Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Special Needs Sibling Syndrome

 A shirt I got our son for Christmas - 
he had enough grace to laugh at it, 
and said he'd wear it for his teacher next week.

I really think there should be something called Special Needs Sibling Syndrome.  As hard as it is to be the parent of a child with special needs, it's got to be just as difficult to have a brother or sister with special needs.  I've thought that a number of times over the years since our daughter was born, and more frequently as she's gotten older.  This morning I wasn't even awake before she was upstairs, in bed with me, upset about yet another difficult interaction with her older brother.

His Asperger's Syndrome means that he's got normal intelligence, but delayed social/emotional development.  (Asperger's is far more of a social disability than anything else, in my opinion.)  The general rule of thumb for kids with AS is that their social/emotional maturity lags well behind their chronological age, so that generally they seem to think and act about 3/4 of their real age until well into their 20s or even early 30s.  That means that right about now our daughter is starting to surpass her brother's emotional maturity.  It's like living with twins, emotionally, except one is several years older and starting puberty.

It's been hard for her, living with her brother.  Sometimes he can be quite nice and considerate, but other times he can be quite rude or mean to her, downright selfish and nasty, and his behavior can change with whiplash speed.  Some of that is just typical brother behavior, and typical moody preteen boy stuff, but sometimes it is definitely related to his AS.  Younger siblings just aren't born equipped to deal with that kind of stress in a family relationship.  When our daughter was younger, we explained to her that her brother was a bit different than other kids, more impatient, less able to control his impulses, and sensitive in ways most people aren't.  That seemed to be enough of an explanation for her, for a time.

As she's gotten older, and his behavioral issues have continued, she's taken his problems personally, and become  very angry with him, and with us as her parents.  She doesn't understand that social learning for her brother is a matter of repetition over YEARS, learning each new skill over and over in each new setting.  She struggles with his narrow comfort zone, which is an autism "thing" - that controlling his environment and the people in it is a matter of emotional security for him.  When things aren't as he expects them to be, he gets angry because he gets afraid or uncomfortable.  Controlling people is just an extension of controlling his surroundings.  That doesn't make him RIGHT, it's just a way to understand his behavior.  And it's very hard for our daughter to understand that she's not WRONG just because he's trying to control her, and that we're not "giving in" to him as we struggle to teach him and help him modify his behavior. The Lord knows we've talked with him often enough, in as many ways as we can think of, about how to treat other people and handle social interactions of all sorts, and especially how to treat his sister.  He's earned his fair share of time out, lost privileges, and extra chores for being hurtful to her and others.

I think we had a good conversation with our daughter this morning.  My husband came in during our talk, and helped me out with the explanation (and a well-timed snuggle with his little girl).  We tried to tell her that we have to discipline both of them when they hurt each other, and that her brother's AS doesn't mean he can just "get away" with being rude.  We pointed out that for him, the world is a very scary place, because he doesn't understand how other people think.  Being afraid makes him act out.  We told her that we all need to help him where we can, and not provoke him or take advantage of his weaknesses. (That's something she figured out how to do when she was 10 months old, and realized that scooching over to the fireplace screen and banging on it would send her brother totally ballistic.  It was great entertainment - for her.  Things haven't changed all that much since then.)  We explained that sometimes she will understand the world better than he will, and that in some ways she'll be ahead of him socially and understand people much better than he will as they grow up together.  We asked her to show him mercy when she can, and to stand up for herself when he's being obnoxious or hurtful.  Heaven knows we don't intend for her to be his doormat, or anyone else's.  But, under the circumstances, we have to find a happy medium in dealing with his needs so we can all live together as a family.  I don't know how much she really understands about his Asperger's, but I'm sure this isn't the last conversation we'll be having on this topic.

Do any of you have helpful advice about dealing with siblings of your special needs children or grandchildren?  I'm always open for new ways to handle this issue.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

'Twas the Day After Christmas - Now What?

Christmas was really fun at our house this year.  The kids enjoyed opening their gifts, and liked what they received.  They had lots of time to play with their goodies, and after dinner we went to a friend's house for dessert and conversation.  It was lovely to have so much time to relax during the day, and be with friends in the evening.

