Oh, Christmas Tree…Oh, Christmas Tree!

The first weekend in December:  I hauled up the Christmas tree box from the basement. I didn’t even get it set down on the floor and the boys were trying to tear into it like it was a present on Christmas day. “You have to wait. This is just the Christmas tree. Mommy is going to set it up. THEN you can help put the ornaments on,” I said. This seemed to appease the little Christmas beasts.

I pulled out the pieces. The top, middle and bottom. Gotta love these new trees that practically come put together, lights and all. No more sorting branches by faded color stickers at the end of each branch. No more waiting for Dad to put the lights on the tree.

 Oh, the childhood memories I have of pacing while waiting for the tree to be ready. Trying to wait patiently as my Dad made piles of similar sized branches. Getting anxious and digging through the boxes of ornaments to decide which ones to hang first.

“Dad, are you almost done?” and “Dad, can we hang the ornaments yet?” and “Dad…Dad…Dad…” We probably pestered him the whole time, but he kept working away, meticulously straightening branches and hanging lights. Now, I am the same way about straightening each branch, making sure the lights are strung around evenly. Thanks, Dad, for passing on this obsessive behavior about how the tree should look.

When I was pulling the tree out a sparkly green ball bounced across the hardwood floor. I recognized it immediately. It was one of Grandma Jean’s ornaments from last year.

I miss her. She would be so happy we are putting up her tree. I can hear her now, “Isn’t that a nice tree? Look how each branch is so perfect and how all the lights sparkle. It is a beautiful tree. Uncle Steve picked that tree out special for me (every year he would come and help her set up the tree and even come back and take it down. What a good son. I hope one of my kids will do that for me when I am old),” I can hear her now, as I sit here thinking about her. I can see her in her beige leather recliner int he big living room, crocheting away on a multicolored afghan, watching tv, and admiring her tree.

 

If she were here now, I know she would want to see all of our trees. She would ask, “What do the babies think of the tree?” and she would remind me (even though I know) to “make sure you keep the ornaments away from the babies. They could swallow one of those hooks. You have to keep them safe. Get down on the floor and make sure a hook didn’t fall off that you didn’t see. You have to be real careful. Run your hands along the floor.”  And even though I know this, I would reply, “Okay, Grandma,” and I would probably tell her about how I have the tree set up on a card table in the living room so none of the little ones can reach it. And she would say, “I know, hunny. You take such good care of those babies,” and she would tell me how proud she is of me. Man, I love her and miss her. 

It was a trial and error with the trees this year. I put up two. A small one and a regular sized one. I put up the little tree first just to see what the kids think of it…and I was also making sure they weren’t going to try to climb it. I set it up on a small table in the corner. I put the ottoman in front of the table and a small chest ont the other side. The twins couldn’t reach it, but it was still a bad idea. Collin just used the items as step stools to get right up to the tree.

See what happens when my back is turned?!

Needless to say, it was moved. I also used a taller table for the large tree so there were no stepping stools. One of these days when the kids are older and I am able to put the tree on the floor, like normal people do, they are going to be confused. I can hear them already, “Why is the tree ont the floor, Mom?”

I located the plugs on each different part of the tree and had that thing standing upright and lit in five minutes. Hallelujah!

I put Grandma’s sparkly green ornament right by a white light so it sparkles and glitters all the time.

I love Christmas. I love all of the memories, even ones as simple as a small ornament.

xxx

October/November Recap

It has been so crazy here I haven’t blogged in a while. I feel like I have missed a lot. So I am just going to condense it into one big recap.

First we had Bradley’s 6th birthday.

And then my birthday.

Then Halloween. The kids got a lot of candy. I ate a large amount of chocolate.

 

 

 

 

 

And the day after Halloween was Elsie and Mallie’s first birthday. They really chowed down on the cake.

And the day after that was Brad’s birthday. And then Grandpa Don’s birthday.

And then my computer went haywire, not all by itself though… partly because of me. But thanks again, Dad, for fixing it.

And between all of that was the everyday jobs of keeping up with dishes, laundry, and all that fun stuff.

And finally a break!

It has been so busy I kind of felt like this (check out the video below). DIZZY!

It just makes me dizzy watching it. The first time Collin did it, he stood up and fell over. It was hilarious. I guess he learned, because from then on he just crawled afterward.

