it made him feel like he had to hug me.

Yesterday Shaun's family came out our way.  We had a nice visit and a salmon dinner.  The boys ran their laps through the kitchen/living/dining room, and we had the obligatory family photo:

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!  New Year's, here we come!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

When Boys Play With Stuffed Animals

As I was doing some chores this evening, I noticed both boys were snuggled in Nels's bed, reading books with the lights out.

About twenty minutes later, they reported back to me.

"Mom, we put our stuffed animals to bed!"

They read to them.
They sang to them (quickly, because one of the animals kept sneezing.)
They said prayers with them.
Then the bear ate the dog.

Sweet dreams!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Winter Days

As surely everyone knows by now, it is unusually snowy in the Pacific Northwest. NOW we have the kind of weather that's worth canceling school for.

People are making the most of it, and while I find it hard to relate to the excitement after several snow-filled high desert winters, I do find it enjoyable to watch a girl on a sled go whizzing by my kitchen window as I wash the dishes.  The neighbor boys piled up some snow for a snowboard jump, and I even saw a few snowmobiles out and about.

Of course our kids are loving it.  They're happy just to tromp around on our deck, making snow piles and trying to eat large shards of ice.

Our neighbors are very neighborly, and I am wishing that I had made the time to do some Christmas baking.  At some point I'm going to have to stop using Willem's surgery as an excuse for not doing more, but I guess we're still good for now. 

One neighbor sent her son over with some ginger spice cake, and another gave us a giant tub of popcorn.  You know the kind.  It's divided into regular, caramel, and toxic-looking cheese, and it looks totally unappealing in the store, only to become irresistible once it enters your house. Today, our next door neighbors sent their son over to shovel our driveway.  It's rather uncomfortable to accept a kind deed from a middle-school boy who would rather be doing something else.  Character building all around, I'm sure.

Of course the weather is making me want to fix all sorts of hearty meals.  That doesn't mean I do, but one does make an occasional appearance at our dinner table.  I had to share this meal from a few weeks ago with you because of its spectacular color. It's red cabbage with kielbasa, onions, and apples, with roasted potatoes on the side.  I was the only real fan of the dish.  The boys didn't like the vinegar in the cabbage, and Shaun, expecting it to taste like sauerkraut, found it a little bland.  I liked it.

Tonight, though, we'll have crowd-pleasing lentil and kielbasa soup.  I think it's the four cups of leeks (in addition to the four cups of onions) that make it extra tasty.  (No, I don't feed turkey kielbasa to my family every night, it just sometimes seems that way.  I know it's full of awful stuff.)

Of course winter hasn't been all kielbasa-eating and frolicking in the snow.   Because of the weather, lots of fun events like Nels's school Christmas program were canceled or postponed. I even saw on the news that one college had to cancel its winter commencement.  And my mom and grandpa were supposed to drive out from Bend, but the weather is keeping them home. 

Right now we're just thankful that our Christmas plans didn't require flying out of PDX this week, and we're looking forward to letting the boys loose in the two feet of snow at their Grandma and Grandpa's house.  If only we can get there.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

That's My Boy

You know how it is, parents; you fear that your child will inherit all the character flaws that trouble you most about yourself.  

Now that Nels is getting older, I am starting to notice some of the less desirable traits that we share.  He is easily frustrated and ready to give up when faced with the challenge of learning something new.  He has a hard time falling asleep at night because his mind is too busy "thinking sad things."  A few weeks ago, I saw tears streaming down his face as he ate a sucker.  I had asked him to try to finish it before his brother noticed he had it, since Willem wasn't getting one.

"What on earth is the matter?"  I asked.  "You HAVE a sucker."

The corners of  his mouth twisted down as he sobbed, "I can't stop thinking about throwing it away!"

Oh, man.

With all of this worry that I am raising a young human who will be as much of a mess as I am, and in the same ways, it is always a tremendous relief when he does something that I would NEVER do.

Behold the thing Nels made out of Legos "for R2-D2 to ride in."  Note the shade-providing canopy and the little stoppers on the platform in front of the robot's feet.  Look how perfectly it fits.  Never in a million years would I do this.  Never in a million years COULD I do this.

Yes, he's my boy.  But he's also his own little fella, thanks be to God.

Monday, December 15, 2008


The Camas School District canceled school today due to "inclement weather."

It was a total set-up.