The only down part of the day was the "Christmas crash" our daughter had when all 10,000,000 kids who received Webkinz that morning tried to register their new pets all at the same time, and the website was maxed out for hours on end.  Oh, the drama!  She finally got her new pets put on later in the evening, when many kids had finished online, collapsed from exhaustion and/or been sent to bed for being way overtired (a fate she only narrowly escaped herself).  Holidays can be very hard for kids, and even more so for kids with autism-related disorders.  Our son had his own "episode" when the PS2 had trouble with his new game.  After he got frustrated, he got to wait in his room while my husband did the troubleshooting and solved the problem (a loose connection amid the tangle of game system wires - our son loves vintage game systems, and has several by the TV in the basement).  More drama!  But it worked out in the end.

 Sophia has the right idea - a Christmas nap!

And now it's today, the day after Christmas.  Now what?  Yes, the kids are watching "Despicable Me," one of our son's gifts, but after that my husband and I have decided that we all want to get out of the house.  (Isn't it nice how parents can decide what their kids want sometimes?)  After some discussion, and more drama from our daughter, who did NOT like her brother's idea of something fun to do, we've arrived at a plan:  a visit to the local animal shelter to play with the cats (for our daughter, whose first choice, the M.O.S.T. in Syracuse, is closed today - you'd think they did that on purpose just to thwart her), a drive down through the hills of Central NY, and a visit to the Northeast Classic Car Museum (our son's idea, and something we've been meaning to do for months anyhow).  A family day out should be a good way to enjoy the rest of the holiday weekend.  Maybe we'll go near a craft store I can look in (for after-holiday bargains).  Hey, I can hope, right?

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve at last

Earlier this month it seemed like Christmas Eve would never get here, that we had all the time in the world to get ready.  Now, suddenly it seems, it's here.  I'm glad, though - I'm ready for it, and the kids need the anticipation to reach its fulfillment and end.  The presents are all bought and wrapped, the baking is done, we'll be going to church tonight for a candlelight service, and tomorrow is THE BIG DAY.  How fun, how special, and how many memories I have of Christmases past.

I remember our son's first Christmas.  He was about 10 weeks old, and we put him under the tree and took pictures of him with some little Winnie the Pooh stuffed baby toys we had given him.  Our best Christmas gift, he was such a cute little boy.  The stuffed Piglet became his best bedtime buddy for a long time; our son called him "Piggit!"

 At our daughter's first Christmas, she was 10 months old, and scooting around on her fanny to get to things.  We had to put the tree in the family room and gate the door to keep her from getting at the tree and denuding it of ornaments.  We have some very cute pictures of her sitting by the tree, reaching for the sparklies and danglies she knew she shouldn't play with.  We gave her a little blonde-haired, lavender-PJed Maggie Raggie doll for her first Christmas (it looked just like her), and Dolly became her best friend for YEARS afterward.  In fact, we went out and bought a couple identical spare dollies because we knew that there would be misery and despair if the original Dolly ever went missing (or had to be washed and dried and was out of sight for a couple hours).

Our daughter would still like to believe in Santa, just a little.  I'm willing to play along, and let her have that Christmas magic for one more year.  There's no harm in it, and she's having fun.  On the last day of school this week her class had a pajama party and brought their favorite stuffed animals, and watched "The Polar Express."  They had hot chocolate and candy canes, and the teacher gave each child a jingle bell on a ribbon as a keepsake.  What a fun memory!

Merry Christmas, friends!  May you have a beautiful, blessed holiday.  May Jesus' love be with you tonight, tomorrow, and all year long.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Labels and quirky people

I loved today's post from stark.raving.mad.mommy.  Not only can I sympathize with her daughters' overabundance of Littlest Pet Shop figures, but I can appreciate her observation that no one is really "neurotypical" or "NT" (one way "normal" people are described in autism circles, to differentiate them from people with autism spectrum disorders).  After all, we're all quirky in some way.  It's when our individuality crosses some invisible boundary that we become eligible for a label as being outside the norm (whether the term is descriptive or diagnostic).  Anyhow, who decides who is normal?

