Saturday, December 26, 2009

HAPPY Christmas

The family have left and now the kids are roaming around trying to figure out how their various presents work. I fell asleep on the couch with a chicken puppet on my hand while Wren spoke to the chicken. Somewhere in the distance Frost said something about desert and then they went away.

Holidays are lovely but damn, they are hard work. There's all that wrapping, anticipation, planning, cooking, sharing, rushing around, eating, eating and you forget to take a picture. Then there's the crumbling and squashing of packaging to try and get it in the bin.

I feel very lucky.

The table looked fabulous, it really did. We made our own centerpiece from greens and holly in the neighborhood. The leg of lamb was slightly underdone despite people arriving for dinner later than expected. I wish I had a picture.

Joshua has offered to photoshop a pretend one for me.

All day Frost has nagged me about saying "Happy" Christmas instead of "Merry Christmas". I told him its what we do in South Africa. He is not sure, yet. I made Christmas pudding, brandy butter and we lit the pud. It felt good to share traditions from my own Christmas's past and to have Frost explain them to everyone. There was some concern about the quarters in the pudding. Couldn't we choke?

All have survived and we look forward to catching up again soon and to exploring all our presents. I missed my nap ;) Wren did too. Its early to bed.

Frost tells me "chicken likes chewing on evil pirates" so I better go since Wren is upset.

Thursday, December 24, 2009


Despite my best intentions [when Frost was born] neither of the boys is learning a second language. Still, I have noticed that Wren is amazingly adept at collecting words and phrases on limited exposure.

This morning Frost built a very long line of Duplo vehicles. Both boys love to play with Duplo and this is a good toy for them to share. Wren had been looking away and when he turned around he was amazed by how long the line had become.

"Oh my word!" he said.

"Why did you say that?" I asked him. "Does Heather say that?"

"No, Tara say that. She say OH MY WORD!"

Yesterday, I suggested we play in the living room. Wren said "Granny call that lounge."

In Seattle there is a place called Sponge School which exposes young kids to Japanese, Mandarin, Spanish or French through immersion in a music/play session led by a native speaker. I'd love to do something like that with Wren but its down South of the city and I know my limits. Still, I know he would just absorb anything like that at this point. He's very quick.

I have to remember that when reading books to him. When you come to a big word its easy to give in to the urge to translate it into something simple. I find myself doing that and then using the big word afterwards. I wonder whether some Phd student earned their doctorate with a study on the pros and cons of using complex versus comprehensible vocabulary with young children. Probably.

"Can Daddy wake up?" Wren asks me.
"Cos its morning."
"Its not morning for Daddy." [who is taking the day off to build a chicken coop and buy me presents.]
"Yes it is."
"What do you want to do with Daddy when he wakes up?"
"Where are the aliens?"
"In the 'puter."
"Why do you want to shoot them?"
"'cos they are BAD!"

Apparently Joshua is working on making sure Wren has a fully rounded vocabulary for a young American.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Last week we made a gingerbread house which Wren and Frost ate, literally, a few days post-construction. I am glad this is nothing like reality. I would be seriously bummed if a giant came and ate our bathroom shortly after I put on all the finish and trim. Since this is not likely to happen I was not too dismayed by the early-devouring. It was either that or the kids would nag, day after day, to be allowed to eat it and would surreptitiously pick at the candy until it looked warty and sorrowful. Now it is just plain gone.

Wren was upfront about his plan to eat the gingerbread house.

Today, we went downtown with Alex and Tara to see the gingerbread houses on display in the Sheraton lobby. These houses are not your average kitchen table affairs. They are concoctions by local architectural and construction firms. This year the theme was movies and characters from popular culture. We saw some lovely interpretations of the Grinch stealing Christmas, Charlie Brown and Sesame Street (among others).

Posing beneath the Christmas Tree

Inside the big gingerbread mountain.

Dr Seuss World

Elmo made of jelly beans

The line was very long but we made it to the displays and then felt ravenously hungry. Oddly, we ended up in the downtown mall (somewhere we never go) and had made to order salads, soup and coffee. Ah, a well deserved latte!

There has been a slight change of plans with the cousins. They are now coming up for Christmas lunch/dinner but not sleeping over Christmas eve. I hope traffic isn't too awful for the drive. We went down one year and it was very crowded. Still, we're excited to see them.

Thaumoctopus mimicus

I can't ever seem to sit down and eat these days. One kid needs a spoon, another needs to pee. Then one needs a napkin and the other needs to pee. Then they both want to know how many more bites before desert. Then they want to tell me the same story at the same time, realizing they are not being heard both start to shout at the other one, simultaneously thus increasing the volume fivefold. I feel my mind becoming blank as I realize my options are shouting or evaporating and I pick the part about pretending it isn't happening and hoping they will learn coping skills soon. That lasts about 1 minute until I yell at them. Sigh. I seem to remember the part inbetween silence and over-reaction being what parenting was all about but my P-A-R-E-N-T brain suffered a lobotomy recently.

