31 December 2013

Happy Christmas Octave!

...and New Year's Eve, New Year's Day, Solemnity of Mary the Theotokos, Circumcision of Christ, etc!

We hope that you and yours are having a blessed octave of Christmas! Matt has a whole week and a half off--definitely one of the best perks of working for the university system--and we've been enjoying a visit from his college roommate, so my internet time has been all but nonexistent, but once my world slows back down to its normal pace I'll be back to writing more regularly.

20 December 2013

SQTF 70: Five Days!

The neighbor's yard decorations have inspired a few double-takes recently:

"Is that Vader?"
"I think it's a penguin?"
"Why's it holding a red light saber?"

Christmas prep is chugging along merrily here, at what would be a terrifyingly slow rate if I wasn't unfathomably relaxed about the whole thing this year. "Oh, there's twelve days of Christmas... I'll get ______ baked eventually." This is not me, and it's pretty weird when I actually think about it, but it's really nice to be so peaceful five days before Christmas! I've accomplished roughly one Christmas-prep thing off my list each day, and some days it's as small as moving the furniture around to make room for the as-yet-unharvested tree (yesterday). 

What's left on the list? Well, the only things that really do need to be done before Christmas are wrapping presents, getting and decorating a tree, and prepping for Christmas dinner, I guess. Some time between now and New Years, preferably on the sooner end, I still want to make toffee bars, Hershey kiss cookies, fudge, stollen, and lefse. The stollen might have happened yesterday, but I used all of my yeast yesterday morning making four loaves of French bread for Matt.

Even though they work up through 5pm Christmas Eve, Matt's department is having their Christmas party today. He wanted to bring an elaborate Italian sandwich that he grew up enjoying: pan bagno.

There's a lot of prep work involved! You definitely want to have everything sliced before you start putting it together.

Because there are so many ingredients, he scooped some bread out of the inside of the top halves so they could settle down over things. The bread then got rubbed down with smashed garlic cloves, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar.

Starting on the flat bottom piece, he layered the sliced tomatoes, red onion, and fresh basil...

...diced kalamata olives, capers, and thinly-sliced gherkins...

...hard-boiled eggs, roasted red peppers, and flaked tuna, and then topped them off with full-length leaves of romaine and the top piece of the loaf. He wrapped them tightly---twice---in plastic wrap, then a layer of aluminum foil, and put them in the fridge with a cutting board and a bunch of free weights on top overnight. I wish I'd gotten a photo of that!

I read somewhere that December 23 is the busiest shopping day of the year. Hopefully, we will be able to avoid it; last night we hammered out a menu for the first Christmas dinner we will ever have made together, so that I can try to finish the shopping today. (There's also the uncomfortable fact that we are completely out of meat, again, so I have to go to at least one store today anyway.) Our plan for Christmas dinner: a moose roast in the crock pot, oven-roasted root vegetables with rosemary, green beans sautéed with garlic and pine nuts, dinner rolls, a strawberry-rhubarb gelatin salad, and pecan pie. It's kind of a ridiculous amount of food for three people, one of them a toddler, but it's a major feast day! And I'm looking forward to having leftovers around.

Quite possibly the best decision I made this Advent was starting to bake mini loaves of quickbreads and freezing them at the beginning of December. Now whenever someone calls and asks if they can drop by, I don't panic over running around trying to find not-too-dark cookies (yes, all of my cookies got "toasty" this year... sometimes the toddler has to be carried out of the kitchen more than once before you can open the oven...) to put together a plate for them; I just pull a loaf of Christmassy bread out of the freezer, maybe even stick a bow on it if there's no one clinging to my ankles, and voila.

It's been a season of firsts. First time doing Christmas dinner at home as a family. First time attempting the lefse (a soft Norwegian flatbread with potatoes) and Christstollen (German fruit cake). First time baking, oh, most of the cookies I've done so far! First time making sugared almonds---which are way too hard to stop eating, and should definitely be made closer to Christmas next year. First time Little Bear has seen candles (on our Advent wreath), and been very excited to try and blow them out. First Christmas with a child old enough to, not understand what's going on yet, but be caught up in the wonder of all of the changes slowly happening. It's been such a special Advent for us, and I'm sure the Christmas season will be as well.

Don't forget to visit Conversion Diary for more Quick Takes!