I guess I'm sometimes a bit hyper about names and labels, and very choosy about how I describe people or talk about them.  So many labels are freighted with negativity ("retarded"), while others are so over-used as to be almost  meaningless ("hyperactive").  The media tosses around descriptions and labels like confetti, trying to distill a person's uniqueness into the psychological equivalent of a sound bite.  He's "narcissistic," she's "co-dependent," he's "schizophrenic," she's "manic-depressive," and it goes on and on in a less diagnostic vein with he's a jock, she's a diva, he's a geek, she's a nerd, etc.  I often think about the labels we assume for ourselves and place on others.  So much harm can be done with a single word, and so much healing can be done with another.  No wonder it says in the the Book of Proverbs in the Old Testament,

 The tongue has the power of life and death,
   and those who love it will eat its fruit. (Prov. 18:21)
The words of the reckless pierce like swords,
   but the tongue of the wise brings healing.(Prov. 12:18)

Anyone who has ever been bullied or verbally abused can attest to the power of words and labels.  I don't need to write any of them here - you've probably already thought of the ones hurled at you that have stuck in your memory from years ago, or just from yesterday.  I try, oh how I try, to be careful how I use my words around my kids and my family and friends, and I cringe inside when I mess up in a moment of anger or selfishness and wound with my words.

How did I get here from talking about the term "neurotypical"?  I guess I find the term to be just a bit PC for my taste - another example of political correctness.  No, I do NOT want to go back to the old terminology for various disorders or illnesses (I'm old enough that "mongoloid" was still in my college textbooks regarding Down Syndrome).  But I'm still ambivalent about describing my children as an Aspie and an NT.  I guess I prefer to say that my one child has Asperger's Syndrome, while the other doesn't.  He doesn't need a label to be himself and be more worthy of love, and neither does she.

So, I guess my point is that we should be careful with the labels we give others and the labels we assume for ourselves.  Use them as reference points for character traits and individual abilities, to learn and share, admonish and encourage, diagnose and treat, but remember that every person is far more than the sum of their labels.

Or, as I've heard before, "Normal is just a setting on your dryer."

Monday, December 20, 2010

Too Much Christmas

Otherwise known as, "Would you like some whine with your cheese?"  Our kids are both pretty squirrelly about the holiday this year, and their behavior the past couple weeks has had more ups and downs than Cedar Point in the summer.  I remember this wild ride from my teaching days in a public school - the lead-up to Christmas always saw an exponential increase in the flaky behavior of the kids, until the last couple days of school reached a crescendo of overexcited anticipation.  As much as I love the holidays, I'm starting to look forward to January 3rd, when the kids go back to school and our day to day routine is restored for a nice, boring stretch of time.  I know we'll all be stir crazy by March, but right now the long, white stretch of sameness through January and February looks pretty attractive to me.

Oh, the joys of having a daughter!  I suppose I can't speak for every mother of a girl, but DRAMA seems to be word of the day around here.  Today our daughter had what we call "the traveling snit."  That means she gets bent out of shape over one issue, and as you try to talk her through it, she transfers her snit to another issue, then another, refusing to admit she's in the wrong or to back down when she's on the verge of getting in trouble.  I hate having to deal with that, because you KNOW it's not going to end well.  Sure enough, she ended the time before the bus came with losing TV/computer privileges for the day, and earning an early bedtime tonight.  But, I WON:  I kept my temper and was quietly reasonable the whole time (not easy when your daughter is being a selfish little whine-ball, with all the charm of seasick crocodile), and made my point without her getting away with her poor choices.  Darn, but that's exhausting!

Dealing with disrespectful behavior is hard for me, because it can be so subtle at times, and so blatant at others, but it all needs to be dealt with firmly and immediately, and appropriately for each child.  And, all parents have somewhat different thresholds for when disrespect crosses a line and discipline is meted out.  In a disrespectful, contentious,  selfish age, it's easy for our kids to find poor examples to follow, and (let's face it) most kids don't NEED any help in pushing back against their parents, starting at about age 1 1/2 and going into adulthood.  I want to respect our kids' need to learn independence and teach them assertiveness without condoning pushy, bratty, snarky behavior that will only bring them trouble later in life.  I don't want to so miss the mark with our kids that they wind up in therapy complaining about me 25 years down the road.  (Well, it may be too late for that. . . .)  Anyhow, the search for wisdom and patience goes on.

Today I think I'd settle for a massage, and maybe a glass of wine.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

All Creatures Great And Small

 B. C. asleep among our daughter's Littlest Pet Shop cats.

I've been called a critter magnet, and can't really argue with that - I've loved all creatures, pets, and wildlife since I was little.  (Except scorpions.  I just can't stand scorpions.)  Since the weather has gotten cold, I find myself being the most popular person in the house with our pets.  Every time I sit down, I wind up with a cat on my lap, most often Sophia, but sometimes B. C. or Molly.  Sophia is a very fluffy cat, but in her old age (she's 14) she's gotten quite thin under all that poof, and I'm sure this cold weather really affects her more than the other cats.  She loves nothing better than to snuggle into my lap for as long as I'll let her stay there, or to perch on my shoulders and make like a scarf while I type.  When my lap isn't available, she'll be sleeping on the clean laundry, or in the basket where we keep gloves and scarves in the closet.  It's a generous 18F and breezy today, so I can't blame her for being a heat-seeker.

