Saturday, December 29, 2012

California Dreaming on Such a Winter's Day

We are experiencing some rather wintry weather out there today.  There is much I should be doing while off from school, but housework is a chore I choose to run from if given the opportunity.  Sadly, running isn't an option with the wintry mix falling outside my window.  So, do I buckle down and whip this place into shape?  Ummmm, no- I daydream.
Our school system has officially moved to a balanced calendar.  This looks like two weeks off in fall, two for Christmas, and two for spring, with only six weeks in summer.  I know this creates quite a predicament concerning childcare for some folks.  Our educational system itself has presented quite a predicament as well, only I fear parents aren't aware of it, or don't know what to do about it.  In shaping our children's days for the soul purpose of increasing standardized test scores, we've left out teaching children how to think, how to question, how to jump off or jump on, how to take what they've learned and move on.  I believe personal gifts are so neglected, everyone must excel at everything, or we've all failed.
Interestingly, just received this from a friend long retired from full time teaching, but continues to bring lots of exciting learning experiences to my lucky classroom.
I've been so blessed to have worked for administrators who know teaching kids to think is the right path.  What's so endlessly frustrating about the attitude of the state are my own students standardized scores, that show big growth,  year after year in fourth grade.  If you teach them to think and give them the basics, the rest falls into place.  So, I have had that opportunity where I teach with 10 to 26 kiddos, depending on the year. The problem- after kindergarten it seems, my gramerlings don't have a me. Ever it pinches and pokes.
So, I daydream. About starting camps during those off times. Camps where children are encouraged to think, question, dream, play, explore.  Where reading is something you do for the love of it.  Where math patterns are discovered everywhere.  Where you might actually have the skill to sew on a button, instead of throwing your shirt away. Where you might find that you have a knack for the dramatic, songwriting, creating rhythms and on and on.

Fear comes creeping along to cast a dim shadow over those dreams.  Where would I do such a thing?  Could I really find good help I'd need?   Are there enough parents to care about such things and want their children to have such experiences?   While God has gifted me with a creative flair for hands-on, experimental learning, I have  a serious deficit in the business/financial part of the plan.  We (Handy Man and I), you know, like to eat.

I am not much of a risk taker, however the passion for such teaching and learning is there in spades.  Will that be enough?  I don't know, however I know I'm growing weary of the pokes and pinches and don't you think the deep midwinter was created for daydreaming?

Friday, December 28, 2012

He Did It

Yesterday was Rae and Michael's fourth anniversary and Giddy-up's first overnighter away from home with someone besides Mama and Papa.  He came over early yesterday afternoon. I asked Ceece if she would bring over his best friend to play for a bit.  He climbed up here to watch Johnny Tremain for a bit with Bean.  
Time for jammies.  Giddy-up was not interested. This pink bag, filled with shoes for all my princesses, weighs more than he does, but the wheels helped out.

He did a great job. He was a bit melancholy when he woke up and said, "Mama, Papa, wanna see it," when we came downstairs (umm at 5:30), but some snuggle time and he was off.  Climb the stairs, climb the bunk's ladder, down the steps, throw self around on Gramerly and Pap's bed, play with Legos, which he loves, taste some spicy candy canes, 

up the stairs, climb the ladder, down the stairs, fall off a teeny tiny chair.

 I love this about toddlers, this trying to sit on the littlest things.  See the itty-bitty chair he just fell off of? I whisked it out from under him for the picture.  The back popped off- imagine.
 Play on the bed, look out the window at the Bawk,Bawks, play with the  Pez Guys that are always in Gramerly's window, back up the stairs, sneak out the back door to feed the Bawk, Bawks,
 try on Gramerly's glasses, and do one last little dance with the favored musical toy of Christmas,
 and join everyone in applause for the fine dancing!
This is one very busy boy.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Wow, Much Christmas

This has been a year of unexpected amazing gifty goodness all around!
The day  of the school party brought the biggest pile of the most fabulously wrapped presents I've ever received.  My kiddos and families gifted me with a Keurig Mini beverage maker, in RED!  Plus a ton of drink cups and a karryall tote with my monogram. You know, I don't know that I've ever had my monogram on anything.  Then various other little sweet Christmasy sacks with a variety of gift cards.  Just wow, that's all!
Then, for our Sunday before Christmas Family Party we started with a Skype visit with the Captain. He got up in the middle of the night to pay us a little visit- sweet.

