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Saturday, December 24, 2011

So much Christmas

So much happened over the last few days Christmas-wise that it's hard to know where to begin and I'm bound to miss something amusing or interesting that I really want to write about. . .

For starters we finally got up to Hiroshima to see Dreamination. Dreamination is a yearly Christmas light's display. It's fairly impressive and it has been on my to do list for awhile. It runs from the beginning of December until the first week or so in January. It took longer to get there than it did to see the whole display, but Coryn loved it. We took a train to Hiroshima then got onto a crowded trolley (I've seen worse, but its always awkward to be packed in like that) that we rode down to the displays, several city blocks with different light sculptures. Some you could run through or under or even climb on. Coryn liked the "blue castle" the best. I liked one that looked like a phoenix. Some had plaques which I'm sure explained a more in depth theme, but since I don't read Japanese, I'm not sure what they said.

Afterwards we stopped at a Starbucks for a coffee and a hot chocolate (Matt didn't want anything). My grande caramel macchiato probably cost about $7 with the exchange rate. It is not cheap to live in Japan.

That was Thursday. Friday was our 5th anniversary which really deserves a post in itself. I never really had any doubts Matt and I would make it to five years (I still am pretty confident we can take this "til death do us part"), but it's really reassuring just to be here with someone I still love as much as I love him. The short story is that we went to dinner and a movie while Coryn stayed with her friend Dominic who she intends to marry someday, apparently.

My husband's work schedule has been awful lately, long hours, incomplete weekends, working holidays. He thinks it is partially because he is the only Marine trained on approach (This is air traffic control stuff; I have a slight grasp on the subject from hearing him talk about work, but I'm not really sure I could explain it) right now and partially because they know he has less than three months left here (part of which he'll be spending on paternity leave once little bitty Claire gets here) and they want to use him while they can. Matt has always assured me that the next time he gets promotion there will be "less work." He told me this when we first got married and he was a corporal, when I was pregnant with Coryn and he picked up Sergeant, and last year when he made it to Staff Sergeant. . .by that time I'd figured out that this whole, "People of higher rank than me work less" thing is an illusion. Maybe some of them do, but Matt certainly doesn't. Of course a few days ago this man was moaning that he wouldn't get a chance to go to Afghanistan. You'd think two tours in Iraq would've gotten it out of his system, but no, he "didn't join the Marines to sit on his rear" (He didn't say rear) and apparently he wants another deployment. I wonder if he remembers how much he hated the last two. It must be like childbirth, where you start to forget how awful it is after a bit.

So my husband worked Christmas day. My family has always unwrapped our presents the evening of Christmas Eve, but with Christmas Eve here being the 23rd there, it feels a little earlier, plus there we still had enough family to spread everything out comfortably over two days, and with there only being the three of us, everything is over so quickly. Still, this year, we did the Christmas Eve unwrap. I spent the morning tidying up the house, heading to the commissary to pick up anything we needed for dinner, or at all for the next two days because the commissary was closed Christmas Day and the day after Christmas, and there really aren't any off base grocery stores in what I consider walking distance (I don't have a SOFA status license which would allow me to drive a car in Japan; I could've gotten one, but I kept putting it off and now we're leaving in a few months and there isn't any point). We had a snack style dinner with deli meats and cheeses, a tray of shrimp (which apparently Coryn likes, this surprised me a little), and other bite sized treats.

After that, Coryn kept asking whether it was time to open presents or not. She asked me. I told her when Daddy was ready. She asked Daddy a few times. . .We finally gave in a little before 5PM. Not because we had a set time we had planned to do this at. I just didn't want Christmas to be over and once the presents are open, it feels like there isn't much left to do. Well, it took us about twenty minutes altogether to rip through the presents. She got a toy princess tent, a barn with dozens of tiny toy plastic animals, a "Don't Break The Ice Game," a Leaptop Computer, a Vtech Camera, two pairs of pajamas, two Disney Princess Barbies (a Rapunzel and a Cinderella), a set of jumbo sized plastic dinosaurs, about a dozen new story books (I get carried away buying books and she also got a few from her Aunt Robin and Grandma Tawny), and it felt like there was a lot more, but I can't remember anything specific.

Initially the barn (from my mom) was the biggest hit. She sat there and looked at all the pieces then launched into an hour quiet play session, making the animal and farmer-figures talk to each other. I set up her toy tent, but she really didn't get into it until I agreed to play with her. Then we filled it with blankets, pillows, and stuffed animals and alternately pretended to sleep inside and then ran into the computer room (where Matt had of course settled, thanks to his new found Star Wars: The Old Republic addiction) and attacked her daddy with foam swords and butterfly nets. We kept this up for an hour or so. She also slept in the tent that night, and a few nights since. I tried to get a good picture, but I didn't really want to risk waking her up by turning on all the lights in her room and my camera (which sturdy and serviceable) doesn't handle poor lighting well.

I'm proud of her imagination, though. She knows how to turn a princess game into an adventure with dinosaurs guarding the outside of the tent and raids on a grumpy old giant named Daddy.

Since then the tent and the barn have remained her favorite gifts. The barn's endless supply of small pieces has been my nemesis, of course. I keep telling her if she doesn't remember to pick up better I'll end up vacuuming up some of them (the set came with three ridiculously tiny barn mice and some baby rabbits that look a lot like carpet debris from a few feet away). The cat is crazy jealous of the tent. I've caught her inside it a few times, but if Coryn catches her, she banishes her immediately, so Kamikaze only manages to tent crash if she's being sneaky or Coryn is distracted.

Oh, Matt doesn't like Christmas. Don't ask me why, I don't quite know the reason. He thinks Coryn has too many toys as it is. He doesn't appreciate the disruption from his normal schedule. He has memories of it being inconvenient and disappointing as a child. . .these are his excuses anyway. I've never really been able to get to the heart of the matter. He "puts up with it" for mine and Coryn's sake, but she is aware that he doesn't care for it much and has told me that "Daddy doesn't like Christmas."

I'd been jokingly calling him the Grinch, but then we watched the tail end of the Jim Carry live action Grinch movie and his "Grinch-heart-growth-scene" made Coryn very nervous. If you haven't seen this particular version or for some reason aren't familiar with the classic story in any form, at the end of the story the Grinch's small heart grows three sizes, and the way the live action version portrays this makes it look almost like the Grinch is having a heart attack. He clutches his chest. He falls on the ground. He cries out in pain. . .of course, he pops up a few seconds later, almost cartoon style, and is ready to go, but Coryn had turned away from the screen with a very worried face at this point. Later that night she crawled up into her father's arms and I heard him laughing.

"She just told me she's afraid that my heart is too small," Matt smirked. That's because you are a Grinch, dear.

Oh, but he lets me put on a pretty good Christmas and he got me a Weird Al cd and some awesome (I'm afraid to ask how much they cost) emerald earrings . . . super sparkly. I mostly got him World of Warcraft logo gear, t-shirts and a hoodie. . .though it looks like next year he'll be upgrading to Star Wars gear: WoW is on the way out; SW:ToR is up and coming.

