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Our Christmas season has officially begun in the McGaugh household! We’re a weekend-after-Thanksgiving kind of people at our house.

There was decorating:

Katie wraps white garland around her pink Christmas tree in her room

Admiring ornaments… She has had this tree ever since she was fourteen months old!

Eric decorates his white tree in his room. I remember putting away his tree last year when he wasn’t even six months yet and thinking very vividly that, by the time we got his tree out again, he would be fifteen months old and walking and talking. One of the reasons I love Christmas time so much is that we get to  bring out items that are filled with sentimentality to mark each year.

Katie helps with the staircase garland

On the way to the mailbox to mail a letter to Santa Claus

Mailing her letter…

All dressed up and ready for our mother-daughter date to see The Nutcracker on Sunday afternoon

Katie was excited to meet “Clara” after the performance! The Nutcracker is a tradition for us, our season opener. We always see it the weekend after Thanksgiving, and this was Katie’s third time. She now really knows the story and the music and having an understanding of what to expect has only enhanced her enjoyment. A new “Clara” was dancing this year, and she was excellent! The “Clara” of the previous two years was promoted to “Sugar Plum Fairy”!

Katie tried a little ballet on her own…

Today we decorated our gingerbread house:

Here is the finished product:

And a humorous picture from this morning:

Eric relaxes nonchalantly in the living room with his wedge of cantaloupe and the “Christmas belt” Katie made for him with a plaid ribbon. It is difficult to tell where it is, because his jammies have striped pants, but the belt is up on his tummy a bit. The two of them together make me giggle.

Merry Christmas season!

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If there was ever a gift to be thankful for on Thanksgiving, then yesterday our Matics-Lambert-Horne Family received it. My cousin Beth and her husband Marshall have been in my constant thoughts as they have tried and hoped for 3.5 years to conceive a baby. For those who love them, it has been a long journey for all of us. Many of us in the family have felt a part of their pain, and many of us have hoped as they have hoped. The waiting has been a difficult waiting—so full of longing.

I knew there was a chance that Beth might be pregnant within the last few months of this year, and I have wanted nothing more in my heart than to hear that she is. All of Wednesday night and Thursday morning I kept thinking, please let her be pregnant, please let this be the day they announce this.

And then, to our great joy, it was.

Beth told several of us who didn’t know the news yet (obviously, Aunt Diane and Uncle Brad and cousins Brandon and Hannah already knew). I have to say, this was definitely one of the most joyful moments I have been a part of this year. My husband happened to get a picture near that moment (Beth is in the black sweater, to the right of my mom as you look at the picture). She is seven weeks along and due in July. I do not want to wish time away, but I also cannot wait for July and for all the celebration that we will shower on her. This baby has been SO wanted, and not just by my cousin and her husband, but by so many of us. I hope the little guy or girl always knows how much his or her whole family was wanting, was standing in hopeful wait with his or her mother and father. Beth made a more official announcement when the family stood in our circle holding hands to say grace—and looking around, I got the full impact of how big our family really is and how much love has been behind Beth this whole time. As this next year unfolds, I cannot wait to see the goodness that this little baby brings to all of the Matics-Lambert-Horne clan.

Without a doubt, the best Thanksgiving EVER!!! And so much for which to be thankful…

Eric has his first bites of Thanksgiving turkey (last year, he was only a few months old and had no teeth)!

Katie loved playing with the Nerf gun. Marshall taught her how to aim at cans and bottles. Check out this pic… Do you see the bottle flying in the air? Apparently Katie has good aim, like her Mommy and Amie. 😉

Then there were other beautiful moments. Several of us took a walk down to the beach, which we had almost all to ourselves. The weather was crisp, the ocean icy, the sunset a flame of color, the tide low. The walk to the beach is a Thanksgiving and Easter tradition, and seeing such resplendence fills up the heart. I think my dad has a few pictures on his phone, though he was mostly helping to watch one of my children. Katie and Gracie (same age) had a sweet time frolicking together on the sand, and Eric was running all over the place in excitement.

I love Thanksgiving with my family, and next year, there will be another of the next generation among us. I am so thankful.

Our cousin Kd came over today to finish sewing her quilt:

I think it is beautiful!

Yay Kd! What good memories we share from this project!

