Sunday, December 30, 2012

It's the story...

So, once upon a time, my life was kind of the TV Guide. (Speaking of which, I miss the TV Guide. I loved getting it, and devouring it, and I have every Jeff Jarvis review, I think, possibly ever.) My life, at one time, was made up of television, and movies, and music, and books. I had no idea that this would ever end.

And then I met this boy named Nicholas, and first of all, I had to start watching all of this stuff that he watches. Which I happily did for about six months. And then I got tremendously bored. He has never met a police procedural show that he didn't like.

TiVo was the best thing that ever happened to our relationship.

And then along came this tiny child we called Betsy. And she zapped all of my energy right out of me, and took my mind right along with her. I could not watch hour long shows anymore, because I just genuinely could not follow the plot anymore. It was too confusing, and so I had to just give up on almost everything that I watched except the news.

This continued all through the birth and nursing of Felicity as well. And then, when Felicity turned 3, it was kind of like I emerged from a haze and my brain at least semi-functioned again.

So this year I am again watching television. Movies are still really rare unless they are on DVD (and even then, probably have been out for at least a year). It's fun to be able to follow a plot from week to week again.

I am, however, busier than I was when I had literally no one but myself to entertain all day long. So I can't watch everything, and I have to draw a line somewhere. My line is at reality television. I will cop to watching Teen Mom, but other than that I haven't watched any reality tv since at least 2006. I wish that I could just watch the people singing on some of those shows, without the judging and all. I really do love the Lawerence Welk show, and really, they could be the same thing without the snarky judges.

As far as my television viewing for the this year, here is what I watch:

Parenthood, Smash, Once Upon a Time, Nashville, Vegas, Dallas, Bunheads, How I Met Your Mother, 2 Broke Girls, Mike and Molly, The Big Bang Theory, The New Girl, The Mindy Project, Glee, Parks and Recreation, Modern Family, Frontline, Washington Week, Meet the Press, 60 Minutes, and Melissa and Joey. And Saturday Night Live, which I never stopped watching.

I also watch the PBS Newhour religiously, and I watch the parts of the Today show that interest me. And (yes, Joy, be honest) I watch Days of Our Lives and General Hospital every day, and the Young and the Restless and the Bold and the Beautiful a lot of days. (But I TiVo them! I don't let the girls see them!)

I also have spent my weekend trying to catch up on Downton Abbey, which I know is the hot new thing. I am really enjoying it. The production values remind me of my dear beloved Avonlea and Wind at My Back.

I wish that I had time for Elementary, which I have heard is very good. And I wish that we had HBO and Showtime, but at the moment it isn't in the budget. Of course, if we did, I might never get anything done.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

An ADVENTure in time...

Well, Christmas has come and gone. Christmas is always my favorite time of year, not the least because it is also my birthday. I honestly have no other day to look really forward to, at least as far as getting attention and, to be honest, gifts. So perhaps that is why I kind of over do the advent calendars.

We have 5 advent calendars. I so highly recommend having at least some way to count down the days until Christmas with your children. One of my friends told me that she wraps up 25 books and lets her kids open one per day. Such a cool idea.

Our first advent calendar is a Winnie-the-Pooh calendar that is velcro, so you stick up the ornament/gift/Pooh character every day.

The second is a house that has doors to open. This is my favorite, because it is the most like the advent calendar that I had growing up. I got it from Chinaberry, which I recommend if you are looking for advent calendars because they have a nice selection.

The third also came from Chinaberry. It is called "The Story of Christmas," and every day you take our a small booklet and read a part of the Christmas story. Each booklet has a golden string attached, and so one year after Christmas I bought a very tiny tree that we hang the books on after we read them.

The fourth advent calendar I made at MOPs. Yes, you read that right, I made it. It is made of a cookie sheet, painted white with a grid drawn on it. Then (this was the difficult part) I made a different little magnet for each day. There are ones with buttons, with snowmen, with gifts, with ornaments. There is a picture of Betsy and of Felicity. I love it because I know how hard it was to make!

And then there is the girls favorite. It is on the computer, and a friend of ours sends it to us in an email every year. It is created by Jacquie Lawson, and I highly recommend it. The girls look so forward to seeing what will happen every day. And sometimes you get to create things (like a stocking or a snowflake) and that is their favorite part.

We also have an advent wreath. It is so easy to make your own. You simply make or buy a plain green wreath, and then place four small candle holders around the inside, and a large candle holder in the middle. For the middle use a large white candle, and then you can buy the 3 purple and 1 pink candles all together at Hobby Lobby.