Christmas Day, Matt had to head into work fairly early, before either myself or the girl was up, so Coryn and I attended church and came home to make Christmas dinner, which he said he'd be home in plenty of time with. I tried out several new recipes: one for fennel seed and mustard encrusted pork tenderloin (a hit); one for cheddar biscuits (needed more cheese, but they were good); and one for Brussels sprouts that was supposed to make Brussels sprouts good even for haters of Brussels sprouts (they lied). Plus I made an apple pie because that is Matt's favorite. Everything went well (though we wasted a lot of Brussels sprouts. After everyone had taken a few token bites they went into the trash.) except for a stupid mistake I made. I seared the pork in a large skillet then popped it into the oven. Afterward I took it out of the oven, and several minutes later I made a mistake I have made before, but never to such an awful extent, when skillet cooking. Because a skillet has a handle, I always forget that I can't just pick it up by the handle when the entire skillet has been in a hot oven for the last twenty minutes or so. Yeah, I burned my right hand, not badly, but certainly painfully. If I remember correctly from first aid babysitting class, a first degree burn turns your skin red, a second bubbles up, and third is where you have your skin literally charred off. If so my burn was only a first degree. I released it quickly (and I discovered that even when truly in agony the worst I'll yell out is "That's stupid!" referring, I guess, to my own action of grabbing a pan handle I should've know would be hot, but it was pretty instinctive so I could've just been berating life in general), and Matt came over to assist. He really wanted me to put ice on it, but ice hurt so I sat with my hand under the faucet for awhile, eyes watering. I didn't really want to do anything for the rest of the day, at least not anything that involved my right hand. I did give into his ice pack solution (as he said, if you muscle through the part where the ice is hurting you, eventually your hand goes numb) and thawed out two sleeves of ground turkey, some frozen spinach, and a bunch of ice cubes. I even tried vapor rub on my palm (which also stung like the dickens going on but after I'd washed it off my hand went numb for at least ten minutes so it worked like the ice in a way) while I was waiting for something to refreeze. Matt wrapped up the left overs on his own and told me he'd help with dishes when he got home from work the next day, but the next morning my hand felt better and I cleaned up in the morning instead.

I guess that's it. There's probably a lot more to say. I'm sure I forgot something Coryn did that was ridiculously cute, but this was a quick over view of our Christmas holiday. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Christmas Musings

It's hard to find good Christmas picture books. There is a glut of Santa books. A few are okay, but Santa makes up about 5% of our Christmas activities but takes up about 95% of the media exposure kids receive for Christmas. I'm not going to deprive my child of classics like Rudolf and Santa Claus is Coming to Town but I still want to try and find some facets of the holiday that aren't wearing a big red suit.

To me Christmas is three fold and you can't really divorce/amputate anyone part of it. There's the spiritual side, the Nativity story, the least flashy but most essential part of Christmas. Then there is tradition; if I had to pick a symbol for this it would be the tree. Why? Well the tree does have religious symbolism built in if you dig back far enough (so do the eggs at Easter and the clovers at St Patrick's day) but they are more about tradition and beauty in practice. Tradition is about family coming together. It's about making memories that kids will cherish. Santa seeps in here and religion is pervasive if you take the time to make it be. You only have to scratch the surface on most holiday traditions (from candy canes to the songs to gift giving) to find something that circles back to the nativity. Traditions are the best part, in my opinion, because after all, Jesus is with us year round. He's not (or shouldn't be) boxed into Christmas and Easter. We can have Jesus whenever we want Him. How often do we have an excuse to over decorate our homes, over indulge or sweet tooth, and over (if possible) expose ourselves to family?

Friday, December 9, 2011

Crochet Christmas

I have mentioned my crochet habit a few times, mostly incidentally, but it's a little more than a habit. In fact, it is a serious addiction and I can't concentrate if I haven't had a yarn fix. I may also be developing wrist strain and though Matt mocks my "callouses" I swear they are there.

At first he mocked my hobby in general and was a little bit put out when I made my first $80 yarn purchase (at $3 a skein it adds up quickly). Then I went to a craft fair with my creations and came back with almost $400. He hasn't questioned it much since then except to occasionally complain when the yarn and unsold creations (there aren't that many craft fairs open to non-Japanese speaking folk like myself in my area and in between the fairs my stock really builds up) creep like a glacier, so slowly that you don't even notice them moving, devouring closet space and eventually floor space in the middle of the living room. . .at which point I buy a new bin of some sort and push them back into hiding.

It's fun to be able to make things on demand, however. Today I'm trying to decide what items to make for a few friends I'd like to give a homemade ornament to for Christmas. I'm going through patterns I've book marked or pinned on Pinterest and I have come up with a few options. I've made two so far this afternoon and will probably try at least one more pattern today and a few tomorrow before I settle on a final pick.

There are a ton of free patterns available online. The first I tried was a snowman from a blog I discovered (on pinterest). He came out looking a little evil so I moved on to a star pattern that was more of a pain than I thought it would be but I'm going to blame that on my choice to use "homespun style" yarn which is always a pain to work with even though it is really pretty.

I also made (by piecing together different free patterns from lionbrand.com and just winging it) my daughter a Santa hat she'd been requesting and we took turns wearing it all morning. She looks like the front of a Christmas card, does she not?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Keeping Christmas

I'm taking this from A Classic Nativity Devotional compiled by James Stuart Bell with the justification that Henry Van Dyke (the original author) has been dead nearly a hundred years so it has to be public domain, right? I hope so. If not, my bad, but this really is something I felt like sharing.

Keeping Christmas

There is a better thing than the observance of Christmas day, and that is keeping Christmas.
Are you willing . . .
  • to forget what you have done for other people, and to remember what other people have done for you;
  • to ignore what the world owes you, and to think what you owe the world;
  • to put your rights in the background, and your duties in the middle distance, and your chances to do a little more than your duty in the foreground;
  • to see that men and women are just as real as you are, and try to look behind their faces to their hearts, hungry for joy.
  • to own up to the fact that probably the only good reason for your existence is not what you are going to get out of life but what you are going to give to life;
  • to close your book of complaints against the management of the universe, and look around you for a place where you can sow a few seeds of happiness?

Are you willing to do these things even for a day? Then you can keep Christmas.
Are you willing . . .
  • to stoop down and consider the needs and desires of little children;
  • to remember the weakness and loneliness of people growing old;
  • to stop asking how much your friends love you, and ask yourself whether you love them enough;
  • to bear in mind the things that other people have to bear in their hearts;
  • to try and understand what those who live in the same home with you really want, without waiting for them to tell you;
  • to trim your lamp so that it will give more light and less smoke, and to carry it in front so that your shadow will fall behind you;
  • to make a grave for your ugly thoughts, and a garden for your kindly feelings, with the gate open?
Are you willing to do these things, even for a day? Then you can keep Christmas.
Are you willing . . . .
  • to believe that love is the strongest thing in the world-
  • stronger than hate, stronger than evil, stronger than death-
  • and that the blessed life which began in Bethlehem nineteen hundred years ago is the image and brightness of the Eternal Love?
Then you can keep Christmas.
And if you can keep it for a day, why not always?
But you can never keep it alone.

-Henry Van Dyke (1852-1933)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

How Lucky We Are . . .

Lately Coryn's favorite story has been Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are? by Dr. Suess. It is a classic book. She likes the page about the man who sleeps a few blocks worth of twisty stairs away from his bathroom. She won't let me leave this page until she has traced the route from bedroom to bathroom with her finger. My personal favorite page goes, "And suppose that you lived in that forest in France where the average young person just hasn't a chance to escape from the perilous pants-eating-plants! But your pants are safe! You're a fortunate guy. And you ought to be shouting, "How lucky am I!"

Suess is always full of good old common sensical wisdom, and it is nice for kids to know that there are more important things to grumble about in the world. After all, no plants are eating their pants; they aren't watching that watcher watch watching that bee; and they have intact shadows. Also, this book is just a ton of fun. There is one rhyme devoted to a man who has a "Borfin" (a machine of unexplained and unimaginable purpose) that "shlumps." Coryn and I have to "shlump" whenever the "Borfin" does.

Last night I was reading it when a little parrot voice started finishing my sentence and reciting along word for word right behind me. I stopped and looked at her and she announced proudly, "See, Mom, I can read!" That's the first time she's ever done this with a book (though she will repeat important lines of dialog in certain stories, like "And someone has been sleeping in my bed. . ."), and she's had a rotating series of "favorite books" for the longest time. She's going to be four next month, and I'm really looking forward to trying to gently ease into reading. I'm not sure she's "ready" but I like to trot out the phonics every few months and test the waters. Attention span is the biggest problem, but reading is a gift I want to give her as soon as possible.

