New Year’s is Coming. Watch out!

Dear Erin,

When you’re feeling nostalgic this Christmas and at the same time sad that no one else is cooperating, maybe it will help to remind yourself that at least she’s happy. Any family pictures with her in them should come out better, at least.

We still need to get Little Mister a Christmas outfit, and I suspect that at not-yet-two-years-old, he’s still not going to care much and it’s only his father who might get in the way of what I want.

Christmas will be fun, but I’m also looking forward to January. Why? Because that’s when I start clearing stuff out of the house – old and busted, outgrown and stained, boring and unnecessary. We try to keep a handle on our stuff, but it’s apparently fertile and seems to be constantly multiplying. At least once a year, therefore, I try to do a more thorough cleaning-out.

Remember these?

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They’re not on the chopping block yet, but look at the latest developments:

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This is after only a couple of wearings and one hand washing. As I refuse to believe there are moths in my house, I’m chalking it up to weak spots in the yarn.

So one of the first projects in the new year will be learning how to darn holes in knitted fabric, so that these (which I still really like) don’t need to join the train of things getting thrown out.

A Nostalgic Holiday. Or Not.

Dear Kristen,

I’ll share the pastries with you!  I could eat a whole half batch, so I’m not sure you’ll want to share with me…but none the less, its now on my list to accomplish before the 25th.  Thanks for adding to the ever growing list the reminder that I need to get cardamon!

Now let me tell you a story.  You are very familiar with the start, but you don’t know the end.  Until now, that is.

I am picky.  I have always been picky.  Picky eater, picky in my tastes, picky in lots of things.  In clothes, for example.

And we were young – me four, you seven – and it was the 1980s, so pretty much anything was epic.  We were shopping with Mom for Christmas dresses at some department store, probably JCPenny, and she picked out what she liked and I picked what I liked.

And she didn’t want me to get the one I liked and I didn’t want to get the one she liked.  Impasse.

Until logical Kristen, the seven-year-old, argued Mom into submission.  “She’s not going to wear that, so you might as well get her the one she likes.”

And here was my your victory.

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Fast forward thirty years to another picky four-year-old, with a Mom who has different opinions from her. She has had no problem wearing this old Erin dress, so I thought, “It would be fun for Munchkin to wear my Christmas dress – I LOVED it!”

I’m an idiot, apparently.

She took one look and turned up her nose.

My solution?  I’ll alter it a little so she’ll want to wear it.  It’ll be trendy, pretty and fulfill my need to be nostalgic.  Did that.  Still all I see is nose.

She wouldn’t even try it on until her cousin coerced her – and it was such a brief fitting that I have no picture to prove it.  You would think it smells like a Twinkie leftover from the 1980s, instead of freshly laundered cloth, the way she runs from it.

So then we were shopping for a Christmas dress for her (since my idea failed) and I liked this in a different color.

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Old Navy

And we got this in Burgundy.

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Old Navy

If Little Man could talk, I’m sure he would have mimicked you.

“She’s not going to wear that, so you might as well get her the one she likes.”  Or something like that.

A Fancy Holiday. Or Not.

Dear Erin,

You know how last time I said I didn’t have much Christmas spirit? Well, that’s changing, albeit slowly and not by much.

I told you I made cookies last week. Well, this weekend I made Danish.
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Family tradition, and my favorite “Christmas” food growing up. Just the smell of cardamom and almond together makes me happy. I don’t make them often, because Charles doesn’t like them, and it makes a lot. My recipe says 75 “pieces,” but I made a half batch, and still ended up making I think six batches, with some dough left over. For the future, I just have to get Little Mister to think they’re a tradition; then I’ll have more of an excuse to make (and eat) them.

Look at the cardamom I found to use this time.
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They’re pods, and you open them to get the seeds. I felt very fancy while I was making them.

And we have a tree.
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Yes, this has basically been floating around Pinterest, so that’s where I stole the idea from. It’s certainly not fancy, but it’s also not going to fall down and break and spill water and leaves everywhere and make a huge mess and lead to Little Mister getting in masses of trouble. He has fun moving the ornaments around and trying to stick them on the wall.

We’re doing it up right around here, feelings or no.

PS. Oh, and we didn’t get snow, but there was hail yesterday. That counts, right?

On Re-reading a Good Book

Dear Erin,

I started this yesterday, but as you will see, it’s long and I ran out of time. Let’s hope the kids stop with the “havoc” and don’t move on to “let[ting] slip the dogs of war.” We don’t need extra chaos during the rest of this month. I have to admit you seem to have me beat with the diaper removal. Little Mister has never done that – yet. This could be because the diapers we usually use fasten around the back, but it probably has more to do with the fact that our house is cold so he’s almost always completely dressed. Therefore, no access.

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Ready to go, go, go!

I’ll admit to not feeling much of the Christmas spirit yet. Most of my head space is filled with visions of deadlines rather than dancing sugar plums. I’m dragging my feet about decorating: it just seems like a big, highly breakable mess that we’ll only see for a little while, and I’ll spend the entire time fretting that LM will get into it. I’m sure there are creative ways to get around that; just haven’t given them much thought yet.

I am trying, promise. Made a batch of spritz cookies and fancy hot chocolate yesterday. And I have plans to make Danish this weekend. Put on the Muppets during lunch, and will do some more (online) shopping this evening. So, that’s something, and hopefully it will be enough to jump start the feelings to go with the truth my head knows of the Joy of the season.

