Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas 2012!

It's been a rough last few months of 2012 - hurricane, nor'easter, family drama, holidays, life style changes, sugar withdrawal, on and on. We made it to Christmas! It's a miracle, really. I am so very relieved to get this far. Presents have been opened, inappropriate remarks recorded on video while genuine expressions of gratitude and joy were missed (d'oh!), and the boys are content. Whew! They both got inexpensive tablets this year. I say "inexpensive" in a very droll fashion...as compared with, say, an iPad ($150 is certainly more affordable than $375. Ouch.)  Neither of the boys knew they were getting them. They have asked, pleaded, begged, cajoled and demanded them over the course of the year, but John and I held our ground. We still had NO plans to buy them...then black Friday hit. I bought a Kindle Fire at a very good price, for Max.

As I was wrapping gifts, it occurred to me that even though it was not technically a full blown tablet, Tyler would have a fit if Max got a hand-held device and he didn't (mind you, he has had MANY such devices, primarily for gaming, but I digress.) Panic! Sure he was getting a few pretty pricey video games and a trampoline, but I know my boy. He would fixate on the one thing he DIDN'T get and things would get ugly. So Daddy to the rescue! John ran out, 2 days before Christmas, and bought an Android tablet at BestBuy. He saved Christmas! My hero!

Now - after struggling with a still partly frozen turkey and a too small oven, I thought I would take a few moments to record lessons learned in the hopes we won't make the same mistakes next year.

  1. Do not get a turkey larger than 15 lbs. It will NOT fit in the oven properly.
  2. Thaw Mr. Turkey in the fridge for 3 days, not 2 - or it will still be a bit frosty.
  3. Start wrapping at least a week before Christmas so we can see how many gifts we have for each boy and make any necessary adjustments.
  4. Charge up any electronic devices BEFORE wrapping them. Max nearly had a cow waiting for his Kindle to be charged and configured today.
  5. Remove all twist ties, wires and other assorted parent proofing from toys before putting gifts under the tree.
  6. Do NOT wrap the plain brown shipping boxes even if the gift is oddly shaped. Kids want to see something cool as soon as that paper comes off. Crushing disappointment or confused comments tend to ruin Christmas videos. (I won't be posting those, I don't think.)
That about covers the major points. On the positive side, I highly recommend Kindle's new FreeTime app for kids. I installed it, set up a profile for Max and he has all this age appropriate content in an easy to navigate format on the Kindle Fire. I can even set limits to how much time he plays games or watches videos and leave the book reading unlimited. He can't spend any money without Mommy's help (password protected for new purchases) but so far, he is thrilled with the content that comes with FreeTime. Very cute apps!

OK. Time to see if I can get the turkey neck out of the cavity of our too big bird. It was jammed in there and stuck. 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

I believe I can fly...

Max is going through the "super hero" phase of his childhood. Tyler also went through this phase when he was four. Sadly, it lasted barely a year and he was on to other things. I still remember fondly that Halloween when he couldn't decide between Spider Man and Superman - so I bought both costumes. He was so cute...running all over the house in his cape yelling, "I superman! I fly!" *sniff*

Thankfully, I have a new tiny superhero to pick up where Ty left off. Max loves Spider Man, Wolverine, Hulk, Captain America, Kitty Pride (X-Men) and all the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. He wears Tyler's old Spider Man costume to bed (and yes, it is very tight on him since Ty was 4 and Max is 6.) Max will occasionally don a cape and run through the house, but he is all about the sound effects. "Jeeeeeeerrrrrooom! Zoom! Zoom!"

He has made up several super hero names for himself but spends most of his time drawing himself and his buddy Sean as their favorite heroes and villains doing epic battle. He also wants to take lessons in some kind of martial art. I am still pondering that one. I have a hard enough time trying to keep the boys from killing each other without training one to fight. Eeesh.

Yet, I am still enjoying the heck out of this time. Max and I have watched many hours of super hero cartoons and movies together. I hope he never grows out of this phase. I'd love to have someone to leave all my comic books to one day.

In the meantime, Santa is taking full advantage and has loaded up his sleigh with lots of hero gear for my little man.  He already has the most amazing Spider Man sneakers. Check 'em out!  I think this weekend we may watch either the first Iron Man movie or Captain America. With great power comes great responsibility, people. Max is on the job.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Elves and Hanukkah

Max came home from school the other day looking despondent. Turned out he'd spent the day hearing about the antics of "The Elf on the Shelf" from various classmates. Apparently these elves are little trouble makers. Max wanted to know why we didn't have an elf staying with us. Oh boy. I'd managed to dodge the whole "elf" phenomenon for years now, but it looked like our blissful elf-free existence was coming to an abrupt end. I told Max we had to lure an elf and quickly looked on the internet to see how it was done.

Yahoo Answers had a helpful post that involved a bowl stuffed with tissues and a cracker left on a window sill. Sounded easy. When the elf arrives, he/she eats some of the cracker or sometimes will leave a note. One problem, Max hid the bowl so I...er...the ELF couldn't find it to take a bite. After some fast Amazon Prime shopping, we had our elf, her book and storage box here and ready to roll. Did I read the book first? No. I decided to wing it.

