Saturday, December 26, 2015

Merry Christmas


Our Christmas this year was a little non-traditional.  We started the day off like any other Christmas- we opened our presents and stockings, read the Christmas story, had a few hours of calm Christmas morning as a family... and then we headed out for a Christmas Day on the town.





 Whim's band has a standing Friday engagement at Emporium, so we met up with our visiting friends there and spent the day wrangling our combined 10 kids.


 The boys enjoyed pastries bigger than their faces at Paul bakery, just beside the stage where Whim and his band set up.


You can't even see the band in this shot, but the mall was all decked out for Christmas!

I never thought to get a picture of the whole gang, but they are here for a few more weeks, so we'll make it happen.

We came home late to end the night with our traditional birthday party for Jesus- just a happy birthday song and cake to help us remember the reason for the season.


I'm so thankful for a wonderful family and fun friends to spend Christmas with, even    in a mall.

Merry Force be with you

A week after the boys participated in the Star Wars: The Force Awakens parade and festivities, we finally took them to see it on Christmas Eve (well... and Christmas day, but that's another story.)

Their costumes weren't quite as good this time around, but they didn't mind. We loved it.  Merry Christmas, and may the force be with you all.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Kid 4


L landed the prestigious role of "kid 4" in the elementary school Christmas concert program.  He got to dress up and go on stage and charm the audience with lines like "So, he's our great, great, great, great, great [big breath] grandpa!" That's my boy!


Whim played in the accompanying band, too, so it was a day to see all my boys perform.


I didn't get any closeups of M, but I snagged one photo of his class singing before I slipped out to bring in my Kindergarteners.


I'm really savoring each school event this year, knowing that next year we won't be here participating.

The force is with them

On Thursday after school, the boys got the thrill of a lifetime.  Thanks to a friend of Whim's, they got to participate in the opening ceremonies of the Star Wars, The Force Awakens Xperience grand opening/movie premiere.


They were excellent little Jedis.

The parade itself was so crowded I never got a decent picture, but the boys were eating up the excitement.  Then, much to my surprise, instead of ending the parade at the gate as they'd practiced, those marching ahead of them led them straight up front for photo ops.

I had to watch the rest of the event on the Jumbotron- I couldn't even see them through the crowd.


I had a moment of panic when the smoke machines kicked on, and thought for sure that the shock and noise combined with all the excitement would surely trigger a seizure for L.  But he never wavered.

My favorite moment was when L suddenly put out his hand like he was using the force.  One by one, the other kids followed him until even the men behind them were doing it.

What a magical night for them.  Sometimes I wish we lived in a small town, but opportunities like this make me really appreciate the city life.



Friday, December 18, 2015

Anything

I had milk warming on the stove to make Mexican hot chocolate for M's class party this morning.  I was also trying to quickly mix up some cookie icing and eat my breakfast at the same time.  (Moms at Christmas, I know you feel me.)

Then he asked if we could melt chocolate chips into his cocoa, too.  And I knew that face.  The same smile he smiles when he asks if he can sleep in my room on a school night.  The same way he looks when he asks if we can go for ice cream right after we've eaten out.  He knows I'm going to say no.  He knows he shouldn't... but he just can't help himself.

It's just so easy to say: "No, not this time bud," and remind him to be grateful for treats and that enough is enough.  I can do it on autopilot.  But luckily I realized it's just as easy to walk two steps to the freezer, grab a handful of chocolate chips, and blow his mind.  It's only the last day of school before Christmas break once a year...

His mouth literally fell open.  "Are you going to say yes to anything right now?"



It's made for a pretty awesome day.  Maybe I'll just stick with it.







 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

2 more days

I'm in a daze.  It happens every year... This pre-Christmas-break hustle and bustle threatens to send me over the edge as the vacation itself draws ever-nearer, but remains just out of reach.

This past week has been, if not busier than normal, then at least busier than I prefer, with a different variety of commitments than I usually get involved in.

I enjoyed joining a choir for our church's Christmas service.  And I am relieved that it is now finished and that part of my brain can relax.  Same goes for the field trip at school, cookie baking in my Kindergarten, the Christmas concert, and every other special thing we've had going on lately.  I'm ready for some Silent nights and some heavenly peace.

L is right there with me. This is his, "yes you're funny but I can't smile right now" face after the Christmas concert.


