Musings from Home

Archive for October, 2011

My First Giveaway

It is time for my very first giveaway on this blog. My very dear friend, Krista, has made three beautiful pieces of jewelry (a necklace, a bracelet, and a pair of earrings) and has donated them for me to give to two of y’all. One person will win the necklace and another the bracelet and earrings.

Here’s what they look like:

The beads are from The Artful Bead in Fort Worth, Texas.

If you are interested in entering this giveaway, leave a comment on this post anytime from now until 9 p.m. ET this Friday. The comment can be about anything you like, but since today is Halloween, I would love to hear about your Halloween plans (either what are going to do or if you comment after today, what you did).

I will randomly draw a winner over the weekend and then I will contact the winner for address information and mail it off. Good luck!

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Hanging with the Threes

I spent this morning substituting for one of the teachers of the three-year-old class (which is comprised of three- and four-year-olds) at Sapphire’s preschool. Last night when the teacher called and asked me to sub, I said, “I can do that” without even thinking about it. Earlier in the year, I filled out the volunteer form, saying that I could sub just about anytime after the end of September. At the time I was happy to finally have time to spend at the preschool, either reading a book or helping out with a craft in Sapphire’s class, or filling in wherever I was needed.

But when I got off the phone, I started to wonder how it would go. Would Sapphire be OK that I was in the school the entire morning, but not with her? She didn’t seem to immediately take to the idea, so it was a concern. But she is also very used to me dropping her off at her classroom door and she is a pretty go-with-the-flow kind of kid — usually.

I also wondered how the kids in the threes (as the class is called) would take to me. Unlike the kiddos in Sapphire’s class, most of them do not know me at all. Some of them may have seen me at drop-off or pick-up, but most have probably not noticed.

But mostly I was very excited. Emerald went to a co-op preschool for three years so I served as the assistant teacher every few weeks back then. I have only been in the classroom in Sapphire’s school a few times in the two years and two months she’s been going there. And it was always as an extra adult, not as a substitute teacher. I was looking forward to helping out again and spending time with these little people.

So at 8:35ish this morning, Sapphire and I arrived at school. I had intended to keep her with me until it was time for school to start so that her teacher could get ready for the morning. [There was a sub in that class today, too.] But as soon as Sapphire’s teacher saw her, she invited her in and let her help set up for the day.

The director of the school met the three-year-old kids outside as they got out of their cars so that the teacher I was assisting could be in the classroom with me as the kids arrived. The concern was that some of them have stranger anxiety and since they didn’t know me, they might be afraid. As the kids came in, the teacher introduced me. Most of them were quite interested in this new person in the room (me). I quickly had several kids wanting my attention and wanting to show me things.

It wasn’t long before I had kids in my lap and other kids bringing me toys or showing me something they’d put together with magnets, etc. One little boy kept coming up behind me with a play teapot and pouring imaginary tea down my back. I laughed and joked that I would have to change my sweater, but I would wait until he was done. When the little sweetie got done pouring the “tea”, he came back with a short-handled broom and cleaned up the “tea” (remember it was pretend tea) that was all over my back. 🙂 Another one of my buddies for the day thought this looked like a lot of fun, so he grabbed a broom, too. I thanked both of them for being so thoughtful and for cleaning my sweater. 🙂

I had several requests for me to help put on dress-up clothes and even more to read books. The kids even listened to me when I asked them to do (or not do) something. During outside playtime, I had kids chasing me around with play cars, kids throwing leaves on me, and kids wanting to hold my hand on the way back inside.

I had been accepted and even welcomed. It was an amazingly fun morning.

As for Sapphire, a couple of times throughout the morning, I would hear a voice say “Mom” and I would look up and see Sapphire smiling at me through the doorway (the door opens in halves and the top half was opened, while the bottom was closed). And once she came to ask me a question her teacher had for me. At the end of the threes’ play period in the “big room” (which is shared by both classes at different times), Sapphire’s class came back from the park and walked right by us. She smiled big and came over to give me a big hug. Then she went happily into her classroom and I went back into the other classroom with the threes.

