Friday, December 27, 2013


I think I've finally got M convinced that vacations aren't so bad.

The boys dragged a spare mattress into our room the other night and we all fell asleep to The Wizard of Oz.  Sure there were cries of, "He touched me!" (M!) and 600 questions about who that guy is and what did he just say?  (L!) But there was something so sweet and nostalgic about it.  That just might have to become a holiday tradition...

The next morning we dusted off some old boardgames I don't think we've had out since the kids were born.

I was surprised how well they could hold their own. L lost interest after a while, but M was in it to the end.

We've played pictionary and monopoly so far.  Maybe tomorrow I can teach them to play cribbage!

For the second year in a row we had Christmas Eve dinner with Ben and Waan at Casa Pasta.  

Note to self: bring puzzles to restaurants.

Whim even took our Wii to get it fixed (if I remember right it stopped working around the time L was born...) and as a true Christmas Eve miracle, they played together without fighting!

One uses the wiimote while the other controls the nunchuku.  Thank you Cars Mater-National!

But the final nail in the coffin was yesterday afternoon when Whim let M use his tools to take apart an old car stereo.

"I've never taken anything apart with screwdriver before!"

He was in heaven.  

Of course I'm not actively trying to convince him school isn't as fun as being at home, since that would just make things harder when we go back in two weeks.  But I couldn't help smiling at his monologue.  "I love this!" he said with a contented sigh.  "This is better than Wii.  I'd rather do this than play computer games.  This is even... This is better than Kindergarten."

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Gingerbread house!

Our Ikea is like one of those high school basketball teams that is winning by 80 points and still plays full court press and keeps starters on the floor in the fourth quarter.

We get it.  You are run by amazing Christmas elves!  You bring us live Christmas trees from Sweden and put our kids in a dancing Santa commercial.  You already have our undying loyalty.  I promise never to buy cheap furniture anywhere else!

But no.  It's not enough.  Because now they are bringing Christmas cheer directly to the J's kitchen in the form of gingerbread house kits!

I did the initial construction and let the boys decorate.

Quick question: is it common knowledge that royal icing is super easy to make and takes 5 minutes?  

M saved all the treat bags and candies that he got from his classmates over the last week or so for decorations.  Luckily he doesn't mind passing on junk food, anyway, but having another plan for it sure made it easy.  I will definitely do this again in future years when they might not be so easy to convince.

I love how it turned out!  Crazy and loud, just like a couple of knuckleheads I know.

Friday, December 20, 2013


Can you hear that?

It's the collective sigh of teachers all over the world reveling in their first moments of Christmas vacation.

M, on the other hand, is heartbroken.  He can't believe they are allowed to close school like this. It's not worth it to try to convince him that most people like vacations.  My best hope is just to distract him with festivities.

Luckily, today M's class had a party.

They entertained us with classics like "J-E-S-U-S and Jesus was his Name-o" and served us homemade cookies.

Earlier this week I sent in safe cookies for M to decorate, plus icing, chocolate chips, and 'sprinkles' (crushed freeze-dried strawberries) so he could participate.

Totally worth it.  He was so proud of them and so eager to share with his brother.

Whim and L got there just in time for treats, looking festive.

I made these snowman popcorn cups because I'm determined to overcome the "healthy treats aren't cool" stigma, one class party at a time.

The kids loved them-they all went right for them- and I was glad to know M could have at least one exciting thing from the treat table.

To top it off, the fairy wings I chose for the girls in his class were a smash hit.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The beach

Last weekend we snuck away for a quick trip to the beach.

Whim was playing at a concert in Hat Jao Samran on Friday night, so M and I took a day off so we could make a family trip of it.

Our first glimpse of the resort:

I'm sure you can guess how much time elapsed between the first picture and this second one.

You can see the stage lights in the background.  We were so close - it was perfect.

The boys played their hearts out through all the setup and sound checks.

And after tired little boys fell asleep, I had a perfect view of the concert... from our room!

We knew our trip was short, so we didn't waste a moment.  Breakfast by the pool, then another trip down to the beach before we headed home.

I read something recently about choosing to be in pictures more, despite maybe not liking having my picture taken. I know one day I will appreciate having photos of all of us.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Christmas memories

Today the boys made cinnamon applesauce Christmas ornaments.  Our house smells like a Christmas memory.

Odd, how many of my memories are tied to food- sweets in particular.  Making Christmas cookies, tiny cups of eggnog, candy canes, chocolates in the advent calendar, hot chocolate by the fire in the morning, Christmas breakfast, more chocolates in our stockings on Christmas morning (and don't forget the humble orange)

I have such fond, tasty Christmas memories from my childhood. And at least a little part of me wants to relive all those things with my kids. 