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But instead of me spending the entire blog post whining, I’d rather talk about something (completely different) that I found kind of fascinating in the last few weeks.

My third time reading Jane Austen’s Emma.

Perhaps you might say (if you were not you), “But how can the third time through the same book be fascinating in any way?” The answer of course is: A worthwhile book (such as Emma) has something new to show you every time you revisit it, and that is even more true if you yourself have changed between readings.

I first tackled Emma probably in college, or possibly high school but I didn’t really “find” Jane Austen – as I remember – until college. And it was a painful, awful thing to read. Not that it wasn’t funny, and not that it was poorly written. But Emma herself was so painful to watch lord her status over everyone else and then brutally hurt some of the defenseless people around her. I couldn’t stand her, and similarly I couldn’t stand self-centered Mrs. Elton or bossy Mr. Knightley or whiny Mr. Woodhouse or needy Harriet Smith. I would guess the only person I enjoyed at all was Mr. John Knightley because he’s sardonic and just shows up in the story to make sarcastic, funny remarks, then leaves without getting too entangled with the people of Highbury.

So for years Emma was my least favorite Austen book. I even liked Mansfield Park better, and I suspect very few people would say that. But the second time through – for a class in grad school; yes, there were some perks to being in grad school – I saw the story and the characters through a more sophisticated critical lens, and it wasn’t quite so bad. I was also probably 7 or 8 years older, which I’m sure helped as well. Emma herself was still somewhat distasteful, but Mrs. Elton is more or less toothless and therefore ridiculous; Mr. Knightley is more honorable and less bossy than I had remembered him; Mr. Woodhouse is certainly still someone who takes a lot of patience, but so many people love and accommodate him that he must have some redeeming qualities; and Harriet is just very young. It wasn’t so bad; I developed some, though still very little, affection for the novel, and I started to see it as having its own pleasures, irrespective of any of the other books.

And this time? This time I found a lot to love in the protagonist, the world and people around her, and the art with which their creator brought them into being. Every single one of them, and Emma most of all, is a realistic character. They’re all flawed and some of them do real damage to one another and to themselves, but their motivations are so recognizable and their psychology so real and human, that they can be understood and even (sometimes) forgiven by the reader.

The pleasure of the book increased for me with more education, but it increased even more, I think, with my greater maturity and experience. The first time, I felt Emma’s flaws personally and wanted her to be perfect because so-called “good” characters were supposed to be infallible (and yes, now I’m embarrassed that I thought that childishly into college, but on the other hand, it’s not an unusual mindset for people that age). The second time, I saw her as a clever but still uncomfortable construct (one of the perils of grad school education – you can get really good at seeing the machinery and lose the point of that machinery). The third time was the charm, as I was able to see her with double vision – as an amazingly drawn character and as a true-to-life, unique young woman.

I look forward to the fourth time through. I wonder what I’ll discover then.

December is Going. Maybe Not Well, Though.

Dear Kristen,

Isn’t it fun how easily havoc comes to kids?  They have no idea what they are doing (or possibly they do) and before you know it, you’re up a creek without a paddle.  And you thought you were riding on the train – you packed for that – not a creek.

I know EXACTLY what you are feeling.

Let me give you a glimpse at the havoc worked by a 4 year old and a 15 month old here in the Old Dominion.

Dec. 1 – Little Man is recovering from four shots the day before (CRANKY) and is teething (EXTRA CRANKY)

Dec. 2 – Munchkin gets paint all over her shirt. She was painting with a smock on. Little Man got lunch all over his clothes – so I put him down for a nap with no clothes.  (Remember; he sweats!) Come in – no diaper on.  Wet bed.

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Dec. 3 – We’ve been painting – but Munchkin insists on wearing her new Christmas/Winter outfit that has a white shirt.  I tell her she needs to change her shirt while we paint and then she can put it back on when we’re done.  Tears ensue.  I admit confusion – “Why are you crying?” Continues uninterrupted for awhile.  Verdict = Keep the shirt on, we’ll paint another day.

Dec. 4 – Was at family’s house, getting a little time to sew by myself.  I can hear Little Man crying – non-stop.  Teething.  Still.

Dec. 5 – I was out of town.  I’m sure there was havoc, but no one told me a thing…

Dec. 6 – We are in the house for 10 minutes before all the toys are out of the toy box.  Munchkin refuses to eat dinner. She goes to bed BEFORE her 15 month old brother.  I follow shortly afterwards.

Dec. 7 – Wake to screaming, Little Man. Teething. Still.  Leave for Preschool after a 10 minute crying fest.  I said “something mean.” Confession = I asked her to change either her pants and wear a sweater or change her shirt to long sleeves.  I feel like this isn’t mean – its 40 degrees outside.  I stand corrected.

Redeeming things to the month:

  • Little Man says “bye-bye!”
  • He also plays peek-a-boo by himself, which is VERY cute.
  • Munchkin is excited every morning to open the flap on the Advent calendar.
  • We are painting – presents.  (Can’t divulge anything else about that…) Obvi.
  • We got a chance to serve this past weekend at a camp – and it was a blast.
  • Everyone is listening to Christmas music, not just us.
  • We’ve entered fire season.  (This is different from your fire season, I realize.  Fireplaces only, people.  And maybe some firepits.)
  • We’ve got a majority of our Christmas gifting taken care of – which is wonderful.
  • The Christmas tree is up!  (No ornaments, but lights and a star.  Great start!)

If I get more giggles and twinkly lights alongside it, bring on the havoc!

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