He got a mysterious fever that struck right before school yesterday (poor babe had to miss the field trip) and then promptly disappeared for the rest of the day.  Lucky for him, since we had big plans for that night...

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Music night


These two buddied up for a special duet at tonight's Christmas service, and they are following it up with M's first sleepover.

L's with a beloved auntie for the evening... and Whim and I are feeling strangely free. I get the double pleasure of meeting some old friends and bringing them to see Whim perform, too.




Friday, December 11, 2015

Sugarplums


Mmmm... 


I made a new batch of graham crackers and finished off the last of the marshmallows to make something special for our second non-Christmas-related holiday this week.



Which reminds me of my favorite recent kid quote.  The last time we made s'mores, the boys were in heaven and maybe L just wanted to shoot the moon.

L: Is anything we can add to the s'mores to make them special for Christmas?

Me:  Like what?  S'mores are already pretty special.

L, shrugging coyly: I don't know...  Sugarplums?

He is a sugar plum!

Today we're back to school for a half-day Friday after a midweek holiday and a three-day weekend.  It's a rough life, I tell you.  One more week.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Cool

The other morning, for fun, I asked L what cool meant.  He said "smart".  That made me happy, and all at once I recalled a memory I had forgotten about for years.
~~~~~~~~~~~
The summer after fourth grade, we moved.  I started fifth grade in a new school and it took a while to settle in with new friends.

The first classmate's birthday I was invited to was a big deal. A few days before the party I asked my dad to pick up the gift for her while he was out: a troll (duh!)  

Our new town was small and rural.  Too small for a toy store or a Target... not even a kmart or a dollar store for two hours in any direction.  He checked the grocery store and came back empty-handed.  What do you buy for a friend's birthday present when there aren't troll dolls?  I couldn't imagine.

It was unacceptable.  It had to be a troll.  He eventually found an off-brand, too-big doll in a tourtisty gift shop, and I was so relieved!  A generic troll was better than no troll.  I wrapped it up and the crisis was averted.

It was only later, on the way to the party, that I started having doubts.  What if kids here didn't collect trolls and make troll clothes for them?  How could they, if there weren't any within a 90-mile radius?!  What if trolls weren't cool!!? Especially this designer imposter!  

I wanted to turn around and skip the party.  We didn't find her house right away, and I still remember the dread in my stomach.  I wanted to tell my dad to forget the whole thing, but how could I explain it?  I had been so excited.  If I opened my mouth I was going to start crying.  He eventually found her house and luckily she must have liked it, or had enough manners to pretend she did, because I don't remember anything else about that day.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I've been thinking quite a bit about that old story over the last few days.  That was one of my first moments of self-doubt and I was nine.  Nine!  I always think of M as oblivious and blissfully unaware, but he's only 7!  How could I have forgotten?

Nine.  I only hope my kids can hold out that long, and keep thinking cool means smart.

In a wonderful twist of serendipity, this morning L asked me if we could make clothes for his "Bunny Bob".  We did.  Crappy, ill-fitting clothes just like my sister and I used to make for our trolls.


And then he made him shoes out of a gingerbread cookie box.

He is so smart.
He is so cool.



American picnic

M's first grade class seems to have a food-related special day every few weeks.  His teacher keeps me up to date and we skip what he can't eat and substitute what we can to keep him involved.  I'm always so proud of how focuses on the positive and never complains about what he has to miss.

For his American picnic last week, I signed up to bring the main part of the meal (hotdogs and ketchup!) so that he could eat those without concern.  Fresh fruit and veggies were also on the menu, along with several treats he skipped.

He was thrilled with his homemade s'mores at the s'more-making station, and didn't mind missing the Cracker Jack (he helped himself to another s'more instead!)


They did an adorable Uncle Sam mask craft and played American football and hopscotch.

I know from my own school days that these are the things they will remember from elementary school.  But knowing the 50 Nifty United States is pretty useful, too!






My marshmallows

I brought my marshmallows to school to kick off the 12 days of Christmas countdown, and they were a huge hit!  Everyone was asking for the recipe and making me feel like the queen of the kitchen!

Here they are as I was setting up that morning:


For the record I brought three half-batches (cocoa swirl, strawberry swirl, and cinnamon) and it was way too much. One batch would do it.