18 December 2013

Happy Christmas Trilobites

Yesterday was kind of crazy, in the sense of running around town for hours and finally getting home seven hours after leaving... only to turn around and head back out to pick Matt up from work two hours later. The jeep is finally fixed, though, hopefully; the misfires did follow the suspect coil when they switched it to a different cylinder, so that's been replaced and so far we haven't seen the check engine light back on.

Unfortunately, the incredibly off-schedule day meant that somebody took less than an hour total of nap, and was very cranky indeed by supper time. Ever the optimist (i.e. Ack, there are so many things left on my to-do list!!!), I thought I'd try to make a batch of cookies after supper before bedtime anyway. Easy cookies. Quick cookies. Spritz cookies.

My mom recently passed along a spare cookie press she found, and I've been excited to try it. For some reason, a cookie press is one of the unique tools that I've always associated with people who are pros at baking, so having one of my own makes me feel a little more confident that I'm "doing it right." I know, it's silly. And I certainly don't think that you have to have a cookie press to do Christmas cookies properly! It's just a prominent memory from childhood, I guess.

Last week I took a photo of Mom's spritz cookie recipe, so I pulled that up and followed along with the faded, smudged, well-worn instructions. Some of the steps--and ingredients--seemed kind of strange, but they apparently didn't set off enough warning bells until it was too late: Matt and Little Bear came into the kitchen to watch me work the cookie press, and Matt swiped a bite of dough. And made a face. "What is in this? And what shape are you making those?" 

Apparently, lime trilobites just don't say "Christmas".

In retrospect, how did it not occur to me that surely I would remember if my mother had actually mixed a packet of lime jello into the cookie dough each year? If I don't remember ever, ever seeing that happen, surely she used food coloring instead? I can't count how many times in the past few months I've asked for a recipe and she's handed me the card, but with a whole bunch of caveats: don't use X, use Y; double the spices; you really don't need to use all that sugar; I don't really make it like this. My mom's recipe cards are more like guidelines, really.

And lime. Of course I picked lime; my husband doesn't like sweet citrus. Now there are heaps and mounds of lime-flavored trilobites in my kitchen, and no one but myself and possibly the toddler to eat them. I guess I have something unique to give our neighbors!

On the plus side, the cookie press works great! There's about one more tray worth of green dough in the freezer; if I decide it's worth pulling it out and baking those too, I'll try to find the tree die instead of the trilobite!

15 December 2013

Third Sunday of Advent

We didn't have a chance to take a photo today, so I can't join up with the gals at Fine Linen and Purple, but definitely go see everyone over there! Hopefully next week I'll be able to participate again.

This weekend, though, deserves a post... and Little Bear finally fell asleep on my lap, so I can't go do anything productive, and I definitely can't risk waking him by laying him down, so I guess I'm writing.

My calendar said that this was going to be a pretty simple, low-key weekend. Being me, I interpreted that as an invitation---an imperative, really---to come up with a crazy long to-do list. So when extra things suddenly began popping onto the calendar? Whew. It's been kind of crazy.

Friday we were supposed to attend a dinner for folks involved with the local Catholic radio station. Little Bear decided that that wasn't going to happen: very little sleep the night before, very little nap, very little interest in doing much other than yelling. We were going to have to stay home. But by that point I had the car so we had to go pick Matt up after work anyway, and my brother got home from Ohio for break about the same time Matt got off work, so we ran up to my family's house for a short visit before bringing Little Bear home for an early bedtime. The unfamiliar bearded uncle was apparently intimidating, because Little Bear hardly made a sound while we were there!

Saturday morning, Matt wanted to run to town and do his present-shopping, and Little Bear and I were going to stay home and bake cookies and clean the apartment. The boy was so sad to see Daddy getting ready to leave, though, and brought him his boots so hopefully, that we wound up heading to town with him. Matt dropped us off at the grocery store while he went somewhere else, then came in and found us to help me pick out better windshield wipers since ours just smear stuff around and create ice everywhere.

Did you know that winter windshield wipers only come one in a package? It's dreadful. And we didn't figure that out until he went to install the new ones today, so I guess I'm going back to the store tomorrow.

After the grocery store, Matt dropped us at the thrift store (yay!) while he went one more place. Little Bear decided that he was all done riding in carts and being carried, and pushed the cart all over the store for me. We basically ran around in circles for twenty minutes instead of actually looking at clothes, but I don't really need more clothes anyway; I'm just glad that I started in the men's section so that I had picked out the sweaters Matt'd asked for before my little man decided to play truck driver---complete with "vroom, vroom" sound effects.

