We had a little snow on the ground here a couple of weeks ago.  Maybe a week or so ago, a snowman appeared in the yard.  Brokk told me that the girls had built it.  It was a nice snowman, about 4′ tall, with three body segments, stick arms, eyes, nose and smile, and even “hair”.  I went out the next morning to take a picture of it and already, the head had melted away.  Sad, I walked away.

I asked girlchild about it and she told me that she built it, to show her foster sister.  (reading between the lines, they both wanted to build one but the younger girl lost interest in the actual labor).  I was pretty impressed that girlchild had built a whole snowman by herself.

A couple of nights later, she “fixed” the snowman so that his face was on what used to be his abdomen, and his arms stuck out from what was his legs before.  In other words, he became a two-snowball snowman.  He looked pretty good and I finally got a picture of it.  It felt a bit bittersweet, since I had missed the opportunity to take a picture of the snowman when he was first built.

But even that face melted off by the morning.  By this point, you would figure that any child would have lost interest in this snowman.  But apparently, not girlchild.  A couple of nights later, she and I came home from a pretty tiring day of errands, and in fading light she decided she was going to fix the snowman.  Keep in mind, that by now most of the snow has melted away.  There is a patch at least 15 feet in radius around the snowman that was purely grass, since anywhere the kids had stomped was melted or smooshed into the mud.  Undeterred, she spent 20 minutes fetching handfuls of snow to patch up the 2-snowball edifice, and then she started into making a new head.  I helped a little, partly because it was getting dark but mostly because her enthusiasm was infectious.  In fact, she made the head too big and I got to show her how to carve snow using your shoe.  We got the head on and I served to hold things in place while she fetched handfuls of snow to patch them.  For example, holding the head until she got “neck snow” and holding an arm while she shored it up.  The engineering work was all hers.

Arms (one raised so it looked like he was waving), eyes (stones), nose (pebble), smile (4 pieces of stick so that he had a small smile with dimples), pipe (short thick stick), and hair (limp dead iris leaves) and he was perfect.

It rained that night, and by the morning the snowman was very skinny.  His hair was still on.

Now I remember that she called it not a “snowman” but a “snowperson”:)

Tenacity; I have never seen so much of it in a 7yo.

The growing of girlchild

The foster daughter has a bad cold, and girlchild caught head lice at school.  Made for an “exciting” couple of days around here, but we’re all surviving well.  I wanted to keep girlchild away from fosterchild so that they wouldn’t share their respective bugs (although of course we had treated the headlice).  Still, better to be safe than sorry.


This morning I made three cakes as a base for a fancy dessert for next weekend.  Then packed up girlchild to go run errands.  We went to the Salvation Army with a truck full of items for donation.  My basement and my heart felt lighter after the drop-off.  Then off to BJs for food supplies, and after that we needed to go to a craft store and to buy her some new shoes and socks.  On the way to lunch, I pulled over into an Uno’s restaurant and offered her that or sushi at Wegman’s.  She chose Uno’s, so in we went, me with my laptop and her with my iPad.   I got some work done while she played.  It’s awesome being a touch typist, because I can let my fingers finish typing a thought while actually participating in the game with her.


Shoes proved difficult to get.  I had recently bought her a pair of Van’s online, but they were too wide for her narrow feet.  I’ll be returning them.  She tends to prefer to have only one pair of shoes (we’ve tried having sneakers and nice shoes and boots available, but it doesn’t seem to work for her and just frustrates her about what to wear).  She is so long and slender that many of her trousers are a little short.  They still look good on her, but with the short socks that she tends to prefer (and therefore Santa brought for her) she is left with an inch or two of ankle showing.  We didn’t find shoes at the first place we looked, and ended up at the mall.  I abhor the mall.  But we had directions so that we were barely in the mall proper, and thankfully found a pair that worked for her.  Black sneakers with elastic and one velcro strap, and rainbow stripes on the sides.


By that point is was close to 3pm and she had asked to go skating.  The rink opened at 3 for open skate.  Thankfully I had prepared for this contingency and had packed all her skating stuff, so off we went to the rink.  She skated around really well, practicing all the moves they tried to teach her in class (except the going backwards part). When she fell she picked herself right up.