Oh, the other day I found Christmas tree ice cube trays. I'd seen a picture of "rainbow punch" which is just multi-colored ice cubes floating in a glass of 7-up or some other random clear soda, so I bought the tray and tried to make "green ice trees." It was a good idea, but the moment I put the green ice cubes into water they dyed it green . . .I tried again with chilled water. That lasted marginally longer before it again dissolved into green trees in green water. . . Matt says I'd have to freeze the trees into a larger clear ice cube. I haven't quite figured out what I would use to do this with. I'm not deterred, however, and will be trying again soon.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Wrapping paper and paper snowflakes

I actually like my paper to be mismatched. I think it looks bland when all the paper under the tree is the same pattern or color or what-not, so most years I pick out two contrasting papers. Last year it was silver with candy canes and green with holly leaves. This year, however, the exchange on base only seemed to have two pricing options, 69 cent paper and 6 dollar paper. Of course, being cheap, I was going to only buy the 69 cent variety (though I had to run the rolls under the price scanner to make sure what I was getting was 69 cents. . .as usual everything was mixed around and mislabeled or simply not priced) and of that there were only two prints that appealed to my particular aesthetics, both of which happened to be light blue with snowmen. Of course, they were different snowmen. One had cartoonish snowmen and the other more artfully drawn snowmen in hats and scarves playing musical instruments. Still, even if they were different snowmen on slightly different paper, they were still very similar. .. but oh well. I had enough paper left over from last year to wrap a few small presents and get some variety in there, and my family back home would be sending presents, normally already wrapped, so I bought the two snowmen rolls and headed home.

Then my grandmother sent packages. . .wrapped in, again, slightly different snowman themed paper (hers was on a slightly darker blue background). . .followed by my mother (her snowmen were elongated and accompanied by green pine trees. . .on a light blue background.), so in spite of my eclectic desires I have the world's most one note set of wrapped presents. Yeah, there are a few contrasting gift bags and the smaller packages I managed to wrap in the green holly leaves and the silver candy canes, but all and all, this year, my gifts have been overwhelmed by snowmen.

It's probably because my family knows I like blue and there are only so many Christmassy designs that look good against blue (Were snowflakes too much to ask this year, wrapping paper designers?). I'm pretty much done wrapping (I like seeing my presents under the tree), so I guess I'm stuck with snowmen for now, but next year, I think I'm going to make my own wrapping paper just to have something unique.

Also tonight I tried to get Coryn involved with making and decorating paper snowflakes, something I've always loved doing. She's too little to cut out snowflakes, but I'd bought her some glitter glue to decorate them. It went well at first, but like she does in many things, she got carried away with the glue and was gobbing it all over and soon just smearing it around on a piece of paper. We had a decent time of it, though, before it just got way too messy.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Christmas Traditions

My husband worked Thanksgiving and the Friday after it, so we had our Thanksgiving festivities (a small meal for the three of us) on the Wednesday of that week. It was uneventful except for Coryn once again proving her appetite by asking for seconds of everything except green beans and thirds of stuffing and then still wanting to dive into the pie immediately. She ate more than I did, and I'm supposed to be eating for two.

I guess she just has a lot of growing body to feed. I finally decided I was curious about how big she really was (people are always expressing disbelief when they find out she isn't even four yet; she's changed clothing sizes three times already this year, and she's the biggest of all her little friends.), so I measured and weighed her and popped the results into an online calculator to see what her "percentile" was. At 44lbs and 43 inches, my daughter is 95% in weight and 97% in height, meaning that she is going to continue to be the tallest kid in her play circle for awhile to come.

But back to the subject of holidays. Since it was just the two of us on Thanksgiving, I decided to make the day more festive by putting out all of our decorations. Coryn really got into it. I had to change a few things around after she turned her back because she likes to cram all the decorations into one small space (like on top of my desk or on the tv stand), but it was nice to get her involved. We even decorated our tiny tree. The presents have already overwhelmed the poor little guy and we don't even have all the presents from the grandparents and relatives under it yet (though I've wrapped up everything I got Coryn and am resisting buying anything more for her, anything I find that I really think she would like can wait until her birthday in January).

Non-breakable decorations are the best, especially if the item has any imaginable play value (and most do). Coryn is obsessed with our manager scene and I have wished so many times that it was wooden rather than porcelain. So far she hasn't broken anything, but the clink clink clink when she makes the figurines "hug" or just move around together is unnerving. Still I want this to be accessible. When we set it up I took the opportunity to read a really nice nativity book I'd found at the library called The Stable Where Jesus Was Born by Rhonda Gowler Greene. It's a "this is the house that Jack built" style rhyme involving the events of the first Christmas. The illustrations are beautiful and it is a wonderful easy way to introduce the story to kids who may not be quite ready for the full out King James Version of events.

I'm trying to find nice Christmas traditions to make the most of every day of this season. I bought presents for some of her little friends and we're going to have a party soon to let her give them out. We've been invited to a cookie decorating party, and I've got my Christmas play list set up. Also I occasionally like to turn off the lights except for the tree lights and have her sit with me for some pre-bed caroling. We usually sing "Away in the Manger" and then she asks for "Jesus Loves Me" or something random. . .I think one time we did "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" just because it is one of the few songs she knows all the words too and she really wanted to add it to the evening's program. I have been trying to introduce her to more carols, but it is hard to get her to give up old favorites in favor of new songs. She does like me to play her the youtube video of the "Celtic Women" singing "Carol of the Bells." It's fun to dance to.

Anyway, what else has gone on so far this season. . .I've been busy making hats for special orders with my crochet business. I found some time to make an ornament for the Mothers of Preschoolers ornament exchange. It's a gingerbread man, if you couldn't tell. Isn't he cute?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Few Random Food Thoughts

I love eggplant. Living in Japan, I usually end up using the smaller "Japanese eggplants" but the taste and texture is nearly identical. I learned one time when making Eggplant Parmesan that Coryn also likes eggplant. She kept taking the chopped, raw eggplant I had sitting, waiting to be breaded and fried. Now if I find some on sale or I have some around I want to use up, I just slice it and give it to her on a plate and she'll devour it.

Personally I prefer mine cooked. I had some awesome tempura eggplant (At least I think that's what you'd call it. It was obviously in tempura batter, but it also had a layer of something that tasted like the meat filling for gyoza/potstickers.) yesterday at a Japanese grocery store. We'd picked out a bunch of stuff from a deli section, chicken on a stick, some California roll style sushi (I prefer the sashimi style or at least tuna sushi, but I've temporarily cut raw fish out of my diet while I wait for daughter number two), the fore mentioned eggplant item, and a Japanese sausage roll. I've never actually tasted one of these rolls. Coryn grabbed it, assumed it was an all you can eat buffet and by the time I'd noticed had devoured half of it. I guess she was hungry. Basically what these are is a long, flat roll with a sausage and some other toppings (I think some sort of mustard or cheese) baked into the top. I tried to get her to stop snacking while I went up to the cashier at the end of the line of food who was supposed to package and bar code the food for us. It took a little bit of pointing and motioning (I know four or five Japanese words, including please and thank you) to get her to understand, but the attendant managed to add Coryn's 97 yen lunch onto the bar code she made for my other items, which was a good thing, because while I was distracted trying to make sure we paid for everything, Coryn finished off the last few bites.

My kid will eat anything. She's gleefully devoured octopus, snacks on vegetables, and has eaten raw onions when they were left unattended on the cutting board. I'm a picky eater, so I'm glad she didn't inherit that particular trait, though a lot of it has to do with Matt being a lot firmer about kids cleaning their plates than either myself or my parents (my mom would make myself and my siblings separate meals if we didn't like what she'd made for herself and my dad) and Coryn's Burke metabolism. I can't remember a time that I was hungry enough that "well you can't have anything else until that is finished" was a decent threat. Coryn seems to always be hungry, and if I am taking too long making her dinner, she'll just eat whatever is in reach, even if it happens to be broccoli. So far the only two things she absolutely won't eat are raw tomatoes (tomato sauces generally she'll eat) and (and I thought this one was weird) ranch dressing.

