The Family

The Family

Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year's Eve With Children

I won't be up to ring in the New Year.

In the off-chance I happen to be awake at mid-night, it will likely be to coax a baby girl back to sleep.

Today has felt like any other day.

No big parties to attend tonight. No hangover to worry about tomorrow.

I don't miss those days. Maybe it's age. Maybe it's realizing how little I liked those New Year's Eves of old to begin with. Even before I had kids I would often fall asleep, or want to, before midnight.

Give me my warm bed in my warm house with my children nestled snuggly beside us. That's my idea of a fantastic New Year's Eve.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Art is Fun!

If you were to visit our home, you'd probably notice a lot of kid's art work hanging about.

That's because Jack and I have been busy with some art projects.

I purchased the Home Art Studio for kindergarten a few months back. Lindsey Volin, an art teacher residing in North Carolina, teaches art in this series of DVDs.

I'm not sure how I came across this. I'm guessing it was reviewed and recommended on another blog because the link for the program was stored in my favorites list on my computer. I check that list every few months and for whatever reason, I'm glad I saved the link for this.

As I've mentioned before, I am no artist. I want to be creative and crafty, but it's not in my DNA.

Jack, on the other hand, just might be a miniature artist. I know, I know, every parent thinks this as some point. Right?

He gets so excited every time we do a project. I let him do his own work with minimal help from me in the cutting department. I do my own each time as well because art is actually quite relaxing, calming and FUN.

Here's what we've done so far:

We cut out and decorated these germs yesterday. Not to worry, these are good germs; you know, the kind that don't make you sick.

This was the first project. It was messy, which added to the enjoyment. One of the things I like about the DVD is that Ms. Volin teaches concepts as well as technique. This was about painting as well as understanding primary colors.

This was another painting and then mixing with primary colors exercise.

We hung these on Mattie's door.

This project took us a while to complete. We had to take breaks and return to it as time permitted throughout the day. It required a lot of layering for texture purposes.

The sunflowers on the outer edges have been my favorite project. There was a brief history lesson about Vincent Van Gogh that went along with it. The Christmas trees in the middle were actually an idea I got from a friend on her blog Cupcakes and Commentary . The thing about art is that once you get into it, you can't seem to stop yourself!!!

There are 18 lessons, so we've still got a ways to go.

I'm not much of one for curriculum sets, but this is definitely a keeper. The DVDs currently go up until the 5th grade, so I plan on purchasing more of these.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Finance and the Good Society

In wanting to understand more about the financial crisis that began in 2008, I listened to Dr. Robert Shiller's lectures in a course titled Financial Markets through Yale University and read his book "Finance and the Good Society."
For the past four years I’ve listened to commentary on television and read newspaper and magazine articles, but still didn’t feel I had a clear understanding of exactly what happened to create the global financial crisis. Shiller, a likeable and well-versed economist, gave the most understandable and compelling explanations, along with many anecdotal stories, I've heard.

He makes it clear that it was a combination of things – many of which, according to the so-called experts, were never supposed to happen. The overall picture is often blurry and confusing to most of us, but Shiller does a good job of explaining the breakdown of a number of groups – banking, housing, and financial markets here in the United States and abroad. He also does a good job making his case for why government intervention was necessary and how laws and regulation are the few things that will work to keep another financial crisis of the same magnitude from happening again.

Many people think that if left alone and to their own devices, businesses and individuals will make good choices and do what is right for society as a whole. Shiller gives compelling examples about how the opposite often happens, making government oversight one of the few viable solutions to the inevitable fallout of future markets.

"Financial capitalism is far from a perfect system, and one of its fundamental problems is that it is vulnerable to booms and busts, recessions and depressions. These events have happened so many times in the past that one can predict with certainty they will happen again. So it is widely appreciated that we need policy makers whose duty is to counteract such instabilities and reduce their impact."

He also calls on the wealthy to become more compelled to think about the collective good with their mass fortunes.

"It is not that those successful in business are necessarily smarter than other people. In fact they may be relatively insensitive to the real needs of the poor and, because of their specialization in business, to many intellectual pursuits as well. It is rather that they are specialized in a particular kind of intelligence: the ability to put human talents and business opportunities together. This same talent can and should be used for human benefit."

The book mimics much of the lectures, and I probably took more from it because it doesn’t include the many formulas and equations that were a major part of the lectures. It was a quick and informative read for someone more inclined to the arts than the numbers game.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Little Girl's Christmas Treasure

There was this purse.