Actually, this is just one example of Brad’s way of entertaining himself with the kids on Sunday when he is watching football. I guess you have to do something with those commercial breaks.

xxx

Pumpkin Carving

The newspaper covered the linoleum floor. We sat the fat pumpkin with the chewed up stalk (thanks to our dog Mickey) on the kitchen floor, ready to be carved. I examined the knifes in my kitchen. I picked the one I thought was sharpest and started cutting the lid. It was hard and I was barely making any progress. I scanned my knife selection again and chose an old one. It was skinny and extra pointy at the end with a good angle to it, it looked like a Jack the Ripper knife, perfect for Halloween. It cut right through the pumpkin flesh.

My job for pumpkin carving is simple. I cut the lid and help the kids clean out the pumpkin. Brad carves the face. Before I had kids I would spend hours designing and carving elaborate designs on numerous pumpkins. Now with so many little ones and limited time, we carve one or two and clean it the best we can. A little innards left gives it a spooky feel. I forget about the day of a perfectly smooth and even flesh of the inside of the pumpkin. I have forgotten about the elaborate designs. We go by Bradley’s ideas on how he wants his Jack-o-lantern face. It always ends up really cute. Oh, and my other job is snapping a lot of pictures until Brad grumbles so much that I just put the camera away…for a few minutes.

My favorite part about carving pumpkins is that last cut and pulling up the lid. I love the smell of the fresh pumpkin that rolls out when you pull off the lid, the strings and seeds trying to hang on to the inside, even though they have no chance of clinging on. I love digging my hands in the slime and pulling out all the junk and seeds. I love the smell. I love feeling the cold fall nights that are stored in there.

We did pretty good and it went pretty well. I rolled up Collin’s sleeves and the boys dug in, grabbing handfuls of pumpkin brains, as Bradley calls it. For the first few minutes they did good working together. It didn’t last, though. Before I knew it they were thunking each other on the head with theirs spoons and throwing pumpkin guts at each other.

“Mom! Collin just hit me,” Bradley whines.

Collin stands up and points at Bradley and yells something back. I’m assuming he is trying to whine and yell back to defend himself. It’s the same tone as Bradley’s. They stick their tongues out at each other and bicker.

I eventually get them on track, after I sit back and enjoy a little bit of the show. Because I know one day they will look back at these time and miss them. I miss fighting with my sister over silly things.

“Mom, it’s a pumpkin until you cut it. When you make a face on it, it’s a jack-o-lantern.” Bradley is very particular about which is which.

I’m very particular about my pumpkins, too. I like a clean-cut so you can see the light of the flickering candle shining through. I also like a properly cut lid. This means some sort of crazy shape that kinda resembles an octagon with way too many irregular sides. I don’t like a pumpkin lid cut around in a circle. It’s too hard to figure out which way the lid goes on. I like an obvious shape to match up. It’s really quite obvious if you think about it. You always know which way to pop on the lid.

We turned on our fake plastic candles and the boys dropped them in. We turned off the light and admired our jack-o-lantern.

I love Halloween!

xxx

Bradley’s 6th Birthday

It’s the anticipation, the excitement, the adrenaline…of a birthday when you’re young.

The waiting for a whole entire year and the day is finally here.

Bradley has been counting down the days since the first of October.

Each day he would say, “Twelve days left until my birthday, Mom.” Or, “Mom, only three days left,” and I could see the excitement in his eyes as he jumps up and down.

“I can’t wait to turn six, Mom. Almost everybody in my kindergarten class is six.”

My boy’s day is here. His special day.

The sugar rush from frosting and melting icecream getting soggy in cake.

The presents waiting to be torn open.

The great big birthday smile.

Running around with cousins up and down the stairs, being as noisy as possible.

What a great birthday party.

I love you. I am proud of you. I can’t believe my first baby boy is 6!

 

 

Just a Few More Bits & Pieces

I watch the kids play and they are getting so big. Bradley has a birthday in four days! I can’t believe he is going to be six. The girls will be one in less than a month! And Collin just turned two, and you can tell, he is perfecting the art of toddler temper tantrums lately.

Oh, my dear Collin. He is so cute and sweet…and ornery. He  does love helping. though. The other day at my sister’s house Elsie was crying. Collin jumped down from his chair at the dinner table and swiped Mallie’s pacifier from her mouth and stuck it in Elsie’s. He then got back up and finished eating. One less baby crying. Poor Mallie, but she didn’t seem to mind.