She left a note with her name (Snowflake) and mentioned she didn't care for crackers (ass covered) and set up shop on the sofa reading her own book and waiting for Max to come home from school. Done and done! Max was delighted. Now I...er...the ELF just had to remember to move somewhere new each night.  Time to get creative.

From my Facebook updates:

   Snowflake the elf magically appeared today. Max found her reading the book "Elf on the Shelf" here on the sofa when he got home from school. He flipped out! Then he poked her in the eye and said "These look painted! How can she see?!" Luckily Mommy is a fast spinner of tales. I haven't even read the book yet. Hope I am not making any mistakes. LOL

   Damn! I knew this elf was a bad idea. I forgot to move her last night. Just wrapped her arms around the parm cheese in the fridge. Let's see how long it takes for someone to find her. Heh heh! I hope Max wasn't bummed this morning. :/

   Me: Wow...Snowflake has a really mischievous look on her face. Max: What does misscheevous mean? Tyler: She's going to murder you while you sleep... Max: Mom?! Really?!?! (*facepalm* I'm amazed my hair isn't snow white after 11 years.) No honey, Snowflake isn't a killer elf. Max: Are you sure? She does look kinda creepy. -Note to self: Don't sneak the elf into Max's room while he is sleeping.

   Oooh! I just played the "elf" card to nip a tantrum in the bud. It worked! Maybe that elf on the shelf will be hanging around all year long. ;)

   Woke today to find a snowfort made of mini-marshmallows on the table and an epic snowball fight between Snowflake (the Shelf Elf) and Leonardo the Ninja Turtle in progress. Max flipped!

So that brings you up to date with the elf. On to other holiday happenings. From Facebook yesterday:

   Max: Mom? Why don't we do Hanukkah? Me: Uh...because we aren't Jewish, Honey. Max: Why? I want to do Hanukkah! Me: Well, maybe we can borrow your Uncle Mike's girlfriend next year and you can do Hanukkah with her. Max: No! I want to do Hanukkah now! They get presents every day! Me: Oh boy. Who told you about Hanukkah? Max: My teacher. Me: (under my breath...thanks Mrs. G.) I tried to explain how Hanukkah works, but it just made Max want to celebrate even more. Trying to figure out where I can pick up a Menorah real quick tomorrow and surprise Max when he gets home from school. Any thoughts? :D Maybe a dreidel and gelt too. He'd love that game.

   Starting tonight (shortly) we will be celebrating the 5th night of Hanukkah, thanks to Max and a friend. I suggested we also have some traditional foods but Tyler panicked and we have no potatoes in the house since I started making changes to my eating habits. So no latkes, sadly. Max and I had something else fried (a burger) to keep in the spirit of things. It's not kosher, but then again, neither are we. :D

So yes. Now we celebrate Hanukkah too. Why not? I know Max just sees it as an opportunity to get more presents. He knows how to work the system! I see it as a teaching opportunity to learn about other faiths and religious customs. Our new Menorah arrives tomorrow, but tonight at sundown Max and I watched a video on how to light it and which prayers to say when. He is looking forward to doing it for real tomorrow.

Oh and he got a new backpack for night 5 and Tyler got a Minecraft teeshirt. Max will probably raise a few eyebrows tomorrow at school when he shows off his Hanukkah gift. If you are curious, I'll post links below to the YouTube video we watched and a wiki on Hanukkah that I am using to teach about the holiday as well as show us how to play the dreidel game. Bring loads of gelt if you want to join in! *wink*

How to Light the Hanukkah Menorah

What is Hanukkah all about?

Sunday, December 09, 2012

We Three Kings

While digging through boxes of Christmas decorations today, Max discovered my old nativity scene - a hand carved but simply painted wood set from Pier One Imports gifted to me many years ago.  Baby Jesus has gone missing, but Max was having a ball playing with the shepherds, wise-men, Mary, Joseph and the animals.  It got me thinking about retelling the story of Jesus' birth.

After dwelling on all the facts I could recall, I suddenly realized I wasn't able to remember the name of one of the three wise-men. Balthazar, Melchior and...erg. What was his name? So I Googled "the three wisemen" and found a TON of stuff I never knew. Caspar or Gaspar is the third guy, traditionally; but they are never mentioned in any of the Biblical accounts. Heck, the Bible doesn't even say there were three men...just wisemen from the East. It is only because there were three gifts presented that people assumed there were three men.

I read the article on Wikipedia with fascination wondering where I had even heard the names of the three "kings" before. Or why I was sure that Balthazar was black, Melchior was asian and Caspar was a white guy (and no, he wasn't a friendly ghost.) Was it a movie or storybook from my youth? Church play? I have no idea! I've just always known the story.  I found it kinda disturbing to think that Matthew made em up to fit an Old Testament prophesy about kings bowing down before the new born Messiah. But that sort of thing happens a lot in the Bible - parables to teach, and not hard facts.

So I will tell the story as I remember it, and it will become part of Max and Tyler's collective unconscious to one day pass on to their kids. Why not? Showering a baby with gold, smelly oil and stinky incense - it's just funny. Those "wise" men must not have had any kids. Anyone knows a new mom needs things like diapers, baby sized togas and a nice baby carrier that is donkey safe. Honestly!