I LOVE pancakes. I love pancakes even more than I used to since my mom showed me how to make them with a slightly crispy edge. It's a perfect breakfast- pancakes (with butter and syrup) and lots of coffee flavored with Italian sweet cream.
I thought all kids loved pancakes too. When I was a kid, my mom used to pour the pancake batter into shapes. I've done that for my kids- they are unimpressed.
Frankie is off at dance practice with her dad, so it's just Luci and me. Nobody, except me, wanted pancakes yesterday morning. I still want them. I told Luci I was going to make pancakes, and he (bite your tongue) said he didn't like pancakes. Well now, I know that couldn't possibly be true; besides, I have seen him eat pancakes. So I did what any desperate mother would do. I tackled him away from his monster car crushing game, pinned him down and asked him again. "Will you eat pancakes if I make them?" He said NO with an impish gleam in his eye. I knew he meant war. I proceed to chew on his shoulders; he's terribly ticklish, chew on his rib cage, and then as a last resort, I did a disgusting-only-mothers and fathers-can do maneuver. Now minding you, he was laughing and egging me on the whole time! I licked his eye! He squealed and then promised to eat a pancake-if I made him a hot chocolate in one of the special snowman mugs. So we shook hands on it and headed off to the kitchen. On the way there he said, "Mom, I have a present for you." I leaned down close asking what it was. He licked my eye!
It all begins with choosing up sides. Me and Daddy against the kids, but then Luci wants to change sides. We set up bases, from which no one is supposed to leave, but we all do anyway. We leave the base, sneak around corners and fire. The challenge lies in the fact that some of us have single shot Nerf guns, while the other team has a mobile machine gun. We hadn't set up our stationary machine gun yet. The dog had recently chewed up parts of the belt, so we were trying to figure out a quick repair. Anytime I could hear the machine gun getting pumped up, I would make a run to the other side for a few quick direct shots at close range. Then I'd run. Luci kept running over to our base to steal our ammunition. Frankie and I had several really good shots. Daddy hid around a corner; I had been watching his reflection in one of the pictures off the opposite wall, before he moved too far out of the reflection. I knew he was there, but patience is not one of my better virtues. I leaned out to take a random shot and the bullets started to fly. I made a quick roll behind a couch and headed for the stairwell, where I thought I might find safety. No luck. I had nowhere to go and was taken out in the stairwell by a shower of Nerf bullets. It was all up to Frankie, but she didn't last too much longer. Daddy and Luci were triumphant! The gloating will begin, but there is always tomorrow morning.
Birthdays should always be celebrated with cake and loved-ones.
Frankie recently turned nine, which in of itself is hard to believe. We celebrated her birthday a few days early, on Thanksgiving, because family would be with us.
Along with all the other wonderful Thanksgiving foods, including the world's most awesome stuffing (I know at least a dozen people who would agree with me), traditional pies and cookies, there had to be a cake. Which I started at 10pm, as Emily knows this is not the most common cake-baking time.
Frankie has recently decided she is fascinated by sharks and wants to be a marine biologist for sharks. I always try to make sure that the cakes I make are special for the birthday celebrant. My husband gets a homemade cake- dark chocolate with a homemade dark chocolate frosting. The cake is so dark it is black! This year, Luci had candle-cars driving on a rough black road of sprinkles by rolling green hills of sugary delightfulness.
The rule, at least the rule I made up for the family,is on birthdays is that you can eat cake all day long, so ideally it is ready when you first wake up. With all the Thanksgiving hustle and bustle, Frankie was not going to wake up able to eat her cake. But, it's a rule, so on the actual day of her birthday, she woke up to yummy yellow cupcakes with swirls of homemade chocolate frosting, which I also baked late at night; hmm, I may have to change my mind and say that baking cakes late at night is actually quite normal, at least in my abnormal world!
I was determined that her cake would be spectacular, especially since she was going to have to wait until after dinner to indulge. I spent time debating with myself as to how to go about making a shark cake. Should it be shark shaped? Shark-scary or shark-cute? Well, I decided to go with a regularly shaped, shark-cute decorated cake. It was a hit! It turned out swimmingly well! She had an early celebration with family and cake- just as it should be. And of course, we celebrated again, on the actual day, with our own little family and more cake.
I love Christmas. I love the sudden rebirth of common courtesy, the recalled traditions, and the smiles of strangers passing by. I took twelve big bins out of the attic, filled with lights, decorations and ornaments.The kids' excitement grew with every bin I brought into the house.
As I opened each bin, they oohed and ahhed, told me they remembered this one and that one was their favorite, and quickly volunteered to find it a place in the house. They love the decorations that sing songs, play music or light up and move. Hallmark has secured a place in their hearts already. We play Christmas music and drink hot chocolate out of mugs shaped like snowmen, complete with top hat lids, that I purchased before I had children just for these days.