Little Bear had happily worn himself out driving the cart, and took a great nap when we got home. We skyped with a good friend from college later in the afternoon, then I scrambled to do all of my housecleaning and bake cookies and five loaves of cranberry bread (because I'm a crazy person) before another friend came over for supper. I was so glad to see Little Bear warm up to her after we ate; he's very wary of people whom he doesn't know well, especially when they're in his house.

Today, Gaudete Sunday, I actually did manage to wear liturgical rose to Mass, plus a heavy sprinkling of sparkles that kept Little Bear poking my shirt and laughing. He was very quiet during Mass, though! I knew that we couldn't stay too long after Mass because we were picking up one of Matt's coworkers, but since Mass concluded earlier than usual, I was happy to be able to be included in the meeting of the women of the parish to plan for Christmas setup, decorating, and the annual Christmas potluck. I know that we are young, and you can't expect to feel at home in a new parish right away or even for quite a while, and many, many people in the Catholic community in our area really can't help but see me primarily as my parents' daughter... but every time we go to the university parish, we feel like we are unquestioningly accepted as Catholic adultsIt sounds funny, but the fact that no one was surprised or expressed happiness that I came over to join the other women in the planning meeting ("Oh, I'm so glad you want to help!", etc) meant a lot to me.

Of course I stood around talking, and Matt and Little Bear eventually got tired of running around outside and went out to the car to wait for me. We got to the uhaul place where we were supposed to meet his coworker right on time, though... But he wasn't there. He called a few minutes later and said that he was running late and would need about 40 minutes. Well, we were on the opposite side of town from home; it was definitely nap time, but it would've been a huge waste of gas for Matt to run us home and then drive back out to pick the guy up. It's -7, so too cold to just play in the snow with Little Bear for the next half hour... in fact, doing something warm sounded like a very good idea. And the Barnes & Noble down the road had a huge fireplace.

Matt attempted to install our new windshield wipers (and discovered that there was only one) while Little Bear and I went inside and found the duplo table. He had a grand time stacking them into towers--he hasn't learned about pressing them together yet, so the towers were also fun to knock down. After Matt joined us, we enjoyed the fireplace and big comfy chairs until it was time to head back to the uhaul place.

Now we are home, the sleeping toddler peacefully snoring as he sprawls half on my lap, half on the couch. I can't quite see my still-enormous weekend to-do list from where I'm sitting, and that's probably for the best. We will light the pink candle on the Advent wreath tonight, and I'll bake a batch of cookies, a simple kind, maybe shortbread. Perhaps Matt will dig out some Christmas CDs... do we even have any? There's always YouTube. And everything else can just wait, and the world won't end. My goal for the last hours of our Sunday is peace, peace and joy. Gaudete, rejoice!

13 December 2013

SQTF 69: Second Week of Advent

The weather clearly knows that my brother is on his way home for Christmas break today. After a good week and a half of wonderfully warm weather, we woke up this morning to -16 F windchill. Wind. Here. In the wintertime. We so rarely get any wind ever, and what little we do get usually happens in the spring and fall. The novelty of winter wind and swirling snow definitely does not make up for how insidiously those icy fingers of wind get through all of your layers of clothing... Brr!

We can forgive my brother for bringing the Ohio weather with him, though, because we have all been looking forward to seeing him. Little Bear wasn't even standing steadily when he left in August, and now he runs! It will be fun to see them interact, and see if Little Bear recognizes his uncle at all. When I came home from college on breaks, our baby sister couldn't really tell me apart from my next-younger sister, but there's no one for Little Bear to confuse my brother with... I guess we will see.

Tonight we were supposed to be attending a dinner thanking folks who have been involved with getting KQHE, the local Catholic radio station, up and running. Unfortunately, Little Bear had a difficult night last night, and he's teething and angry, so it doesn't look like we will be able to go; the dinner isn't starting until 7pm, and I think we will be putting a little boy to bed before 7:30 tonight! 