And inside that purse was a set of keys

Littered with Band-Aids

And a notebook and pens if you please.

Sunglasses to be worn indoors.

And a wallet

Stuffed with cards galore

All for one precious girl to adore!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas

"The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugarplums danced in their heads.
And Ma in her kerchief and I in my cap
Had just settled down for a long winter's nap..."
                                     Clement C Moore - The Night Before Christmas

 From our little corner of the world to yours,
"Happy Christmas to all and to all a good night!"

Friday, December 21, 2012

PJ Days

For the better part of the last week, we've spent most of the days in our pajamas.

Nowhere to go, rainy days and the sniffles have made it seem all the more fitting.

Some would call it laziness; I see it as a time to slow down and enjoy the warmth of home.

We've worked on art projects, read, watched movies, and drank a lot of  hot cocoa.

Not being in a constant rush makes me calmer, gentler and more willing to go along with whatever the children have in mind.

So much is said about the dog days of summer, but there's a welcome feeling that accompanies the cold days of winter in our house. If it would just get cold enough to build a fire, that would be bliss.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

CSA Wednesday

On Wednesday we head to a local farm to pick up produce as part of a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. This week we got more broccoli, cabbbage and cauliflower than I know what to do with.

There are probably 20 stalks of broccoli in this bag

We've enjoyed a lot of cabbage soup lately

As I attempted this picture the brown spider attached to the cauliflower diverted my attention. We searched all through the bag and never found the spider. My guess is it crawled up into one of the open spaces near the bottom of one of the stalks. I'm not looking forward to finding it.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

While in Birmingham

Last week when we went to see The Nutcracker, we spent the night at The Wynfrey Hotel in Birmingham. The hotel is attached to The Galleria, and I can remember years ago when both were built.

My grandparents used to live in Birmingham, and it was a huge deal when The Galleria opened. I have a lot of memories of shopping trips with family and friends and eating Boardwalk Fries (it was a great french fry place in the food court that served hot cheese dip with the fries). I was hoping it might still be open, but sadly, a wrap sandwich shop stood in its place.

I knew it would be better to spend the night before the performance. It started at 10 am, and since it sometimes takes me 2-3 hours to get out the door these days, I didn't want to chance a 2-hour drive the day of the performance.

We don't have much of a mall here, so the multitude of stores, toys and junk food were a real treat for us all!

We rode up and down on the escalator in the hotel lobby countless times.

Mattie had fun trying to pull all the balls off the trees.

We rode the carousel, which had reindeer in place of horses.

We visited the toy store and walked out with both Mickey and Minnie.

Trying to get everyone to look and smile at the same time was nearly impossible as we waited the next day for The Nutcracker to start. As  you can see, Mickey and Minnie are still with us.

 Mattie's got the look down pat!

I should also admit that my bragging about not spending much money or going overboard with shopping this time of year on a post last week was spoken in haste. Apparently, I don't get out enough these days because I think I bought something from every store we went in.

Monday, December 17, 2012

All the Dear Children

The words stuck in my throat.

When we got to the third verse of "Away in a Manager" yesterday I couldn't sing "Bless all the dear children in thy tender care..."

A friend texted me this morning to tell me she cried when she dropped her son off at kindergarten.

As I hung a butterfly drawing on Mattie's door earlier today it reminded me of the art work hanging on another friend's refrigerator a few years ago. It belonged to her three-year-old daughter that had just died. I had gone to her home with a group of high school friends the night before she buried her only child.

I left her house nauseated, brokenhearted and wondering how she was going to live with the silence. The silence of a child not being at home is not like the silence of him playing quietly in his room or her nestled snuggly in bed. Those types of silence are welcoming and peaceful. It's the eerie silence when a child that dwells there is not at home that I've never been able to get used to.

How does a parent greet that silence day in and day out once their worst fear has become a reality?

It happened to my aunt and uncle many years ago when their oldest child, a boy, died of leukemia at the age of five. That's the age Jack is now.

It makes me shudder.

I never knew my cousin Chris because he died before I was born, but I ache to think about how his parents must still feel.

It happened to Matt's aunt and uncle when their precious baby's heart gave out on her when she was about 6 months old.

My own heart has pondered so much of this for almost three years, ever since that three-year-old girl we prayed so hard for seemed like she had turned the corner for the better, only to die suddenly of a brain aneurysm. I feel no closer to understanding it today as I did that bitterly cold February night when I listened with tears streaming down my face as that little girl's grandfather told me how he would have sung "You Are My Sunshine" to her over and over had he known it would have been the last time he would get to push her in a swing and sing to her.