Of course, sometimes I feel I'm always in the kitchen because of this. If she goes an hour without asking for a snack, it is very possible that she is ill. Today, for instance, I had some friends over after morning workout/play date for coffee and hadn't had time for my shower because of this until almost 11:30, about when Coryn usually wants her lunch. I told Coryn I'd feed her in ten minutes and got into the tub. I heard her playing for a bit and then . . . quiet. Uh oh. Any mom of a toddler will tell you that as much as you long for quiet, it isn't always a good thing. So I wrapped my towel around myself and poked my nose out into our living/dining room area. She was sitting at the table with a fork and an open container of left over noodles she'd grabbed straight out of the fridge. That's another thing. Coryn doesn't mind cold food. She's eaten cold pizza, cold steamed veggies. . . all sorts of things. . .just because she's unwilling to wait for me to reheat it. I need to just start leaving containers with some sort of healthy snack available at all times so when she complains about being hungry I can just point to these. I started doing that with water. I keep her favorite water bottle filled and in the fridge at all times so that if she gets thirsty she now just goes and takes it out. That water bottle was an awesome purchase, except since it's pink with ballerinas, some of her girlfriends are jealous of it, and I've had to rescue it when it was borrowed by a toddler who assumes that the ballerina bottle obviously has better water than the plain bottle. Can you blame them? Look at the picture. This thing is adorable.

Oh, two tips for spending the holidays as a military family in Japan: Daisos have the best stocking stuffers and with everything under two dollars (I think the current exchange rate is 70 yen to the US Dollar, but I have a hard time keeping up with that. . .either way everything is 100 yen which comes to over a dollar but under two.), it's an awesome place to fill up the stocking with cheap items your kids will treasure, like a dollar store back in the states, but a little more exotic and I've found over all the quality is better than usual dollar store fare (though it is all stuff that will break after a few days of hard play, but there is a certain advantage to "disposable" toys. They only take up toy box space for a week or so and by the time the kid has decided to find out if they can be used as a hammer or can handle being jumped on, the kid is probably sick of them anyway). I got Coryn (who is make up obsessed) a little jeweled case of "solid perfume," some fancy hair accessories, and some of her favorite party poppers (where you pull the string and the fire cracker makes a loud pop). I will probably try to go back once Christmas is closer and we actually have the stocking up, but I'm trying not to over due it just yet.

It's also a good place to find some small Japanese trinkets (fans, knickknacks, origami paper, etc) to impress the family back home.

My second piece of advice is order/buy early then "keep it secret, keep it safe." . .and yes, I may have included this tip just so I could have an excuse to say that. I need to stop typing and get going. I'd like to include a detailed list of everything Coryn is getting for Christmas and the details about our park workouts (which are coming to a close as the weather gets colder), but I'll save that for another post.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Crafty Times

This time of year, I do a lot of crafting. . .mainly because it is starting to get cold and making something keeps Coryn away from the television when I don't want to brave the park. Also, I don't like throwing things away. Everything has so much potential, and I have a little bit of hoarder in me. . .for instance, I recently caught myself saving the paper wrappers my Stash tea bags come in because they were such pretty colors. . .I did actually use one or two of them for gift tags.

Coryn is also a collector. Our big craft lately has been using washable paint and glitter glue to decorate the pine cones she picks up on our walks around base. My idea is to make Christmas ornaments out of them. The picture doesn't do them justice, I promise.

We also don't send home a package unless we've decorated the box first. Generally this just means setting Coryn loose on it with markers or water colors. . .but the other night she was asleep, I had some free time, and I used her water colors to draw poinsettias all over a package I'm sending home to my grandparents.

Coryn likes to paint too. . .and to suck on her paint brush and turn her teeth weird colors.

Oh, and today I was trying to organize her craft supplies and found her crayon box wouldn't even close for all the loose crayons rolling around in it. So I fished out all the broken ones, unwrapped them, placed them in paper cups, and microwaved them. . .this took awhile. Crayons are really melt resistant. I was kind of surprised. It actually took longer to melt them than it did to freeze them back into a solid. I made Coryn four round, multi-colored crayons which she seems to enjoy. . .unfortunately in the wrong way. I had to confiscate one a bit ago because I caught her munching on it like a cookie. I guess it was my fault for making them cookie shaped. . .

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Christmas Prep

As I've mentioned earlier (or at least as I meant to mention earlier; I may never have gotten around to it. . .or just dreamed I mentioned it.) I don't like to start Christmas until after Thanksgiving. I'm trying to find exciting Thanksgiving preparations (though I recently found out my husband is going to be working on that particular holiday, thank you, Marine Corp. . .oh well, at least he'll be in the same country as me. It could be worse) and Coryn has been walking around saying, "Gobble, gobble, gobble," which is cute.

Living out here, though, there are certain things you just can't put off. Even though the Japanese people enjoy Christmas, they don't really have Christmas tree lots and the Christmas cards are expensive and in Japanese. So for all that stuff we're forced to buy on base (or online if it is something that can be shipped. This isn't an option for Christmas trees that I've found), and they never seem to stock enough of seasonal items, so it is best to buy sooner rather than later. Last year, for instance, I put off buying a Christmas tree because mine had been toasty dry by the time Christmas actually got here the year before. . .but two weeks before Christmas there were only a few needle-less twigs left in the Christmas tree lot on base (and they were still trying to sell them at full price) and so we ended up buying a small, fake tree (which solves that problem for this year). I also like to buy my Christmas cards for next year a few days after Christmas when theoretically they will be on sale, but two days after Christmas I looked all around and there wasn't a single card to be found. . .oh that reminds me, I need a copy of the Grinch . . . I can order those online, but I miss my after Christmas clearance option.

Christmas shopping is not something I save for after Thanksgiving. I'm normally completely finished with my shopping long before Black Friday and have all of Coryn's and Matt's gifts stashed away waiting for us to set out the tree so I can wrap and display them. I always end up back in the store for that one last gift or stocking stuffers, but it's easier to control my spending when I'm not caught up in the Christmas spirit. Plus my husband is ridiculously hard to shop for and it is sort of a year round process trying to find something he'll appreciate.

Anyway, I'm about to start on one of the projects I can't put off. This morning I dragged Matt outside and we took our family Christmas card picture. We're usually pretty casual, but for the last two years it has been the three of us sitting on a couch, and I wanted to take advantage of a nice day (possibly one of the last of the year) and get an out door photo. You'd think I was doing a fashion shoot or painting in oil on canvas for how much Matt whined about it, but we managed to get a couple of shots I liked using the timer on our camera . Now I have to order prints and to get the right amount of prints I need to know who I am sending a card to which means I need to make a Christmas card list.

Matt pointed out that anyone who really cares probably sees our pictures all the time on the facebook anyway, but it's a tradition I don't want to give up. For one thing I love mail and if I send I receive. . .some times. It is hard to know who I really want to send something to, and I hate it when I finally decide to cut someone who hasn't reciprocated a card for a few years in a row off my list. . . only to have that be the year they finally send me something. Anyway, as soon as I get off here, I'm going to buckle down, go through my address book, and make a list.

Other than that, I've been working on special orders for my crochet business and trying to decide what items to stock up on for the Craft Fair I'm doing in just under two weeks now. I need to make a decent amount of money to justify all the yarn I've bought over the last year. . . Take a look at my Christmas penguins!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Turkey Time

Coryn has been excited about the holidays since before Halloween. She is starting to remember things from year to year and the moment one holiday ends she is asking about the next. Sometimes I have to stop and think about what she means, like when she started asking just after Easter about going around our midrise to get candy (trick or treating). Other times she's pretty clear (she has been asking about her birthday consistently since her last birthday). Now we're onto the big block of Holidays. We got through Trick or Treating and the Christmas decorations are already flooding the stores.

I've noticed Thanksgiving is getting crowded out between the (I'm sure more profitable) Halloween and Christmas season. Halloween displays came down and were immediately replaced with Christmas displays . . . and Thanksgiving gets one small table in our local exchange with a couple of turkeys and some pumpkin scented candles. This may have something to do with being in Japan. None of the holidays listed are officially celebrated in Japan, but they've adapted Christmas quite well . . .and Halloween gets some attention because kids love dressing up and candy even if they don't quite understand why. Thanksgiving, though, is very very American. There really isn't anything to draw Japanese people to it. Still, the Exchange is here to serve American service members so you'd think they'd be aiming at that demographic. I'll have to see what it is like when we head back to the states (though I always remember there being a good deal of Thanksgiving decorations available even if they had to share some shelf space with Christmas stuff).