Every Sunday night, we gather around the advent wreath. I have a book that I love called Just 25 Days Til Christmas by Rebecca Hayford Bauer that has the Bible readings for each candle. Then I teach the girls what each candle means (the purple represent hope, faith, and peace, the pink joy, and the white love). Then we put out the corresponding part of the manger scene (we have a manger scene that we just use for this purpose, one that isn't going to be damaged by small hands touching it). The hope candle is the first, and that is when we put out the stable. Faith is for Mary and Joseph, Peace is the angels, Joy is the shephards. When we light the Christ Candle (the white one) on Christmas Eve we put the baby Jesus in. Then, starting on December 26, the wise men begin their journey. They start at the front door and go all around the house until they get to the stable on January 6, which is Epiphany.

I know that I have already done a blog about our Epiphany celebration, so I won't go into all that again. But I wanted to share this, as I think that it is a really easy way to incorporate the story of Jesus' birth into your Christmas celebration, and in a tactile way that your kids can remember.

I recommend another advent book also, which has a lot of cool ideas of ways to teach kids by using their hands about the customs of Christmas and how they intersect with the story of Jesus' birth and that is The ADVENTure of Christmas by Lisa Whelchel.

We also have an elf on the shelf, which my children love so much that they honestly cry when he leaves on Christmas day. His name is Darren, and they look so forward to finding him every day. Our elf is not very adventerous, and so he just moves around from shelf to shelf. I have a feeling that Darren will stick around even long after the idea of Santa has passed them by, that is how much they love finding him every day.

Each day of the advent season is special in our house. There is so much to do in December! And every morning I read from the 25 Days til Chirstmas book during breakfast. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. I read it as a child and I still learn from it every year. Then at night before bed I read from Advent Storybook by Antonie Schneider. (Not a great title, but it's a great book!) It tells the story of Benjamin Bear, who is on his way to Bethlehem and all of the different people and animals he meets along the way.

You can imagine (if you know me at all) we have tons of Christmas books and movies, and while I admit I do try to squeeze them all in, this year I loosened up and we actually got more watched and read than when I harp and push about it. I had a fabulous advent season this year, a wonderful Christmas and birthday, and I honestly am looking forward to the new year. I hope that you can say the same, and I wish you peace and joy next year and beyond.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

No answers to why?

What do I want to say? I want to say many, many things, and say them eloquently, and make you think and reevaluate and maybe even change your mind. But I'm not going to do that.

I have purposefully avoided looking at my facebook page today. It's not that I don't care about your opinion. I value your opinion, even if it is totally different than mine. I want to know what you think and why you think that way.

But...not today. Maybe it is too raw. Too close to home. Maybe I have way too many thoughts jumbling through my head and I can't add any more. Maybe I already knew how you would feel, maybe I already knew that you would be heartbroken and sad and wanting to lash out. And that's all that it is, really. Some people want to blame guns, or gun control, or the media, or the lack of prayers in schools, or Congress, or whatever. I do some of those things (maybe all of those things) too. And I also know that it is so much more than just that-if it were one thing, this wouldn't keep happening. It is everything and nothing all at the same time, at least to me.

I read a book a couple of years ago about Columbine by Dave Cullen. It was one of the most fascinating books I have ever read. Basically, for me, anyway, everything that I thought that I knew about Columbine wasn't true. And everything that was true took this man 10 years to uncover. And I often wonder what the result of all of that misinformation about Columbine has lead to? If more people knew that that was not a school shooting born of ridicule and loneliness? If more people knew that one shooter was a true psychopath and the other an easily led, depressed boy? Would it somehow change the way that some of these other people, following in their path, have viewed a challenge to...I don't know, to their feelings of ridicule and loneliness.

I don't think that any rational person ever has shot at tons of people, much less children. I don't think that people at their heart, in their right mind, mean to hurt people. I think that, in all honesty, most people, maybe even all people, just want to love their families and have a place to live and food on their table. And that everything else is gravy. I believe that to be true of all people, everywhere on earth.

Please keep in mind that I am not speaking at all about the grief and loss and horror that the parents and friends and loved ones of those killed must be going through. I can't begin to know the deepth of their loss and I realize that.

But at this time of year, when I am contemplating the birth of my Savior, I truly believe that he came to give us peace. An everlasting peace that can and will exist in us all. "In Me you may have peace. In the world you will have hard things happen to you; but be of good cheer, I have conquered the world." John 16:33

Saturday, September 1, 2012

A rose is a rose is a rose...

Names facinate me. They always have. For my 15th birthday I had a cake decorated with nothing but names.

I originally named my children when I was seven. They were Ginger, Adam, Crystal, and Jason. Of those names, the only one that I might still ever use is Ginger, and that would most likely be for a dog.

