Monday, December 31, 2012

The unicorn egg

We have developed a mystery. We got a unicorn egg for Christmas with no return address.

It's a white egg about six inches long that splits open to project rainbows. I think it works on a principle of LED lights and a curved mirror, and I never knew such a thing existed. Did we need a unicorn egg? No. Is it awesome? YES. It is especially awesome in connection with Meg's new star projector nightlight. I will treasure it always. Jonathan, on the other hand, started singing about Strongbad and his crystal fortress.

However, I do not know who would have mailed us one all the way from China. (Naturally, China would be a final refuge for unicorns, where else?) We guessed it was from Jonathan's parents' business partner, but he doesn't know anything about it.

So, my friends, if you sent us a unicorn egg, please let me know so I can thank you.

Happy birthday to Meg!

We have a three-year-old in the house! Happy birthday yesterday to Meg. She has made our lives much fuller and more interesting, and we love her lots. :-)

She got two celebrations this year. On Friday her grandparents came down, and we had presents (and presents, and more presents) and made a chocolate cake and ate it. Then yesterday, her birthday proper, she took a four-hour nap and then she and Jonathan and I went out for chicken nuggets and finished up the evening at the new SweetFrog's. An excellent time was had by all.

Friday, December 28, 2012

And get over it

We had a pretty emotional morning, ending with a heart-to-heart chat on the importance of wearing big-girl underwear.

Ah, potty training.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Everybody clean up

I just discovered the best way to make sure you get through a pile of junk on the same day you create it. Put it on your bed. At least you'll have to look at it again!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Jack shall have Jill, and naught shall go ill

The sauce for the orange chicken tonight didn't taste quite as orangey as usual and seemed to be slightly darker. But I just figured Trader Joe's had changed their recipe and ran with it. It tasted fine.

All was normal until I was cleaning up afterward and discovered the orange sauce packet still in the box. We had tossed the chicken in the egg roll dipping sauce!

Apparently all our frozen convenience foods are interchangeable. I know, to test this idea, when we have fish nuggets, we'll dip them in the orange chicken sauce and have pineapple on the side. It'll be fun!

I draw the line at serving egg rolls with tartar sauce, though.

I laughed; I cried; it moved me, Bob

Tonight I got onto the World Magazine site and went back through all of Chelsea Kolz's articles because, obviously, you need to read about a parasailing version of James Joyce on a snowy Christmas Eve instead of filling stockings with care and putting French toast into the crock pot. G. K. Chesterton would have painted a big blue James Joyce on a guitar box, too.

Dr. Libby turns up in this particular story, incidentally, being very Dr. Libby-ish, and I do like coming across stories about old friends. It's like finding a new story by an old favorite author.

The best things happen when it's snowing

Merry Christmas Eve! It's actually snowing here, with big fat flakes that are even sticking a little bit. I kind of can't believe it. Jonathan is off playing games with friends, Meg is watching a movie and eating candy, and I did a last couple bits of shopping this morning. Just now I came home and downloaded songs from White Christmas, and we're expecting a girl friend to come wrap presents with us in a little bit. It's just about perfect, in my opinion.

Any of you doing nice things today?

Saturday, December 22, 2012

That was my day

I woke up this morning with a sore throat, so that was pretty much that for the day. I did a little crocheting and a little mending and took a nap. I got absolutely no Christmas prep or grocery shopping done, though I did turn on the tree lights. It was cold and windy out and I'm sure the crowds were awful, so a slightly peculiar dinner was totally worth not having to leave. In fact I didn't so much as poke my nose out the door until nearly Meg's bedtime, when I opened the front door and poked my nose out. Then I pulled it back in. It was still cold out.