Anyway, so today I decided to combat this lack of Thanksgiving by letting Coryn watch the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and then doing a simple craft. I asked her if she knew what turkeys were, to start things off.

"Turkeys are bad people?" she said, obviously unsure this was correct. I call her a turkey sometimes when she doesn't listen. I said no. "Turkeys are something to eat," she then decided. Technically, yeah, but I wanted her to know about real, live turkeys who gobble gobble gobble. So we google imaged them and then youtubed turkey calls. She thought listening to Turkeys was funny and we sat down and made several turkeys on paper plates, one of my hand and four of hers (three for the grandparents, one for our front door). She then asked to hear the turkey gobble gobble some more. . .afterwards she did laugh and say, "Cock a doodle doo" though, so I'm still not sure she totally gets it.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Coryn's Halloween Party: a busy day in the life of us

Last Thursday was a crazy day for us. It was the day of our second annual Costume Ball, aka Halloween party. I love doing these parties. Last year I put one together for the first time and learned three important things:
1. I really don't like relying on people to bring food in a potluck situation
2. Little kids make a huge mess at parties (something I knew already from working at a pizza parlor after high school, but had somehow let slip my mind).
3. I hate making pinatas . . .
So this year my plan involved
A. Telling people bringing food was not required but not guaranteeing them a meal.
B. Using my husband to spot check the mess afterwards because he has a more critical eye than me, especially "tired, I just supervised a party with 15 children under 5 in attendance" me and help me clean up.
C. Buying a pinata from Oriental Trading Company.

The funny thing is when you require people to bring food a lot of them try to get out of it or are unwilling to let you know what they are bringing, etc, but if you just provide a party a lot will ask if they can bring something, and since they volunteered pretty much all of them come through. . .Last year I made a whole bunch of food last minute because only two or three people had actually told me what they were bringing (over half still brought something, but most settled on cookies and with a candy loaded Halloween party that wasn't quite what I wanted), and I was worried we wouldn't have enough. This year I just brought drinks and a veggie tray but people brought enough stuff to make a full meal. That took care of A.

B went as planned as well, but to discuss C and remain chronological I really need to skip over B for now, and maybe altogether. Do you really want to hear about sweeping up?

I had made most of the decorations last year as well, bought some on base, and bought some out in town at Daiso stores. Daiso stores (also called 100 yen stores, everything is 100 yen plus tax) are sort of the Japanese equivalent to dollar stores, though with the exchange rate they are really about $1.40 stores. Halloween is not a Japanese holiday, but Japanese people really like holidays of any sort for any reason, and while they don't trick or treat they always have a small selection of Halloween specific decorations and some costume items (Also if they know someone on base they come here to trick or treat. . .sometimes not bothering to wear costume, sometimes giving candy as well as taking it; like I said they don't really understand the whole concept). This year, a little over three weeks before my party, I ordered a pinata, some streamers, some orange plastic table clothes, and some paper pumpkins . . .along with some creepy crawly treats/prizes and considered my work done for the most part. No hand crafting dripping, flour coated paper machete pinatas. No searching the Daisos attempting to get enough decorations to decorate a community room. No paying for the overpriced Hallmark stuff that seems to be all our base is willing to stock as far as party/holiday decorations are concerned. All I had to do was wait for my package, the delivery estimate for which was the 10th, 10 days before my party.

Well, that didn't quite work out. I started to get nervous with the 10th came and went, and that weekend I ended up begging Matt to take me to the Daisos because I was worried we wouldn't have any decorations at all. Calmer than me, Matt told me he'd take me the day before the party if they still hadn't arrived by then. They hadn't, and we did go to the Daiso and picked up some garland and a jack o'lantern candy bucket that made a decent center piece and a banner. . .I also made some decorations at home, cutting out bats out of black felt and spiders out of construction paper. . .oh and I had some purple decorative lights that I brought out and a bunch of small candles I worked into a center piece somehow. I was still concerned it wouldn't be enough, and I was also really bothered that I never got my pinata.

My last minute fix was this paper bag pinata, though mine didn't even look this good. . .but it didn't take four days to make and destroy my kitchen in the process. The one I made last year ended up being too strong and I had to kill it myself for the kids to get the candy out. . .I ended up having to do that this year too, but at least they got to hit something for awhile.

Oh, and of course the candy that came out of it was important too. I also put in about three packs party poppers (six per pack), I'm not sure if they have a more technical name or if they are widely available in the states. They're cone shaped paper fire crackers where you pull a string and they make a loud popping nose and spray a small amount of streamer-confetti out in front of them. Coryn has gotten these at birthday parties as favors and she loves them. Normally, though, she only gets one per party, and when the pinata finally went down she zeroed in on the poppers. Like I said, I'd bought 18 and I'd say there were maybe 15 kids there, so she should've been lucky to get two or three. She ended up with six in her bag. She completely by passed the candy and grabbed every popper she could get her hands on, and then she blissfully went and pulled their strings, one at a time. The other kids were also going through their poppers, but no one else had Coryn's impressive collection. . . and I'm serious about the impressive. Her focus in getting exactly what she wanted blew me away just a little bit.

Of course costumes were important. There were a lot of toy story themed costumes this year and vampires and ballerinas, etc. Coryn was Lady Bug Girl, a super hero/ballerina/bug combination that I picked out of one of her favorite story books (mentioned in an early blog post). I bought the majority of the costume from a tutu crafter on Etsy who was selling a lady bug spotted tutu, some ladybug "wings," and a red head band. The rest was just a red shirt and black leggings (I wanted some ladybug rain boots, but I couldn't find any for a reasonable price and so she wore her black ballet flats). It was simple, but I was proud of it. . .and really annoyed with the base finally got their Halloween costumes in and there was something very similar available here. They only sell three or four costumes in each size, so there are a ton of repeats from people who try to buy "locally." I really wanted her to be unique. Still, it was a cute costume.

I ended up buying a pirate costume online. There are only so many maternity costumes and this one was pretty cute.

The day of the party was also a MoPs day. I've been involved with Mothers of Preschoolers for awhile and this year I have a planning position as the "Creative Activities Team-leader" (I want team-leader to be one word so that the initials spell CAT, but that's just me. . .). This meeting involved an Este Lauder rep giving a make up demonstration and I was one of her guinea pigs. . .because of this I had full "evening gown" make up from about 10am on. . .I was going to wash it off, but decided it might go well with my costume, sort of a female Jack Sparrow look. Coryn is fascinated by make up so when I picked her up from the volunteers who watch the kids during the meetings she stared at my face in awe, touched my face, tried to smell my face, and told me over and over again how pretty I was (the next day she also wanted to know why I hadn't put on my "pretty eyebrows.") . . .so Coryn loved it. I liked it at first, but as the day went on and I had to run more and more errands all "dolled up" I began to feel a little self-conscious. I wanted somebody to comment so I could explain the whole face thing . . . I considered putting on my costume early . . .or maybe a ballgown. Also, after a day of errands and decorating the room, I felt more like Michael Bolton as Jack Sparrow than the sexy female Jack Sparrow I'd hoped to be. . .and I'm sorry for referencing an online video with as much swearing as the Jack Sparrow/Michael Bolton video, Mom, if you are reading this, don't google it. It's hilarious but awful. I did get a lot of compliments, but I was also one of two adults who actually dressed up.

So what else. . .oh games!

Other than the pinata (as pathetic as that was), we had a few games. Coryn and I painted a poster board jack o lantern and the kids played pin the nose on the pumpkin. I filled my largest pot with beans mixed with candy (I'd meant to also include plastic insects and worms to make it creepy, but as said before, my box never got to me. . .still hasn't a week after my party) for kids to sort through and find prizes, and I slipped candy into balloons which I then allowed kids to pop to get the "prize" inside. The balloon popping game drives some parents crazy, but the kids all love it. Other than that they ran around like crazy.