I've gotten some odd reactions to our three guinea pigs.  Many people think they're cute, and a couple think they're glorified tailless rats, but most are surprised at the large cages we have for them.  But, when you think about it, a pet will only be as healthy as its surroundings.  Keeping a small pet in a small cage may sound good for our convenience, but if the habitat isn't generous it's really no better than having a person live in a combined small bedroom and outhouse.  Disgusting.  So, I'm a convert to using C&C (cube and coroplast) cages for our guinea pigs.  The guinea pigs are healthier, cleaner, and easier to take care of in these cages, and they're happier too.

Our daughter holding my guinea pig, Cocopuff.
Her guinea pig is Cookie, and our son's is Flash.

Did I mention I have fish?  Yes, the menagerie goes on.  A few years ago a friend gave me his 75 gallon tank and stand setup.  I had a 12 gallon tank, which was fun, but I had wanted a larger one.  It didn't occur to me to go out and buy a huge tank (they're NOT cheap!), but when Keith offered it to me, I was very grateful and happy to use it.  I don't have fancy fish - 8 goldfish (4 shubunkin, 2 comets, 2 common) and one female betta.  They don't mind the tank not being heated, and they've been tolerant of my learning curve as an amateur aquarist.  And, goldfish are comparatively inexpensive if you aren't buying large or fancy ones.  Anyhow, I enjoy my fish tank immensely - it's like having an indoor pond/waterfall, and it's so relaxing.  When our kids do sleepovers, they and their friends like to sleep in the family room and use the fish tank as a night light.

A rather seasick picture of the fish, taken by our son.

Finally, as if the indoor creatures weren't enough, I also have bird feeders in the back yard, and plant some things every year to attract birds and butterflies.  A corollary to having bird feeders is having squirrels.  I need to get a baffle for my bird feeder - right now I'm supplying the winter food for an industrious little gray squirrel.  Molly loves to sit on the window sill and chatter at whoever is visiting the feeder, feathered or furred.  It's like cat TV.


I don't know what I'd do without our pets around me.  How about you - are you a pet person?  What pets do you have?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Dear Santa. . . .

 Molly under the tree, two years ago.

A couple days ago, our daughter (she's almost 9) asked us if we thought Santa was real.  Now, we haven't kept her in a fairy-tale cocoon for all these years - she knows that Santa is not real, that he's just a happy story for children around the holidays.  But she was so serious, and I didn't want to hurt her feelings, so I asked her, "Do you really want me to answer that, or would you rather enjoy the magic of Christmas for a while?"  She smiled and said, "I'd like the magic.  Could you please write 'From Santa' on a few of my gifts?"  Of course I could, I replied, then asked her why she had asked about Santa.  She said quite a few of the younger kids on her bus still believe in Santa, and she wouldn't tell them the truth because it would hurt their feelings.  I love that she's still young enough to want to believe, and while knowing that Santa is not real, she wants to play along and help younger kids enjoy the fun of Christmas without spoiling their anticipation.

 I've had fun this year, finding and putting away Christmas presents for the kids.  After two very lean years, this year is a bit looser financially, and while I haven't gone hog wild, it's been nice to be a bit more generous and a lot less stressed about Christmas shopping.  Rather than get one big thing for each of our kids, they'll get a number of smaller things - a little bit of all sorts of things they like.


Christmas morning should be fun, and more so this year because my husband's sister will be here with us.  She's a nurse, and is working both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, second shift.  But she's going to come to spend the night with us Christmas Eve, after work, and we'll have lunch with her before she goes back to work again on Christmas Day.  She works in a nursing home, and  I know she brings a lot of comfort and joy to the residents she helps all through the year.  She plays the piano for them, and I think she's brought her flute in to play for them as well.  She also brings one of her cats in to visit occasionally - Ebony is an unofficial therapy animal, and the residents love to see her.  She also brought our daughter to visit the residents with Ebony last fall, and they loved talking with her, and she enjoyed talking with them.  I hope T-- has a wonderful holiday with her patients, and is able to be a blessing to them as she takes care of them.
Molly, sampling the Christmas ornaments
from the safety of the windowsill two years ago - 
as if we can't see her, but it's more likely 
she just didn't care if we saw her or not. . . .