When I was about 13, I named my children again (and this time I made them all girls). They were Bradleigh Elizabeth, Anastasia Rebecca, Jessica Kate, and Tyme Aryn. And I really, truly intended to use these names. Right up until I turned about 20 and decided that I wanted my kids to have old names, names that had a lot of meaning to me.

Betsy's full name is Elizabeth Anne Watson Johnson. The Elizabeth comes from my grandma, who was Margaret Elizabeth. I, in turn, am Joy Elizabeth. And since my grandma meant more to me than just about anyone on earth, Betsy is Elizabeth in her honor. And then, she's Betsy because I just love the name Betsy. It is such a cute name. We are currently reading the Betsy-Tacy series and that is Betsy. Her name suits her to a tee. Anne is for Anne Shirley, otherwise known as Anne of Green Gables. Anne is my favorite literary character of all time. She is my best friend, really. And then Watson is my maiden name. It was hugely important to me that I get that in there. I hadn't anticipated that until I was pregnant. But I didn't want to hyphenate it because I always hated being at the end of the alphabet. Truly, I was thrilled when I met Nick that my kids would be in the middle of the alphabet. So, it's there but it's just a second middle name. What she does with all these names when and if she marries is her problem to deal with.

Felicity is Felicity Kate Watson Johnson. Felicity is from a different book by L.M. Montgomery called The Story Girl. And she figured heavily into the show Road to Avonlea. Kate is from my great-grandmother, who was my Grandma West's mother. Her name was Jessie Kate but she went by Kate. Ergo that Jessica Kate up there in that other list. It was close, I could have gone with Jessica. But I knew that people of a certain age would think of Sweet Valley High if I named them Elizabeth and Jessica. And I love the name Felicity. And then of course, she is stuck with the Watson too.

If I had a boy, he would have been Benjamin David Robert Johnson. The Benjamin because I like it (and I think that the 'j' in the middle goes well with Johnson). And David and Robert for my dad and my father-in-law. But that wasn't to be.

And lastly there are the dogs. Gidget and Moondoggie. It is shocking to me how many people just think that we gave Moondoggie a weird name. Moondoggie is Gidget's boyfriend, both in the movies and on the TV show. Their middle names are Catherine and Heathcliff, my original choices for their names, which Nicholas vetoed.

Monday, July 9, 2012

The circle of life...

One of my MOPs friends just posted that she is wondering how to talk to her children about death. So it has inspired a blog post.

My girls are very inquesitive about death. Betsy has lived through a dog dying, and my Grandma's death, so for a while she just kind of naturally had a lot of questions. Felicity hasn't really experienced death, but she thinks about it a lot. She often says to me, "Mommy, I don't want to die." And I just try to talk to her about the fact that everyone dies at some point, and then, because we are Christians, we talk about Jesus and the fact that he died for us and what that means.

I have some books that I really enjoy on this subject. Please note that they are not all Christian in theme. In my life, I am more than willing to read someone else's point of view on things, and then I always remind the girls what I believe. I want them to always understand that we can hold onto our beliefs, and still learn from other people who are questioning, or who have found a different answer.

My favorite of these books is Badger's Parting Gifts by Susan Varley. In it, Badger dies and the animals all get together and remember all of the things that Badger taught them during his life. When my grandmother died, this was my go to book for Betsy and we would talk about all of the things that Grandma loved, all of the things that she had shown us, all of the things that she had pressed on our hearts.

What's Heaven? by Maria Shriver is a book talking about what heaven may be like. I like to use this as a starting point for a conversation about what I think heaven is like, and ask the girls what they think heaven is like. This is not an explicitly Christian book.

The Tenth Good Thing About Barney by Judith Viorst is another very good book that is quite secular in nature. The child in this book questions the idea of heaven and God and he doesn't really get answers. That said, it is an excellent book about dealing with the crummy emotions that come with the death of a loved one.

Kadish for Grandpa In Jesus' Name Amen by Catherine Stock is a combination of Jewish and Christian beliefs about death. It is a very good book for understanding that the two cultures do different things when someone dies, but that ultimately they are both about remembering and loving the person.

And finally, When a Pet Dies by Fred Rogers is an excellent resource for that specific loss. Mr. Rogers is gentle in his explaination of the loss of a pet and about the idea that someday you may be ready to get another pet.

Talking in our house is prized above nearly all else. I encourage questions, even if I don't really know that answers, and I flat out say if that is the case. We read our Bibles every day, so my kids definately have an understanding of Jesus and our values. But I let them know that we will still grieve and hurt just like everyone else. I hope that they grow to understand death as a part of life, not to be feared, but to be anticipated as a continuation of the journey.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Garden of Eden (aka Rix Mills)...