 He sent all of us scarves and wraps. Here is Bean the Bedouin in the scarf his Daddy sent.
Drummer Boy and the two who weren't sick watched and chatted with his brother.
 Then it was time for the Christmas Story.

Next,  Handy Man and I get a box from all the kids.  I knew Ceece had been busy photographing the family at different times, so I am fully expecting some photographic treasure.  There is a white envelope on top and Ceece says, "That is Pap's part."  Now, I really don't get it- pictures, in parts that include a big white envelope.  So I wait, an he looks inside, puts it back, and says, "Well,open it."  At which point Drummer Boy laughingly says, "Do you still not know what it is?"  I didn't and didn't even get how I was supposed to know. So I take off the top layer of paper, and what immediately catches my eye is what looks to be a safari hat.  Hmm, a game of some sort to play with the kids.  Drummer Boy still laughing. Finally, all the pieces start coming together in my post-Christmas teacher brain.

Bees! It is a bee kit for beekeepers!  So very exciting!  I guess it was the actual box it all came in with a big gigantic bee on the side, that Drummer Boy thought was a dead giveaway. Ummm, I never saw it.  I'm glad. I'm usually not a good person at all with surprises, but this was a delightful surprise.

Aunt Lois enjoyed watching the poo-pies with their bounty.

She didn't mind her stocking full of goodies either.

Today was Christmas at my Mom's. Handy Man left early and I came home to the gift he's been secretly working on for months.
My own Fairyland Woodland Home, made just for me. I am so impressed!  All decked out for Christmas with lights and trees and a wee snowman, to join the chickens and a goat.  Our little tree covered with elves is in the background. You can't believe the detail.  A classroom with a board and art supplies. The kids bedroom has an even littler cradle for fairy dolls.  Coat hangers he made from paper clips, and a highchair.

And be still my heart, a rocking chair and cradle.  I can imagine so very many tales I'll weave with the gramerlings as we play in this 1st class fairy resort.  Missy Buttercup is also the recipient of a Fairy Woodland Fortress from her Pap.  The wood was from his own trees, all done by his own hand and most precious to me.
Tomorrow we'll spend the day with Aunt Lois and reflect on the hope tomorrow writes on our hearts and is the greatest gift of all-Jesus.
Linking to Natural Suburbia

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Let's Don't Forget the Christmas PJs

The Captain's First Christmas
A long standing tradition that continues with the Gramerlings is pajamas.  At our house, it the one gift opened before heading to Granny's on Christmas Eve. That way, they were ready to hop into bed when we arrived home late. 
Except for this Christmas.

 This was their gift from Mom.  I don't think about it much, but when I go back through these pictures, it reminds me how different things are and how they change.  They all got these, because it was a big deal to find matching pajamas in all their sizes.  Just twenty five years ago ( well, I guess that is quite a bit) and now you can outfit the whole family including the dog, cat, teddy bear and your dolly,  in matching anything and everything with the click of a button.

