talk about it more

a virtual baby book

When she was two, Fiona regularly said "Talk about it more!" to express her desire to know more about whatever we were discussing.

Monday, December 31, 2007

2007 in review

2007 has been a very good year for us. A full year at home with these joyous little wonders has been an amazing experience. It brings me contentment and fulfillment I never knew was missing till I got to roll up my sleeves and do it full-time.

I don't know whether being at home makes our kids smarter, more creative, more sheltered, less resistant to illnesses later in life, or any of the hot topics on the parenting discussion boards. What I do know for certain is that being at home has given all of us a chance to enjoy each other more fully, and to grow stronger together through both good times and rough ones, too.

Over the past year we have dropped lawn service, TV service, traditional long distance service, the newspaper, and numerous non-essential food, convenience items, and entertainment options from our purchases. In addition, the hand-me-downs of family and friends have been godsends to our pocketbooks while simultaneously keeping our kids dressed as vibrantly as their personalities. The Family Belt has tightened considerably. It's not clear at this point how long we'll continue to choose to live on one income.

But as cheesy as it probably sounds, simpler living feels a whole lot cushier when surrounded by the ebullient fireballs I call my family. Life is mighty fine. I hope your 2008 is half as good as 2007 has been to us.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

New scooters

Fiona and Nora got scooters for Christmas (from Grandma and Toot-Toot). They took them outside in the cold today for a bit of experimentation, with varying results, as you can tell from the video:

Monday, December 24, 2007


On Christmas Eve we had some cream left over from making a couple batches of Kahlua truffles, and the only thing I could think of to do with it was to make butter. Fortunately, Grandma had a good container for shaking some (it even had a cow on the front!) so we got right to it. Many of us got in on the act, because it took a good long time. Butter turns out to be a good way to burn off Christmas Eve energy! Below is my first documentary:

Saturday, December 22, 2007


Christmas with the cousins was Saturday, and it was a very good day. Besides the usual playing, reading and eating, we also got some really fun playthings-- puzzles, a popping ladybug, a cooking set, and a calendar. Plus everybody got scooters from Grandma and Toot Toot! Scoot, scoot, hooray!

Out of the blue

Fiona: Mom! I had a really good idea for how to save money.

Jen: What is it, honey?

Fiona: Only buy the things you really need!

I believe she may have something there.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Before and after

That's right, five days before Christmas we took our Christmas tree down for good. We knew that those kitties might be up to no good in it when we weren't looking, and we couldn't take the chance that they'd get hurt. Also, it would be nice to salvage what few lights still work. I thought Nora might be rather interested, but never expected those kittens to get such a daily case of jungle fever over it. Sheesh!

Nobody bought the little Christmas tree that Carrie gave us when Ian and I got married and she and her husband got a big one. It's still in our garage from the "yard sale". I think we'll be using that mini tree from here on out until we have cats that sleep, like, 23 hours a day.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Snow much fun, or; what happens while my sister naps

It's snowy enough to be exciting, and warm enough to play in it. When she came in Fiona said she spelled her name in the snow with a twig, but she had no idea what she was looking at in the sky here. Regardless, life is good!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


Isn't that Granny crafty? Check out these ornaments! She said they should open them early-- and the girls were more than happy to oblige. Thanks, Granny!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Here we go a'caroling

But STILL no pictures at the nursing home. We did have fun, though, shaking our jingle bells and walking up and down the halls singing and, for some of us, stomping along. What we lacked in pleasant sound we made up for in vivacity. A great time was had by all. Nora headed home for a nap, and Fiona went with the neighbors for her first trip sledding. I'm still waiting for her to come home!

And don't the girls look extra-special for singing or anything else thanks to dresses from Alan and Lindie and TJ and Lori (and their daughters, of course, who wore them first)?! Thanks, all!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Snuggly Sunday snow day sisters... and Zelda

Well, the weather outside is frightful: frightful enough that I've decided to stay in all day-- even on a Sunday morning-- and to hope that the library gets closed so Ian doesn't have to leave either. But it's delightful inside! The girls are looking forward to a backyard romp later, but for now they haven't gotten any farther than a under a quilt.

11:30 a.m. addendum: With a county-wide Level II Snow Emergency just announced, the library is now closed for the day and our family is indeed snowed in together. Hooray!