So, just now I was outside calling my dog and I was listening to many things. The lambs, the birds, the rooster. Plus, I was enjoying my own light show with the fireflies, or, as we in southeastern Ohio call them, lightning bugs.

It is quite unbelievable to me that there are people who don't open their backdoor to these sights and sounds.

Rix Mills is in my bones, in my blood. I love Rix Mills like it's a living, breathing person. I have no idea how far back in my family Rix Mills goes. My great-grandmother, Kate Tom, grew up in Rix Mills, and I have no idea how much further back it goes.

I utterly cannot imagine living anywhere else. It is the most beautiful place on earth to me, and to many others who have shared with me how much they love the view from Terra Cotta Vineyards, which is just up the road.

My kids live in the world that I grew up in. They smell the honeysuckle every spring, they watch the lambs nursing in the backyard, they feel the wind blow through like a tornado in the fall. They attend the Rix Mills Presbyterian Church every Sunday, just like I did, and my mom, and her mom, and on and on. They play outside with the Baughman kids, just as my sister and I played with those same Baughman kids' dads.

I'm sure that to many (perhaps to most) Rix Mills is too remote, too far out. I understand that best in the winter, when our road is like a sled ride to town. But even then, I would never want to wake up anywhere else. I have always wanted to live in the very house that I live in, for as absolutely as long as I can remember.

Rix Mills Remembered by Paul Patton, and featuring his wonderful paintings, is a wonderful book about the history of Rix Mills that I highly recommend. You can even read it at the library, as they have it in the reference department. My grandmother is the piano player in the painting "The Pig in the Parlor."

Reading it is like having a conversation with my grandma, who I miss every single day. She called Rix Mills "the Garden of Eden" and passed all of her love for it into my heart.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Oh, to be in Colonial Williamsburg...

So, last week the girls and I (and my mom, who went to drive the van) went to Virginia Beach for the last hoorah. Yes, you read that right. April is coming home NEXT WEEK! I am so excited.

But anyway, we decided that we really wanted to take the girls to Colonial Williamsburg before they moved away. We went there once as children-I was nine, April eight. What I remember-it seemed like Roscoe Village. And it rained.

So, this time, I am sure that I will remember more. And I wanted to impart advice for traveling there with children. Oh, yes, and it rained.

First of all, it is not at all cheap, so I would only advise going if you have children who will truly be interested in seeing it. Otherwise, that is what Roscoe Village is for, and it's nearby. It cost $60 for Betsy and me (Felicity was free, as she is under six, but then, it is not designed for kids under six).

I have nerdy girls, so we decided it was worth it. We read the Felicity book before going, which is set in Williamsburg. Betsy really loved it, as it is about horses.

They recommend that you tour the Governor's Mansion and the Capital Building. We skipped these. Again, base your decision on you kids ages and interest. The tours lasted about 30 minutes for each building, and that was just way too long, especially for Felicity. We did go on our own tour of the Governor's Mansion, which included a stop in the kitchen, where they were making chocolate, and going through the maze in the garden.

We managed to squeeze in all of the shops that were doing demonstrations that day. We met with the blacksmith, the shoemaker, the cabinet maker, and many others. One very interesting note is that they really do make all of their own furniture and buggies and things, using the tools from the time period.

They also have a reinactment that goes on for quite a long time, an hour and forty-five minutes the day that we were there. We watched some of it, and the girls enjoyed it, but then it got talky and they grew bored.

We ate our lunch at one of the taverns and I must say, that was the highlight of the day for me. I had a delicious pulled pork sandwich. They don't advertise it, but the taverns do have a kids menu with cheeseburgers and hot dogs, you just have to ask.

We took the children's orientation tour, which was cute but not much of an orientation. The gentleman leading our tour had the children pick up a bucket to illustrate how heavy carrying water would be, and then he had them go through a scenio of "Good day my lady," and "Good day kind sir." The girls thought that was fun.

They say that they rent costumes, so April and I were very much looking foward to that. However, upon getting there, we discovered that the costume was just a plain white dress, that would go about to their knees, and a bonnet, which you have to buy due to head lice problems. It was disappointing, so we skipped that, and only saw one little girl all day who wore one.

Overall, it was fun. It was too bad that it rained, but it wasn't hot and it wasn't crowded, which I certainly enjoyed.

The next day we went to the beach, which the girls always want to do when we are there. But there are many things to do down there. There is Busch Gardens, and the aquarium, and a small zoo. All things that we have done on other trips. And there is Jamestown and Yorktown if your kids are into the history stuff. The traffic is terrible, especially the closer you get to the beach. April will never remember how she managed to drive in it for all these years.

Anyway, it was a nice last visit. And now I am definately looking forward to visiting them in Akron, where I can go and come home all in one day!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memories of Memorial Day...