So many of us can't bring ourselves to contemplate the thought of life without our children because it is so deeply terrifying. As hard as the thought of it is, the reality of it is surely worse.

There are a lot of people hurting this holiday season. Some have felt the loss for years, while others are only in the beginnings of the agony.

I'm not sure anyone will be able to forget that this Christmas.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Love of God

The pain and loss is unbearable to imagine.

How could this happen again? How could it happen to small, beautiful, innocent children? How could a loving God stand by and let it all happen?

I could say that there are a whole lot of guns out there. I could say that we have a broken mental-health system. I could say that this will happen again.

But when you are the parent, the spouse or the child of someone that died in the horrific shootings in Newtown, CT, on Friday, I don’t know how much those sentiments matter at this point.

I can't bring myself to watch television news coverage of the shootings. I gave up on cable news during the Anna Nicole Smith madness of 2007.

Instead, I go to the New York Times and The Washington Post for accurate stories about the tragedy.

I go to my blog list for insight and direction on how to process it all. Two sites you should definitely check out are Child Psych Mom and Mom Heart Online.
And I seek God for hope and comfort because my faith is shaken and weak. I find myself asking the haunting questions so many grapple with when something like this happens. Reading my daily prayers yesterday morning brought anger, not comfort.  It wasn’t until last night, as I began praying for protection over my children, that I began to soften.

And I’m sure that like many of you, I’ve found myself hyper-sensitive to my children’s needs, wishes and mere presence these past two days. I’ve given in to their requests that I might normally try to put off. I’ve offered more hugs. I was unwilling to move a muscle as I watched them talk and laugh with each other.

Brother Charles, the junior pastor at our church, said something this morning at the end of his sermon that stuck with me. He was encouraging the congregation to let God’s love be visible through us. As I’ve pondered that today, I realized his simple advice may be the best I’ve heard since Friday. For in the horrifying reality and evil of what happened, the best way to hold onto my faith, and maybe, just maybe, strengthen it in others, might be to purposefully do things to make God's love more visible than the darkness that threatens to overshadow it all.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Decision Time

We went to a performance of the Alabama Ballet's Nutrcracker at Samford University, in Birmingham, yesterday.

Maybe I should say we went to the first half of the performance and left at intermission. It was a good performance; Jack just didn't care about seeing the second act, and Mattie had been done for a while.

I struggled for a few minutes with the decision to leave. I saw the look one of the attendants gave to some others in the lobby when Jack said he didn't want to go back in. I'm an expert in giving that look, so I have an idea of what she was thinking and what she probably wanted to say as well.

Part of me wanted to prove to her that I wasn't that mom that was just going to let her child walk out on a performance that cost money. The other part of me wanted her to know that I am the kind of mom that lets her child walk out on a performance we've paid for.

I wavered in the lobby and kept asking him if he was sure he was ready to leave. I kept asking my mother-in-law if she was sure it was ok if we left.

I knew what I was supposed to do. I just didn't want that attendant to see me walk out the door.

But walk out the door I did.

I would have loved to have been able to watch the entire performance. But I'm a 34-year-old woman that enjoys musicals. That's part of the main reasons we went. I want my children to experience plays and ballets and maybe even the opera at some point, but know there is a limit of what they can tolerate based on their age.

Going into the performance I figured I'd be lucky to see two minutes of it. Surprisingly, Mattie was mesmerized by the music and dancing for the first 5-10 minutes, but after that she began to holler for puffs and yelled bye-bye to the folks on the stage. I figured it was better to walk into the hall with her.

It was a school-day performance, so it was kids, parents and teachers that filled the auditorium. My mother-in-law assured me there were plenty of other kids that looked like they'd had it as well - some crying and others rolling around on the floor. 

So why am I saying all this? Why couldn't I just leave it at we went to the ballet and it was so great and yada-yada-yada?

I know what's nagging me.

It's that I almost made Jack go back into the performance to prove a point to a total stranger. I almost went against what I knew was best and was about to tell him that it was too bad, that he would just have to sit through the rest of the ballet like everyone else.

That's not the kind of mom I want to be.

Here's to hoping next time a parenting decision has to be made in the presence of others, I won't be debating what to do based on what those around me, most likely people I don't even know, might think. That's a sure-fire way to make the wrong decision every time.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

CSA Wednesday (A Day Late)

On Wednesday we pick up produce at a local farm as part of a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program.