Now we will hand it off to our artistic and creative cousin Meredith at Thanksgiving, and she will add her touch to the quilting of the quilt. It is magical to have a family project like this, something so many hands have had a part in. I rather think it is a symbol of what is fundamental about a family.

 

Katie and Eric are both finishing afternoon naps, a rare moment in our house. What to do, what to do?

When I last wrote, I was in the middle of working the kinks out of a trying week. So often circumstances which seemed stressful are not nearly so bad when we’re on the brighter side of them again. Fixing the cars next week will still be a hassle, but when I look around me at all that is good in my life, I find perspective and gratitude.

While I was preparing parts of our dinner for tonight (filet mignon with crispy shallots, roasted beets with a cottage cheese dressing, and zucchini muffins), I thought about all that I was loving this week:

* Our battery-operated memorial candles from Nana: we have them on fireplace mantle in honor of family members who have passed. They come on every afternoon at 4:00 PM and glow until after we go to bed. In a season of thankfulness and light, these candles represent people that I am grateful to have had in my life.

* Gingerbread lattes—need I say more? I am mostly a tea drinker, but those grande red cups are liquid joy.

* Rain

* Die Hard, one of my favorite Christmas movies. No, seriously. And it is streamable from Netflix—after the kiddos go to bed. And the husband, who generally likes violence and cussing even less than I do. Die Hard is my exception to the rule. I’ve actually watched that movie more times than I have watched The Sound of Music. I know—what?? Just when you think you know a person… 😉

* My editing client who was admitted to her first-choice MBA program! Wahoo! I love seeing people succeed.

* Seeing my OB from afar while out on Friday. He tended to both of my children, and frankly, it was like seeing a rock star. I almost wanted to call out to him. His car has super-tinted windows for a reason. 😉

* Hot chocolate: Costco has been selling Starbucks hot cocoa powder, and it is GREAT. Tastes just like a cup of hot chocolate from the barista. My mom said that she has seen on eBay that people are scooping them up and trying to sell them online. For me, this product rivals the Williams-Sonoma hot chocolate, which I also like. I tend to prefer my chocolate on the bitter side…

* Christmas organization: our photo cards are here, the “Santa” presents have been finalized and ordered (just stocking stuffers left to do), the kiddos have their Christmas Eve and Christmas Day outfits, and the house is (slowly) getting cleaned and prepped for decorating this weekend. Oh, and we’ve cracked early and have been playing some Christmas music. Yes, it is true.

* Wagon rides, mist or shine:

 

* My parents: my children are always so excited to see them!

Look how happy both the kiddos are to see their Boppa!

 

* Playtime in the backyard:

Soccer…

…and two little climbers! Eric can climb up the ladder all by himself (although I always spot him) now, and he also can launch himself down the slide! It isn’t safe for him to do this without supervision, though.

I am excited for heart-rejuvenating family time this week. Kd and I have a sewing date tomorrow here at my house, and then I am eager to fill my eyes and heart with my family on Thursday for Thanksgiving.

 

It has been a series of bumps—quite literally—this week over here at Bird In Your Hand. I usually publish writing that focuses only on the best parts of life: the love I have for my family, our quirky projects and adventures, the ways in which we’ve tried to find and celebrate beauty, or appreciation for lifetime friendships. My themes are fairly straightforward, all centering around the central hope that we are filled with gratitude for the abundance that we have right in our hands, this very moment.

A handful of people in the past year have asked me if I am always as cheerful and optimistic as I seem to be. Well, no, not every second. We all have our grouchy-until-my-Yorkshire-tea mornings, the highly anticipated dinner menu that fails, the batch of challah in which I forgot the salt, the watercolor lantern project that went awry, and little snarks and irritations that sometimes get the best of all of us. Yet generally, I am as cheerful and optimistic as I seem to be—I think those are the forces I rely on most to keep motoring along even when it is difficult. For the most part, I try very quickly to turn the things that irritate me into something to praise or learn from. I try to focus on what is good and honorable in life, to stay away from getting caught up in drama, or kvetching, or negativity in general. Love always saves the day, I believe this. My writing, which is highly personal, is often the means I use to get myself back on track.

I suppose that is partly the purpose of this blog entry tonight: to get myself back on track.