I'm developing a theory. Christmas stress seems to be catching. Even though I don't have to go anywhere, buy any more presents, or cook anything unless I want to, most people do have to and it makes me really tired by proxy. And, it makes me feel slightly guilty that I don't spend all my spare time baking cut-out cookies and elaborately styling the decor in my apartment. Because clearly Meg will have a warped childhood because I didn't make bizcochitos with her before Christmas Day. Now I'm getting cranky, so I should wrap up this blog post. Either Christmas is in honor of the Lord Jesus and His incarnation, and the low-hanging mommy guilt can go jump off a cliff, or else the mommy guilt really is what it's all about. I will therefore choose to rest in Christ and his finished righteousness, and go to bed.

Good night!

Friday, December 21, 2012

But I did get a phone for Christmas, early

The rice didn't really help my poor phone much. I don't know if it could have saved the display from shorting out if I'd tried the rice solution earlier, but the display never did come back on and the phone started developing... quirks. It beeped randomly during calls, and when it wasn't making calls, and it sent a ghost text message to a friend.

My mother-in-law, bless her, stepped in and told me she was getting me a new phone for Christmas, so go pick it out already. So I did. :-)

I chose a Samsung Intensity III, which has been out a couple months. It's got a "ruggedized" cover, though not a waterproof one, and it definitely looks like the best non-smartphone available for Verizon right now. I'm pretty excited.

Verizon, I'm convinced, truly believes you should feel honored to pay them another thirty, fifty, or seventy dollars for services that (in some possible worlds) would be considered standard, or else unnecessary. And if you don't want to pay extra for them, you're weird and probably un-American. But today I exercised my awesome mommy negotiating skills and listened to the sales rep's entire effort to sell me lots of things, anything actually - monthly-payment, one-time, discounted, or bundled! - to go with the phone, and I said no to all of them. I win. As long as I don't drop the new phone in apple juice... in which case I will lose. But that's just a chance I'll have to take.

Another house we aren't going to buy

We looked at another house this week. This one would have a been a really great option. It was in our price range and had a yard and had just been redone inside, and it was cute. Really cute. I completely fell in love with it. There wasn't actually anything seriously wrong with it - just some minor changes. 

We were this close to putting in an offer, when we realized that our working budget was no longer accurate due to Obamacare's rates and some of the prospective changes Congress has going (or not going). Changes like, we don't know if the mortgage tax writeoff is still going to exist in January. And, we thought, budgeting the same amount for utilities and repairs and whatnot for a house as for our (not maintained by us) apartment is probably not realistic either. At this point we were talking hundreds of dollars difference, which would be hard to squeeze out of the grocery budget. Drat.

I had really hoped to get a house for Christmas. But I glared at the numbers and they didn't care a bit. So we're kind of glum at the moment.


Meg was protesting as Jonathan got her dressed, and I heard her yelling, "No, no! These aren't the socks I'm looking for!"

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The great apple juice flood

Sometimes a sippy cup's lid gets a little warped. Sometimes a mom in a hurry will stuff a sippy cup into her purse, in her rush to get down the stairs with a girl and all their paraphernalia. And sometimes, a warped lid comes off.

I had a pretty good flood of apple juice yesterday. My checkbook and calendar and all wiped off just fine, but the phone went insane, turning on and off cyclically, and then it sang its musical little beep until I took out the battery, discovering more apple juice. Today it found itself able to take and send calls, but couldn't display anything. It's all dark. No texting for me.

I went to the Verizon store, hoping they might be able to fix it, but they don't fix things there without insurance. They also weren't quite able to let me have a new phone, though apparently it's time, but I was welcome to buy a new phone if I wanted. Not, of course, that they had any phones in stock, exactly, but they had lots of snazzy little internet devices that you can also talk on. I think technology has evolved beyond my mere voice-texting-and-photos. That's so 2010.

Upon that note, I went to Target to buy more apple juice. Floods or no floods, the Meg needs her juice. I ran into some friends there, who recommended setting the wet phone in a bowl of uncooked rice for the night, to see if it would suck the moisture out and get it working. It worked for her brother's Ipod. I bought my juice and came home and tried that very thing. I'll let you know if it works.

I also learned, the friends got to see an advance showing of Les Mis! They say it's fabulous and we should definitely see it on the big screen. There you have it.

