Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Today was a snow day as the flakes were flying fast and furious at 6 a.m. when the decision had to be made. The forecast called for five more inches throughout the day, though we ended up only getting about three and it really was easy to get around in town. But that wasn't known at decision time, so there we all were. I stayed home from work with the boys. John went in a little late after scooping the first layer off the driveway.

We met some friends at school for sledding (see, we could easily get there, just couldn't go inside) and had a good time. Edward's buddy had a snow board that he wasn't too keen on, so Edward kind of monopolized it. His success can be attributed to perseverance and the fresh, wet snow that kind of slowed things down. The sledding actually wasn't that great as the sleds kept getting bogged down in the wet, mounding snow, but it was perfect for a newbie snowboarder.

After that it was home for lunch, where I ultimately lost my cool in the face of one of my own worst childhood traits reflected in my children. The boys took minuscule bites of the macaroni & cheese I prepared (after they rejected my suggestion of pb&j) and announced it was gross and wouldn't eat it. It happened to be a new variety I'd seen on special--Betty Crocker's attempt to enter the mac&cheese marketplace. I couldn't tell you what was wrong with it. I despise mac&cheese in all forms so of course I didn't taste it and wouldn't know how it differed from any other brand. (Note: these are boys who do not object to the generic store brand in place of Kraft.)

Having spent 20 minutes gagging over the smell while making it, I can tell you I was not a model of maturity in response to their rejection. I announced that they would eat it or nothing else the rest of the day and stormed down to the basement to do some laundry. Sorting the whites and colors apparently soothed my soul and returned my sense of empathy so that when they came down to say they weren't hungry anyway, I took a deep breath and asked if they wanted something else instead. Cheese and crackers all around.

We totally used to do that to my mom as kids and I honestly don't know how she didn't just slap a jar of peanut butter on the table and walk away. We would only eat certain kinds of pizza (certainly not the fundraiser pizzas my parents spent hours making to support our Catholic school.) We would not stoop to the level of jar pasta sauce--homemade or nothing! My grandma once made us mashed potatoes from a box and we acted like she was trying to poison us.

It's a good thing time travel is impossible because the 2013 me probably would have bolted back today to throttle the 1983 me. Oh well...

We followed up this lowlight with an hour of quiet time--e.g. separate corners. Boys to their rooms and me to a quiet lunch and a Gilmore Girls rerun.

Here's what the boys were up to--I'd say it was a win for all. (Note: LONG videos; I simply don't have the energy for editing.)

Then we snuggled on the couch with Swiss Family Robinson, the Disney movie, and they boys were totally enchanted with the multi-room, multi-level treehouse. We didn't finish though because although school was canceled, rec department basketball went on as scheduled. The first night for both boys. Edward had told me he only wanted to play this time if he got to be on a team other than the Bulls (he's played in two other sessions and just happened to be a Bull each time; he did NOT want a third Bulls t-shirt.) There was no way to know ahead of time, but with a huge sigh of relief, he was given a Pacers t-shirt for this session.

Daniel is in his first class and just as intense as he was about tee-ball last summer. Of course, if he ever becomes a big star (ha!) we'll have to recall that he went to his first practice in worn out, left-over-from-Edward shoes I found in the garage because we'd left his regular shoes at school.

Didn't slow him down.

Monday, January 21, 2013

This is a post for posterity. The making of The Snowman.

As noted previously, John and I spent an afternoon in three different hardware stores seeking snowman construction materials with limited success. At one point we thought our best option might be to stack three progressively smaller planter pots together, but seemed iffy and would have gotten kind of expensive. Later that day, John poked around online and found a site that demonstrated how to make humongous papier-mâché pumpkins from large plastic garbage bags stuffed with newspaper. Inspiration.

So with a couple of  papier-mâché books from the library, we set about our work. The boys' interest was sustained for about 5-10 minutes at a time, so this turned out to be about 95% John's project. By the end even he was admitting he was getting a bit obsessive about it. But in the beginning, he did have help with the paper ripping. 

Then came the first layer of  papier-mâché  Edward painted about five or six brush strokes and then left John to his work.

We had to buy extra large drum liner garbage bags for the bottom ball then regular black Hefty and white kitchen liner bags for the middle and top.

Clearly the enthusiasm levels were not equal at this point in the project. Here the balls are simply stacked.