I am not sure where things started to go amiss this week, but I am fairly certain it was the moment of helping Katie with her urine sample at the kiddos’ doctor’s appointments on Monday. Eric, totally unclothed except for a diaper, was held aloft from the gross floor with one arm, while I used my other arm to hoist Katie onto the toilet and then to hold the cup for her. This ended with a sample, yes, but also with urine all over my hand and arm. That’s just kiddo-stuff, and I have a mother’s strong stomach and love for all things kiddo-produced, so the urine didn’t bother me. Moreso it was the feeling of impossibility that accompanied that moment, one of those rare times when I feel like a duck on water who isn’t paddling hard enough or fast enough to keep up well with everything that has to be done.

But really, the week started to go south before even that. The kiddos and I have been recovering from a respiratory illness (which my mom and dad also had, and which Bill now has) for the past week. Mine went down into my chest, the symptoms of which I often prefer to a stuffy head-cold. Although the congestion has been steadily clearing up, I have not been sleeping well and I have had moments during the day of needing to just sit and catch my breath. We were all just starting to turn the corner on the illness and sleeping when Katie and Eric both experienced normal reactions to their vaccinations from Monday’s appointment.

Both had low-grade fevers, with Eric’s just a bit higher. Sure enough, he woke up twice Monday night/Tuesday morning—one for a long stretch that included vomiting from being hot and crying and then needing to be dosed with ibuprofen. That was a fairly sleepless night.

So the week was already off to a rocky start.

Fortunately, my mom agreed to come over on Tuesday to watch the kiddos in the afternoon so I could get to the market.

Aaaaaaaaaand…

That’s when I managed to back into her car as I was pulling out of the garage.

The only word I had for myself last night was, “stupid.” Why didn’t I check better? A totally preventable accident, coming at the WORST and busiest time of the year… And, if I am being honest, my instinct would be to start judging fairly harshly if I read about someone else pulling this maneuver. Living with a really dumb error that is totally my fault is like trying to swallow sand: really painful. Never even a speeding ticket, and I do this??? The perfectionistic part of me is really struggling with this, to the point where I felt really bummed out this morning. My mom was completely forgiving right away, but I am harder on myself than anyone else could ever possibly be. I loathe carelessness in myself. The more mature part of me is trying to keep my perfectionism in check; thankfully, my 30s so far are a time in which I have been able to give more tolerance  to myself. Or maybe that has come with motherhood. I can feel myself wanting to beat myself up, and I can hold it off a little better and start offering a bit of compassion to myself instead.

My insurance company has been professional and helpful. We took our cars in this morning for an assessment. The guy said that it was clear I was going less than 5 MPH… Yet, I managed to cause $1200 of damage, almost all of which (except $200) my insurance will pay. Moreso, it is the knowledge that I have caused time to be wasted, and hassle galore, that really eats at me.

So, I am trying to turn this week around, trying to turn my attitude around. I spent most of last night saying to myself, “If only I had walked to the store like I planned!” or “Why didn’t I open the garage door before getting into the car?” or a million other what-ifs. The thing about accidents is that we can spend our lives second-guessing our choices, and we get nowhere, other than to feel defeated.

Today, well tonight especially, I am trying to chalk up this week as a lesson learned. I am thankful no one was hurt. I am humbled and terrified at the thought that I might have been that careless at a much worse time, like if there had been anyone’s child passing along my driveway. I am aware that I need to attend better to my sleep hygiene and that I was becoming too fast and loose, playing with the stubs of candles at both ends of the night. I do not like making mistakes, but I am thankful that I make them so that I stay grounded. I am thankful that, if this is truly the worst of my problems, than I have it pretty darn good. I am thankful that my family still loves me, even when I pull off something as moronic as this.

Above all, I am thankful for tenacity, the sheer will we have inside of us to keep going even when we feel embarrassed, sad, or disappointed in ourselves. Embracing tenacity is the ultimate way to say that you are grateful for this life. When the chips are down, we dig in our heels—because we know that every second we are here is a gift. Setbacks are opportunities to see what we’re made of, or how well we adapt. I have also tried to look at this week as a chance to teach my children how to manage stress; I’ve been doing, eh, well, kind of okay with those lessons.

So, friends who have asked if I have bad days: oh yes. The past few have been among the most arduous in recent memory. Not too fun. I still think, though, that it is what we do with the trying times that matters the most. Complaining has a place, but not much of one. Accepting responsibility is huge. Stopping the negativity in its tracks and refusing to spread it outward is important, too. Tenacity.