All day we hung out.  We left the house at 10:30 and didn’t get home till after 4pm.  She was a delight to hang with, and I had a lot of fun.  Seven years old.  Sheesh. 🙂

Cats January 2013


We are back to being a 3-cat family.  Rosie is a long-haired tabby, and is about 6 years old; we’ve had her for about 4 years.  Odin is a black cat with one eye, about 1.5 years old.  We got her when she was about 2 months old.  Latest addition is Sleipnir/Slipnir/Slippy, a 3 month old tabby.  All girls, which was a coincidence, although the last two have male names.  Sleipnir was brought home in the hope that she’d be a good companion for Odin.  So far this has worked out well, as the two of them play wrestle for hours each day.  The dog, Pepper, keeps hoping that Sleipnir will wrestle with her, but thus far the two aren’t speaking the same language so even though the kitten has started to make motions towards wanting to wrestle with the dog, the dog isn’t understanding the cat’s body language and so the promise remains unfulfilled.

Wide eyed Slipnir Beautiful Sleepy Odin Cats 2 and 3 on climberSleipnir on top, taunting Odin inside the cat tower.

Mouse Priveledges

After more than a month taking care of my geckos, by July 6 girlchild had earned the right to her own “starter” pet (i.e. mouse, gerbil, dwarf hamster, or fish). We looked and looked on petfinder and finally saw one at the MSPCA in JP that looked perfect. We met him, and he is even better than his picture! I’m not sure yet what his story is, but at the shelter we were told he’d been there for a very long time (at least since last November), and only after we got him home we realized he was missing his right hand. Why did we miss something so seemingly obvious? It could be because he is the most spectacular climber I’ve ever had as a mouse pet. Clearly, the missing hand doesn’t matter to him, and it matters even less to us. He’s wonderful. His fur is uber-soft, and he hasn’t so much as peed on us once. We did buy him a non-wire wheel though since he can’t grip properly without a hand. I asked my daughter whether she would have reconsidered had she known about the missing hand. My heart about burst with pride when she said “Not at all. It means he needs us more.” Welcome home Spotty!

The good, the bad, and the pretty

Ah Christmas vacation.  7 schooldays off this year, which with weekends means 11 consecutive days out of school.  That is a very long time to be out of the structure of school.  As I have been home more for it than other holidays, I have gotten to see the decline of behavior more directly than in other cases.  After a few days of this, I realized that there is no house big enough, nor enough toys in the world, to keep the peace between three children.

So, on Saturday, we embarked on our first “big adventure”.  We went first to Target so the kids could spend some of their Christmas money, and subsequently off to the Ecotarium.  Personally, I needed a new pair of mid-calf boots for work.  They had two that would fit the bill – a platform pair with nearly 6″ heels, and a pair of pseudo-engineer boots with ~ 5″ heels.  I knew I should get the lower heels. They were much more practical.  Target has a wonderful policy of keeping a pair of size 11s in every shoe type, and boychild frequently helps me find them.  (This started when he was just learning his numbers, and as math practice I used to have him help me find my size)  As I was dithering about buying the more practical pair, I flipped them over and noted that the sole had a rose on it. It would leave a neat imprint in the snow!  Still, I dithered, at which point, in a near-whisper, boychild says “Roses for Rozi”.  That clinched it.  Off we went with the practical pair, which are simply lovely, knowing that I am walking with my own bouquet as proffered to me by my son.

Ah the travails of parenting

Tonight was bath night. Delayed by a day because we got off our schedule two days ago.  Boychild wanted to go first, which was fine with me.  Girlchild was second.  I prefer to have fosterchild go third due to all the hair products I need to use in her hair.

During bath 1, I developed a cramp in my foot.  By bath 2, I still couldn’t get rid of the cramp and I was in terrible pain.  The girls needed a break from each other and frankly with the pain in my foot I couldn’t handle both of them in the small bathroom, so I asked fosterchild to go play in their room while girlchild got her bath.  Finally I realized that the cramp wasn’t going to go away where I was, so I left girlchild alone while I went across the hallway to my bedroom to lay down for just a couple of minutes.