There are so many how's and when's and what's to agree upon when a couple is figuring out how to celebrate holidays on their own instead of the way they grew up doing things, and it sure seems like the Advent/Christmas season has more of them than any other! You'd think that, our third Advent married, we would have figured it out by now... but I spent the first pregnant and apathetic, and the second dealing with a new small human and frazzled. With a helpful toddler this year, I was finally up to tackling questions like "at what point during Advent do we start decorating for Christmas? When do we get the tree? How many kinds of cookies, which ones, and when do I bake them?" Many of my questions, Matt didn't even realize they were topics it was possible to have an opinion on: the house gets decorated some time during Advent, we don't get the tree too early or it'll die, cookies can appear whenever I want them to.

I'm all about lists and schedules and order. If I didn't know that "sometime in Advent" was his way of saying that he really didn't have an opinion and I could choose a day/time that made sense to me, the vagueness of that answer would have been quite frustrating. Maybe it's good that it took us three years to get around to asking these questions! But I'm grateful that we have, finally, because now that I have the ability and energy, I really want to "do" Advent and Christmas well for Matt and Little Bear. The few non-tree decorations we have will go up in the next couple of days; cookies will start appearing early next week; we will head out to an old logging area to cut a tree the day before the Fourth Sunday of Advent, as long as it isn't too cold. I'm not sure what we will do if it's really cold that weekend, so Matt and my brothers had better stop praying for a -50 Christmas!

This has sure been a week for feasts! We (Matt) made an amazing Chicken Provençal for supper Monday for the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. We did... something that escapes me... Tuesday for Our Lady of Loretto. Last night we made pork fajitas and read Little Bear stories about St Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe. If we were allowed to light candles in our apartment I'd do something fun for St Lucy's feast today, but at least I can make Santa Lucia bread.

One of the things on my must-happen-before-Christmas list was reorganizing and adding things to the storage space we have artfully cordoned off in the second bedroom with the changing table-turned-toy shelf and a folding screen (this apartment is pretty shy on storage space). Little Bear is far too adventurous and "helpful" for me to manage it on my own during the week, so last Sunday afternoon Matt helped me redo the whole area. He is much more talented at organizing irregularly-shaped objects than I! One unforeseen result of the new organization, though, is that suddenly Little Bear has access to all of the books I'd hidden away either because he wasn't old enough or I was sick of reading them. He also has much better access to the toys on the shelf, but it's like he doesn't even notice them; the only thing he wants is "Book, Mama! Book book book!" Clearly, my kid. Right now there's a stack of books I'm reading on one arm of the couch, and five stacks of books that he keeps bringing to me all over the living room.

For more Seven Quick Takes fun, visit Jen at Conversion Diary!

11 December 2013

Lazy Blogger, Crazy Life

...Except, it hasn't really been all that terribly crazy the past few days... it just rhymed...

Anyway. I keep looking at the calendar these past few weeks and saying, "How is it Wednesday again and I haven't posted anything?" The holiday season is definitely an easy time to catch Lazy Blogger Syndrome, allowing my little corner of the internet to languish for days and days with no activity while real life picks up the pace. Recently it hasn't been lots of things needing to be done as much as lots of things coming up; it seems like every day so far this week has brought several new things to try to squeeze into our schedule for the next two weeks. Two weeks until Christmas, y'all!

There's so much to do, and it is getting done--today I hemmed up Little Bear's too-long black pants for his Christmas outfit and wrapped some presents, yesterday Little Bear helped me bake four more mini-loaves of pumpkin bread to give as gifts--but with new things popping onto the calendar right and left, suddenly my nicely-ordered days of predictability and structure are all being overturned: I was dismayed this evening to look at my calendar and realize that there is at least one extra, atypical, usually out-of-the-house, thing happening pretty much from now through Christmas!

Tomorrow I get a tiny reprive, because we were supposed to have supper with my family but my mom and brother have pinkeye, and the last thing I need is a toddler with pinkeye, so we are staying home. I feel sorry for them, but also a little bit guiltily grateful for a whole day at home with nothing extra happening, so that maybe I can finally make a batch of cookie dough or two, or buttermilk-cinnamon mini-loaves, or stollen... Except that it's the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, so I'll probably spend too long puttering around coming up with a Mexican-themed supper and then Little Bear will be all. done. letting me accomplish things in the kitchen, and the baking will get put off yet again.

No, I shouldn't say that; Little Bear is getting to be a big help in the kitchen. He loves sitting on the counter in front of me and watching while I use the stand mixer for quickbread or cookie dough, and when I'm making yeast breads, like tonight's hamburger buns, he gets so excited when I let him help me knead and punch down the dough. Occasionally an errant spice jar winds up slipping surreptitiously into my batter, but he's usually pretty good about asking before he adds ingredients. He has learned how to use measuring spoons pretty well, and it's a good thing he asks first or everything would wind up with a lot of extra baking soda in it!