The next step was to  papier-mâché them together. At each step, several layers were required with time to dry in between. So it's easy to see how this project stretched through the entire month of December. A final layer of blank newsprint (left over packing paper from our move four years ago!) went over the whole thing so that the ink wouldn't show through the white paint. 

Then it was time to paint. Once again, there was great enthusiasm at the donning of the painting smocks, but each boy limited himself to about three or four brush strokes before leaving the rest to John. Through it all, my primary role was documentarian and flour and water whisker. If you ever need a batch of  papier-mâché goo, you know who to call. On second thought...

This is where things got a bit obsessive and I don't have pictures of each successive step. Creating the top hat involved  papier-mâché-ing the inside of an old stock pot, cutting the brim from a large cardboard box, attaching the two with  papier-mâché and then painting the whole thing black. But the paint we had didn't quite cove,r and when John got more it wasn't quite the same gloss, leaving an uneven finish. He was fretting over this before I reminded him, "You know, Frosty's hat rolled down the street before they put it on him so it was probably not pristine." Yes, this was the level of our pre-Christmas discourse.

The eyes were balls of aluminum foil covered in and attached with  papier-mâché.  The nose a rolled up cardboard piece. The mouth, a set of buttons. And voilà! A Christmas morning masterpiece!

John's hope was that the snowman would last at least the number of cumulative hours it took to create him, which he estimated at about 24--one full day of his life for a  papier-mâché snowman. As I write almost a month later, he is still standing and the only tragedy has been a nose amputation, which was my fault. 
One of the boys was lifting it over his head to get out and it started tipping forward. Afraid that it would smash to the ground, I put out my hand to catch it and ended up dislodging the nose. It's been taped back on, but looks a bit forlorn. There may be a nose transplant in our future. After all, Frosty himself did have "a corncob pipe and a button nose and two eyes made out of coal!"
The boys have the day off from school for MLK Jr. Day (teachers have in-service training.) In the middle of a Harry Potter role play (Daniel actually got to be Ron this time instead of his usual Hedwig, the owl) "Harry" suggested a game of chess. Edward has only learned the game since Christmas, but he's been an eager student and does pretty well. Daniel has watched, but hasn't taken an active interest. He agreed to play but it soon became clear that Edward had forgotten how often he was allowed to "take back" a move as he was learning. He was actively encouraging Daniel, "Here, Daniel, your bishop can take my pawn right here." Only to smash said bishop with his own. I tried to explain why that was not fair, and I think he understood, but had no inclination to change his tactics. The game was set aside in favor of some electronic entertainment, but for just a little while, our boys looked like this.

Oh, and Edward gave himself a Harry Potter scar with (washable) marker this morning.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Daniel had a fabulous day turning 5. Several weeks ago, in need of a distraction to put an end to an uncontrollable bout of dinnertime sillies, I got a pad of paper and pen and asked the boys to describe the birthday cakes they wanted to have this year. Daniel was very specific about wanting a vanilla rectangle cake with chocolate frosting and green letters. Last year's Buzz Lightyear candle was to make a return as well as a number 5 candle. I think you can see he was pleased with how I executed his vision.

Opening presents was hilarious as he was so overcome with excitement he was heard to utter, "This is so great! Thank you!! What is it?"

He knew what this was and insisted on having his tabletop foosball assembled immediately, so John and Grandma got right to work.

Then Grandpa did the honors, supervising the first game. This is definitely a hit, but even though it's a two-player game, requires adult supervision to keep the competitive streaks in check. Also, to ensure a third party to rule on outraged calls of "Cheater McBeater!!"

Happy Birthday to our little rock star! (Who would object strenuously to the use of the word "little" in reference to any aspect of his being.)

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Last night over Grandma's birthday cake, we were discussing Edward's snowman and how it's a good thing Santa didn't have to bring him since he's so big and bulky. I said he might have needed to call in an extra reindeer. "You know, Joe, one of the reserve reindeer." Edward just gave me a "whatever Mom" kind of look, but Daniel, who had already left the table but was lingering on the stairs waiting for Edward piped up: "What about New Jersey?"

We asked for more information.

"New Jersey," he said. "You know, the famous reindeer who died when someone pulled off his antlers."

Um. O.K. We asked a lot of questions trying to determine if this was something he'd heard in a book at school or seen on TV. It appears that he has invented this tale out of whole cloth. And he has more details.