Monday, December 17, 2012

That's a wrap

I am pleased to announce that, after a full day's effort, I have prepared three (3) packages to be sent through the mail, and actually gotten one of them sent off. The crafts are done; the presents inside the packages are wrapped and tagged; the boxes are the right size and not the $40 express postage kind; and they even all have the right address on the front.

Oh, and we ate dinner tonight. That's good too.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Many hats, part two

Meg has been naming her headgear again. Right now she has on her "kingdom hat," a truly smashing statement piece which the uninitated would think was a red dotted plastic cup. She also now wears a "gloria hat," which resembles a pink sippy cup with princesses on it, and a "soccer hat," which does a good imitation of a handled snack cup. Sometimes it even holds snacks.

The Unexpected Journey

Jonathan and I went with friends Tom and Sarah to see the Hobbit. We saw it not only in theaters, on the opening day, in costume, but in Imax 3-D. We were hard-core, y'all.

We absolutely had the best costumes at our showing; we had the only costumes at our showing. My cloak was completely successful, in my opinion, because it kept me warm in the letting-out-at 2 am frost. I never did come up with a good interim cloak pin, so I used a couple of diaper pins. That's keeping it real, right there.

As for the movie, we liked it. It probably isn't the best of the LOTR movies, but it had a lot going for it. For one thing, the Peter Jackson - Fran Walsh - Philippa Boyens team is so incredibly solid. They can make a movie. They got back a lot of the old cast - Elijah Wood, Hugo Weaving, Cate Blanchett, Ian Holm, and of course Ian McKellen - and they're so solid together. Howard Shore's music was excellent as always, especially the parts when the dwarves sang. The ending credit song was one of the best I've seen in any movie, ever.

The script was decent, with a few lines that clunked, but it did a fabulous job working with flashbacks and background stories. We got to see the dwarven kingdom that was, and suddenly all the dwarves had character motivation. It also had some gross parts (troll cooking, anyone?), some pretty scary parts, and some silly parts. Apparently they can't resist chase scenes with everyone out in the open and you have to wonder about those revered orcish tracking skills. Ahem. I was impressed, though, that the movie stuck closely to the book AND had an internal plot arc and everything. It kept everyone's attention despite the late hour. It makes me happy to see book scenes. "To think that I should live to be good-morninged by Belladonna Took's son!"

We got to go back to Middle-Earth. That's really the best part. I was just happy to see our old friends and get to spend more time at Bag End and Rivendell. And I would go back again.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Photographic evidence

The back of the cloak.

The front of the cloak. Adventure, here I come.

Elf cloak is done enough!

The elf cloak is DONE ENOUGH TO WEAR! Woohoo!

All right, when last I updated, one panel of the outside back had frayed badly in the wash. I zigzagged the whole piece to preserve what was left, and was able to absorb most of the loss into the seam allowances. The bottom was about 4" short, but I needed a bottom hem about 5" deep to make it my height, so that worked out really well.

Wednesday night I got the body of the cloak assembled, stitched together, and turned right side out.

I didn't get to the cloak at all yesterday because I had things going on all day, came home, and went to bed about seven-thirty. It was awesome.

Today I was on the clock, so I let Meg watch Elmo while I sewed. I started by basting shut the cloak body and gathering it to a piece of bias tape. That went pretty quickly, so I assembled the hood, too. I got to practice understitching, which I learned in August for that red dress, and it's such a great technique. I love how it turns out.

So anyway, the hood got put together, basted and gathered, and then I attached the gathers on the cloak to the gathers on the hood. That was kind of not the greatest. I completely cut off the bias tape, which was ridiculous and not working, and undid the worst section and re-did it. It's okay now, but there are a couple more sections that I'd like to re-do. Eventually, the raw gathers need to be hidden under a separate piece of lining or a wide ribbon, but I need to repair the gathers first, and it won't show while I'm wearing it.