I immediately started to feel better.  However, not one minute had gone by when I heard a loud crash… either something of thin metal had fallen down or something of thick glass had broken.  I bolted out of bed and ran into the hallway.  But now I have fosterchild in the girls’ room (or maybe downstairs) boychild somewhere I knew not where in the house, and girlchild in the bathroom.  And I didn’t know where the sound had come from so I did not know whom to check on to see if they were alright.  I can count on one hand, maybe one finger, the number of times the three kids were all in separate rooms and each without a grownup, and of course this horrible sound had to happen in one of these few times.  I called “who made that sound? What’s wrong? Is anyone hurt?” but of course, guilt kept the responsible child silent.  I called again, with more urgency in my voice, and finally boychild replied with “it was me”.  He had knocked over a glass bulb that was in his bedroom.  Yes it was his fault but it’s not like he did it on purpose.  I got him his pajamas and had him get dressed outside his bedroom due to the shards littering his floor.  Told him not to go back in, that I’d clean it up after the baths.


Sigh.  So much for relaxation.  But believe it or not, the foot cramp had largely resolved already.  I managed to get the other two baths in, then cleaned the glass (was so very much tempted to leave it to the husband).  Now, on couch while kids watch a movie under supervision I get to write this blog and get back to work.

Les Miz, the musical movie

Took the kids to see the new (Dec 25 2012) Les Miserables movie.  We caught the noon show on Dec 26.  Got there early enough to see most of the pre-show, and at a theater that has 20+ minutes of previews with every show, so we were there for a while.  A small group came in 10 minutes late (i.e. during the previews) and decided to sit right next to us, which would be fine except that we had all our coats on that seat (the theater was barely half full) and the gentleman at the head of the party asked the 7-yr-old girl if the someone was sitting there, and when she answered “no”, he started to move the coats, which included dropping mine on the icky theater floor.  I was pretty angry with him.  But anyways, that’s not the point of this post…

The kids are pretty familiar with the plot of the book.  They’ve listened to the soundtrack dozens of times, and watched the DVD of it a couple of times.  We’ve talked to them about the plot, filling in details that aren’t in the play but are in the book.

Still, I figured that the movie would be fairly emotional, so I talked to them about it ahead of time, reminding them that although this is historical fiction, it is fiction nonetheless, and more importantly this is a movie, with actors playing roles.  In other words, even if we see someone getting beaten up, or shot, or dying, they’re just pretending.  And when the movie started, boychild and I exchanged a few hushed whispers about the actors (Hey look Valjean is Wolverine, and the Thenardiers are both in Sweeney Todd!).  During the movie, they both did great.  Girlchild seemed engrossed, and although boychild seemed bored, it was only that his mind was racing with questions that he was dying to ask me about how the actors managed to change their physical appearance.

So, guess who bawled their way through the movie?  Yup, me.  At one point boychild leaned over and offered me a tissue.  I was sniffling and bawling pretty badly.  “Bring him home” gets me every time, as do some other scenes.

Overall, the film was pretty good.  I was annoyed that they cut out the singing interplay between the guards and the Bishop.  The bishop being my favorite male part in the show, I was uber-glad that they gave that role to Colm Wilkinson, who I had been lucky enough to see in the Valjean role mumble-years ago.  Also, glad that they brought the bishop out at the end instead of Eponine, who never made any sense in the last scene except for the fact that the role is an alto.

Was worried about Russel Crowe as Javert, and sadly he lived up to my lack of expectations for the first part, although he seemed to grow into the role (I’d be curious to learn what order they filmed the movie in).  Javert’s whole purpose in life was as a rules-follower, and this (to me) came out in his character on stage as the one who sang in perfect beat.  So, Mr. Crowe taking artistic liberty with the pacing just stuck me like a splinter under the fingernails.  Like I said, though, he did better as the movie progressed.

Also, the director is fairly well known for his close-in shooting (srsly, the camera is inches away from the actors’ faces sometimes).  This worked well as a technique for some scenes, especially for the early Valjean and Fantine, who can’t look you in the eyes… so when they do their best not to look at the camera, the trick works well.  But for other scenes and characters, the method worked less well (or at least, Mr. Director, let them defiantly look straight at the camera).

I was a little worried before the movie about the Marius they chose (Eddie Redmayne), but really he did a wonderful job.  He emoted well and also sang well.  His unique look (all those freckles!) worked well in a cast full of Mariuses, too.  (In the student tavern scenes, I kept looking at all the actors and wondering whether they had all played Marius in some production of the musical).