Sometimes their pajamas matched, and sometimes they were based on the kiddo's likes and personalities.
I include this pik because I didn't take the time to hunt up the years that followed the above pictures when painting tees and sweats was all the rage.  Probably for three or four years running, my kiddos received painted pajamas covered in all kind of interesting items and lots of  paint and glitter. It was interesting to try to paint them, then keep them out of sight.  Rae is wearing a spring one I painted, along with a child, our friend Jill. The child being her favorite thing to wear. Some things never change.
For Christmas at Gramerly and Pap's there are also pajamas for the wee folk.
The hope was to get a picture of all of them, but Buttercup was too sick to come and Buttons needed a early trip home, so no whole group in jammies.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Stockings and ornaments

My red felt stocking is one of my clearest Christmas memories as a child.  Mom would find  one thing that all of us received.  One year it was little teddy bears. Another year all the girls got a white Bible and the boys a black one.  A tiny, antique porcelain baby found it's way to our stockings one Yuletide. Always there was an orange, an apple, nuts and candy.  It was many years before we stopped having stockings at Mom's.  We still all have stockings at Gramerly's.  There is the Captain with a stocking I made for him.  It was all felt, sequins and embroidery on the front.  Drummer Boy and Rae had a handmade one also, of course.  Those too were found by the same small creature who gave my angel ornament a face lift (literally).  Apparently those felt socks make great nesting material.  Christmas Treasures no longer go in  cardboard boxes, but totes, and are not stored in the  attic anymore either.
I didn't make new ones and all of our current ones are store bought.  
When my three were growing up, they opened a gift from their stocking each day.  Usually, the gifts were numbered and the first gift out of the stocking was an ornament.  Now we open stockings at the Christmas Party, so the ornament is now a gift of Advent.
I remember how  tons of ornaments were all on one branch on the bottom of the tree.  The tree was always full of candy canes.  Do you remember the days when candy canes came in only peppermint?  The Captain loved them and wanted one every time we went by the tree. He had very few teeth that first Christmas, but those two on top and two on bottom made quick work of miniature candy canes.
I think the first flavors were cherry, then cinnamon, then every kind imaginable. I believe Jolly Rancher are the ones on my tree this year.
So, the stocking are nestled all snug on the couch, as there is no mantle big enough.

My favorite stocking memory is from when we still had stockings for everyone at my Mom's on Christmas Eve.  That year was the debut of the book "The Polar Express."  A teacher brought it to school and I loved it.  I was always the storyteller at Mom's.  Not only did I bring the story, but I had placed a big silver bell in the toe of every sock.   I envisioned reading the story, then all the little one's opening their stockings and being so very excited to find a silver sleigh bell of their own in the toe.  That year, mine were maybe seven and nine and this little mister, my nephew Jameson, was not quite two.  I took these pictures below, unbeknownst to his parents, as their gift.
So, we're all gathered round the  twinkling tree lights, stockings in lap, quite caught up in the telling of the little boy's visit to the  North Pole.
 All eyes on me, just as I pictured in my endless daydreams of sugarplum and such. 
 With much drama I read, "He put his hand in his pocket, and Ohhhhhh, the bell was GONE!  
To which this little sprite loudly despairs, " Well  S*#T !"  "Santy Cwass  ooosed dat bell!"  Let's just say the sweet moment was lost when all other cherubs proceeded to fall out in the floor in hysterics.  Oh, well.  It was certainly memorable.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Here We Come A Caroling

I love Christmas carols and seldom make it to Thanksgiving without needing to hear a few.  
 For several years I'd teach the kidlets and cousins a few carols and then haul them out to sing for some folks that loved them.
  When my three were wee, we lived in a neighborhood, surrounded by elderly people who adored them. They so loved to hear them sing, and I did too.

I can't tell if this picture of Rae looks more like Giddy-up, or Missy Bugg.
I believe it was snowing and we were having some very wintry weather on this particular Christmas.

Just as I expected, those itty-bits at school this evening were the cutest things ever.  I just don't get weary of three and four year olds in their Christmas get-up.
What is your favorite Christmas Carol?

Monday, December 17, 2012

Ahhh, The Christmas Recital

Would it be Christmas without a dance recital or two?  I wonder how many of these I've attended through the years.  First with my own, and now with the gramerlings.  It's funny how it goes, as, especially with three year olds, my attention is seldom on the kiddo doing everything right, but drawn to the one doing everything wrong, or doing nothing at all.  Somehow it is that kid that steals the show. Take a walk down memory lane and see if you can find Rae.