Hopefully with a free day to play catch-up on my big to-do list, and a weekend coming up so Little Bear can wrestle with his daddy while I knock more things off the list, I'll manage to find a little bit more free time for blogging. I miss it when I take to many days off in a row! For the next couple of weeks, though, the general busyness will most likely keep cutting into my writing time.

08 December 2013

What I Wore Sunday {37}

I've missed a couple of weeks here, but today I'm joining Fine Linen and Purple again for the Second Sunday of Advent edition of What I Wore Sunday!

The past few days have been so warm, the streets are wet and slushy. Way too warm for December, but I can't deny that we are enjoying it during the daytime. (At night the roads freeze and get slick, and we have something to complain about again.) We talked about taking advantage of the warm weather--27 degrees above 0 this morning--to snap the photo outside, but this close to the winter solstice, with a few clouds in the sky there wasn't enough sunlight even at noon for a photo to turn out well! And we were trying for a decent family photo to put in Christmas cards, since I haven't managed to send those out yet, so lighting really did matter.

And then we forgot to take one of just me. So here's a sneak peek at our family Christmas photo:

Sweater: thrifted
Pencil skirt: thrifted
Pumps: garage sale

The giant mural behind us is pieced together with many varieties of wood from all over the world, and is supposed to represent a river. There's actually more to it, going up another full story, but if I hadn't cropped it a bit we would be too small to see!

Most years, I make a point of trying to wear the right liturgical colors during Advent: two purple Sundays, one rose, one purple. Somehow it has completely slipped my mind so far this year, but I'll try for rose next Sunday! Hopefully we don't compensate for this unseasonable warmth by plunging suddenly to -50, and it'll still be pleasant enough for a summery skirt. 

Looking at the calendar, I don't think that I'm nearly worried enough about accomplishing everything in time for Christmas. I hear "Second Sunday of Advent" and think, oh, I have three weeks left. But I don't! I have two and a half weeks, which is ever so much less. Suddenly the list of things to bake, gifts to wrap, cards to write (and mail tomorrow. Tomorrow!), decorations and visits and plans and events... it's feeling a little bit overwhelming.

I really enjoyed my peaceful first week of Advent: adding one loop to Little Bear's red and green chain every morning, opening a door on the Advent calendar when he needed a distraction, lighting the Advent wreath and reading a reflection as we prayed before supper... Calm, quiet, simple. Now I'm sitting amidst a sea of cards that all need to be addressed, and I'm stressing over misplaced addresses and not enough Christmas stamps and figuring out which people actually care about reading a Christmas letter and seeing a photo from us... It's time to sit down with my schedule and meticulously write every single thing down, so that I can see all of the pre-Christmas prep spaced out into some semblance of order. Maybe, maybe, if I can organize it all out on paper, I can keep the looming to-do list from making me too frazzled to find that quiet and peace for at least a few moments each day.

07 December 2013

Late Night Adventures

Does the fact that I'm describing something that happened at quarter to 7pm as "late night" declare me to be clearly a parent, or just old?

Little Bear and I bundled up this evening after dinner and headed out on a quest for very important random items like lettuce and soap and jello. We barely made it out to the driveway before we were running, slipping, sliding back to the door. "Matt, come quick! The Northern Lights are out!"

I don't think we saw them more than once last winter, and it's certainly been a long time since it's been warm enough to stand outside craning our necks to watch the brilliant green ribbons dancing across the sky. Little Bear could not figure out what we were so excited about, and sat stolidly on my hip holding his Bob the Builder book, refusing to look up where we were pointing. The aurora weaved back and forth above us, brightening in one spot, dimming in another, separating into icicle-like shards and merging together again. It was so pretty! They say that if you're far enough from everything, with nothing to break the silence, you can hear the aurora "sing." Maybe some day.

As our noses got cold and the lights danced away, Matt headed back inside while Little Bear and I ran to the store. It was an unexciting trip, which is always good, although I stayed in 4WD most of the way because this morning was 32 degrees and the roads had become icy again. This is October weather, early October. The air temperature is pleasant, but it's so weird, and we'd all rather have colder weather than icy roads.