Monday, December 13, 2010

Holiday Rituals and Memories

 It's funny what sticks with us through the years as we celebrate holidays with our family, and then grow up to share rituals and memories with our own children.  Each new generation combines the traditions and special habits of the previous generation with its own new ideas.

When I was little, my mother made a set of three Wise Men.  She took heavy paper cones about 10" tall, dipped some heavy, rich cloth pieces in a water-starch-glue mixture, and  layered the fabric in heavy folds to create the "robes" of the Wise Men.  She used simple inverted cones as the heads, wrapped more fabric around them to form turbans, and glued on simple felt mustaches and beards.  The finishing touch was a large, fancy button at the center of each turban - one of some embossed gold metal, one gold button with a huge glass "diamond" in the middle, and one "pearl" the size of a marble.  I loved setting up the wise men somewhere near the Christmas tree every year.  I decided that the Wise Man in the cobalt-blue robe with the cream turban and the diamond button was Melchior.  We had those figures for a dozen years before they finally disintegrated, but I still remember them fondly.

My mother has gone through numerous interests and hobbies in her life.  Some interests were brief - macrame was mercifully short-lived, although it was fun for a summer.  Make-It-Bake-It window decorations were fun for a while.  Latch-hook rugs came and went several times over a number of years, and she still has a few lovely rugs in her house that she made using heavy wool yarn.  Knitting and crocheting came around regularly, almost every winter.  Afghans, sweaters, blankets, Mom could make anything.  When I was about 4, Mom decided to knit Christmas stockings for my sister and I.  Since I was older, I got to choose first, so I picked Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.  (My sister was MAD about that, but she settled for Frosty the Snowman.)  As two more sisters came along, they got Santa and crossed candy canes.   When my parents moved about 13 years ago, the stockings mysteriously vanished, and we were sad that we couldn't find them anywhere.  Mom was afraid they'd gotten sold in something at a garage sale.  Then, a couple years after the move, she remembered a drawer at the bottom of a tall secretary cabinet.  Sure enough, there they were, and we were all delighted; it was like meeting old friends again.  Years later, Mom gave us our stockings to use in our own homes with our families.  I've got Rudolph hung up on our stairs right now, but I never tried to make stockings for my own kids.  I bought pretty needlepoint ones for them - a lovely angel for our daughter, and a kitty by a rocking chair with a teddy bear for our son.  I never learned to knit, although I'm tempted to try by all of my Etsy friends who sell wonderful yarn.  (As if I need another craft-related interest!)  But this year, my youngest sister knit a stocking with crossed candy canes for my baby nephew, so the tradition lives on.

Christmas cookies - my family loves Christmas cookies.  My Mom always made Date-Walnut pinwheels (my favorite, and my Dad's favorite too), Pecan Sandies (mmm!), and Frosted Sugar Cookies.  Oh, and Bourbon Pecan Cake - oh my goodness, it's so GOOD!  I've made it a few times myself, and might make it again this winter just for fun.  The house always smelled so good when we were baking.  We've added the traditions of biscotti and triple peanut butter chip cookies for our generation.

Every year there was the ritual of the Christmas lights.  When I was little, the lights weren't the little twinkly ones - they were the ones that looked like skinny hard-boiled eggs, and were almost that big.  The untangling, the testing, the replacing of bulbs (the muttering, the occasional muffled imprecation, the shivering), the stringing, and finally the plugging in and the bright lights on the tree that made it all worthwhile.

My parents had quite a number of records (remember those?) and a nice stereo system (remember turntables?).  Every year the classic Christmas albums would be dusted off and happily played - Andy Williams, Perry Como, and others filled the house with familiar tunes and happy memories.  I've been posting a Christmas song each day to my YouTube account since right after Thanksgiving, sharing some old favorites and newer discoveries to include others in the fun and joy I find in this season. 

Merry Christmas, friends!

Friday, December 10, 2010

'Tis the season - for garden catalogs!