We'll head outside to shovel and Fiona can enjoy the snow after we all eat lunch and Nora goes down for her nap (but shhhh-- don't tell Nora about the early afternoon snow fun. We'll go out again once she's awake).

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Interesting turns of phrase from Fiona

"I'm hungry to the dickens!"

"Nora looks like a joyful snowman." (Not about this picture.)

"Mom, you don't act like a mom. You act like a girl running around the world showing off her silliness!"

Friday, December 14, 2007


I just went to check on a teething, overtired, howling Nora mid-nap. She was standing in her crib, stuck in a broken record-type jag of crying. Once we got past that, I understood that she was trying to say, "Cover me up!" (So far 'thank you' is much more reliable than 'please'). I got her settled in again, and even snugged the baby doll next to her in the way Nora prefers.

"There honey," I said. "And there's your baby, too." She immediately began crying again in earnest. Summoning all the toddler drama she could muster, she quibbled, "IT'S A DOOOO-LLLLLY!"

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Blueberry muffins

Fiona is not the only one who likes to get in on the kitchen science. "I do it!" is a common refrain, though not while Nora's lips are pressed against the batter bowl.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Fiona is too smart for us

At dinner, conversation turned to the onions in our quiche.

Fiona: I don't like onions, but I like them in this quiche.
Jen: I think you do like them, otherwise you wouldn't like the quiche. In fact, the Spanish word for onions is "cebollas". . .
Ian: . . . and one of our favorite restaurants is named Cebolla's!
Jen: I know someone who really doesn't like onions and wouldn't be able to eat them even in quiche.
Fiona: Who doesn't like cebollas?
Ian: Mom's not talking about someone who doesn't like Cebolla's, it's someone who doesn't like onions.
Fiona: Who doesn't like cebollas?
Jen: No, not the restaurant, onions!
Ian (FINALLY getting it): You're saying the Spanish word for onions, aren't you? Not the restaurant.
Fiona: (nods, impish smile on her face).


I pulled pork chops out of the freezer too late to use for supper, so I had to think fast and make a new dinner plan before dashing off with the girls to Fiona's 5:00 hair appointment. I had a leftover cheater pie crust I needed to use up, and appropriate amounts of spinach, swiss, eggs, and ham if not bacon, so I decided a quiche would do the trick.

We were in a bit of a rush by that time, though, so I got the crust out of the fridge and tried to press it into service too soon. It showed its irritation by cracking in numerous places. As I began the process of mending the crust, Fiona meandered out into the kitchen, inquiring about my flurry of activity.

I explained that I had tried to hurry the pastry crust, and showed her my mixed results. "Oh, it's stubborn!" she exclaimed. "It's just like a man!" I was beyond speechless at this point-- we do not talk like that in this house-- but she went on. "It's just like... Toot Toot!"

Ah-ha! Now it all comes together. I asked Fiona who said Toot Toot was stubborn, and she said he himself did. And truthfully, it is well within reason that Toot Toot informed Fiona that he (and perhaps all of the male population as well) is stubborn. This is the same man who has added names for himself for years. Besides the ones he was given at birth, he also has tacked on Leonardo, Puccini, and Humility. When Ian and I began dating, he also gave Dad the moniker IKE-- short for one of Toot's favorite phrases-- "I know everything." At least the root of Toot Toot's stubbornness is self-attribution. Toot Toot, we couldn't love you more, lumps and all.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Programs... get yer programs...

Sadly, I do not have a single photo of our afternoon spent at a local nursing home. We tagged along with the neighbors and their violin-playing friends for a Suzuki recital. Much to the delight of the senior set, Fiona and Nora dressed up in their velvetiest dresses and handed out programs which both families had decorated with potato stamps. Most of the programs were still a little wet from zealous stamping and stuck to one another-- leaving a poster paint wake behind them-- but the residents liked them all the better for it. The kids played 14 songs to a packed house. We're supposed to go back next week for Christmas carols-- I'll try to do better with the camera that time.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Pop quiz

Fiona: What would happen if sometime Zelda went up to the top of the tree and you squirted her with the spray bottle and she scrambled down in a big electric mess?

Me: ... uh ... I don't know. Let's hope that doesn't happen.

Fiona: But what if it did?

Me: I guess then we'd figure out what to do.

Fiona: I think we should lock the cats in the bathroom and put the tree back together again.