Thus, what has been good these past few days?  Well, I did manage to catch Katie’s urine sample one handed while balancing a baby, so in retrospect, maybe I have a bit of that Mama-Superpower after all. The kiddos are both healthy and growing well. The pediatrician says Katie’s body type is clearly tall and thin and proportioned well. Gosh, I hope she always enjoys that. “Tall” and “thin” have never been two words anyone could use to describe me! I see a little bit of vicarious living in my future. 😉 I am thankful the kiddos bonded over having their vaccinations—there were chatting about it in the car, well, Eric’s version of chatting, all the way home. Katie sang her brother a lullaby when they got home and closed his shutters on her own so the light wouldn’t disturb his sleep. Pretty sweet. We also finished The Sign of the Beaver, our latest read. We’ve also had many sweet and happy little moments—I just have to remember to bring those to the forefront of my mind, and not let the moments of stress overtake them. I don’t want to lose the happy memories of these few days with my children to memories of the things that went wrong. I owe my children more than that; I owe myself that, too.

 

 

 

Cozy and rainy, yesterday seemed the perfect day to hunker down at our house, work puzzles, make brioche dough (still need to bake them off), cuddle and read, work on our Lego set, play in the rain puddles, and of course, put on our Stanford gear and get ready to support Farm football. It was U of Oregon Ducks vs. the Cardinal, and the game turned out painfully for us. Despite this, the whole day was full of anticipation for a big game that seemed in some ways more significant than Big Game (Stanford v. Cal) this year. The Ducks roasted us. I happen to know enough Ducks personally to make the football rivalry fun, and all day the Facebook News Feed was hopping with fellow Stanford alums and Duck friends eager to see the outcome.

Go, Stanford! Katie enjoyed her Stanford parka given as a gift from our thoughtful friend Noreen, whose daughter is an alumna and whose son Max was my student for three years. They are a great family, full of humor and the joy of life, and it was so sweet of Noreen to remember us during her travels to the Stanford bookstore recently. It turned out that the parka was perfect for enjoying some of the rain outdoors yesterday, too!

And then I got a little sassy, and let Eric gnaw on our wheelie-duck that my cousin Kd got for us one year from the U of O gift shop. We love this thing. And yesterday morning, it was perfect for eating and little friendly smack-talking on Facebook. However, it turned out that there was no foie gras last night…

Today we had fun at a friend’s birthday party. Talon turned the big 4! We’ve known Talon and his family for a couple of years through our Music Together class. I have often been impressed with what a kind boy Talon is at our class, and at what a sweet relationship he has with his mommy. The theme for his party was “Cowboys and Cowgirls,” so we dressed a little western, and Talon’s mom and dad provided bandanas and cowboy hats. Fun! Katie has been very excited all evening that her goody bag contained a sheriff’s star.

My cowboy and my cowgirl

Horseshoes!

Katie played pin-the-tail-on-the-horse

Playing

Time for presents

Talon opens our present: a kit to build an electric bell, a bug magnifying jar, and a sea monkey kit.

Katie has said more than once how much fun she had today, and truly, I am loving this age of kiddo birthday parties and time with our music buddies outside of class. These are special memories, and I can’t think of a nicer group of kiddos and parents with whom to share this time. I remember so many of my own elementary school friends and birthday parties and our Girl Scout troop: even though that childhood season is behind all of us 30-somethings, and even though time and circumstances often change those first friendships, they always remain so special and so important. It would be a blessing to keep in touch with our music friends and parents over the years and to build on friendships we’ve begun—I truly hope we do—but even if our paths diverge someday, I am always going to remember and love this group of kiddos and their parents. I will always be thankful that we all shared this magical time of our childrens’ youngest years together.

This afternoon we finished our series of lessons involving carbon dioxide (see previous posts), culminating with making a volcano. We have been looking at nomenclature cards for the parts of a volcano, and we have also been looking at our globe and talking about the ways in which volcanic activity creates and shifts our land masses.

We set up our experiment:

We placed a glass Coca-Cola bottle in one of my baking dishes. Katie used a funnel to transfer baking soda into the bottle.

Next, she put red food coloring into some vinegar.