Collin also loves fighting with his brother. Oh, they torment each other so much. Sticking their tongues out at each other or making faces. Collin will steal Bradley’s markers when he is doing homework and take off running. It can be a regular zoo around here sometimes.

My sister and I were talking:

“Where do these boys get this orneryness? I mean, Jonas did those same things when he was little,” my sister said.

“I know, and so did Bradley,” I say. “Couldn’t be from us! They must get it from each of their Dad’s side,” and I can’t help but laugh.

“Remember that time Bradley got so mad at you for eating that cookie?”

“It was one of the greatest temper tantrums I have ever seen.”

And sweet Mallie, I can already tell she is going to be his partner in crime, like stealing pacifiers and chasing her sister. You can read more at this previous post and watch a video. It’s too funny.

The girls are starting to get too big for the sink. I’m going to start having to give them baths in the tub. But they are so cute in the sink.

Mallie’s bubble beard. She tried to eat the wash rag full of bubbles.

Mallie finally has two bottom teeth AND she took her first little baby step the other day. She holds on and walks around the furniture like a pro. It will be no time before she is walking and chasing Collin.

Below is Elsie waiting for her bath.

She is finally crawling and working on pulling herself up and standing by things. AND she is finally starting to pick up her own food with her fingers and eat. Mallie shovels it in. Elsie will sit there with her mouth open and screams until you feed her. I finally just walked away and left her with her favorite treat. She started picking it up and eating. FINALLY! I think sometimes she would prefer to have you do it. She was the same way with her bottle. She wouldn’t hold it either until I just left it on her chest. She finally quit crying and started holding her own bottle.

Elsie is also really into clapping right now. She claps when she is happy…and she claps when she is mad. Check out the video below.

They get big so quick. I just try to remember to slow down and enjoy the  little moments in this crazy, beautiful, busy life.

xxx

Where I’m From – Writer’s Workshop

WHERE I’M FROM

I am from friendship bracelets knotted and twisted from embroidery floss, jelly shoes and riding a ten speed when it was cool, from Nintendo, Mtv, and dial-up Internet .

I am from the hot summer days with freshly cut grass that sticks to the bottom of bare feet.

I am from stinky marigolds growing around the front porch steps, the streets lined with trees and painted mailboxes. 

I am from boating on the muddy Mississippi and boring parents who were home every night, from Linda and Jean and Lorraine.

I am from the dinner at the table every night at 5  and eat your vegetables.

From do your homework right when you get home from school and do your chores before you go out and play.

I am from sleeping in on Sundays and slumber parties, popcorn and movies, and of course, staying up late.

I’m from the heart of Illinois, Land of Lincoln, hamburgers and hotdogs on the grill, corn on the cob and cantaloupe.

From the nights watching Grandma Linda get ready for Bingo and her fancy perfume, the searching for four-leaf clovers for luck, “Here, Grandma! I just found one for you!” From picking tomatoes and chasing lightning bugs on Grandma Jean’s farm, hot sticky days splashing in an old washbucket.

I am from a box of Polaroids and faded pictures on my parent’s back porch. Some scattered here, others scattered there, old pictures in frames sitting against the attic wall. The old ones tucked safely away, the new ones hanging on the living room wall, smiling grandkids around a Christmas tree.

Thanks Mom and Dad. I love where I’m from.
Mama’s Losin’ It

This post was from the amazing Mama Kat, I just love her site (link on the button above). I had so much fun doing this exercise. If you want to give it a try you can find the template here…and don’t forget to share your link!

Grandma Jean’s Story

“Grandma Jean’s Story”

It was a perfect day at the beach. A light salty breeze blew the rim of my Grandma’s big sun hat, threatening to blow it out to sea. She pulled it down harder on her head with both hands and tied the pink ribbon under her chin with a tight loopy bow. I love the way her hands look, paper-thin with old freckles blotching the tops of them. She had delicate hands, artist’s hands, that would never harm you. She would often pat my back or rub my arms, telling me how much she loves me and how good I am. She was so soft and kind.

Her fingers were unique. I remember studying them when I was little. The very tips of two of her fingers on her right hand were slightly gone, giving them a claw like appearance. The nails curled around her skin and grew close, protecting an old injury. They were still pretty hands. They were hers.

She lost them while driving a bus. It broke down when she opened the hood, I think a belt cut them off. I wish I would have listened to that story more closely. She’s not here to tell it anymore. Even though she wasn’t one to go on about an old story; she just lived and loved all her kids, grandkids, and great grandkids with all her heart.