I was so busy last week that I was glad when the farmer's e-mail informed us there would be no pick up. We were out of town last night (more on that tomorrow), which is why this is a day late this week.

Here's what we got:

It has been awfully warm here, but I was not expecting strawberries in December.

More eggs

Lots and lots of kale

Lots and lots of broccoli


This was a big pick up!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Hot Chocolate

The Big Bang Theory is getting to me.

It has me contemplating the scientific properties of hot chocolate and how best to determine the ways to drink it.


We've had hot chocolate - with marshmallows of course - the past two nights. Several questions came to mind as I was making and drinking it.

  • Does the water that's mixed with the hot chocolate heat quicker in a large pan when the water is shallow? 
  • In a small pan with deep water? 
  • Or is there no difference? Matt and I both think the water dispersed in a larger pan will heat quicker. We devised an experiment to test it out next time we make hot chocolate.  

 I'm not even kidding.

  • When is the optimal time to put the marshmallows into the hot chocolate so that they won't melt too quickly, but so that you still get to drink it hot?
  • What is the perfect liquid to mallow ratio?

Monday, December 10, 2012

Good Finds

I know I said we were going to buy ONE new Christmas book a year, but the combined total for the three books we found today was $7. I couldn't pass them by.

This collection of stories is broken into four sections: Christ is Christmas, Santa Claus is Christmas, Dickens Christmas stories and Home is Christmas. It was a great find. 

Just what I was looking for!

This is an 80s flashback. OK, the copyright date is 1972, but I remember reading this in the early 80s.

I wasn't sure what I'd find in terms of nativity scenes, but the shop we went to had about ten to choose from. This was the most practical in terms of price and durability.

Sunday, December 9, 2012


December is my favorite month of the year.

It would be nice if it was colder here this December, but there’s still hope the temperature might drop later this week.

Christmas, of course, has a whole lot to do with why I love December so much.

The lights, the smells, the meaning of it all, those are things I love best. And trying to avoid some of the major pitfalls this time of year can bring is a good way to enjoy this month. 

For one thing, I don't plan or cook massive meals at Christmas. For the most part, we’ll enjoy the cooking of others this holiday season. Hats off to anyone who makes an elaborate, picture-perfect meal with low stress levels. I have too many meltdowns to make this feat enjoyable. 

We'll stick to the basics like baking cookies, and maybe some sausage balls and spicy Ro-Tel dip (if I can get the recipe of the version we tried yesterday) for Christmas Eve. There will also be evening cups of hot chocolate loaded with marshmallows.

Not getting into a shopping frenzy is another way I try keeping it simple and enjoyable. Online Santa shopping is my personal favorite.
There’s also the reading.

If you visit this blog often, you know we’ll be devouring some books around here! I saw a great post a few days ago that suggested buying one Christmas book a year. When I mentioned this to Jack last night he thought it would be a good idea to buy a book at Halloween and Thanksgiving each year too.

I can definitely agree with that! 

Tomorrow we might make a quick stop by a local bookstore to see if we can find an old copy of “The Night Before Christmas” and then to some downtown stores to look for a nativity scene. I want an unusual/artsy one, and I’m hoping to come across something here in town before scouring Internet sites.

There’s another thing about December I love; it’s a good time to watch TV.

I’m not ashamed to say we are TV and movie people. I have a hard time going along with all the parenting books and magazines that swear TV is one of the worst things for kids. Sure, there is a lot of stuff on TV they don’t need to watch, but I’m not talking about Jersey Shore here. I also know it’s not a good thing for a child to sit in front of a television all day long. Having given these disclaimers, I do think there are a lot of great things on television these days, especially for kids. The trick is finding what’s good and avoiding what’s bad.

Now that I’ve sworn an allegiance to TV, I must say I don’t actually get to watch a lot of it. Instead, I buy DVDs of series that I’ve heard good things about and then watch them in marathon runs. There was Downton Abbey last year (can’t wait until January), and it’s the Big Bang Theory right now. Once I finish the “Game of Thrones” books - which might take an entire year at the rate I’m going - it’s likely I’ll buy the DVDs of the HBO show. Some friends mentioned last weekend that The Walking Dead is fantastic, so it's probably going to be added to the list.

Last year we spent the day after Christmas laughing at ourselves while watching the home movies we’ve filmed since Jack was born. I plan on doing that again this year and, who knows, it just might become one of our Christmas traditions. 

Happy December!