We built the volcano outside. There are so many beautiful ways to build a volcano from scratch, but we elected to keep it on the simpler side. We started by taping over the “crater” (the hole of the bottle) so that no sand would get in during construction. I filled as much of the dish as possible with moist dirt, and then we used wet sand to shape the cone and to smooth out the sides.

Eric, with his cutie-pie new hairdo (see previous post from today), helped to make the volcano.

Once we had the volcano constructed, we took the tape off the crater, and we poured the red vinegar down the pipe where it mixed with the baking soda…

Boom! Volcanic eruption!

As soon as we were done, Katie was begging to repeat the experiment. “This time with green lava!” she exclaimed. We had to dismantle the volcano, wash the bottle, and rebuild—but that was okay with me. We usually aim to do our science experiments at least twice, if we can. Every experiment this week we have performed more than once, and I emphasize that this is what good scientists do. We can’t, after all, rely on just one experiment, or one set of data points. Good scientists hope to replicate their findings multiple times.

So we did it again! Green lava this time! We pretended this was a volcano from a different planet, to account for the green.

Carbon dioxide is so much fun! Check out that lava flow! Katie actually asked to do it a third time, with orange lava…but we postponed that until another time.  Maybe we can build it again tomorrow!

Now fifteen months old, Eric has been ready for his first haircut for at least a few weeks. I found myself feathering back his the sides of his hair, and he had a bit of the Farrah Fawcet look. So we made an appointment with my mom’s hairstylist, Deena. I love Deena: she worked on our hair for my brother’s wedding. In fact, although my mom has been cutting my hair for several years (I am usually cheap when it comes to my hair, and my mom is very capable), I decided to make an appointment for myself with Deena to have my hair professionally shaped later this month. I have to say, I am excited about it. I used to love having my hair done, but it is one of those personal luxuries I often don’t indulge—especially working in the home and not bringing in a reliable income, other than freelance work. Yet I thought I would treat myself for the upcoming season, and in anticipation of our family trip to Hawaii.

I was thrilled that Deena agreed to do Eric’s hair. She was quite skillful and patient, especially when he let it be known that he did not enjoy this experience. 😉

Mr. Eric, at the start of his appointment. We thought having him sit in my lap might work well.

I also resorted to bribing him with mini chocolate chips. Yes, shameless.

And that’s it—those are the two best pictures we have, because after the cutting actually started, the usually mellow Eric hollered his way through it. Periodically we would stop and let him touch the comb or get down and walk around. I also held him while standing up, and that appeased him somewhat. Maybe he thought we could make a faster get-away standing up. My mom, our photographer, actually took Katie outside, because she was distressed that her brother was distressed. It may sound a bit worse than it was, because, although there were tears, we were done in a matter of minutes. Deena is quick, and she managed to make good cuts even when Eric moved his head around. Poor little guy. Ah, the price of beauty. 😉

But he sure does look handsome with his newly shorn hair. I kept some locks after the cut. Normally, I have a sentimental disposition and I wondered if I would feel sad while Eric’s hair was being cut. In this case, though, cutting his hair seemed to restore him to looking more like himself, if that makes sense, so I didn’t mind the cutting of the baby locks. With the shape of his face and his Daddy’s shoulders, Eric happens to look best with classic little boy hair, and I love that I can gobble more of his neck again and see those sweet Eric ears.

Bill took this picture this morning of Eric’s new hairdo. I love this little man so much!

Still not sure what Eric makes of the whole experience, though…

Last night in the bath, I asked him, “So Eric, in retrospect, what did you think of your haircut?”

To this, he looked right at me, and gave me a HUGE raspberry! I laughed heartily. I just might have my answer…

We continued with our CO2 lesson series this morning, as we made and used carbon dioxide to blow up a balloon.

Katie sets up the experiment in her lab notebook/field journal. We write in this notebook together, and she started us off by writing down the title of the experiment and the formula for the carbon dioxide compound.

Katie uses a funnel to fill an empty glass bottle (a glass Coca-Cola bottle left over from Eric’s birthday party) with vinegar. She managed the funnel very well, not spilling anything.

We then worked together to use the funnel to fill the balloon with baking soda (sodium bicarbonate). Once the balloon was filled with baking soda, we stretched the rim over the opening to the glass bottle. When Katie picked the balloon upright, all of the baking soda fell into the bottle, combining with the vinegar below. And then…

Whoosh! Carbon dioxide fizzies! The gas released from the bubbles immediately started filling our balloon!