Last year we played a game where we all had to answer, "What is our favorite thing that we do as a family?" My answer was our Memorial Day trip to McConnelsville. Then, this year, we had to go and mix it up-because when New Concord has a parade, I have to go to it. But the main gist was still the same.

Ordinarily, we leave on Monday morning and rush to get to the McConnelsville Memorial Day parade by 10. This always involves Nick and me getting into a fight. We are always late, but because the parade starts in Malta and makes its way toward McConnelsville, we have never missed seeing it. It's a very simple, small town parade, with gun salutes at different memorials along the way.

Then we pile back into the car and head out to Chesterhill, which is accompanied by a lot of moaning and groaning about how long it takes to get there. I, however, know that it's a pretty long trip and just have learned to live with it. I love looking at the beautiful scenery out the window, especially the cute little church at Todds. (A couple of years ago Nick and I went on a garden tour of Morgan County and it was one of the stops and it is just as darling inside as it is on the outside).

At Chesterhill, we always miss the turn and yell at each other yet again about how you would think that by now we would remember where to turn. Then we find it and pull right into the cemetary next to Nick's grandma's grave. The girls leave her pictures that they have drawn. Nick leaves irises from our backyard (not this year though, they bloomed a couple of weeks early due to this wacky weather). Nick's grandma died in June of 2002, just a few months before our wedding. However, I feel extremely blessed that she had made an afghan for me the Christmas before-she made afghans for everyone who entered Nick's family, either by birth or by marriage. I was the last person to receieve an afghan from her. I treasure knowing that she already believed me to be a part of her family.

Then we head back to McConnelsville and eat lunch at the Blue Bell Diner. This year the place was so packed we had to sit at the counter, a new experience for the girls.

Then on our way home we stop at the cemetary just past Rix Mills and visit with my grandparents. Again, the girls leave pictures. Again, we usually leave irises. We walk around and see my great-grandparents and most of my grandma's family. Some neighbors and friends. Always my favorite grave, which has a lamb on top of it.

The past two years, we have been blessed as a family to have been asked to place the flags on the graves for Memorial Day weekend at this cemetary. It is an honor and a privilege to walk around, finding the veterans in such an old cemetary.

This year, we had to change this all around. New Concord decided to have a parade, and since that is where we actually live, it took precedence. So we went to McConnelsville on Sunday. That was a nice change of pace, because we weren't hurrying to get there. So we stopped at the Big Muskie (which is such a lovely area, we always try to take a picnic there once a summer). We took our time. As always, we listened to our Living History CD in the car (it tells the story of Paul Revere, winter at Valley Forge, Molly Pitcher, and Nathan Hale). That takes us all the way to Chesterhill. (We listened to Annette Funicello on the way home-I love that my kids love my Annette.) Then we went to the Blue Bell.

Today we went to the Veterans Memorial in New Concord. I have to force Nick to do these things, but I am proud of his service. Then they had a Decoration Day parade for the kids. And it ended with a picnic in front of Stormont.

It was a lovely parade and they had all kinds of food and games for the kids. The John Glenn High School band played. But, unfortunately, it wasn't very well attended. I worry about this-I love NCAARD and all of the events that go on in New Concord and I hate that not many people seem to come to them. NCAARD is such an asset to our community.

But the girls had a great time. The only bad part of the day was the heat, which was stiffling. How hot will it be on the 4th of July?

Anyway, tomorrow when we go to take down the flags, we will take my grandparents their pictures. It is good for me to be forced to draw it out, otherwise I get really caught up in, "We have to do everything all in this one day." It was nice to spread it out, and it did away with our fighting (except, of course, for missing the turn in Chesterhill).

Saturday, May 5, 2012

MOPs and me

MOPs kind of saved my life. So I thought that I should tell you about it.

MOPs came into my life when I was a harried, overtired, overwhelmed mess of a first time mother. I had a baby of my own, and I was also full time keeping my niece Mallory, who is 3 months younger than Betsy. (This was back in the days before they were walking, talking, etc. and those 3 months mattered.) I literally spent every day in the house with the two of them. Other than going on a walk every day, I didn't leave the house.

Two things happened:

1) I started taking them to baby storytime, which was a nice diversion and of course I always love going to the library

2) I was invited to MOPs.

MOPs, for those of you who don't know, stands for Mothers of Preschoolers. It is a haven for such mothers. I walked in that first day (carrying both girls, so my arms were aching) and very nice women took them and watched them for 2 hours while I had some homemade food and listened to an interesting speaker and basically rediscovered my brain.