During outside time, I heard a knock on the nearby window and turned to see Sapphire and her best pal smiling and waving at me. This continued for about three more knocks, then they disappeared to go clean up.

At the end of the preschool day, Sapphire told me she was so glad I was at her school for the whole day. She enjoyed it even though she hardly got to interact with me at all. I think it was just knowing I was there that made her so happy. She was also thrilled to have been able to do some of the set-up tasks that the assistant teacher usually does in her own class. It made her feel big and helpful.

So it was a big productive, wonderful morning for Sapphire and her mom. How was your morning?

What’s for Breakfast?

Jim and I have long been amused by the differences in what each of us considers acceptable breakfast food. It’s interesting what people get in their heads. When Jim thinks of breakfast, it looks like this:

Or one of these:

Occasionally, he’ll even throw in these:

Or maybe even this:

But that’s where he draws the line.

While I also typically have traditional breakfast foods for my first meal of the day (usually cereal with fruit on top at an attempt to healthfully fuel my body for whatever I have going that morning), I tend to think of breakfast as exactly that, “break the fast”. So if we have leftover spaghetti in the frig., that’s what I may choose. Or yes, even pie or cake on occasion.

But I draw lines, too. I don’t think I’ve ever had a hamburger for breakfast, and steak with my eggs holds little appeal (but I do love a good steak for dinner).

That got me thinking about what does and doesn’t make a good breakfast food. Donuts are considered a yummy (although not healthy) breakfast. But most people probably wouldn’t have a piece of cake unless it’s pound cake or coffee cake.

Similarly, sausage is a big breakfast staple, but rarely (if ever) have I seen someone eat a hot dog for their morning meal.

Some might eat lox on a bagel with cream cheese, but would be unlikely to eat fried catfish or fried shrimp.

My guess is that it’s purely what we’ve become accustomed to throughout our lifetimes. I think of pie as an OK breakfast, because on special occasions growing up, I was allowed to have a piece of pie first thing in the morning. Likewise with stuffing the morning after Thanksgiving or Christmas.

In fact, if you look around the world, people eat different things at different times of the day. In one province of China, people may eat spicy noodles for breakfast. In another area, a common breakfast is sticky rice wrapped in bamboo or reed leaves. In Australia, many people eat cereal or toast for breakfast, just like here, but what they spread on their toast can be vastly different, including such choices as Vegemite (a paste made from yeast extract) or cheese. Australians may also enjoy eggs, bacon, sausage, and the like — again like us.

The time you eat your first meal of the day may also play a role in what you find appetizing. I do not generally choose Eggs Benedict for a 7:00 a.m. breakfast, but as a brunch food (closer to 11:00 a.m.), it’s one of my favorites. Likewise, I don’t usually eat turkey for an early first food, but for late morning, particularly at a holiday buffet, you’ll usually see it on my plate along with a host of other tasty favorites.

So how traditional are you when it comes to breakfast choices? Do you ever have pizza or whatever is leftover from dinner as your first meal of the day? How about when you travel, do you try the local favorites or do you stick with the closest thing you can find to your usual?

It’s Beginning to Look a lot Like Clutter

I have begun my Christmas shopping. And around here that means lots of deliveries from the Big. Brown. Truck. Our UPS driver is very familiar with our house around this time of year. And I don’t know if he considers that a good thing. 🙂

But visits from Big Brown mean piles of brown boxes in the foyer.

At least this year they do. In the usual year, I hide (OK, store, everyone knows they’re in there) the presents in my closet. But this year, my closet is still waiting to be decluttered and organized, so until I tend to that, there is no room for these new boxes of goodies.

And I have to admit, I’m kind of enjoying tantalizing the girls with the growing pile of boxes by the front door – just a leetle bit. 🙂 They know what this pile means, but they also know how I feel about keeping the surprise for Christmas morning. They are too worried that these bundles of fun will be sent back to wherever they came from to even try to sneak a peek. [Plus, truth be told, they don’t really want to know . . . yet.]