It really filled quickly, and Katie hopped out of her chair, wondering if the balloon would explode. (It didn’t…but I think making it explode next time would be worthy ambition)! We are really starting to understand the power of CO2, and we cannot wait to make our miniature “volcano” at home! Volcanoes release CO2 as the magma comes to the Earth’s surface…

I should mention that we actually sat down to do this experiment twice. The first time, we were right on the heels of a little battle over picking something up in the play room, which resulted in a big loud fuss and a time out.  Even though we came downstairs afterwards and started our notebook, I could feel my own lingering tension and the threat of impatience rising in me. So I gathered up both kiddos and we headed out to the park (I felt better today…my throat was still sore, but less so, and no stuffiness or fever) for a breather. I have learned that part of successful schooling at home is to know when to keep going…and when to fold ’em. I made more lemon-ginger-honey tea, we put on the Vince Guaraldi Trio in the car, and then we played for about an hour. It was just what we needed to refocus and for all of us to work together at home with happy, clear hearts and minds. We had a great time with our lab after a strategic break.

Later in the afternoon, my dad came over with a game he had made when we were kids:

My dad has a vast working knowledge of making circuits…and all kinds of electronic devices. I think that circuitry will be our next science unit. With that in mind, my dad shared this game with us. He rigged up an old telephone bell, some wires, batteries, and a switch. The object of the game is to pass a circle of wire around another wire that is bent in a funny twisting shape—without touching the wires together and ringing the bell. I have long thought that my dad is one of the smartest people I know: he has a memory like a steel trap and he can invent and make anything, it seems. I cannot ever remember my dad encountering a problem he couldn’t solve. In fact, he is one of the best problem-solvers I’ve met. I thought this game was brilliant.

Finally, a flashback to the weekend. Rosa sent me this pic today:

I love this picture of Nolan and me. He is a special little guy to me, the son of my BFF. I cannot believe I have been friends with Rosa since 9th/10th grade, and now we are having our own sweet little people. What an amazing time of life we are in, and how lucky are we that we get to hold and celebrate each others’ babies.

I woke up with a scratchy throat that I felt developing overnight. Other than treating it with lemon-ginger-honey tea, I am in deep, deep denial about the possible oncoming cold this scratchy throat might foretell. Ugh.

So I was especially resolved that we’d make the most out of today, and use our energy to get some good schooling and playtime in before I am all stuffy and thick-eyed.

We started with a lab this morning, one of a series of labs I have put together that will culminate in our homemade volcano this week or next. As we are headed to Hawaii with my parents, brother, and sister-in-law soon, I want to make sure Katie has a working knowledge of volcanoes.

For this lab, I used a simple activity out of 101 Great Science Experiments: a Step-by-Step Guide by Neil Ardley, published by DK (page 33). Called “Fight a Fire,” this lab demonstrates how the gas CO2 can extinguish a candle flame by cutting off the oxygen supply. Since we’ll be using CO2 to build our volcano, I want to do a handful of labs with it so that Katie understands how the gas works.

We started by making review notes in our lab notebook/field journal. We reviewed what we learned from our cabbage PH lab, and we also reviewed how the resulting “fizzies” from the baking soda and vinegar help the cake we make for Amie’s birthday to rise.

We assembled the components of our lab. Katie put a candle in a glass bowl, making sure the candle was lower than the rim of the bowl. Then she added baking soda around the candle. She remembered that baking soda is a base.

We set flame to the candle.

Katie added the vinegar to create the carbon dioxide.

As if by magic, the candle went out! We had talked beforehand about the two ways Katie knows to put out fire (water and blowing). We talked about how the fizzy bubbles of the baking soda and vinegar pop on the surface and release CO2.We repeated the experiment twice to check our findings.

Then we got dressed and went to the park:

Mr. E and Katie played in the sand. Eric sure loves to dig…

And Katie rolled down this grassy hill about four times.

Oh, and this was taken the other day during one of our walks. I thought she just looked so cute!

Tomorrow, if I wake up feeling even partly well (fingers very crossed here), I plan to have us do a lab that uses CO2 production to blow up a balloon. I am excited about this lab series!