And so it goes. That was 7 years ago. And I still attend MOPs on a biweekly basis, and intend to do so for two more years. This year I actually attended MOPs in two places-in Zanesville, where I've been going for all these seven years, and in New Concord, where I actually live. The New Concord group is relatively new, only 3 years old I believe. But it is a terrific group and the one that I intend to make my permanent home for the next two years.

So, anyway, I want to encourage any and all moms who stumble upon my page to find a MOPs group. They are plentiful and many meet at night if that is an issue for you. Both of mine meet in the day, which I love and need as a stay at home mom. I have heard many wonderful speakers on an array of topics, but mostly its just nice to sit with a group of moms and talk about our lives. I've gone from being the youngest mom in the group, with tons of questions, to being the old pro who answers all of the questions.

When Betsy was a baby I read, "These are the longest days and shortest years of your life." How true that is! There are days that drag on and on, and then I turn around and somehow my babies are seven and four years old! And I ache to hold them close to my heart again. I'm that person now who says to the new moms, just hold them all that you can. Enjoy them. Forget about doing everything perfectly.

I try to take my own advice. I'm a lot better than I used to be.

I can't say enough good about MOPs. It has helped my girls to transition to preschool, to understand that they can be away from my side for a while. It has helped my to become the mother than I should be, the wife I should be. It saved my life...really.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Take me out to the ball game...

Baseball breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything begins again and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings; and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops, and leaves you to face the fall alone. -A. Barlett Giamatti

And that sums it up. I love baseball, I adore baseball, I could watch hours and hours of baseball and still be wanting more. This is odd-I am the most uncoordinated, the most sport averse person in probably the entire world. Betsy is playing softball this year (last year she played T-Ball) and she LOVES it. I have to try very hard never to let her know that I would rather do just about anything (yes, possibly even telephone people, which I hate more than anything on earth) than play an actual softball game.

I'm not sure why I love baseball like I do. I like to watch a great many sports. I inhale the Olympics, watching every single televised moment and keeping a ledger of U.S. wins. I can watch almost any sport. I love to watch tennis (though I don't hold a candle to my tennis obsessed little sister). And, of course, I love football-April and I have decided that when people act like, oh, you're a Buckeye fan, that we quickly say, yes, but we are also Browns fans. You know, the ying and the yang, the agony and the ectasy.

But mostly, I love baseball. In particular I love the New York Yankees and the Cincinnati Reds. I love then both completely and totally equally. It's okay, because one is American League and one is National League, so I don't feel bad about it. The Yankees are the only team that I actively root for that are not an Ohio team. This happened for multiple reasons, but it boils down basically to this: 1) I don't actively root for the Indians because I have an issue with the image that they choose to project with Chief Wahoo (I do passively root for them, meaning that I don't wish them to lose), and 2) once you start rooting for the Yankees, it is just hard to stop. I love their fans, their uniforms, just everything about the institution that is the New York Yankees.

Cincinnati is a totally different story. I grew up a Reds fan. My family is comprised of all Reds fans. It's as born in me as my love for the Buckeyes and the Browns. However, once I started really watching baseball I found that (at the time) I really preferred to watch the American League. That is no longer as true as it used to be-there is a lot that I now appreciate in the National League.

So, anyway, today my whole family watched the Yankees beat the Red Sox (victory over the Red Sox is always the sweetest). And it was fun to listen to Felicity, who kept saying, "Go Blue Sox!" I'm glad that they will be able to say, I root for the Yankees because my mother does. Having plucked them out myself and started rooting for them, it's kind of like taking up a religion that no one in your family is comfortable with. My grandmother, who was as big a baseball fan as I am, hated the Yankees with a passion. She would root for whoever they were playing against. (Those of you who knew my grandmother will know that she didn't hate anything-but trust me, she hated the Yankees.)

It's still the spring. Anything can still happen. The Reds and the Yankees could meet in the World Series. I have hope.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

And I love Adele...and Whitney...

Thoughts on the Grammys:

I love Adele. I love that she went through this horrific breakup, and sunk down into this mire, and clawed her way back out, and the result is this fabulous album. And this was just the cherry on top. Unrequited love is the absolute most heart wrenching experience-I wish that I had this CD as a teenager. And I love that she just stood there and sang-no over the top theatrics. I can appreiciate the visual art form that some artists have created, but a great song (and a great singer) doesn't need them.

The Grammys has completely thrown away the idea that they are an awards show at all. There are tons of Grammys given out, yet the viewing public basically has no idea. It is mostly just a very long concert. Which is fun to watch. But, in that case, why not throw in a few more performances? I like Sir Paul and the Foo Fighters as much as the next person, but I would like to see some others get in there rather than watch them perform twice.