This little fantasy of evaporation probably popped up after I learned today about the thaumoctopus mimicus which is a species of octopus which has a particularly advanced ability to mimic other creatures. According to wikipedia:

"it was not discovered officially until 1998, off the coast of Sulawesi. The octopus mimics the physical likeness and movements of more than fifteen different species, including sea snakes, lionfish, flatfish, brittle stars, giant crabs, sea shells, stingrays,flounders, jellyfish, sea anemones, and mantis shrimp.[1][2] It accomplishes this by contorting its body and arms, and changing colour.
It is so amazingly good at disguise that it was not noticed until fairly recently - being thought to be the various animals it was mimicking.

There are times I really relate to this beast and envy its adaptability. Imagine if all mothers could transform like that. Kids arguing in public? Just disguise yourself as a man with a cellphone and you're not responsible any more. Want to have a quiet moment with your latte? Just pretend to be a chair, a barista, a teenager. Even better, perhaps I could just mimic a good parent. I'd spot a calm and blissed out mother who lived to play with her kids and iron their onsies and I'd just TRANSFORM - just look like her. I'd waft along being mistaken for a good mother for a while and see how that felt. Ah, to be thaumhomo mimicus. Other than having 8 arms and legs, really, all I want to do sometimes is not have to micromanage the volume and needs of siblings.

Anyway, they were pretty sweet on this trip to the gingerbread castles and my writing is being influenced by the post-game show (which happened after nap when Wren wanted to share Frost's playdate with Alex. Indiana Jones Lego on Xbox is just not aimed at 3 year olds and he just YELLS when he doesnt' get his way).

Wren, eating a star cookie at Pacific Place.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Most excellently weary

We've been spinning around in the Christmas-bathroomremodel-Kellie-visit vortex for a few weeks now. Its been fun but I am a different person without normal routines. Josh has driven Kellie to the airport where she is taking the redeye to JFK, right into the maw of Christmas festivities and post-blizzard shopping. She's carrying many maps, wearing warm socks and planning to teach a tissue class in a circus school. I hope her flight is not delayed (more than expected).

Wren is in bed. He is in a rather hectic stage of mortal combat with Frost and also sweetly emphatic conversations. He tells me he knows things and then starts on a long story about volcanoes and birds and trails off into ambiguity and then "the END." I am having to work hard to keep the boys from their respective habits of provocation and retaliation. Right now its been fairly mild and largely driven by Wren's hair trigger perception of injustice. Anything Frost has Wren wants and anything Wren has Frost blithely tries to appropriate and then acts affronted that Wren was so "mean/ unfair / violent."

I had a long talk to Frost about impulse control and how we expect more from him and yet need to teach Wren to restrain his impulses too. Somehow this strayed to a discussion of king-hits and an ad campaign in Australia to teach young men that a single blow to the head could kill someone (as in a bar brawl). Frost said "how did we get from our conversation to THIS???" I guess it was a stretch but since Frost has been so much more helpful and responsible recently I felt it was time to give him more insight on why people behave badly sometimes.

Our Christmas tree is overflowing with gifts. Some of them are "pretend" presents from Wren who enjoys wrapping up things in dish towels, wrapping or kitchen paper and putting them under the tree. We have some presents for friends, some for the cousins who are coming up for Christmas eve and Christmas Day (big excitement).

Other news: Josh undertook the tremendous and poopy task of moving the chicken coop to the back left corner of the yard. We are going to build the chickens an outside run to accommodate their free ranging while constraining their poop. The yard is impassable to all but the most hardy farmer and even I am forced to change into garden boots before going outside for any reason. The poops are rising! I remember this from chicken raising in Canberra - the whole lawn was scattered with poop and we couldn't have picnics anymore.

Josh says we have a mosquito problem. I guess the weather has been mild and there is lots of standing water. We have decided to give up on the one rain barrel. It is a real problem to save water in Seattle. When its rainy season nobody thinks of watering but your barrel is full. Through summer, when watering is essential for all but the most drought resistant plants, there is no rain and the water barrel is filled only very occasionally. The possum and raccoons use it for a drink occasionally but they have torn through the mosquito screen and so its a perfect incubation dish.

Speaking of incubation dishes (or rather bacterial cultures) we forgot about the blue jello in the sensory table. Tip: NEVER forget about the blue jello in the sensory table. Its like a petrie dish and grows all manner of mouldy fur crud. Wren peeked inside and came and told Kellie and I that the jello had "fuzz" and "fur". I didn't want to look but when I did it far exceeded my worst nightmare. Kellie took a picture which I am loathe to share because you will think me a negligent parent. Even opening the lid of the sensory petrie dish I felt I was inhaling toxic spores (well, we all did..... we rushed the sensory table outside). I washed out my nose with a nasal irrigation teapot because the smell had me thinking of the spores and startlingly interesting critters starting a bacterial fuzz in my nose. It was going to be like an episode of House in which they figure out that I fell over because of the mould and next thing I would have Christmas in Hospital.

Uh oh. My early morning free form blog is going to have to stop. Wren and Frost have competing rules for a game of hunt the miniatures in the sensory table.

Today? We hope to see the gingerbread houses on display at the Sheraton. Oh, and I have to pick out the grout for the floor tile. Tiling can proceed today although we still have no fixtures and the actual use of the bathroom has not been given a date. We are going to PLACE the order for cabinets today - so they should be available in a few weeks which means the completion date for the project is somewhere in the first weeks of January. Be still my beating heart!