And Then I Stepped in Gum . . .

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Come, They Told Me . . .

I have to say, I've really enjoyed our local radio station's all-Christmas music, all the time format for the last month. But I think I'm ready for it to wind down. Good timing on my part, huh?

Anyway, the point of this post is that I've been listening to Christmas music for umpteen years, and I've always gotten a kick out of the choral version of The Little Drummer Boy that's usually played (when they're not playing David Bowie's version, which oddly enough, I haven't heard this year) because it's the same arrangement that we used to sing when we went Christmas caroling in San Francisco with the University of California choirs, and it brings back warm and fuzzy memories of the greatest time of my life.

So how is it that it took me all this time to hear that the little bell they ring at the end of each line is waaaayyy flat? And now I can't stop it from bugging me.

Oh well, only 2 more days to go. And I'm with Kira on the Jesus-Christmas-shoes song. Please make it STOP! Even more than your run-of-the-mill tearjerker songs, I hate tearjerker songs that are designed to be tearjerker songs, as if the songwriter sat down at his or her piano with the intention of being as maudlin as possible. I hate, hate, hate them -- and I hate them even more when they are emotionally manipulative enough to work on me. (This goes for the dance-with-my-father-again song, too.)

I am such a sap.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Remind Me Next Year . . .

. . . that gingerbread houses -- or even gingerbread trains, as the case may be -- are just not that fun to make. Really. No matter how cute the little kit is. No one wants to hold things together while they dry, and the 2-year-old doesn't understand that the decorated cookie parts in front of him aren't for eating yet. And somehow I ended up finishing this little "family project" all on my own, up to my elbows in sticky icing, while the kids watched TV. Oh well, another family tradition not to add to our repertoire.

Our weekend was spent shingling our playhouse, how was yours? I realize I should be glad that we had good enough weather to work outside, but I do not enjoy roofing. And I wasn't even up on the roof -- I was the schmuck on the ground cutting shingles to measurements shouted at me from the rooftop, where Dave was clinging for his life. He kept humming the theme to Spiderman. My hand is killing me, and I think our utility knife has had it. But the playhouse is finally waterproof -- well, except for the gaping, uncovered windows and doorframe. But the roof shouldn't leak.

And in the Too Good to Be True Department, our nanny, whom I've really enjoyed and who does wonderful things both for my son and for me (folds laundry, does dishes, doesn't judge (well, not out loud anyway)), is going to be taking a full-time position with someone else. She called to let me know before she even called the nanny service. I'm upset, but I perfectly understand -- I know we're not paying her much, and she has to fork over a portion of what we do pay her to the service. And we're not able to take her on full-time (nor do I think I would want to if we were). So we're back to square one with that situation -- daycare or find another nanny?

And part two of the TGTBTD, I think I'm going to get "fired" by one of my main clients tomorrow. Well, not fired really, but they put me on retainer back in late spring, paying me $1,000/month to reserve my services for their use. Not even exclusive use, but to have me drop everything and do their things first. And then they paid me on top of that when they did have projects for me. It's been very nice -- a gravy train, really. Because they haven't had more than one book for me in that time. A couple of months ago, I started feeling a little guilty for taking their money, but I soon talked myself out of that, because it's a business decision on their part, and they do have an out -- a 2 weeks' notice clause that I made sure was in there. They just hadn't chosen to avail themselves of it yet. Well on Friday, my contact there called to make an appointment to talk to me tomorrow, and I suspect the gravy train's pulling into the station and dropping me off. So I'll be looking for more work soon. I think, though, I'll pull a Scarlett O'Hara and think about it tomorrow -- or after Christmas. Or after New Year's. Or something.

Not now, though. I'm tired and my hand hurts, and pizza's arriving soon. I'm going to go watch AFHV with my kids.

Friday, December 17, 2004

I (Heart) the Internet

What did we ever do without the Internet? I mean, I use the Web all the time for work (the Library of Congress's online catalog is indispensable to an editor/proofreader), and it's great for entertainment, but the best thing about it is how you can solve those nagging little trivia questions that you obsess over until you know the answer. (Well, I obsess over them; perhaps someone more normal does not.)

Today's issue was Little House on the Prairie. I bought Katie an illustrated LHOTP book called Santa Comes to Little House (it's a chapter excerpted from Little House on the Prairie). I got it for her because I remember it as one of my favorite stories from the series -- it tells how Mr. Edwards brings Laura and Mary their presents after meeting Santa in town. But I remembered that Mr. Edwards came through a blizzard, and Pa heard him coming and was playing his fiddle while singing "Come In and Shut the Door." Instead, Mr. Edwards crosses a high creek in the rain. I was trying to figure out if Mr. Edwards saved another Christmas, and if that was what I was remembering, but skimming seven or eight books is a pain. So I turned to the Internet.

I googled* "Pa," "fiddle," and "come in and shut the door," and turned up a page that said that song was in These Happy Golden Years. I went to the bookcase, pulled the book out, and discovered that I'd remembered the scenario right, and it was Christmas, but it was Almanzo who turned up mysteriously. Aha! Thank goodness. That would have been bugging me all day.

Gotta run -- Katie's Christmas party (and I'm not being un-PC -- at an Episcopal school, they actually do have Christmas parties) is this morning, and I've got to get Ian and myself ready early so we can go pick up balloons (why do I volunteer for these things?).

* Actually, I used Yahoo, which is still my search engine of choice. But right there is a case in point about why TiVo shouldn't make a big deal about not wanting to be used as a verb.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

On the Next "Very Special Episode" of "And Then I Stepped in Gum . . ."