The actress they cast for Eponine (Samantha Barks) was also very well suited for the role.  The costume they had her in was a little odd, in that it looked like she could snap in two at the waist, but she managed to sing despite it, and her broad face with tiny teeth somehow really suited the role (originally well fed but now less so).  Which is odd, because all the pictures of her on iMDB show her as having a mouth full of large white teeth.  So either they put makeup on her teeth or one set (the tiny ones in the movie or the big ones she normally sports) are fake.  Whichever way it goes, it worked for the film.

My best praise must be saved for Gavroche (Daniel Huttlestone) although it was a toss-up between him and the ever-solid Hugh Jackman playing Valjean.  I can’t find much about young Huttlestone, except that he’s about 12 years old.  His presence was rock solid, his singing clear and superb, and his poise evident.  They did a bit with Javert and Gavroche after the kid’s death which I had to scramble to explain to the kids (i.e. it’s not in the book) which added a nice touch, too.

As usual, my kids were the only children in the theater.  They were well behaved and seemed to appreciate the movie.  I watched them quite a bit, and once again was struck by just how pretty their features are.  Girlchild breaks my heart with how cute she is, and boychild’s recently developed freckles add an impish quality to his impossibly large eyes and long lashes, and perfect lips.  But I digress…

Christmas supper

We didn’t have any plans for Christmas.  Luckily neither did some friends of ours, so minus the mom (who had to work), the dad and two kids came over for Christmas supper.  Three adults, 5 kids.  Here’s what we made:

  • Appetizer: shrimp cocktail
  • Appetizer: bacon-wrapped shrimp
  • Turkey (only 14 lbs)
  • Ham (about 9 lbs)
  • Broccoli with cheese
  • Mushrooms, two kinds
  • Peas and corn
  • Mashed potatoes (10 lbs)
  • Sweet potatoes (5 lbs) with cinnamon and brown sugar
  • Balsamic carrots
  • Dessert: pumpkin pie (store bought)
  • Dessert: berries
  • Dessert: crepes suzette

Yeah, there were leftovers.  It didn’t look like we touched the food but we all rolled out of the dining room overflowing our waistbands.  After supper, we all went down to the Willis Winter Wonderland.  That was fun! 😀


And the leftovers are very yummy!




Mummers’ Play

Every year, our church (UU) puts on a traditional English Mummers’ Play, “St. George and the Dragon”, featuring as many kids from our congregation as want to be in it.  The kids get their first role some time around kindergarten, and every year they play a different role until about 7th grade, which is when most of them choose not to participate any more.  There are parts great and small, depending on age and ability, and many many parts with a few lines each for most of the kids in the middle.

The play changes very little from year to year, and as it is essentially one long poem, most kids have much of the play memorized, including my own two.

This year, girlchild played “Buyer”, the first half of a role introduced last year due to the increasing number of children.  Buyer comes on stage right after “Turkish Toffee”, a character that has been around longer than our involvement with this congregation.

I’ve been ostensibly helping with the play (“Ostensibly”, because the fine lady who runs it barely needed my help this year.)  My job on performance day was to sit front and center and cue any forgotten lines.

Speaking of girlchild, she had a hard time memorizing her lines, but she pulled it through every single time during rehearsal.  Then, came the performance.  She listened intently for her cue and boldly stepped on stage, declaring “Here come I, Turkish Toffee, I’ll sell you all the finest coffee”.  At this point, she paused, realizing there was something wrong.  The hushed murmur from the audience didn’t help either.  I saw her face flush, as mine would had I been in her shoes.  I could feel what she was going through…. the urge to flee and hide and cry is all but overwhelming.  Or pee yourself.  That too is an option.  She stood there, like a deer in headlights, and I tried to cue her and cue her.  She eventually heard me, but looked straight at me like my words made no sense.  So I took a different tack… I shot her a huge smile, and said “Breathe. Take a big deep breath and start over”.  Somehow, she did.  She started over, with the right lines.  Tentative at first, but but stronger with each line, so that by the time her few lines were over she was speaking them like a true champ.


Then, Buyer tried to pay for her purchase, and when she opened her purse, it opened completely and all the plastic coins went skittering across the entire stage.  Poor kid.  At least her lines were over, and so she picked them up, put them back in the purse, and walked off stage.


Sure, she messed up her lines, but frankly with the play the way it’s structured, I’m surprised her kind of mistake doesn’t happen more often.  I am incredibly proud of her for managing to push through and get her lines out.  She showed poise well beyond her 7 years.  This, she frequently does, and I find myself forgetting that she’s not twelve yet.