Coryn slept in until 10am the next morning, which Matt and I really appreciated. I'm already thinking of a Christmas party. I might just be crazy.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Managed to Read "The Shack"

It's a big deal, as I believe I have mentioned before, for me to finish a book these days. It took me a couple of weeks to get through The Shack by Wm. Paul Young, which I would've considered a long time to complete an under 300 page book back in the days before Coryn, but which was rather an accomplishment as things currently stand. Still, I don't have the time or energy to write a "review." I just thought I'd share a few favorite quotes to mark the occasion.

". . .an emphasis on fathering is necessary because of the enormity of its absence."

"A bird is defined not by being grounded but by his ability to fly. Remember this, humans are defined not by their limitations, but by the intentions I have for them; not by what they seem to be, but by everything it means to be created in my image."

"To begin with, that you can't grasp the wonder of my nature is rather a good thing. Who wants to worship a God who can be fully comprehended, eh? Not much mystery in that."

"Being always transcends appearance-that which only seems to be. Once you begin to know the being behind the very pretty or very ugly face, as determined by your bias, the surface appearances fade a way until they simply no longer matter."

"Grace doesn't depend on suffering to exist, but where there is suffering you will find grace in many facets and colors."

Friday, October 14, 2011

Keeping Busy

I've been crocheting non-stop lately. I'm supposed to be building up my stock for a craft fair next month, but I've gotten a lot of special orders and since those are guaranteed sales, I move them to the front of the line. Most of the time special orders start out as a challenge. Someone sees something I've made and ask, "Hey, can you make ___ too?" Sometimes I give a cagey answer, like "maybe" or "if I can find a pattern, I'll have to look into it." I've had too many instances of people asking me if I can make something and then when I finish it and show it to them they don't express interest in buying it, and that drives me crazy, so unless they state that they'll be willing to pay for it when they make the inquiry, I don't usually bother crafting it (though I may send them links to patterns to give them an idea that I can do it if they are so inclined). A lot of times if I make one for that person and then post the picture on my Critters Facebook Page other people will ask me if they can order one too. That happened with my dinosaurs. I have made six so far for orders after the one initial order. I've also made a few hats, which aren't part of my usual repertoire (I was planning on selling only critters, scarves, and Christmas stockings at my craft fair table, any more and I think it will be too crowded.), but I have gotten orders for a "Hello Kitty" and a "Boots from Dora" hat. . .and my next project is a dinosaur hat, though I'm taking a break to make Coryn her own dinosaur.

I've made a ton of toys specifically for Coryn, but I know she doesn't like seeing me make something cool that she really wants only to sell it to one of her friend's mothers. She's watched me make the dinosaurs for the orders, and now she wants one of her own and I'm finally taking some time off from commercial orders to make it. She wants it to be purple. I just hope it doesn't look too much like Barney.

I have an etsy shop but so far I've only used it to sell special orders to people I know who live too far away to hand me cash. I posted some items there, but their time on Etsy expired without any sells. It's the sort of thing no one goes looking for, but when they see them they generally want one, which works well for me at craft fairs.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Book recommendation and quote

Coryn's favorite book from our last library trip is The Twins' Blanket by Hyewon Yum.

It's a sweet, short story about two "look alike twins" who share everything, including the same bed and special blanket. When their mom decides it is time for each to have her own bed, neither can decide who gets the blanket. Coryn likes to watch the little girls fight and make up thanks to their mother's creative solution.

Oh! And I finally finished the book I've been working on for the last three or four months: The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean. It took forever (mostly because I left it in the bedroom and read for five minutes every night which wasn't getting me through very quickly. .. I finally got Matt to take Coryn out of the house for an hour and I was able to finish off the last three or four chapters). It was an interesting read, though sometimes a bit technical (what did I expect of a book about the periodic table of elements. . .). I'm a big useless trivia fan plus it is interesting to hear more about the personalities behind the discoveries I learned about in high school. I thought I'd close with a quote from the book because I'd never known the second half to this conversation though just about everyone knows the first:

One, as he got older and crustier, Einstein came to distrust quantum mechanics. Its statistical and deeply probabilistic nature sounded too much like gambling to him, and it prompted him to object that "God does not play dice with the universe." He was wrong, and it's too bad that most people have never heard the rejoinder by Neils Bohr: "Einstein! Stop telling God what to do."

I think the author means Einstein had been wrong to doubt quantum mechanics rather than that God really is deciding things via a cosmic dice game, but I do like Bohr's clever retort.

Carving pumpkins

I think even if she didn't know about jack o'lanterns Coryn would still want her own pumpkin. I remember last year (she was two and a half) when they first got them in at our commissary she was in awe of the large, orange globes, and even more excited when I let her pick out one to take home. However, when we got home, the first thing she did was ask to eat it, and I realized she had no idea why we'd gotten a pumpkin and just assumed since it came from the produce section of our commissary that it must be some sort of large apple. It took some convincing to get her not to take a butter knife to it. Over the course of carving the pumpkin she got a few tastes of it, and she knows better now.

This year we picked out a smallish one because I didn't want to spend a lot of money on one this early (last year we got one about a week into October and it was moldy over a week before Halloween. Oozy black moldy. . .) but there is always a chance that they won't get more in after their first shipment in which case you are stuck buying early or risking not getting one at all (we ended up getting a fake Christmas tree last year because they never restocked even after the ones they had were all dried out; they just assumed we were desperate enough to buy dried husks, I guess.). I think she liked having one that she could carry on her own and it was a little bit easier to clean (Only a little easier because it had as many seeds as the big one she got last year, I swear).

She told me she wanted it to be a “sad” faced pumpkin and even asked for “drops” running down its face. I'd never carved pumpkin tears before, but she was right, it really brings out the sadness of the pumpkin, though I have no idea why he is sad. She named him Quincy, after a boy in her Sunday school class (I have no idea if he is also a sad pumpkin). We lit a candle and took his picture a few times. . .then I kept having to put it back because she would run off with it or move it, lit candle and all.

Growing up a lot of our friends weren't allowed to “celebrate” Halloween, but I've always been fond of the holiday. A lot of our harmless traditions come from pagan roots, and I'm not going to stop using the word Jovial because it refers to a Roman god, and I'm definitely not getting rid of my cat because some ancient Egyptians might show up at my door requesting to worship her. Sometimes I feel we give things a power over us by making them taboo. I remember being in a church for a social event with some other home schoolers and having one of them question why a Christian church had a pumpkin (not a jack o'lantern, an uncarved pumpkin) as part of a table display. As if somehow pumpkins have magical powers or pagan significance. Now, I'm not condoning all aspects of the holiday. I don't even like scary movies and I have seen people get carried away on the scary or occult sides of decorating/costumes. However, I remember reading stories where Puritans made jack'o lanterns in the colonial days and I figure if the world's most infamous witch hunters didn't see them as “occult” than they are a fairly harmless tradition.

I guess the main reason I like Halloween is because it allows for a lot of self-expression. I got to design a pumpkin and choose a costume (usually hand craft it as well). I normally knew what I wanted to be by the end of July. While I tried to work as much creative expression into all my holidays as possible (hand drawn Christmas cards and Valentines, figuring out what that weird wax pencil that came with the egg coloring kit was for on Easter. . .wax resists are fun.), with Halloween I could completely rewrite myself for a day and go in character if I really wanted to. I still like to dress up. Last year I went as a Star Trek crew member (original series, male costume because I didn't feel like a mini-skirt. . .though I feel justified in this decision because of the creepy man-in-a-female-uniform who haunts a few background shots in Star Trek: The Next Generation season one. . .google it some time. It's true. I figure, if Picard let a man romp around in a short skirt on his Enterprise, some lenient captain in Kirk's era must've allowed a girl or two to wear the pants.). This year I'm a generic pirate, even purchasing a maternity pirate costume rather than constructing something. Lazy, I know, but I still want to dress up even if I don't have the energy this particular year to make up something more elaborate.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Claire and the Giraffe

This is a story I wrote for Coryn when we were discussing why a particular tree at our park didn't have any leaves. I told her it was giraffes and she knew I was being silly, but it gave me this idea. I decided to name the kid in the story after our soon to be born baby since I had already used Coryn's name in other stories.