So they glance at the pile as they pass by and smile a little, thinking about what may be under the tree in a couple of months. It’s that anticipation that I find fun. It’s the little smiles. The knowing smiles that whatever is in those boxes they will love. Not just because whatever is in those boxes is fabulously fun, but also because their parents took the care to pick it out and order it two months in advance.

Now the wheels in their brains will start turning to what to give their loved ones. Because they enjoy giving almost as much as they enjoy receiving.

But now I think the tower of boxes has got to go. While I can appreciate the benefit of the pile, I am still a clutter-hater -disliker. So those boxes will have to find another home before more boxes arrive and the tower starts looking like the Tower of London (in the scale of our house, that is).

It is clear that it is time to go up the stairs to work on my closet. Maybe I’ll post a picture of that . . . Maybe not. 🙂

So what about y’all? (Squeal! I spelled it right!!). Have you started your holiday shopping yet? Do you shop online or in person, or a combo of the two? Where do you store all the goodies?

Catching Fall

I love fall. It is my favorite season. I love the cooler weather. I love the clothes. I love the foliage. I love all the family activities and festivals. The apple orchard. The pumpkin patch. Halloween. Highland Games. Arts & Crafts festivals . . .

But this year, fall got away from me. With all of the other things we had going, I just couldn’t get to all the things I love most about the season. I just ordered the kids’ Halloween costumes last Friday. I usually have those by the first week of October. I mentioned before that I love to make pumpkin pies from scratch, just as my mom used to. Nope, I hadn’t even gotten to that.

Finally, on Friday, I carved out the time (pun sort of intended) to spend the afternoon with Sapphire cooking, peeling, and pureeing two pumpkin pie pumpkins that we’d had in our kitchen for about two weeks. The last few years, I have been so busy working that I have hardly cooked and prepared pumpkins, much less involved the kids. But last Friday, Sapphire and I did it together (and had a ball!) and when we were finished mashing pumpkin, we made yummy Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies.

We put the rest of the pumpkin in the refrigerator to be made into pumpkin pies over the weekend. Well, actually today, as all of the weekend activities (more on that below) took longer than expected.

Emerald had a playdate with a neighborhood pal after school on Friday and when we went to pick her up at around 8:00 p.m., we were treated to a whole host of fun, funny, and spooky Halloween decorations at our neighbor’s house. There was a fake rat caught in a trap at the top of the stairs on their porch. There were furry spiders hanging around, a graveyard, a spooky laughing man at the doorbell, and lots more. I’ve never been one to decorate much for Halloween, but this house made me want to start.

Saturday, after a morning of baton, we headed to a nearby city to finally get some fall/winter shoes and a new school backpack for Emerald. We then purchased some plants (including Mums for the deck) at a local nursery and were about to head back home when we noticed it was nearing dinner time. Home was about an hour away and we had not planned, or started preparing, anything. So on the spur of the moment, we decided to dine (and play) at Chuck E. Cheese’s (we hadn’t been in years, so it was Sapphire’s first visit, which she has been begging for for months as it is advertised heavily on PBS Kids). Say what you want about that place, our family had the most fun. I’m not sure who smiled and laughed more, the girls or Jim and me. We left with big smiles, 186 tickets, and 50 leftover tokens. It was the perfect ending to a perfect family Saturday. We will definitely have to go again.

Yesterday we got up and dressed fairly early and drove out to a pumpkin patch in the area. We were a bit late in the season, in a bad year for pumpkins, for much selection (although we did manage to pick a few pumpkins for painting, one of our favorite annual Halloween activities, and we selected some gourds for a little fall color).