Last Friday, Nels's preschool handed out notices mentioning that snowstorms were being forecast for early in the following week, and that his school would be observing any district closures.

Well, it snowed on Sunday as predicted.  But instead of continuing to snow that night, it was just really windy. No snow on Monday.  Clear skies.  Clear roads. No ice.  I didn't even bother checking for closures.  Who cancels school just because it's winter?

My first clue that something was up came when we stepped out the door and I realized that I hadn't seen the school bus go by our house this morning.  (It stops right next door to us.)  My second clue came when Willem reached the edge of our porch stairs and refused to take another step.  He just stood there in the frigid air and wailed.  Of course I couldn't really hear his cries all that well. They were carried off by the wind.

I made my way through the empty (and COMPLETELY CLEAR) streets to the school. It was deserted. My theory is that all the teachers in Camas had been counting on taking Monday off and, when the snow failed to materialize, decided to go ahead and do it anyway.  (OK, yes, it was MISERABLY cold.  And I did hit one small patch of ice on the drive home.  Still.)

Nels summed up the sadness of the morning in a poignant moment of self-awareness as we pulled out of the empty parking lot:

"I like BEING at school, but I don't like GETTING there."

Amen, Nels.  Amen.

The Weekend I Needed

The Weather has arrived.  With the windchill it feels like 7 degrees outside.  That sassy wind has twice blown out the pilot light on our gas fireplace.  We've thwarted its evil machinations by switching to the electric baseboard heat.  Blow away, wind.  I just hope nobody needed whatever that metal thing was that just blew clanking past our house and on down the hill.

A better than average weekend should definitely end with a snowstorm.  On Friday night we went to Shaun's work Christmas party.  As usual, it was our only Christmas party of the year.  That put a lot of pressure on it to be fun, but any occasion that involves free prime rib and a chipper duo on drums and keyboard in a ballroom is all right by me.  I even got to wear a skirt (which Nels wanted me to twirl in ad infinitum before I left the house.)

On Saturday Shaun took the boys to see a steam engine (see his infinitely more popular blog for photos) and I did some Christmas shopping.  That evening we watched Jungle Book for the first time, and boy, howdy, was THAT something.

Nels was BESIDE himself with delight.  He stood bolt upright, he cowered in the sofa cushions, he yelped, he arched his back, he made cartoon noises himself; he laughed so hard that I thought he might choke.  It was the most amazing display I have ever seen.  At one point when the elephants were marching he stood up and yelled, "I'M TURNING INTO ONE OF THEM! I'M TURNING INTO A DISNEY CHARACTER!" with total abandon.  So fun.

Today, Shaun (though sick) was kind enough to drive us into Portland so we could see our friends Heather and Joy, who were selling Heather's wares at Crafty Wonderland.  Yes, I was a wuss for not wanting to drive myself, but I felt that encountering "Chains Required in Portland Metro Area" signs on the freeway somewhat justified my anxiety.  We had a nice visit, and I enjoyed ogling the artsy Portland crowd.  We're a little more country here in Camas.  I would never be able to pass myself off as a cool Portlander; I've never mastered the necessary layering skills.

Now we're home and cozy after our adventures.  But I've been out of the house, people.  I've spoken with adults.  I therefore declare this weekend a success.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

We Got A New Camera and Now Shaun Has A Blog

That's right, Shaun has started a blog.  You will all appreciate, I'm sure, that his approach is less verbose than mine.  

He has built up a bit of a back-log, so be sure to click the "Previous" button at the bottom to see everything.

Now hie thee to and enjoy!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Want In? Want Out?

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you may have noticed that I made a few changes, among them adding links to several more friends' blogs.  If you know me and I didn't include your blog, it's not a commentary on my opinion of your blog, merely an oversight.  If you'd like to be included, please let me know in the comments.

Conversely, if I've linked to your blog but you prefer to not to be associated with the likes of me, let me know and I'll remove the link.

And now, I leave you with a seasonal lolcat:  (You'll have to click on it, though, to read the entire caption)

funny pictures of cats with captions
more animals

I'm sorry.  I just can't help myself.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Beware the Free Samples

That crafty Whole Foods Market has me totally hooked on 17.99/lb Uniekaas Reserve Gouda.  It may be one of my favorite cheeses ever.