Speaking of the Foo Fighters, I sit in amazement at Dave Grohl. Here is a guy who could have just gone and been a drummer with a band, who could have just been satisfied to have been in possibly the greatest band of a generation, and yet he didn't-he goes out and does this great rock music and he even looks like Kurt doing it and he does it anyway.

Country music always gets the short shrift (is that the word I want?). I do not understand why it is hard for other musicians to enjoy country music, to my ears it is the most natural, most beautiful sounding music that exists.

I'm sure that there will be controversy over the Whitney aspect to the whole thing. They certainly seemed to be obsessed with it, to the point that others who have passed away were a mere afterthought. I love Whitney, she is my all time favorite singer after Judy Garland. I am so sad at her loss, sad for her daughter and her family, sad that she died the way that she did. Oh, and Jennifer Hudson-wow. She looked stunning (and she sang well too).

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Our winter solstice tree...

Finally, we all seem to be feeling better (well, except for Nicholas, but he's almost there). So back to blogging.

We have a winter solstice tree. It is yet another after Christmas tradition that we have started that I love.

We have 3 Christmas trees (4 if you count the tiny one in the hallway between the girls' rooms, but I don't). The nicest one was my parents. It is an artificial tree that is beautiful (they really do exist). Heaven knows how much they paid for it. They got it when I was 13, and it still looks as lovely as it did then. So all that nonsense about how artificial trees aren't eco-firendly is a bunch of bunk, in my opinion. It is our family tree, the one that lives in our family room and the one that has the most presents underneath it. It is decorated with all different kinds of ornaments-ones the girls have made, ones from our vacations (we always get ornaments wherever we go), ornaments from our first Christmas together, things like that. It has colored lights and a popcorn string made of styrofoam packing peanuts that my mom and dad strung the first year that they were married. The tree topper is a star, because my grandma always had a star on her tree.

Our second tree is what we lovingly call "the pretty tree." It is meant to look pretty through the window. It has white lights (to match our ourdoor lights). The ornaments all go together (I got them several years ago at Kmart, they are part of a Martha Stewart collection). Most of them are pink. And then we put all of our Wizard of Oz ornaments on it. So we sometimes call it the "Wizard of Oz" tree. The topper for it is Glinda, and then we have ornaments of all the major characters (except for the Wicked Witch, which the girls and I have decided needs to be remedied).

The third tree is a real live Christmas tree. I decided two years ago that, while I loved our trees, I wanted the girls to have a memory of going and picking out a real tree. We live right down the road from Morrison's Christmas Tree Farm, so off we trek one weekend in December. I have fallen in love with Norwegian Fir trees from this experience (they don't lose too many needles and they are a lovely, old-fashioned looking tree). This is our literary tree. All of the ornaments on it must be related to a book. Tinkerbell is our tree topper, and we have a train that goes around it. It has colored lights and red beads for popcorn. The first year that we had it, I decided that I wanted to really string popcorn for it. This task proved too difficult for me. They all just broke to pieces.

All of the presents under the literary tree, as you might have guessed, are books.

When Christmas is over and we take all of the trees down, we take the real tree (in the stand) outside and stake it down. (We discovered that because it is so windy where we live, it is best to really tie it down well.) This becomes our winter solstice tree.

We decorate it with various things. Nick makes a suet ball out of melted lard and birdseed. Put a Chirstmas hook in it and it will stay when it hardens. This year he also made some in the muffin pan and we set them around the tree. We also take pine cones and cover them in peanut butter, then cover them in birdseed. (This is a fun task for the girls, but messy-we make them wear latex gloves.) And we cut up apples and oranges and hang them.

We have all kinds of birds come to our tree and we truly love watching all of them. I would love to have more wildlife-perhaps a deer or some squirrels which we know live here-but I've never seen them eating anything.

A good book to go along with this is The Night Tree by Eve Bunting. It is a Christmas book but I save it until we do our solstice tree.

It was a dream of mine since I was a kid to have this tree. I read about it in one of my Christmas books and I just thought that it sounded so fun. It is as fun as I imagined.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

I don't like sick days...

Felicity is sick today (actually she was sick yesterday and it has carried over into today). It is no fun at all having a sick child. Particularly at this particular part of the sickness, where she is feeling better enough to want to be up and doing things, but still too sick and weak to actually do anything. So we have spent our morning watching PBS, and now we have graduated to Barbie movies (Barbie movies, for those of you who do not know, are really, really boring).

Anyway, I am not a fan of medication in any way, shape, or form. This kind of drives my parents nuts-"why can't you just give them some cough medicine?"-but I'm pretty firm about it. I just don't believe that medication helps all that much. I will use Motrin for times when they seem excessively achy, or when they have a headache, but it's pretty rare.