White lights for the outside, icicle lights of course, and as many colorful lights as I can get wrapped on the tree. Of course, there are always the lights that stop working once they're up, or the occasions when I blow out the lights because I have connected too many together.
But these minor setbacks, although they do inspire most of frustration and angst, contribute to the whole process that is Christmas.
We cut a tree down every year. It takes an hour walking around discussing this one and that, saying, "How about this one?" "No, I like this one better." It's too tall." We finally narrow it down to two or three and then run back and forth between them, eyeing them up, appraising their fine shapes and straight trunks. We decide and then begin to cut it down. The kids each get a turn with the saw. We drink hot chocolate in styrofoam cups, eat fried doughnuts with frosting that's too sweet and take our tree home.
The tree brings its own set of problems, like the lights, the trunk won't fit in the stand, it's not straight, it needs to be trimmed, it drops needles that we won't find until we step on them with our bare feet in July, and of course, there is always that fear that once it's up and decorated it will fall over or leak water and make the wood floors buckle and warp. But it wouldn't be Christmas without every joy and every trial.
And so, as I get older, I realize more and more that what I love about Christmas is the "process," the days from the memory of a Thanksgiving feast to the last minute of Christmas Eve. I love the lights, the music, selecting perfect gifts, wrapping up presents in shiny packaging, the smell of cookies baking, the colorful glow over the neighborhood at night, and the warmth of family and friends. It is the trip to see Santa, the countdown on the advent calendars, the lists, the daily visits from the UPS men, and the opening of Christmas cards with the latest pictures of friends and family we haven't seen in too long. These are the things I love, and I know that when Christmas comes it is the highlight for the kids, but for me it is the slightly sad after glow of the process, the culmination of anticipation. I could easily leave the presents under the tree with my name on them wrapped; at least, a little longer.
When the time comes for the ghosts of Christmas past to declare the tree should go, the unwrapped gifts should come out from under the tree and get put away, and that the bins from the attic need to come down and be re-packed, I feel a bit melancholy. I look at each ornament and decoration fondly as I wrap them back up, carefully, in tissue paper and yellowed newspaper. Christmas seems to come back around faster every year, so it won't be long before we are back to the beginning of the "process" I love. And to appease my sentimentality, I will begin to decorate for Valentine's Day.
I'm terribly sentimental. I was a sentimental pack-rat. It occurred to me when I had children, that if I continued to save everything, I would need a second home just for storage, and unless the National Archives became available, I wasn't going to find a space to suffice. So I learned to become more selective. I still save a myriad of things, mostly cards and notes, but I no longer have every single note, card, dried flower, or ticket stub from the beginning of my teenage years.
Among the sentimental treasures I have kept are ornaments. With the exception of the traditional shiny ball ornaments, that I purchased for the first few years I had my own tree, so that it was fully ornamented, there is a story or a name behind every ornament on my tree.
Every year my dad and his wife started to buy my sister and I an ornament, that had significance about something that we had done that year. I have two skiing moose ornaments that they bought the year my husband and I went skiing with them in Quebec. They found the ornaments, but personalized them by painting their ski clothes to look like the ones we wore on the trip. There is a glass alligator from the year they moved to Savannah in a house on the Inter-Coastal Waterway, with it's share of alligators lounging on the bank opposite theirs.
I have ornaments that my mom had painted, ornaments that I made as a child, ornaments that Frankie and Luci have made, ornaments from places we vacationed, and ornaments from students- and I remember each of those students when I decorate the tree.
I don't know if I could choose a favorite among them. I certainly could never get rid of any, and I add a few new ones every year, not including the ones from my dad. There is only one solution. I will just have to start putting up a second tree.
I love stories about mice and have acquired a few dozen mouse ornaments. I love this one. It is very tiny; the mouse is not even an inch. He hangs from a tiny strand of strung popcorn. I have to find the perfect place to hang each side of the popcorn strand so he dangles in the lights as if he was going from one branch to the next.
Tiffany H made this for me back in 1995. She was a student in the social studies class I taught. It's a little stuffed mouse and it clips onto the tree with a clothespin. She made an Easter decoration for me the same year. I put that out every year too.
My mom made this angel; I think there were two at one time, perhaps, she now has the other one. She made them and gave them to my grandmother, her mom. I remember that my grandmother kept them in the hutch in her dining room year round. When she passed away, this one found its way back to me. I think of my mom and my grandmother every time I hang it on the tree.
I easily could have photographed a hundred or so more, but my railroad building services were in high demand, and so I leave you with just a brief glance at a few of my favorite ornaments.