Grandma Jean, North Carolina

“Hunny, we need to get you a big hat like this. You should always wear a hat out in the sun to protect your face. You have such beautiful skin.”

“Okay, Grandma,” I said, pacifying her. At that time I would never be caught dead wearing a thing like that; silk hot pink flowers tucked around the ribbon. I was 23.

It’s 6 am and I’m not sure why I’m up so early. I have never seen the sunrise over the ocean before, at least not that I could remember. Still, it’s so early but I dragged my butt out of bed to go with grandma.

She always found the best treasures on the beach early in the morning. Large conch shells, small colorful shells that looked like gems in the sand, and perfect driftwood that was smooth and worn from the crashing waves. We once dragged half a tree across the beach and through many states just to get it home for her.

It’s been years and the driftwood is still around, propped up against pots of geraniums and petunias on the back porch. Unfortunately grandma is not here, but she left us with perfect memories.

We would spend several weeks on the North Carolina beach. The whole family packed into a beach house. One of my favorite memories is Grandma insisting that she was just going to sit in the sand and let the waves swish over her feet. “Okay, Grandma. We’re going to go swim and play around in the sand.”

A while later we noticed Grandma waving her big ol’ bonnet above her head as if she was trying to flag down a plane. “Kids! Help! Come here!”  High tide was coming in and the waves were almost to her waist. We ran and helped her up before she was washed out to sea. That is the thing I loved about her. She may not have the best mobility, but she enjoyed herself and lived in the moment. I love her for that.

Even the memories that embarrassed me at age 8 are treasures now. My grandma always took my sister, cousin, and me to the grocery store. It was not uncommon for us to be several aisles over with grandma yelling for us, “Amanda, where are you guys at? Do you want chicken for supper?” What were we supposed to do, yell back over the aisles? Instead, we rushed back over so she wouldn’t get to aisle ten and be yelling across the whole store. I think it’s hilarious now. It’s just grandma.

I need to go buy myself a big hat with a floppy brim. I would not be embarassed to wear it now. She taught me so much. I miss her.

xxx

This post is part of Mama Kat’s Pretty Much World Famous Writing Workshop. You can read her immensely entertaining blog by clicking here.

Thanks for stopping by!

I’m Just Doodling

In Memory of Grandma Jean

August 18, 1928 – July 27, 2011

We made her a scrapbook for her birthday and matted some of her trees.

She would always say, “I’m just doodling.” But to me all her “doodles” are a work of art. They’re unique, like a signature. They are all her.

You could find them doodled on the newspaper, winding their branches through columns and supporting a title. You could find them on the back of receipts in blue ink. You could find them on paper towels as you cleared the table, light pencil markings instead of a spaghetti stain. You could find them on the back of envelopes or unopened mail. You could find them in sketchbooks, upside down, sideways, and every which way. Pencil, ink, markers; all sorts of mediums will do. Mix and match them, doodle some flowers or ducks on them, add a picket fence and an old barn in the background. But they were always trees; bare branched trees reaching to the sky, gnarly trees resting below, skinny trees, fat trees, free-flowing trees. They were always trees…  occasionally you would come across one with leaves, but most of the time they were bare branched trees, bare naked trees, skeletal trees, robust old trees, dead trees, skinny trees, trees trees, trees… I remember the lines, lots and lots of lines, engraving the bark into the paper, marking their passage of time. 

“I’m just doodling,” she would say. 

But I wont find her sitting in her light beige leather recliner anymore; sketchbook propped up on her knees and colored pencils on each end table next to her, and in her chair, and underneath the recliner. They were everywhere. Drawers were filled with colored pencils, markers, pens,  crochet hooks, candy for her and the grandkids, and who knows what else in her little art drawers…jewelry, kleenex, a baggie full of change, a pack of saltines, you just never know.

I remember when I was little trying to copy her trees. The side of my palm would have pencil all over it because I would smear it through the whole picture, trying to go back and make it better.  It was close, but just not the same. They are as unique as nature makes them, they are one of a kind. They are my grandma.

I love and miss you, Grandma.

xxx

Beach Days

Our feet made prints in the thick coarse sand as we made our way down to the water’s edge. It felt like bath water. You had to swim around to find a cold spot, which would only last a minute. But there is nothing like plunging your head under the water on a hot and steamy day.