To make up for the uneventful trip, I found some tracks preserved by the other night's freezing rain as I was plugging the car in when we got home:

Those are moose prints. Very large moose prints. And they are a foot away from our front bumper. (My print and the neighbors' dog's print labeled for size comparison.) I am hoping that the print on the right is from the moose slipping and skewing the print, because I have never in my life seen that large of a moose print.

Seeing them was a very needed reminder that, yes, we live in a suburban area, but the river is a few blocks one way and the ridge is a few blocks the other, and we do get moose here. I'll sure be making more of an effort to look carefully, talk loudly and clomp my way between the house and the car, especially when it's dark out, to try to keep from surprising any moose in the yard. They are huge, and even though they're herbivores they are dangerous animals. The ones that hang around town aren't afraid of humans, and won't hesitate to charge if they get annoyed or startled--cows with calves are particularly bad, and I saw some smaller moose prints farther down the driveway. We will be being careful until we are sure they've left the neighborhood!

06 December 2013

SQTF 59: First Week of Advent

Happy Feast of Saint Nicholas!

Little Bear was almost more excited to see the Saint Nicholas holy cards propped against the Advent wreath this morning as he was to see the shiny chocolate in his shoe. I'm sure that will change as he gets older and learns about chocolate, but I still appreciated getting his enthusiasm. I know it's "supposed" to be chocolate coins, symbolizing the gold Saint Nicholas gave to the three girls, and candy canes, symbolizing his crozier, but... that didn't happen. Maybe next year. At least I used purple-wrapped Hershey kisses (for Advent) and silver-wrapped milk chocolate hexagons that sort of look like old coins?

The shoes are on the kitchen table because Saint Nick went to bed early last night and forgot to set them out, and Little Bear would have caught me if I'd set them up outside our bedroom door (like I usually do) once we woke up and he was running around. I know he's too little for it to really matter, but his surprise and excitement when I picked him up to show him the shoes was definitely worth it.

Yesterday afternoon was a downright balmy 20 degrees above 0, but when the freezing rain started coming down in the evening, we quickly found ourselves wishing for colder temperatures! I haven't had to scrape ice off of a vehicle since we lived in Philadelphia, and it's certainly not an experience I've missed! It feels strange to be saying this in winter, but I cannot wait for it to get colder.

I also can't wait for Christmas. For all of the usual reasons, but particularly because then Little Bear will have his very own broom, just his size, and he will stop trying to sweep with the big broom and whacking us in the shins every thirty seconds. Hopefully, it will also keep him from getting in a snit whenever I use the big broom without sharing it with him---today he ran and hid the dustpan from me, and when I went to go find it, he leaned down and used his hand to scatter my dustpile all over the kitchen again!

Creativity is definitely the most important skill I've cultivated in the past few years of cooking; this evening, when I went to prepare the salmon filets that had been thawing all day, I discovered that I'd accidentally pulled smoked salmon out of the freezer instead. And of course we are out of eggs, which eliminates any kind of quiche, strata, or omelette to use the smoked salmon for dinner... We wound up with broccoli-baked potato-smoked salmon chowder. I threw some buttermilk-cinnamon muffins in the oven just in case the soup was underwhelming, but it definitely met the approval of both Matt and Little Bear, neither of whom is usually the biggest fan of soup for supper. I've never successfully served good soup twice in one week before!

A registration form for the Dolly Parton Imagination Library program was in the packet we were handed as we left the hospital with our brand-new Little Bear, and for the most part, we've appreciated the program. If you're not familiar, it's a national program sponsored by local groups which sends registered kids a brand new age-appropriate book once a month from birth to age five. Some of the books we haven't kept, for various reasons, but most of them Little Bear has really enjoyed. The latest book has really been making me crazy, though; called Sleep Baby Sleep, it's just a little too... too. Too glorifying of feminine virtues over masculine ones. Too incorrect in their anthropomorphism--chicks don't strike off on their own right out of the shell, ducks hide out during storms instead of sailing boldly into them, calfs don't laugh. Too full of slant rhymes. (Slant rhymes! Bah!) Too "you are the most wonderful person ever and can be and do anything you want!!!" The combination, but particularly that last one, are just too much for me. I love my son; I think he is wonderful like any parent thinks their kid is wonderful; I refuse to inculcate him with the sense of narcissism and entitlement that so much of my generation is afflicted with. No, he probably can't be and do everything that he wants. That's okay; good, even. Setting realistic goals and working toward them is an important life skill. I know that, at 17 months, he's not likely to internalize a lesson that will warp his psyche for life, but the principle irks me too much. Someone else who doesn't think too much while reading toddler books can enjoy it!