Apparently 150 marshmallows is too many for 30 people.  Who knew?

Friday, December 4, 2015

Happy Father's Day!

Today L's class performed a beatiful tribute to HM the King for his birthday celebration.  

I loved seeing him there in that sea of yellow shirts, singing so sweetly for the King and promising to be a good boy for him.



Since the King's birthday is also Father's Day, it was a special moment for these two.



Long live the King, and Happy Father's Day to all my Thai friends.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Now all I need is homemade chocolate

This is exactly how I feel every time I make something that I would normally buy.  



After the marshmallows worked out so well, I tried my hand at graham crackers so M could have real s'mores at his American picnic.  They were so quick and came out just like I hoped they would.  I used a gf recipe I found online and subbed ground sunflower seeds for the almond meal and a gf mix I had for all the flours.  


Instead of cutting out and moving each cracker, I just rolled them out right in the cookie sheet and then scored them with the back of a butter knife and poked fork holes.


For the second batch, I left a bit of dough around all 4 edges so the crackers themselves didn't brown on the edge, but these were fine, too. They didn't burn, just a little toastier along the edge on some crackers.


We made oven s'mores to test them out.  L gives them one thumb up.  His other thumb was busy.




Saturday, November 28, 2015

Twelve Pounds 'til Christmas

There are only 12 more school days until Christmas break!  

To get everyone into the holiday spirit (and into their holiday pants, most likely) we have a Twelve Days of Christmas countdown at work.  Everyone signs up to bring treats to share in the teachers' room.  I have to admit, sometimes you really need a piece of fudge to get you through those last few days.  

Now that I am a marshmallow expert, I knew just what to bring.

This morning I made 4 batches of marshmallows: chocolate swirl, vanilla, cinnamon, and strawberry jam swirl (do not recommend.  Too slimy).





This time was even easier than last time.
I dusted with cornstarch instead of powdered sugar (which was definitely dustier) but the marshmallows are much fluffier.

I also flipped the entire slab over after a few hours to allow the bottom to set before I cut them, which made the whole process much easier.

Maybe next time I'll do salted caramel!

Friday, November 27, 2015

Thankful for marshmallows and everything else.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is the gateway to Christmas, at our house. We have celebrated various ways over the years: with family, with friends, with and without the turkey, even with other staff families at school (we don't always get Thanksgiving day off.)  It's always special, just not in the traditional sense.

But we always put up the tree on Thanksgving day.  It gives me the big dose of nostalgic holiday cheer that I don't get from spending the day in the kitchen with a big pot cranberries bubbling on the stove.

As it happened, I got to spend it in the kitchen, anyway!  But it wasn't cranberries in the pot.  M's class is having an American-themed picnic at school next week, and he needed additive-free marshmallows for s'mores.  

My sister made homemade marshmallows several years ago, and I've wanted to try it ever since.  (There are no additive-free marshmallows in Thailand, so s'mores have always been a vacation treat.  We did bring a back back from our last vacation, though.  It lasted 6 months!)  I guess it took the prospect of one of the boys missing out on the fun with his friends to finally motivate me.

I prepped myself for a sticky disaster, but it was much easier than I thought!  I used a sugar/gelatin recipe, and it was so easy I ended up making a second batch (mint flavored!) as soon as the first batch was cooling!

For the first minute of mixing, I had serious doubts.  Who are we kidding, right.  This is just a bowl of sweet, boiling horsehooves.


After 4 minutes, I had a glimmer of hope.


By 10 minutes, it actually looked like marshmallow!  


After I had both batches setting, we headed to Ikea for our tree.  We spent the afternoon holidaying and decorating and working on the marshmallows, and didn't get the finishing touches on the tree until way after bedtime!

I'll post pictures of the tree soon, but first: behold the marshmallows!





What better way to ring in the holiday season than a big, fluffy, homemade marshmallow in a delicious cup of hot cocoa!



Saturday, November 21, 2015

Corndog reminder

L has been asking recently if we could make corndogs at home.

I love a greasy, delicious carnival corndog as much as anyone- and the GF freezer ones we got in Alaska weren't bad, either.  They aren't for sale around here though, and I'm not about to learn how to deep-fry, so we made corndog muffins and everyone was satisfied.





It's just two chunks of hotdog with a scoop of cornbread batter over it.  This isn't a recipe.

This is a reminder to myself, in the future, when I'm feeling guilty that my kids can't eat junk food like everyone else: Don't be so hard on yourself.  You try.