At the end of Summer Claire began to suspect that there was a giraffe on the loose. At first it was just a suspicion, then a theory, but by the first snowfall she was convinced that a giraffe was lurking somewhere in the alleyways of her city.

She wouldn't have suspected at all had not the tree in the playground lost its leaves. One day they were there and a windy night later they simply weren't.

Claire searched around the playground for the missing leaves. She'd really been looking forward to jumping into huge, crunchy piles of them, but all she ever found were three measly leaves. She knew there had been a lot more than three leaves on that tree.

"Mommy," she asked, "what sort of animals eat leaves?"
"Oh, lots of animals do, koalas for instance eat eucalyptus leaves," said Mommy. Claire thought a cuddly koala would be even more fun than crunchy piles of leaves, but it would take a whole herd of koalas to eat all the leaves that had gone missing.

"What else eats leaves?" she asked.
"Oh, deer and goats and cows. . ."
"Do any really big animals eat leaves?" Claire interrupted.
"Don't interrupt, Claire, but yes, I believe elephants do."
Claire had seen an elephant that summer at the circus. It was pretty big, but the tree was even bigger. To reach the leaves at the very top it would have had to stand on its back legs. It probably would break the tree right in half. Someone would notice.

"What about tall animals?" she asked.
"Yes, giraffes are the tallest animals on earth and they eat leaves," said Mommy. "Sometimes from the tip top of the trees."
"Perfect," said Claire.

From that time on, whenever Claire went out she kept and eye open for signs of giraffes. Unfortunately, sidewalks were lousy for animal prints. She asked her mommy for help.
"Claire, honey," her mommy said, "Giraffes live on the African plains and in zoos. They don't live in cities like ours. It's too cold."
"Maybe it is wearing a coat," Claire pointed out. She thought for a moment then added, "and about twenty scarves."

The next day Claire tried to bait a giraffe trap with her mommy's scarf, but Mommy made her bring it back.

The problem was, in the city, there were so many things a giraffe could hide behind. On the African plains they stood out and in the zoo they were hard to miss (there was even an arrow pointing straight to their cage), but in the city all the buildings were taller than the average giraffe. For all Claire knew there could be two. . .or three. . . . or a whole herd of them.

All Autumn she watched and waited, but the giraffe never showed up. They ate all the leaves, though, soon there was not a leaf on any tree in the city. Claire began to lose hope.
"I'll never see a giraffe," she said sadly.
"Would you like to go to the zoo today?" her mommy asked.

When they got to the zoo, Claire hurried her Mommy straight to the giraffes. There they were, tall enough to reach the very tip top of any tree in the playground. It was so obvious that they were behind the disappearing leaves.

"Do you want to go see the polar bears?" Mommy asked after a bit.
"No, I just want to watch the giraffes," said Claire.
Claire and the giraffes watched each other for a long time.
"You know," said Claire, "I'm glad there are giraffes in my park."
"It's time to go, Claire," said Mommy.

Claire followed Mommy out but when Mommy wasn't looking she left behind her scarf, just in case the giraffe got cold.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Conversation with Coryn

This morning Coryn stumbled into my room, tugged on my shoulder, and said in her unhappiest, soggiest voice, "I peed my pants. I want a bath!"

So into the bath she went. It had been a rough night for me. I'm at the tail end of a cold and had been too congested to really sleep well, plus I know I'd tossed and sneezed enough that Matt probably hadn't slept much either and he'd been complaining that he was coming down with the same cold (which for me started out with a monster all-day head ache. . .he said he had one too when he woke up). I didn't want to get up, but Matt wasn't getting up and he has to work tonight

After realizing that one of us had to get up and it most likely had to be me, I ended up sitting on her Dora the Explorer stool next to the tub trying to keep her quiet because the bathroom is right next to our bedroom. She was really talkative.

Coryn: I went to the park yesterday.
Me: Did you have a fun time?
Coryn: No, it wasn't fun. It was just so much happy. Ava was there and another little girl. . .and her brother. Then it got dark and we went to sleep. We can't sleep at the park because it might rain. Ava sleeps at the park.

Ava is a slightly younger girl she plays with sometimes at our park. . . and apparently Ava has achieved Coryn's goal of living in the park (I wonder if Ava's mommy knows?). Coryn has her own spot laid out in the park complete with an invisible pet cat named Bobby who eats fish she catches off a bridge connecting two of the play structures. She really wants to live there.

Me: I don't think Ava sleeps at the park. I think her mommy takes her inside.
Coryn: Oh. . . Mommy, you're talking to me? Why are you talking me?
Me: Because I like talking to you.
Coryn (smiling really big): Because you love me?
Me: Yes, I love you.

She then wanted her toys but it was nice to have a little chat with Coryn.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Easy Chicken Dinner Disappointment

My husband is a lean protein devouring, 6'5'', work-out-daily giant. I seriously sometimes feel like I need to go to nutritionist school just to make his dinners. He goes through things like chicken breasts and brown rice at a rate that really makes me miss Costco.

I'd been taking advantage of this, once a week, though to manipulate him into making the majority of dinner. Once a week I'll thaw a bag of chicken breasts (and usually marinate them in something) and have them waiting for him when he gets home so he can barbecue them to take to work for the rest of the week. . .but since he's already got the grill going we might as well have bbq chicken for dinner tonight anyway. I'll make salad.

This week, however, he was always too tired and there were enough leftovers to take to work that he dismissed my awaiting chicken for two whole days (I had back up plans since you never know what mood Matt will be in and it really doesn't hurt chicken to sit in marinade for an extra night or two in the fridge), but this morning I woke up and found out he'd grilled the chicken before going to work. Who grills at 5am? Matt apparently.

So I can cross Matt-grilled-chicken off my weekly meal plan. For one thing, after eating it for lunch every day all week, he's not going to want it for dinner. Dang it.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Quick Post To Recommend. . .

Squish Rabbit by Katherine Battersby.

This was our most recent library find, a newer book about a little rabbit with big problems (like loneliness and getting stepped upon and losing balloons). It has very simple drawings accompanied by texture collages (sort of like a comic book Charlie and Lola) which drew me to it, but when I did a quick read through at the library, I found that Squish has a problem that Coryn often has and that I knew she could relate to: No one to play with because he is so little.

While Coryn is usually bigger than kids her age (and some a year or two older), that doesn't cushion her from feeling small and left out when the playground is full of busy, fast moving eight-year-olds with their complicated games . . . or when there is simply no one there at all. Squish's attempts to remedy his lack of friends is a short, charming tale that Coryn asks to read over and over again. She especially likes the part where Squish, feeling frustrated and thinking he is all alone, throws a tantrum, and when he yells, "STOP!" at a fleeing potential playmate.

It's not often I find new books that I like, so many seem to be produced rather than written, but this one is just right.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Creative Days With Coryn

Most people find loose change at the bottom of their washing machine. Me? This morning I found a crochet hook and my mailbox key.

I am writing this pen and paper style to copy down later when I can get out my laptop. My handwriting is ridiculously masculine and when I'm in a hurry it sort of morphs into my own version of shorthand. When I was writing Matt weekly letters during his last Iraq tour he told me that he can tell how I was feeling when I wrote something due to my handwriting changes. He also said that it changes depending on whether I'm writing about work or my day or Coryn (who I was pregnant with at the time, but we started calling her Coryn as soon as we found out that she was a girl). It's on my list of sweeter things he's said to me.

Coryn out grows clothing, especially shoes which are unforgiving on her wide feet, at a rate that has been both frustrating and impressive. When her last pair of dress shoes went to her younger cousin, Coryn was devastated. Coryn calls dress shoes "tappy shoes" because they make tapping noises when she walks in them, unlike most of her soft soled play shoes. We went shopping on base for some new ones and there weren't any that fit. . .I mentioned she has wide feet? Well, she does. Coryn's feet are size 11 in length (some 10's will even work if they have some give to them), but almost all her shoes are size 12 because I can't squeeze her feet into most narrow toddler shoes.