The next round of the crud is making its way through our family. Incredibly, Nels caught a cold about two days after Willem's two-week window of "do NOT get sick!" was up.  Willem got it a few days later.  A mere week earlier, sneezing was very uncomfortable for him, so I was really thankful it waited.  Shaun woke up with a full-blown case this morning, and I have that "I'm coming for you next" soreness in the back of my throat.  I usually manage to avoid getting really sick when everybody else is.  I'm counting on that.

We were to have gone to a birthday party featuring Indian food tonight, but we will keep our germs at home.  Other nice couples with kids will be there.  How sad I am to miss it. 
Today we will decorate our Christmas tree.  Nels made his enquiries:  "Are there more fragile ornaments or more toy ones?" (Meaning ornaments they would be allowed to handle.)  He cried at the answer.  That's right; I selfishly gave no thought to my future children when I collected my ornaments, so they are mostly fragile.  Ah, tree decorating.  Surprisingly less fun in practice than in theory.

We've been chipping away at the furnishing of our new house.  Behold our new table lamps.  We settled on these from CB2 after viewing thousands of lamps online.  The next big project is choosing the art for the wall over the couch.  We're getting there. 

Well, cue the Christmas music.  That tree isn't going to decorate itself.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly, and The Fan-freakin-tastic

This year we did something different and drove up to my dad and stepmom's in Bellingham to spend Thanksgiving with them.  It's the first time I've lived so close to them (about 270 miles away), so it was fun to be able to do that.

We drove on Thanksgiving day and had our feast on Friday.  I can now add "single-handedly putting out an entire Thanksgiving spread (with 'help' from her mom)" to my stepmom Juli's long list of talents.  Of course the boys were more impressed with her video game skills.  Of their three grandmothers, she's the only one who plays Lego Batman.

On Saturday my dad took us to the children's museum, which was refreshingly low-tech. The current exhibition had a nautical theme.  Nels liked the "submarine" most.

Willem was pretty good on Thursday, but he got naughtier and naughtier as the days went by.  We usually see a "grandparent effect" with the boys--they tend to get cranky and more disobedient than usual when they're out of their normal routine.  Plus we haven't stayed on top of Willem's three-year-old orneriness as well as we should.  Add a recent open-heart surgery to all that and you've got yourself a recipe for a good old fashioned tantrum.  Or ten.  Shaun and I had to tag-team bedtime duties because it was so difficult to deal with him.  Most of the problems were in the evening though, and it wasn't enough to keep us from having a very nice visit.  Thanks, Dad and Juli!

So, what better to do the morning after arriving home than take the aforementioned willful three year-old to the doctor?  No, Willem won't stand on the scale.  A chest x-ray?  Are you kidding me?  After 10 minutes of useless cajoling, I finally broke it to the technicians that they were wasting their time.  I told them I'd be happy to hold Willem in place if they thought they could get a good picture that way.

He screamed, he ran, he writhed.  Another girl and I had to hold him still, hold his arms back, and hold the radiation shield over his vulnerable bits.  And not just once, because the machine wasn't working properly.  We'd let him go, he'd run screaming for the door, and then I'd go fetch him again.  You know that move where they go stiff as a board and won't bend in the middle when you're trying to sit them down?  Very effective.  But we held him down and they got their pictures.

On to the next office.  Turns out that if a three year-old doesn't want an electrocardiogram, he's not going to have one.  Because it requires the patient to be still.  At this point, I was the one crying.  And when he tore the oxygen reader off his finger and threw it across the room, well, I needed a tissue.  By the time the cardiologist finally arrived I was feeling 1. like a total failure as a parent and 2. mad, mad, mad at Willem.

Everything looks good, though.  The doctor can still hear the valve leaking, which is to be expected since they didn't do anything to it; they just fixed the other things to keep it from getting worse.  They'll do an echocardiogram in six months from now, and at that time I figure we'll ask all our questions about the likelihood of the valve function deteriorating.  My guess is that it will just require long-term monitoring.  Back to that again.

Did you know that November was National Adoption Month?  Well, it was.  And that's why it is incredibly fitting that just last week Shaun's cousin Jared and his wife Amy brought home their adopted daughter Sunita from India.  And Jana, my best friend from second grade, and her husband Rob brought home their adopted son Elias from Ethiopia.  I could never tell it as well as they do; please visit Amy's and Jana's blogs and celebrate this affirmation of the priceless worth of each human life.