Note: Fiona does have some cause for concern; the paper chain currently looks nothing like it does in this picture.

First sword

Well, it's our baby book. We record these things. Fiona went to a birthday party yesterday-- part of one, anyhow. Our neighbor turned 6, and invited over a handful of boys to play Playmobil with him. His mom imagined it would be a boisterous affair, and knowing Fiona's play habits there as the two of us do we figured Fiona would have the most fun once the loudest part of the party had ceased and she could just walk over when it came time for presents and refreshments.

The arrangement was perfect-- there was still plenty of merrymaking to be had. Fiona had a fabulous time. And when at last she came home, she was brandishing a Brand New Amazing Toy. She didn't say she adored it. She didn't have to. She immediately came out to find me as I was making dinner, held it out straight-armed in front of herself like a relic and announced, "I don't want Nora to mess this up. I would like to keep it right up here on the kitchen shelf where I can enjoy it and you can get it down for me when I would like to play with it." This five-year old has been around the block.

I already knew about the toy long before Fiona came home with it. Kathleen had called from next-door to tell me about it first. "We had a little girl ready for her if she'd wanted it," she said. "But she wanted that one. She popped the little helmet on and seemed rather enchanted with the shield and the belt and the sword. No sexism here!" I grinned into the phone. You go, girl. Go get 'em, tiger!

So, now our family has its first weapon, unless you count those devious little Legos that climb under the arch of your foot when you're not looking. And while we don't buy weapon toys for our kids, I tend to believe that outlawing them outright might cause the same utter fascination that our relative TV smackdown has caused. It's fine-- we'll just need to 'talk about it more', that's all. In the end, I guess this little guy can hold watch in the kitchen as long as he behaves himself. Just like everyone else around here, he simply needs to use his words.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Saturday morning "cartoons"

Will I ever reach a point when those footie pajamas don't choke me up?


I finally feel recovered from the shivers, I think, but have to admit that when I went to bed last night I thought my throat was a mite sore, and this morning I was sure of it. On one side my tonsils are swollen and inflamed, and I thought it would be a great time to illustrate to Fiona where the tonsils are and talk a little about what they do.

After we had the fun of the flashlights and the mirror and comparison peeking and the aahhhhhhhhs, I was convinced that she'd seen what I wanted her to see. As she padded off unbidden to return the hand mirror, she said over her shoulder, "I'm sorry you have a tonsil, Mom. How did you get it?" Clearly I need some library books to round out the explanation a bit more, but at this very moment I too am sorry I have a tonsil.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Shivers and gingerbread

Last week I decided to take the girls to see the annual gingerbread exhibit at our local history center. We'd been thinking about it since we moved to town, but hadn't made time for it yet. There seemed to be no time like the present. I even told the neighbor about it and we formulated a wonderful plan to surprise our children with a trip made together.

Then, in the wee hours of this morning, I got up to read for hours because sleep was elusive. My extremities got achy and I felt a little shivery. It went downhill from there. To make a long story short, the neighbor took her kids PLUS Fiona to see the amazing architectural confections (and, apparently, also the jail in the bottom of the history center!) while I stayed home to freeze and Ian cared for Nora.

This afternoon, as Nora sweetly naps upstairs and Fiona pursues arts and crafts next-door-- having already enjoyed a lovely morning and a good, hot lunch with our neighbor friends as well-- I count my blessings and brew a cup of tea in a valiant attempt at warmth and wellness.

We may live in divisive times, but the world can still be a very good place. Under less infectious circumstances such goodwill would give me a case of the warm fuzzies. For now, it seems, I have to settle for the fuzzies.

Monday, December 03, 2007

They're dreaming of... Insta-Snow powder?

I was at the library this morning preparing for a "snow" preschool storytime when my friend Mary excitedly ran to the back room. She returned with a paper bowl with a minuscule amount of white powder in the bottom and a small glass of water. "You do it," she urged. "It's not the same until you do it for yourself."

So I poured the water over the powder and was immediately sorry I didn't wait till I was with Fiona and Nora. The bowl instantly filled with a fluffy white faux snow. I took the Insta-Snow Powder home with my other library materials and we put the "snow" into the freezer to get the full experience, making do with snow stories (like that's making do) until after dinner. But after warm bowls of chili, some farm animals got mighty chilly. Thanks, Mary. They loved it, and the storytime kids will, too!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Fiona explains her art