Despite waking up ridiculously late this morning, Little Bear got an early enough nap that he was very ready for bed an hour and a half earlier than usual. He was so sad and sleepy, I just couldn't make him wait to go to bed... Hopefully he wakes up at a respectable time tomorrow morning, and not obscenely early!

Stop on over at Conversion Diary for more Seven Quick Takes Friday posts!

03 December 2013

Hustle and Bustle and Compound Nouns

The past couple of days have been productive but not overly full, and none of the evenings have held a sense of panic over things left undone, so why do I feel so scattered?

Maybe it's the temperature. Saturday and Sunday were cold, cold, cold. Monday was supposed to be cold as well, but it actually jumped up thirty degrees to 10 above. Today was below 0 again, and tomorrow was supposed to be in the high 20s above but now they are saying -10... good heavens, make up your mind!

Or maybe it's the cooking. Supper got off to a good, early start Monday with meat sauce simmering on the stove by 10 am... but I hadn't realized that I was down to my last can of crushed tomatoes, and I suddenly had to choose between making a skimpy 13x9 lasagna or a really, really good 11x7. The 13x9 guarantees leftovers for all three of our lunches the next day, but Matt likes my lasagnas, and I didn't want it to be disappointingly light on the sauce... I finally went with the 11x7. Fortunately, serving it with large salads last night did leave plenty of leftovers. 

Today, we learned that adding cooked chicken and some broth to leftover broccoli-wild rice casserole from Thanksgiving makes incredibly good soup: Matt would usually prefer to see something heartier than soup on the table at supper time, but this evening he was excitedly trying to figure out how to adapt the recipe to just go straight to this soup without stopping at casserole first. That was a relief! I'm still glad that I made a loaf of bread to go with the soup, to "hearten" up the meal in case it seemed a little light... even if I did get mixed up at one point as to which recipe I was reading and used twice as much sugar as it called for! The hamburger bun recipe was right above the French bread recipe, and most of the ingredients are the same, but the quantities are definitely different. Not a loaf to make garlic toast with!

Maybe it's the language barrier. We are reaching the point where Little Bear knows what words are, and clearly understands that we communicate by talking, but hasn't mastered the words to communicate with us the way he wants to. Sometimes it's just a problem of accentuation, like when he asks to get down but pronounces "down" as a two-syllable word (dah-na). Other times, we honestly have no idea what he is asking for, and we all grow frustrated as he stands there repeatedly saying "bahta" and pointing at... what? The water? The book? Oh, you want the spatula? How were we supposed to know that?

But sometimes, there's a wonderful language breakthrough where he can suddenly tell us exactly what he wants, and it's adorable, and then he has no idea why he's being hugged when he very clearly asked for the banana bread, Mama, not a hug. (And yes, I'm a language nerd: I did make an excited note of the fact that he said his first compound noun today.)

Maybe I'm just tired... but if so, it's definitely not Little Bear's fault. The boy has been falling asleep within 15-20 minutes of me starting to put him down, and staying asleep pretty much all night. He's even happily sleeping in late most mornings!

Or maybe it's just December. As my mental list of everything to be done in the next few weeks keeps growing, the spectre of holiday craziness is already overshadowing my Advent. Cookies, breads, fruitcake to bake... Special meals and activities to plan for the feasts of St Nicholas, the Immaculate Conception, St Juan Diego, OL Guadalupe, etc... Intensive cleaning of spots no one ever even sees before we have holiday guests... So much up-in-the-air-ness with the schedule of the last few days before Christmas and the big day itself... 

It's a Martha and Mary feeling. Yes, all of these things are important. Yes, they all need to be accomplished--and they will. But also, yes, Advent is important in and of itself, and this scattered feeling of everything being balanced somewhat precariously as I focus on too many things at once is a sign that, well, that I'm focusing on too many things at once. 

If I don't make an effort to stop every once in a while and just focus on the coming of Christ, I will only grow more and more scattered and frustrated because I won't be open to the peace and grace He offers me in this season of preparation. And if I muddle through on my own and accomplish all of the things on my list, but haven't spent any time preparing my heart, what kind of Christmas will it be? If I haven't found time to be quiet and pray yet today, scrubbing the bathtub can wait for tomorrow.