Bradley and Cedrik liked to go to the edge of the sand and run full blast into the water, the sand and water spraying like they were doing burn outs at top speed. I imagine this is why I had to spray Bradley off real good with the hose after we went swimming, he had sand everywhere, which I would imagine would be quite uncomfortable in the long run.

Collin waddled and waded into the water, following his brothers. He had no fear. He looked so cute with his big life jacket, pale spiky hair, and the bridge of his nose getting a little pink. My little swimmer baby. I really had to keep a hold of him, otherwise he ended up floating upside down with his life jacket. I’m sure he swallowed a little of that water, probably as much as he splashed and made a racket. He loved the water though.

Cedrik also entertained us with flips and cartwheels off the dock (the deep end, which I think was the only cold part of the lake), his long skinny limbs flying in every direction.

Crazy kids. They are so much fun.

xxx

Are We There Yet?

Day 1:  July 8, 2011

The bachelor buttons dotted the edge of the highway and the Queen Anne’s Lace lazily swayed in the wind, waving her good byes as we sped past on Highway 67. I followed the boys in the Intrepid and the girls and I were in my car, the back-end piled to the ceiling with camping gear, baby bouncers, and walkers, and just about everything else. The twins were fast asleep and the morning’s fresh air and solitude engulfed me as I pushed play to listen to Neil Gaiman tell me a story (I love audio books). The day couldn’t be more perfect, sunshine and clovers on an old highway and my favorite author reading to me.

The peacefulness only lasted about half way there. Mallie started crying, Elsie started screaming. There was nowhere to pull over. I called the boys on the cell phone, “Pull over when we get a chance. The babies are hungry.” It seemed to be an eternity before there was a spot to pull over. And just to let you know, it feels like torture having to hear my babies cry and there is nothing I can do about it for the moment. I talked and tried to soothe them, “Don’t worry baby girls. We’re almost there. Mommy make you a nice big bottle. It’s alright. Shhh…” and so on. It didn’t phase them, but it made me feel a little better. And man, I am one of the fastest bottle makers in the midwest. Brad said, “Hurry up, the train is coming,” and I mixed those bottles so fast and we beat the train. After 20 minutes of baby tears, I just wanted to get there. The scenery changed from farms to forests and we sped along the highway at 55 mph leaving a screaming wake behind us.

The trees seemed to be getting greener and the forest thicker, I could tell we were almost there. “Eight miles left,” I called back to the twins. “We’re going over Panther Creek,” and “I think we are almost there. I bet you it’s around this corner. I know I said that about the last curve, but I have a feeling about this one.” It was only a three-hour drive, but I like to talk. Soon enough they will start answering me.

As we pulled away from the park office a tall statue of Yogi Bear greeted us with sun gleaming off of him in every direction, he is the star of the park. Pansies, petunias, and geraniums lay at his feet and the shady green trees swayed their welcoming arms. Ferns and moss lined the little white bridge and ornamental rocks were tucked in by the hostas and Impatients. We finally made it and I couldn’t wait to get the crying babies out of the car. The first couple of hours weren’t bad for them, they slept and played. But that last hour was hell for me and them.

We followed the wooden signs along the dusty road looking for campsite 420, number 3. It was like stepping into another world after we entered the gate; RV’s, tents, cute wooden cabins that look like they should be on the front of a syrup bottle, a fish weighing station, and lots of playgrounds. I could tell we were going to have a great time.

“Amanda! Hey guys! Come here. You got to check this out,” Brad and Taigyn yelled from the cabin window. I was already impressed with the quaint cabin and nice little porch and cement patio, but the boys absolutely loved the bunk beds stacked three high. They were up the ladders like monkeys and claiming their sleeping spots, even though the older boys were sleeping in the tent part of the time.

The boys unloaded the cars in assembly line fashion and I organized the cabin as quick as they were bringing the bags and boxes to me. The girls were much happier to be in their bouncer and walker. They even welcomed the playpen, anything to get out of the car seats. I think Collin was in disbelief over all of the space and new wondering places to explore. He was off and running toward the lake first thing. “Get back here. You can’t go in without us!”

It took no time at all to get unloaded, organized, and the tent up. The older boys rented a paddle boat and checked out the lake. They already looked sun burnt as the peddled by me on the lake, waving and yelling.

Yogi even visited us at our cabin.

So much to do…I couldn’t wait to get to the beach and swim.

More to come. Bye for now.

xxx

***Note: not all the pictures are in order. They are just some of my favorites.***