I also need to order a gigantic industrial-strength yet elvish-appearing clasp for the front, but I'll mock something up for tonight. I can wear it to the Hobbit movie!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


Meg narrated as she did the advent calendar. "We'll put the star up there [on the top point of the stable] so they can have light." Jonathan and I laughed, so Meg defended her placement. "And God said, let there be light!"

Then she started using known board book forms. "Mary, Mary, what did you see? A great big angel looking at me!"

I tell you, this is exactly like classical education. You have a scheme of words and make up your own version to that pattern. Meg does it so naturally.

Elf cloak

I worked on the elf cloak some more during Meg's nap. I sewed the cloak lining and got the seams ironed flat and then open.

Then I started to iron the cloak outer material. It's a cream floral damask, very pretty, but cream-colored. So when the ironing board cover started to bleed (?!), you could really see it. So I stopped ironing, of course, and wailed a while. Then I decided I couldn't sew the cloak with a big brownish spot on the shoulder, so I sprayed it with oxy-clean and put it in the washer to soak. Meanwhile, I put a white towel to cover the offending cover and ironed the rest of the cloak pieces.

But when I went back to the one in the washer... it had frayed horribly. NOOOOO!

My washer apparently doesn't believe in gentle, even for just a pre-wash.

Upon closer inspection, the worst of the fraying seems to be along the bottom. I think I can hem it up shorter and it'll be okay. But, drat.

Words of wisdom

"Don't pull sisters' tails, even when you're very grumpy," Meg said during lunch.
"That's right," I agreed. "Are you thinking like in the Angelina book, when the princess pulled her sisters' tails?"
"Yeah," she said. "'Cause pulling your sisters' tails hurts their feelings and their tails."

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Elf cloak

I've been slightly intimidated by this cloak I'm making. I call it the "elf cloak," because I bought the fabric round about the time Return of the King came out. It sat in a bin for several years, until I cut it out on the floor of our Richmond apartment by means of removing most of the furniture from the room. Then it sat in the bin for another couple of years. At this point, it's more of a life event than a sewing project.

I don't think the pattern is going to be that hard. It's just there's so much of it. You'll observe that the fabric covers the couch, and this is just the lining  minus the hood pieces. This cloak should fit me for the rest of my natural life and possibly on into eternity, though I admit turquoise chrysanthemum brocade might not be the most practical for adventuring in. Watch me.

And. Since I want to wear the cloak to the opening of the Hobbit movie this weekend, the time had come to do something about it. Wish me boldness.

Monday, December 10, 2012

At least she's well-balanced

"You are a critical part of this balanced family," Jonathan told Meg.
She agreed. "And I am balancing on this pot!"

Talk in a bucket day

We declared tonight Talk In A Bucket Day. My family started declaiming. First, of course, came the quotes from that episode of Jungle Jam.

Meg: "If we serve it, dey will come!"

Jonathan: "I want to be my own bear!"

"And we did leave you a little potato salad!"

Then things started to deteriorate.

Jonathan: "Ich bin ein Berliner!"

Meg: "I am a little potato salad!"

"Neither a borrower nor a lender be."

"Everyone wants to be a cat, is the question!"

"Margaret, I am your father. Search your birth certificate; you know it to be true."

And to end: "If we serve it, dey will come. Everyone wants to be their own bear. We do have a little potato salad. We do have a little sandwich. When there is a bucket on my head, don't twist it, hit it, click it, or ning it," said Meg.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Seen at the mall

Sears had a holiday display up with giant inflatable Peanuts characters. A little girl was happily using inflatable Lucy as a punching bag. Wham - wham - wham - until her dad called her, and she scampered off.

I feel like there's a metaphor or a moral or something in there, somewhere, but I can't quite track it down...

The great wrapping paper conundrum

This evening as I was wrapping presents, I discovered I had no Christmas paper, only Christmas tissue paper. Additionally, we have no tissue paper except Christmassy, which I discovered last time I tried to wrap a birthday present. In the wrapping paper department we're down to the pink flowers, the purple penguins, the little blue trains, and some kraft paper, which clearly sounds like Murphy's Law to me.