 I love December, for all the holiday fun it brings, but I also love December for what shows up in my mailbox almost every day:  garden catalogs!  I love getting gardening catalogs.  I have a couple favorites I order from every year, but I look through all of them.  Now is the time I start dreaming of next year's garden, planning what I need to order, what I want to order, and where the budget dictates the reality of what I can afford.  'Tis the season for wish lists, and sorting through the seed box, and gathering winter sowing supplies.  (I told my husband that a bale of ProMix potting soil would be a wonderful Christmas gift.  He flat out refused, saying something like, "I am NOT going to tell people that I bought my wife a bag of dirt for Christmas!")

 Not all garden catalogs are created equal.  Some are always good value with good merchandise (in my opinion that would include Bluestone Perennials, Marietta Daylily Gardens, Park Seeds, Pinetree Garden Seeds, Seed Savers Exchange, Brent & Becky's Bulbs, Oakes Daylilies and Select Seeds).  Some are higher end, and sometimes overpriced, but with good to excellent merchandise - sometimes you get what you pay for (I think of Klehm's Songsparrow Nursery, Wayside Gardens, and White Flower Farm in this category).  Others are inexpensive and a little buyer-beware, but still worth looking at, especially for seeds or older varieties of plants (Jung's Seeds, G. H. Wild).  Still others are very iffy in quality and/or honesty in advertising.

 With all of these catalogs (there are thousands in the United States and Canada alone), how can you find reputable ones with good merchandise and customer service without having to get on every mailing list and read them all yourself?  How can you tell if that shiny, bright dream-book full of plant-porn from "Garden X Company" is really worth sending your money to?  My favorite site on which to check out companies I'm not familiar with is the Garden Watchdog through Dave's Garden.  It's a directory of over 7,000 garden-related catalogs and websites, with customer reviews and detailed rankings of their quality and customer service.  It is really, really worth checking out if you have any question about a catalog you receive - it can save you a lot of money in costly mistakes, show you how to have the best garden shopping experience via catalog or online, and turn you on to some wonderful companies.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Laugh or cry

Notice who owns the Monopoly board, 
and has Park Place under his paw. . . .

It's been one of those mornings where I don't know whether to laugh at the ridiculousness of dealing with Asperger's and a preteen boy, or cry at the frustration of dealing with Asperger's and a preteen boy.  So, with apologies to Shel Silverstein, I've decided to laugh:

One preteen for sale!
One preteen for sale!
One grumpy, obnoxious male preteen for sale!
I’m really not kidding,
So who’ll start the bidding?
Do I hear a dollar?
A nickel?
A penny?
Oh, isn’t there, isn’t there, isn’t there any
One parent who'll buy this huge preteen for sale,
This grumpy, obnoxious tall preteen for sale?

I hope he gets over his OPD (Obnoxious Personality Disorder, according to my husband) before we have the annual Christmas get-together with my husband's family.  The prospect of driving 2 1/2 hours each way in one day with our son in this mood is making me wonder if riding on the roof rack would be such a bad thing (for him - I have no intention of freezing my behind off, lol).

I was pathetically grateful to see our son off on the bus this morning, and equally happy that he'll be home on the late bus instead of the early bus today.  I  really, really admire mothers who can home school their child(ren) through high school without losing their minds or their joy of motherhood.  Six years and I was toast - home school was good for us for a season, but eventually ceased to meet our needs as a family.  I am so very grateful for a really good school district (and special education team) to work with our children now.

I'm trying to get the last-minute holiday shopping done.  I'm almost there - just a couple more things for our son, and something for my husband (it's on layaway, so I just have to pick it up), and I'm done.  I'm just about baked out, too - I still have to make a cheesecake tomorrow for Saturday, and maybe another batch or two of biscotti before Christmas.  I'm trying to avoid making another batch of cutout sugar cookies - they take forever, and make quite a mess, even though they're a family favorite.  I think I could make biscotti in my sleep now, too.  Yesterday I made my kids' favorite Triple Peanut Butter Cookies, and Cranberry Orange Walnut Biscotti. 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Winter Wonderland

Walkin' in a winter wonderland. . . .  Yes, it sure looks like that here today!  The lake effect machine has slowed down now, but we got enough overnight that the kids got a snow day today.  (Well, a half day - they were supposed to have early dismissal anyhow, and I think when the other districts went for delays, it wouldn't have made sense for our district to bus the kids to school for an hour then send them home again.)  Needless to say, the kids are delighted with their first official snow day.
I'm just doing household stuff this afternoon - cleaning bathrooms (yuck!) and doing laundry (bleargh!) and making cookies (yay!).  Every time I sit down, our little old lady cat Sophia wants to be on me, either in my lap or on my shoulders.  She finally decided to leave me to do my stuff when one of the kids dropped a fleecy sweatshirt on the floor - she promptly took it over, curled up in it, and is off in cat dreamland.  I don't have the heart to disturb her, so I'll leave her to her warm kitty dreams and take care of that sweatshirt later.