. . . we learn why people actually buy marshmallows all made and everything, instead of trying to copy Martha Stewart and make their own.

(Soften gelatin and bring to a certain temp on a candy thermometer and beat for 12-15 minutes??? Thank god for Kraft!)

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Making Progress

I told you it would be slow without the slavedriv -- er, my dad here. We are not the type to get up early in the morning and jump to work, unless we're shamed into it. Still, we made a bit of progress on our playhouse. The roof is about 1/2 shingled, the doors and windows are trimmed, and the octagon window in the loft is cut out and trimmed (after a couple of false starts) -- and we're only up to Home Depot trip #9. Two more to go before I lose the bet -- and at least one of those will be returns.

Dave stole my blog entry about teaching Ian to tell time and learning to sleep later. All I can say is, that's the best parenting idea we have ever had (and I think it was mine). Ian picked it up so quickly -- knock on wood -- and I hope it will continue. The only downside is that somehow I made the mistake of sacrificing my own bedside clock to the little guy, and now I never know what time it is when I wake up in the night. Difficult for the control freak in me.

Tomorrow night I am running an informational meeting for parents about Daisy Girl Scouts. I'm starting a troop at Katie's school. Already two moms have called to express interest (one of whom has twins), and there are seven kindergarten classes at St. Paul's. There could conceivable be 70 people at this meeting tomorrow. I was thinking about making cookies, and we planning on doing it tonight, until Dave suggested that I could just buy cookies to put out. Now I'm torn -- on one hand, I like making cookies, and I like impressing people with homemade things (yes, I know I'm vain), and I have this very cute trefoil-shaped cookie cutter. On the other hand, I do have other things I could be doing, and why should I work so hard to impress strangers, and, okay, Dave got me with the little dig about being like the Desperate Housewives character, Brie. So I'm not sure what I'll do.

Notice that I am, of course, procrastinating planning the actual content of the meeting -- I intend to do that tomorrow in a cafe while our sitter watches Ian. I also plan to write our annual Christmas letter. What, me, overscheduled? Hey, if I get the letter done before Thursday, when the kids' pictures come in at Sears, I'll be doing great. I already have the cards addressed and stamped -- all 60 of 'em.

Oh, quick Ian vocabulary note. Remember Ian, the one who supposedly can't talk, and who answers almost all encouragement of repetition with a prolonged, "Nooooo"? Dora the Explorer told him to say "abajo," and now he does. Abajo, for crying out loud. He's speaking a second language, and he still won't say "cat"!

Friday, December 10, 2004

Did You Miss Me?

Eight days? It's been eight days since I've blogged?!? Where has the time gone? Oh, yeah. It's gone into a playhouse for my children.

So now I've taken part in a major woodworking project, and let me tell ya, it's not for the faint of heart. You need a stalwart project manager, for one thing -- one who lies awake recalculating measurements at 3 a.m. and then slogs out through the mud and the rain to get the dang thing done. In other words, you need my dad.

I did, however, learn an awful lot of things. I learned how to use a compound miter saw, and I'm darn good at it. I can produce perfectly measured bits of wood (well, except for that one piece on the front of the house, but we filled that gap in with caulk). I learned how to use a jigsaw, and I'm pretty good at that -- only if I use it horizontally, however. I'm less good at jigsawing openings around windows while not following a line and trying not to shave down the 2x4s framing the openings. But still not too bad.

I suck, however, at trying to nail a piece of siding to a stud, even when said stud is sticking out from behind the siding and a normal person would be able to visualize the stupid stud underneath. I mean, SUCK at it. I finally resorted to chalk lines, because I was developing an undesirable pattern -- two nails in, one nail out, two nails in, one nail out.

The end result is beautiful, and possibly worth the muddy feet, ruined shoes, aching muscles, and mosquito bites. Possibly. And I should alter that to "almost-end result." There's still a fair way to go. I have to figure out how to make an octagonal window, for starters. That should be a challenge. I think it involves tangents. And we've got to hang the door, carpet the loft, paint outside and in, and install railing. But oh, what a neat thing -- I hope the kids will love it. And if they don't, I swear I'm moving my office down there -- once we get an air conditioner unit and a really long extension cord!

Thursday, December 02, 2004

It's Wintertime . . . Um, Sort Of

Winter has come to Mobile. OK, for the rest of you, it's probably actually fall. It's in the 50s, and a little chilly. The leaves have finally turned (coincided almost exactly with Thanksgiving). And we decided to turn our heat on last night. When we did, however, nothing happened. The little LED of a fan on the thermostat turned, but no noise. Hm. Dave thought he'd heard it running before, but I wasn't sure. I think the only time we'd turned on the heat was at night, and we probably didn't notice that it wasn't working. So this morning I got to make the calls.

The heating guy just left, after fixing some wires, and we now have heat. Of course, we also have a house full of smoke and pierced eardrums. Apparently, the first time you run a heating system it burns off some oil or something, and smoke gets spread throughout your entire house, and all of your smoke alarms go off. Poor Ian, he kept pointing to his ears and saying, "Dop! Dop!" I couldn't figure out to turn off the alarms, so I opened all the windows (kind of counteracts the whole "turning on the heat" thing, but what else are ya gonna do?) and we spent a few minutes outside. It did indeed stop eventually.

Oh, and the heating guy pointed out that we should probably change our air filter -- you know, the one that is supposed to be changed every month and hasn't been changed since we moved in in July? How were we supposed to know? We had no A/C and radiant water heat in NY. So I looked like an idiot -- oh well, it's not the first time.