The boys' diet may keep us from some Christmassy treats, but I'm determined to do what we can, and find ways to re-create the rest.  Just because they can't have all those chocolates in their stocking doesn't mean they can't have the orange!

And thankfully, many of my sweetest memories don't have anything to do with food at all.  Here's 10 for this week's listicle.

1. Every December growing up, we'd pull out a battered diaper box from my dad's old wooden trunk.  All our ornaments were stored there, wrapped in newspaper, and as we carefully unwrapped the ornaments, we'd tell and retell the story of each one.  As I grew older, even the crinkled papers started to look like old friends.

2. The year my little brother went to Kindergarten, he brought home a halloween decoration made from the heart - a tarantula prune made with 8 orange pipecleaner legs and googly eyes.  Somehow or other that tarantula made its way into the Christmas box, and onto the tree, and it was included every year after.   Though it started out tongue-in-cheek, after a few years, it wasn't a joke.  It's was fully petrified and as traditional as the icicles or any one of our first Christmas ornaments.  "Where's the prune?" we'd call out, rifling through the stray papers and broken candy canes at the bottom of the box.

3. Christmas was Claymation Rudolph, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Snowman, Home Alone, The Sound of Music, and the dreaded Christmas Story.  The Christmas Story remains one of my least favorite movies to this day, but.... it was tradition.

4. But nothing could top our old VHS tape of Christmas singalong songs.  Don't try to tell me it was cheezy.  "Follow me, 'cause I'm the bouncing ball.  I  can take you anywhere at all.  And though I might be kind of small... follow me, 'cause I'm the bouncing ball." Sure, we might have made snide comments about the elf-host's mullet, but you didn't see any of us reaching for the remote.

5. All throughout December, my sister and I would consult the advent calendar and discuss how much longer it was 'til Christmas. My sister had a patented counting system that always made Christmas seem just close enough to drive you crazy with excitement.  "If you don't count today, and you don't count Christmas day..."

6. I've written before about my clandestine love affair with music in the house, as a child. Surely half of Christmas's magic, for me, was "Do You Hear What I Hear" and "Silver Bells", played loudly in the living room.

7.  I loved shaking and looking at the gifts under the tree, but I never, ever, ever peeked at my Christmas presents.  I didn't want to spoil the fun on Christmas morning.

8. Every Christmas Eve, my brother and sister and I got one special present - our "Christmas Eve present" - to open that night before Christmas.  It was usually something like pajamas... something to make that already-magical Christmas night feel even more special.

9. Then, no matter how old we got, even when we were coming home from college, all three of us would sleep together in one room...   Christmas Eve sleepover was tradition, and nothing so petty as growing up could stand in the way of tradition. 

10.  Finally, though we were in on the Christmas secret all along, we'd huddle by the bedroom door and call to our parents to check and see if Santa had come.  Those long, agonizing minutes as they'd put on the coffee...

So though my boys may not grow up with a favorite Christmas candy, who knows what parts of our Christmas traditions will be dear to them as they grow up.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Fact and opinion

"Don't you just like saying 'Barak H. Obama' better than 'Barak Obama'?"

That is so M. He loves facts.  Facts about dinosaurs...  or insects... or space... or- lately- presidents.

Recently I was explaining the idea of opinion vs. fact to M. When it finally made sense to him, it was like he had been given a pair of x-ray goggles.  He suddenly saw the world in a new way and spent days classifying information.  

"That's a fact!" became highest praise.  Opinions were deemed second-rate, declared almost with a sigh of pity. 

 I didn't even realize how important fact and opinion had become to us until the boys were squabbling in the backseat and L shouted, "You're an opinion!" at his scandalized brother.

A day or two later, M asked why he had to hold my hand when we were walking out to catch a taxi to school?  "Moms know best," I said absently and he burst into tears! 

"But best is an opinion!" he wailed.

Why couldn't the "appropriate vs. inappropriate" conversation have hit home like this?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

It's here!

It's here!

The commercial!  They dropped the "Father's Day" concept and went a different direction, but I think it has a really cute vibe.

Look for Whim and the boys around 1:05.  Don't blink, though!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Let it snow!

One bag of cornstarch
Several pumps of lotion*

Snow dough!

You can mold it into snowballs, then crush them back to powder again.

L drove his cars through it for over an hour.

M and I couldn't keep our hands out of it, either.  It was so soft and since I used my precious lemongrass lotion, it smelled heavenly.

This is definitely going to be a fake winter tradition!

*It's not an exact science.  Just mix it up, and if it's not holding its shape well, add a little more.  If you're at all sensitive to chemical smells, use a naturally scented or scent free lotion.