I think I'll do Christmas cards later, too.  I do some every year, although not as many now as I used to.  I find doing the cards to be relaxing, and a fun way to touch people at the holidays.  One of my sisters always does a very nice Christmas newsletter from her family, but I've never mustered the energy to condense a year's worth of events into a single page, while being cheerful, humorous, and joyful all at the same time.  More power to my sister, and I always look forward to her family Christmas letter (even though we talk often enough that nothing in the letter is news to us, lol).

Molly decided to investigate the Christmas tree last night.  Thankfully, none of our cats is destructive about the tree, although when B.C. was younger he used to routinely steal ornaments.  There was one ornament, a satiny/lacy stuffed dove, that he took off the tree several times each year, so we learned to hang it low for him to reach without knocking anything else off the tree.  We still put it down low for him, although he hasn't gone for it the past couple years.  Maybe I'll put some catnip on it this year, to bring him some Christmas cheer.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Snowing and blowing

 We've got measurable snow at last - 6" and counting, since it's supposed to accumulate a few inches every day this week from lake effect blowing toward us off of Lake Ontario and Oneida Lake to our north.  In other words, it's business as usual in Central New York.

I grew up near Cleveland, Ohio, so snow like this is nothing new to me.  It's almost nostalgic, in fact, since where I have lived for most of the past 25 years was rarely affected by lake effect snow, and our winters were a bit milder in snowfall than the ones I grew up with.  I remember both the Blizzard of '77 and the White Hurricane of '78 in Ohio.  Both times the snow drifted up over our cars in the driveway and halfway up the front of the house.  School was closed for several days in '77, and an entire week in '78 (the whole state was paralyzed during that storm).  The snow was up to my waist in the yard even where it hadn't drifted.  Where it had drifted, it was like looking at frozen waves at the beach, each snow dune gracefully overhung and glittering in the bright sun after the storms finally passed.  Each time the piles of snow by the side of the road towered over us for weeks afterward as we walked home from school, and the snow by the lake shore was drifted as tall as a semi truck. 

Speaking of snow and memories and nostalgia, have you ever seen that holiday classic movie "A Christmas Story"?  You know, the one with Ralphie, who desperately wants a Red Ryder BB Gun for Christmas, but his parents won't get it and tell him it's because, "You'll shoot your eye out!"   The atmosphere of that movie is fairly close to my own childhood memories - piles of snow, huge icicles, Christmas lights and all.  (But no leg lamp!)  I even remember going to that Higbees store to see the decorations and go to their holiday gift shop, although I don't remember seeing Santa and going down the slide - maybe my parents didn't want to wait in the huge line.  (I especially love the kids' Christmas shop, which was strictly "no parents allowed" - you went in alone with your money and had your choice of all sorts of inexpensive goodies for your parents and grandparents, and you'd get it packaged up by the nice shop ladies and keep it secret from your family.  The best thing I found was a pretty brooch for my Mom's coat.  My worst gift choice was soap on a rope for my Grandpa.  What was I thinking?)  Good memories!  This year our own son is old enough to be inducted into the mysteries and catch-phrases of "A Christmas Story." 

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Sales - really??

 'Lights' - sold November 2010

Wow, I just got a call from Hartsville Hollow, the gift shop I've started working with in Fayetteville, NY.  They've sold several of my pieces, including a painting!  They would like me to bring some more items over to them tomorrow, and I'm so excited.  I was feeling rather down that my work wasn't moving, so this is quite the pick-me-up.  I'll take a few more drawings and paintings over there (and ceramic ornaments - several of those sold too) and see what happens.

Hartsville Hollow Gifts, 8578 Genesee Turnpike, Fayetteville, NY 

I love the building Hartsville Hollow is in - it's an old stone school house, from the 1820s.  The walls are very thick, and the bell is still ready to call people in.  It's a lovely shop, featuring handmade art and crafts from people all over Central New York.

Nothing like selling some work to kick start one into wanting to create more!  I'd better get moving.  Hartsville Hollow is closed in Jan.-Feb., but they'll be kicking off a new year in March with a Celtic/Irish emphasis, leading into Easter-themed art in April.