But I really did want to wrap Christmas presents tonight, and not in purple penguins because that would be weird, so I used the plain brown kraft paper. I'll tie it up with fancy ribbons and it'll still be pretty. So I wrapped two presents, which were pretty in a brown paper packages kind of way, but then that was the end of that roll too. I did what else I could with tissue paper, and out of desperation put another present under the tree in a plain shoe box until further developments.

If I give you a pink flowerdy-wrapped present with red poinsettia tissue paper, just know I still love you.


Jonathan was explaining his game to Meg and said, "I have been able to make close allies with the Portuguese."

Meg lit up. "Oh, I know the geese!"

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

That's about right

I got a kick out of Meg's Veggie-Tales lyrics update this evening. She sang,
"The Lord has given this land to us
So we can fuss..." (Original: No need to fuss.)

Then Jonathan and I were standing in the kitchen as I gave him his welcome-home kiss. Meg tried to demand a toy, so I paused the kiss long enough to tell her that this was mush and she couldn't interrupt. I felt a stirring by our feet, with some grunting.

"Nnng! Unnng! I'm trying -- to -- get -- IN!"

Tuesday, December 04, 2012


"I'll move all the things that I don't like, off the couch. Oh! I found two mouses!"

Such surprise! Such delight! Such eloquence in the cause of making a mess! What a girl.

Monday, December 03, 2012

It was like ice skating

Meg ice skated this morning for the first time! Kirsten and I took her and then went shopping afterwards. Monday morning is a great time to go, with just a handful of adults on the ice practicing spins and other interesting moves and, best of all, not running us over. The thrift store skates fit Meg just fine with a pair of extra socks.

About a quarter of the way around the rink, she got frustrated and asked to go home, but she pulled it together and we made it around several times. She skated holding onto one of us, holding onto both of us, holding onto the wall, and even, just for a foot or two, all by herself. She's good at getting back on her feet, though she preferred to sit on the ice and watch everybody, and her balance definitely improved while we were there.

"Did you go ice skating this morning?" Jonathan asked.
"Yeah," said Meg.
"What was it like?"
"It was like ice skating," she said.

And that seemed to sum it up.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Worth trying

"Just let me know when it's time to eat candy, okay, guys?" Meg

We've started the Advent calendar, you see. We have a big one with pockets and Nativity figures that you put on the stable, and then we have a little one with chocolate. I think the chocolate is leading to some optimism.

Security plan

We ate at a Quizno's in greater Baltimore, the other day. It was a great Quizno's, but as I was sitting at our table I noticed that the door jamb had a sticker with heights marked off on it like you would to measure your kid's height, only this one started higher up - five and a half feet, six feet, six and a half, seven. The door was seven feet tall, I noticed, and started speculating whether that was standard for buildings in North America. Probably.

But then I noticed that this sticker had their security company's logo. It all clicked.

They put it there to measure robbers on their way out.

I love how crimes were something they were planning on having and took steps to prosecute. So, of course, we had to photograph this character by the door to get photographic evidence. I told him to look suspicious.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Persephone is put to bed, clean and a little soggy

Tonight we let Meg have a little cup of pomegranate seeds to nibble in the bath.* Of course the bath got everywhere, pomegranate cup, Daddy-splashing cup, ducks, Daddy, and all, and it was time for the Meg to come out of the bath.  Jonathan dealt with the bathwater first, and while his back was turned, Meg slipped out to come leap on me and my laptop and generously drip all over au naturel, to the musical shrieks of "Get down! Watch the computer!"

Jonathan came along with a towel, and when Meg was dry, pajamaed, and put to bed, discovered that the Daddy-splashing cup had maliciously covered the tub drain so the water wouldn't drain.

I tell this story, not just by way of personal encouragement that these things happen to other people, but also because I found it amusing that I was pounced on by a girl literally wet behind the ears. Metaphor strikes again.

*Doesn't that sounds luxurious and Romanesque? We're starting classical education early. Obviously.