But the highlight was a fantastic corn maze in the shape of Mt. Rushmore, complete with quiz questions strategically placed throughout (if you got all the multiple choice quiz answers correct and could rearrange the letters of the answers to fill in the blanks at the bottom — 2 seven letter words — you were entered into a drawing for two tickets to the Virginia/Virginia Tech football game). No, we did not find or answer all the questions, but neither did we call 911. We did walk around in circles a bit, trying to find the quiz questions and therefore not using the map to find the way out. But then the being-lost-in-a-corn-maze thing lost its excitement with one of the kids in particular so Jim used his wonderful sense of direction in addition to the map (everybody knows not to rely on me to get them unlost :-)) and out we wandered. It was then off to the hay ride, which was the bumpiest one I’ve ever been on — but it sure was fun!

We came home after that to watch my beloved Redskins (something we haven’t been able to catch for the last couple of weeks for one reason or another). [Unfortunately, their season has not continued as well as it started and we had a very disappointing loss.]

But all in all, we had the perfect fall weekend and I am feeling like I finally caught that rascally season by the tail and will not let it get away just yet. Next weekend is the Highland Games and maybe a trip to the orchard for Apple Cider Donuts (it may be too late for much apple picking, but that’s OK). And there’ll be more pumpkin pies and cookies, Trick or Treating, and Thanksgiving before it’s time to decorate for Christmas.

I’ll say it again, I LOVE FALL!!

What are your favorite fall activities? Have you had a chance to do them yet?

Physics Revisited

There’s no question Albert Einstein was a brilliant man, so I would NEVER presume to correct or even modify one of his theories.

I might suggest an alternative equation, though, for those of us who need things phrased in simpler terms. Instead of his famous Theory of Relativity (E=mc2), I prefer to think of energy like this:

= an abundance of energy

and

= an energy void

It’s really pretty easy. Just ask any mom.

OK, you can see how I’m feeling this Thursday. How about y’all? Does anyone feel full of energy, ready to go or are you with me and ready for a restful weekend?

Tomatoes

This morning on the way to preschool, Sapphire started talking about how she doesn’t like tomatoes. I wondered what brought that up, but it was no surprise to me that she doesn’t like them. She has never been a fan.

She went on to ask me if other people like tomatoes and I answered that I think a lot of people do like them, but a lot of people don’t, too.

“Do you like them?”

“I do like them, but I wouldn’t say they are my favorite food.”

“Mom, I don’t mean the kind you eat. I mean the ones that can break houses.”

She then started talking about really big tomatoes that fall from the sky and can crush a roof. I love her imagination, so I played along. We talked about how that would have to be a really, really big tomato and how I’ve never seen one that big or heavy.

The conversation went on like that until I began to wonder again why she was so interested in humongous red fruits that could fall from the sky. This wasn’t a passing topic like so many others we touch on in the car. This was really weighing on her mind.

I asked, “Have you been reading Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs?”

“No, Mom,” she replied. “I don’t mean that kind of tomato. You know, the tomatoes they talked about on the TV?”

My mind raced for a few seconds. The kind they talked about on TV. The kind they talked about on TV. . .

OHHHHH!

We’re not talking about these:

We’re talking about these:

[One touched down locally last weekend and she heard a mention of it on the morning news the next day.]

“Oh, you mean tor-na-does,” I said.

She repeated the word.

Now that she knew we had been talking about different things, she asked again, “Do some people like tornadoes?”

I answered that I thought most people probably don’t like tornadoes, but that some people like to chase them because they think they look cool. That can be dangerous, though, I told her. [I know people also chase them to study them, but I didn’t go into that with her.]

We then talked about the fact that really big ones do not usually touch down around here and what to do if there is a tornado in your area. And I told her a story of one that touched down near where Jim and I lived in Alabama eleven years ago. I told her about going to the basement with our dog and two cats and waiting there until the storm had passed. Our house and neighborhood were completely spared, but her Granny did have a few trees land on her roof. They didn’t go through the roof and Granny wasn’t home at the time, so all was OK. Since Granny wasn’t home, her house wasn’t flattened, and no one was hurt, Sapphire thought it sounded funny that trees were on Granny’s roof.

I think the conversation allayed her fears and I doubt she’ll be so worried about tornadoes anymore, at least until she hears about another one “breaking a house”.

And I learned that a tomato is not always a tomato.

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