However, I do believe in a few things that I have found work out fairly well. Number one, for coughing, a spoonful of honey. This seriously works, I have used it myself. So for days that we have a lot of coughing, there are several spoonfuls of honey given.

Number two, Vicks vapor rub. When I was a kid, my mom put this on my chest. I put it on my girls feet and then put socks on them. I'm pretty sure that it works the same way, but the girls don't mind as much if it's on their feet.

Number three, a humidifier. I have found that this helps to alliviate a stuffy nose; however, you have to be diligent about keeping them clean.

I am also a huge believer in yogurt. I try to have the girls eat yogurt several times a week. And I also give them chicken noodle soup when they are sick, if they are wanting to eat an actual meal. Other than that, I try to stick with fruit and water. This morning Felicity ate some oatmeal. The key is blandish foods. Fruits are mostly water, and they are things that the girls actually enjoy eating. Once she gets down the soup, if she is still hungry, we'll go to some vegetables. No meat until she is feeling much, much better.

I use saline drops if the girls seem stuffy and unable to breathe at night. I also use a saline cream for under their nose, that is supposed to help with the rubbed raw feeling after a day of nose blowing.

That's about it. We use Benedryl or Claritin when Betsy has a watery eye, running nose reaction to what we assume are allergies.

So, anyway, back to Barbie and her magic pegasus...

Friday, January 6, 2012

Wise men seek him still...

Okay, I'm trying to be better about doing this. Tonight we had our Three Kings celebration, which is one of my very favorite things that we do as a family, so I thought that I would blog about it in hopes that I might inspire others to take it up.

First off, our celebrating begins on December 26. We get out the wise men and start them on the journey to Bethlehem.

Okay, I'm going to back up-to Advent. We have an Advent wreath (which is very easy to make, you just get a plain wreath and place the candles around it, you can get the candles cheap at Hobby Lobby). We read our Advent readings on the four Sundays leading up to Christmas, light the candles, and set out the appropriate part of the manger scene. The first week we get out the stable and animals, the second week we get out Mary and Joseph, the third week we get out the angel, and the fourth week we get out the shepherds and sheep. On Christmas Day we light the Christ Candle and place baby Jesus in the stable. And then on the 26, the wise men start their journey. They go from our back door, through our family room, and living room, and they end up in the stable today, on January 6, which is Epiphany.

If you want to do this with your kids, I suggest getting a manger scene that is durable and you aren't fussy about. We have 3 different manger scenes in our house. One is Precious Moments and it is pretty to look at and not to be touched. One is Fisher Price Little People which is totally to be touched and played with, so that the girls are learning the story with their own hands. And then we have this set, that we use for the Advent season. It is the manger scene that my grandparents used to own, and they didn't want it any more, and gave it to me. It is nice, but nothing that I worry about the girls breaking.

Okay, so every day we move the wise men. New this year, we bought a book called "The Twelve Days of Christmas" by Olivia Price. It contains an ornament for each of the 12 days of Christmas (which are the 12 days between Christmas and Epiphany). It's a cute book, with different readings on each page. But I mostly wanted it because I wanted to have a small tree and hang the ornaments up, 1 every day until the 6th. We bought a pre-lit Christmas tree at Wal-mart after Christmas and used it for this. I loved adding this to our celebrating because it helped the girls count the day, kind of like an Advent Calendar (don't get me started on Advent calendars, we have 5 of them, and I am obsessed about them-I'll do a blog all about them sometime).

Also I write down what I remember of my dreams each night for the 12 days. Supposedly it correlates to the year-like December 26 is January, December 27 is February. I don't really think that it does, but I dream a lot and it is fun to write them down. The girls even wrote down some of their dreams this year. (They don't really know yet that other moms don't do these things!)

Anyway, this all leads up to today-Epiphany. I cleaned the whole house today, that is step one. Then I made a King's Cake (there are specific recipes for them if you want, but I just make a cake that we feel like eating, this year it was a spice cake, per my dad's request). All you have to do is make a cake, and then add a bean (I used a dry lima bean). Stir it in the cake mix and bake it. Then after dinner my parents come over, we all get a slice of cake, and whoever gets the bean is the lucky one for the year. That person is blessed. Last year Nicholas got the bean and he had a great year (after all, he got a job that he loves). This year I had the bean! Pretty cool stuff, and the girls love it. We also read the story of the Magi (Matthew 2:1-12).

Then we bless the house. We light an incense stick and carry it around the house, blessing every corner and nook and cranny. When we have covered every inch, we send Nicholas outside with chalk and he writes "C+B+M 2012" above both doors. (It stands for Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar, the supposed names of the Magi). This shows that our house has been blessed.

It's all a little silly, and my husband is a great sport for putting up with me, I know. But it's great fun and we enjoy it.