Fast Forward 25 years or so to "such devoted sisters"
 I wasn't sure how Mr. Cranky Pants Baby Boy would do on stage, but we were all charmed by his fabulous dance moves.
Last week our 2nd through 6th did their musical, so this week it's the itty -bitt's turn.  I always reassure the teachers that it really doesn't matter what they do when they get up there, it will be cute.

Saturday, December 15, 2012


I had intended this space, for this year anyway, to be a time of remembering Christmas past.  However, in light of the tragedy in Newtown CT, it just seems wrong.
 Another of those times I just want to grab hold of a word or an action that will make a positive difference in a horrific situation.
 I don't know those people, but I'm a teacher and every time the announcement comes on with "the code," I play out scenarios of what I might try to do if it wasn't just a drill.
Now,  I see us being escorted to church by police and watching and watching the door, to never see our precious little first graders show up.  I'm afraid I can see their parents hopeful faces as they run in to grab their child and we have no little person to release into their arms.  Then having to leave with nothing, as the police do their work.  Have mercy.

Missy Bugg is six years old.
I would want the world to stop and let me off. I would want nothing to be the same, because nothing would be the same ever again.  I probably couldn't keep myself from trying to figure it out, to understand, to watch the TV and wonder why the media,  could possibly want to know how the kids were dressed.
Oh my!  Today, as I read that list of names, I will pray for those families, and for the nearly intolerable days they face.
Precious Jesus, hold their hand.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Cookie Exchange

Another tradition of mine,  that went on for a good number of years, was the annual Christmas cookie exchange.  I would invite 10 to 12 people and, because I wasn't smart enough to come up with a better way, we each made a dozen cookies for each guest.  We'd eat, and taste each other's idea of the best cookie.  Well, if we could stand the thought of ever looking at another cookie again. Then off we'd go into the Christmas season with dozens of different cookies.  It was a double tradition, cause that was the night Handy Man took the kidlets to whatever Christmas movie was out. 
I can't believe how many people I talked into participating in that event.  SuZQ still  cusses some of those recipes she tried, and I imagine when I'm out of earshot, I'm included in the rantings.  
Early on I found a wonderful recipe and I don't believe I ever made any other cookie for those exchanges.   It was from Good Housekeeping magazine. Phil loved them.  But, alas, they kind of fell into the past with the cookie exchange. 
We're having a cookie exchange at school this year. I shared an idea of what I now consider a better way to exchange. Each person brings how ever many they want to bring. All cookies are set in the middle of the table and you walk around choosing a cookie or two from the variety,  until you have as many as you brought.   I'm not exactly sure why I signed up to participate. Wednesday evening was the big musical I co-direct and tonight was Playdate. Just a wild hair I guess.  I started hunting that recipe, only it was no where to be found and even Google failed me at first.  I knew they were called Toffee Bars, but every recipe I found had chocolate. Now you know I have no beef with chocolate, but these bars don't need it.  Finally I thought to search under "old Good Housekeeping recipe toffee bars," and hit the jackpot.  They are as easy and delicious as I remember.
Then, as I was searching, I found a picture of the world's cutest cookie and felt that I had to try it.  Course, I can't be making roll out cookie without everybody big and small making cookies. So we did.
Some serious rolling and cutting going on here.
 After all that serious concentration, it was time for some Pappy lovin's.
 Yes, SuZQ, I'm crazy. This was way too much for one evening. But seriously, this is the cutest cookie/ cup of hot chocolate ever!  I only managed one dozen of these, and perhaps they'll just get to look and no exchanging of these will actually happen. Or maybe I'll bargain and I get three cookies for one of these.
And I am done in. Goodnight!!