  • New Jersey is so strong he can pull an ox with a wooden wagon carrying four people
  • New Jersey was 102 when he died but he's 106 now. (note: I think that's just the way he indicates that the death occurred 4 years ago. When we talk about Will, we say he would be eight now even though he was a baby when he died.)
  • New Jersey was de-antlered by Eli--not the one in my class, but just someone with that same name (note: Daniel has had some trouble with his classmate Eli's aggressive behavior including a pretty brutal scratching incident just before the winter break.)
Stay tuned for further details in the evolving story of New Jersey the famous reindeer.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

It is only fitting that I waited until the day after we took down our tree to share our "Deck the Halls" pictures.  It's been almost a month since we started our decorating--the day after John's birthday. He says it's not necessary to wait, but in an era when Christmas decorations seem to go up before Halloween, I think it's a nice way to keep a bit of a lid on it.

We started with Will's tree--star ornaments per Edward's request. In addition to those we always give to our immediate family, we also got to give a few away to friends this year who we didn't know eight years ago, but who have heard Will's story and seemed touched to be included in this tradition of keeping his memory.

We put our tree up about 10 days before Christmas, leaving it in its stand to warm while we went to celebrate with John's extended family in Chariton. I thought having this to look forward to might be a nice reward for a long day of driving, but I think I probably should have made it its own occasion as we might all have been a little too tired/crabby for such festivity.

The tree was a bit bottom heavy, as usual, but I really wouldn't have it any other way. (Also, it wasn't leaning. I think I must have been holding the camera askew.)

And finally, a blast from the past this year as Edward's religious education class discussed St. Nicholas during their class the night of his feast day, Dec. 5. The teachers had the kids take their shoes off and line them up in a corner and while they were distracted with the evening's activities, St. Nicholas "came" and left a treat in each shoe. The teachers then explained that St. Nicholas would come to their house if they left their shoes out overnight. WHAT!? Of course, I am fully aware of this tradition, having grown up in St. Nicholas parish, and left my shoes out as a child. But we've never incorporated it as a family since Dec. 5 is John's birthday and we kind of have enough going on in December. I thought it was decidedly UNhelpful to share this with the kids at 6:30 on the night St. Nicholas is supposed to travel! Luckily, I had already purchased two Angry Birds ornaments as Christmas presents for the boys and I happened to have a bag of holiday Reece's peanut butter cups in the cupboard.

In hindsight I'm glad Edward brought this story home. It didn't take much to make them quite giddy with excitement.

And P.S. both of these pairs of shoes (purchased only at the beginning of the school year) have had to be retired in recent weeks. Boo for Skechers, which are apparently THE shoes to have in first grade. Daniel's (on the left) soles wore completely through, and the velcro closure on Edward's (right) stopped sticking. Daniel's were purchased at Penny's, which graciously accepted the return (I'd saved the receipt in the shoebox) and exchanged them for a different brand. Edward's were from Famous Footwear, which would not take a return, but suggested contacting Skechers directly. I emailed my complaint and received a prompt but unhelpful response--I am more than welcome to mail the shoes (at my expense) to Skechers in California and wait 4-6 weeks while they decide whether they are at fault for the failure. If so, they'd send a new pair, but if not, I'd just be out of luck, having sunk another 10 bucks or so into the cause. I decided to scrap it and just order a pair of Nikes, which should be here by the end of the week. Luckily, Edward had a pair of shoes in reserve, as Famous Footwear was having a buy one/get one sale when we shopped.
We kicked off the family Christmas celebrations with a trip to Chariton in mid-December to gather with John's mom's side of the family. A good time was had by all as we shared a meal, 
played some games, 
opened presents, 
and then moved the party to the nursing home to enjoyed some desserts with Great-Grandma.
Edward and Nick fashion footwear
We were only sorry to miss John's cousin Luke and family, but they were eagerly awaiting the newest member of their family (born 12/29!) and unable to travel so close to the due date. Hmmm...sounds familiar!

The next weekend, we traveled to Evanston to celebrate with my family the Saturday before Christmas. What do you do when it's the dead of winter and you have 14 people ranging in age from 3 to 67 in need of entertainment? Well, if you happen to be a Geraghty, you go bowling!

Showing the kids how it's done.
It was the first time bowling for our kids and my sisters'. We had two lanes and employed the gutter bumpers on both to minimize the youthful frustration. 
Turned out, we all benefited, because basically, we all stink at bowling. 
Both Daniel and one of his cousins (Katherine?) managed to throw the ball in such a way as to send it OVER the bumper and into the gutter.  Only four members of our party even broke 100. 
But we had fun together and that's what counts.