I ordered her some new shoes from Old Navy, two pairs of ballet flats, one hot pink, one black, and they came yesterday. From the moment she saw me take them out of the box, Coryn was in love. She wore first one pair, then the other, prancing around the house in ballerina poses. She wore them until the end of the day when she took them off and noticed a blister on the top of her foot (Which tends to happen when you dance around in brand new shoes without any socks on for hours). She got upset but calmed down when I put a Spongebob band-aid on it and promised her it would feel better in the morning. The next morning I woke to find her staring at me.

"Mommy, my bister (sic) isn't better," she said mournfully. Matt fixed it for her by putting on some socks on her feet, covering the blister (out of sight, out of mind), but later when I told her to get dressed she came out still wearing the bright red socks plus her hot pink ballet flats and a pair of loose pink checked shorts. Normally Coryn is better at color coordination than I am (though she can be a little monochromatic, especially when pink is involved.) and I like having her dress herself, so I don't really have a script for when she obviously needs a fashion intervention. I tried to talk her down.

"Coryn, I normally don't question your style choices, but you really need to change that outfit," I said.

"I already have style choices, Mommy," she informed me. I made her put on some blue jeans, but allowed her to keep the ballet flats and red socks (the socks were mostly covered up by the jeans anyway). I guess I like her being independent minded about clothes.

We did some creative stuff this afternoon. Coryn has a birthday party on Monday and if I have time before a birthday party (and if the present isn't an awkward shape that makes me run for my stash of gift bags) I like her to make her own wrapping paper. I'll get out a roll of easel paper, spread it out, and we'll attack it together, normally with water colors (see photo up-top). We made two sheets because we have two smaller presents rather than one larger one this time. It took us over and hour to cover both sheets to satisfaction with a mix of her splotches and random things she asked me to draw (like dinosaurs and the birthday boy's name). Our packages will certainly be unique.

Afterwards, I was feeling creative, so I went googling for printable greeting cards she could color. I found a large selection from Fisher-Price. I selected the one that said it was a "Dino-Mite" birthday card, but when I printed it up the inscription inside said, "Happy Birthday, Brother," and so I had to fish around for one that didn't specifically address a family member. We eventually found one with a puppy on the outside, but by that time Coryn seemed to be tired of art production and her coloring was less than stellar. I'll probably print up another on a day when she isn't so tired and we'll have another go at it.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

DIY Chocolate Milk and Fiber Treats

Coryn's big into "Do It Yourself" lately and one of her favorite things to do all by herself is to make chocolate milk. She'll even whine sometimes if I bring her already finished chocolate milk ("I wanted to do it!"). She'll get her "helping" stool, the milk, and a spoon and wait for me to get down a cup and the chocolate which are kept out of reach. Then she'll spoon some chocolate into the milk (which I insist on pouring on this point), stir it up, and Voila! Chocolate milk, an old family recipe.

Today while I was supervising this ritual, she indicated my "Metamucil" mix which I've started using to combat pregnancy digestive issues awhile back and said, "Mommy, that's your favorite chocolate milk."

I guess she's noticed I've been mixing it into various beverages three times a day, and her automatic assumption is that is yummy.

I'd like to call this leading by example, but more likely it is just another manifestation of forbidden fruit. No matter how many times I've told her that grown up vitamins and medicine aren't "candy" she still eyes me jealously if she catches me taking one.

In other news, her letter writing has taken off. She just wrote down "orlr" on a scrap of paper and asked me to read it. She listened to my attempt to sound it out, laughed, and told me I was silly.

"No, it says, 'I love you, Grandma,'" she corrected me.

We'll work on reading later.

Easy Teaching Opportunities: Inches

A good book for those of us with preschoolers is Mommy Teach Me by Barbara Curtis that talks about bringing teaching opportunities into every day situations. I'm not personally a huge fan of structured learning, especially at preschool age, but I'm a huge fan of hands on learning and reading.

Today I found a simple lesson in units of measurement using Leo Lionni's book Inch by Inch and a measuring tape. A ruler would also work fine. In Inch by Inch a resourceful inchworm uses his unique talent (measuring things) to talk and trick his way out of being bird food.

I picked out the story just to be a story, but right away I realized that Coryn might not even know what an inch was, so I read the first few pages then stopped and took out my measuring tape. First I showed her an inch, then I measured my hand, then hers. We read the rest of the book . . . and she wanted to start again, and measure our hands again, and then point to the numbers on the tape and name them. . . almost all the way up to 50.

The naming numbers impressed me because counting is not Coryn's strong suit, but apparently pattern recognition is. She would pause and wait for me to name the multiples of ten (20, 30, 40) and then say the names (41, 42, 43) of he numbers following it.

There are plenty of ways to expand on this "lesson light." You could cut out your own little inchworm and use it to measure things. You could follow up by cutting out a "footworm" and a "yardworm." I suppose you could find a way to work in metric, but I think a good deal of the reason metric never caught on was because "centimeterworm" will never be easy for young children to pronounce.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Random stuff from the last few days

Coryn has my camera again. I'm interested to see how these pictures turn out. A moment ago she was taking pictures exclusively of her shoes. She's getting a toy camera (a vtech one that takes actual photos) for Christmas, but she doesn't know this yet. It's pink, so she should be into that.

It's a relief to be done shopping for Coryn. I'm holding up a stop sign for myself because last year I got done early and then found other stuff and ended up getting her much too much. This year, she's getting a little bit less, but I was very careful to pick out stuff I think she'll really like, like the camera. She'll be only a month away from having a brother or sister (we still don't know which) at this point. She's already interested in the baby paraphernalia I've started to collect. I bought a used play mat with a bunch of hanging toys over it and she's lying on it right now talking to the little jungle animals over her head.

Every time I bring home something new (or used) for the baby, Coryn has to inspect it to determine whether or not it has play value. Then the cat normally goes over to see if it has "nap value." I had to put a blanket over the car seat to prevent Kamikaze from shedding all over it. This poor baby is never going to have anything special just for itself.

Coryn can write her name now and knows what letters most words start with, or can figure it out. The other day she wrote her name almost perfectly on the bottom of her picture so I told her she'd done a good job and we'd show her Daddy when he got home. A little later I was messing with a pile of laundry that I had to fold but didn't want to and she laughed and said, "Mommy, that looks like a mountain. We should show Daddy when he gets home."

She's good at turning things I say to her back on me. For instance, I'm always complimenting how much she is growing and wrapping up clothes she is too big for to send back to her younger cousin back home, and the other day she saw me getting dressed and said, "Mommy, your underwear are tight. You've grown too big for them. You're getting so big!" Getting so big in my case is not such a great thing, though I suppose pregnancy is a good reason to be tubby.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Free time?

K, Coryn is in bed. Now what. . .I used to know what to do with my free time. Now I always want it and when it comes I'm just assaulted by the 900 things I'm always saying that I would do if I had more time, and by the time I've decided, my free time is gone. Maybe I should make a jar where I can reach in and randomly draw an activity to do. . .Yeah, I'll put that jar together. In my free time.

So, crochet?
Copy more of the recipes I have on loose paper scraps into my new recipe book?
Do some stretching to relieve neck tension?
Read something?
Write something (technically, I'm writing something right now . . . hey! I must've made some sort of decision). . .

oh wait, eat something, I'm hungry.
No, I'm not, I'm thirsty and that is tricking my mind into thinking I'm hungry.
I should probably take my contacts out now. It's getting late. I wonder when Matt is going to want to go to bed tonight.

Duh duh duh duh duh duh duh duh BATMAN! (I've been wanting to say that all night)

Nothing on TV right now so at least I'm not wasting time doing that, though if I were I could also be crocheting at the same time. Wow, that would be awesome. . . I think a drink of water then stretching is going to win out. Yeah, definitely need to work my neck and back before bed or I'm not going to sleep to night.

Off to youtube to search for prenatal relaxation stretches. See you later!