Monday, December 10, 2012

So This is Christmas

Don't we spend a lot of time on traditions at Christmas.  I still carry on with traditions that began with the Captain, well, some from my childhood I guess  Just this pictures brings so many things to mind.  I've always loved "Activities" ( nativities).  I have them of every make and model.  Though I don't remember what happened to the one in this picture.  I have tiny ones and great big ones and all kinds in between.  I work very hard at walking a way from new ones, though an old one in an antique store will give me cause to pause, still.
Can you see that little angel with the blue velvet skirt on the top left of the tree?  On the Captain's first Christmas, he pulled it off the tree and bit it.  For years she graced the tree with those tiny teeth prints in her forehead.  Alas, when we moved to the country and stored  Christmas in the attic, a wee critter found that little angel's face as tasty as the Captain, a removed most of it.  Still, the tiny teeth prints were there and still, when I decorate a big angel tree, you'll find her in the mix.
I also have a thing for rocking chairs. The Handy Man says we he'll have to build an addition on the front porch if we get another rocking chair.  Those chairs stay busy rocking poo-pies all summer long.
My kiddos sat in my lap until they left home.  Sometimes that seems like so long ago, hence dragging out these old pictures, remembering.
I love this outfit he's wearing.  That wasn't the type of outfit I could afford.  Most all of my kids clothes came from Value City.  Kaye had a friend that bought her boys the most beautiful clothes, then I would buy them from her, or sometimes they were gifted to me.  At the time of this picture, I was ginormously pregnant with the Captain's siblings and terrified.  I was so completely eaten up with this boy, I could not imagine every loving anything like I loved him. Wow, you can't understand the flexibility of that heart muscle until it's put to the test.

The next Christmas found two additional sprites under our tree (which was in the playpen) and I was every bit as smitten with them.  My quiver was full and overflowing.  I would love a lot of children, but none who could compare to these three until-

And though that tiniest finger isn't quite so tiny, Mr. Beantown, still has me wrapped around it.
I had no idea, and on it goes through Ol' Henry and Bugg and Antebellie and Linee and Buttercup and Blue Eyes  and Baby Boy and Giddy-up and Buttons and  I'm looking forward to the continued expansion of my heart when we get a call that one more is on the way.  Ahhh, remembering.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Some "Activity"

The first thing that comes out after Thanksgiving is the little,kid friendly nativity.  I try to kick off the season with that being the center of attention for our first Advent and it's the only toy out at the Gingerbread Party-well, inside anyway.  It is my attempt, among all the sugar and excess, to keep Christ in Christmas.  Those little characters have been well loved in my grandparenting years to date.

At the Gingerbread Party, when the crowd had thinned, Miss Linee announced, "I'm going to sit right here and play with this activity."
Tonight, Gardner E came over for some Christmas fudge and to see Bean and Bugg, when she witnessed a highly unusual event.  For some time, Bean and Bugg drifted into the living room and played nicely, together. This is unusual, because  they aren't up for much unless they are the center of my attention.
I stopped my conversation to listen for a minute to what type of play had them so engrossed.  It was that "activity" again.  Though the imagined events weren't much reminiscent of the that Holy Night.  More like what you might find in Bethlehem in today's news.  And what did my listening ear hear. Full scale war. "Look out lamb, watch out shepherd, get out of the way Jesus!"  "Boom, bam, splat!"  I hope they took cover in time.  What can I say. Their daddy's gone to war.
Bugg throughly enjoyed helping make the fudge,

 only to be topped by eating the fudge.

 Both kiddos loved the cool new gifts from Gardner E.

This little gadget was too fun. I've never seen one. It is a wand that produces static electricity and a book of these very thin, silver, mylar like shapes (some hoops, some butterflies, etc.) that you sort of direct with your wand.  Can you see it floating above the wand? Actually, there were two wands and they had a big time chasing flying things around the house.

This was a little purse with a wiener dog, sporting a bow, inside.  That little puppy-girl had about sixteen names by the end of the evening.
It was a fun, very Christmasy sort of evening- well, if you don't factor in the Holy War.