Boxing Day

December 26, 2013

This just in: I have decided that Boxing Day is my favorite holiday. Not because I give gifts to the servants. I…have no servants. Not like the rest of you.

And it’s also not my favorite holiday because of the great Elvis Costello song, which goes through my head every time I spell my last name out loud, since Falatko ends with T-K-O!

No, it’s my favorite holiday because all the work and stress and heightened expectations of Christmas are over, and the fridge is full of leftovers, and all the gifts are already open and we can just sit back and play with them and read them and wear them.

This December, Eli was asking me some very pointed questions about Santa, and we had a long, long, torturous talk in which I ultimately told him nothing, because it was clear he didn’t want to know, as evidenced by this re-enactment:

Eli: One part of me is saying, ‘Ask her!’ and the other part is saying, ‘You don’t want to know! There will be consequences!’
Julie: What kind of consequences?
Eli: Like I’d get hit by a bus.

So besides the fact that we need to work on Eli’s potential runaway imagination issues, I figured this was a year when I really had to ramp things up, magic-wise. We left Santa pralines, carrots, and hot cocoa with marshmallows. Eli wrote this note:

So the kids went to bed and Dave and I arranged the presents, and then he went to bed as I adjusted the stockings just so, and then, like some kind of parental amateur, I decided to open up the fireplace and sprinkle some soot on the hearth. For verity. Sure. Seemed like a fine idea.

Except then I was upstairs brushing my teeth and I looked down and saw SOOT, soot there on the bathroom floor, with the distinctive footprint, not of Santa’s boot, but of Julie’s sneaker. So then I was scurrying through the house, with a wad of paper towel, in my glasses and pajamas, frantically wiping up all of my sneakery sootprints, which led tellingly up the stairs and to my toothbrush.

And then I finally got into bed and there was a tickling itch in my throat, and I tried not to cough too loudly, because Dave was already asleep and snoring, but it was really irritating, and I kept having to get up to drink water, and I realized that I must have inhaled some soot and had now given myself Santa Lung and I just kept hoping that this was a curable condition and also that I would eventually be able to get to sleep and that the kids would think my frequent stomping out of bed for another glass of water was the merry tinkling of hoofbeats on the roof, instead of their polluted mother.

But all was fine, I guess, and the tots were excited in the morning to find that Santa wrote them a thank you letter on his own stationery (which I think he got from here) (hush now, it’s truly a letter from Santa).

So Christmas was lovely, really, and everyone was very joyful and excited, and OH BOY was it nice to wake up this morning and start putting away greenery while everyone contentedly kept themselves busy.

For instance, here’s Zuzu, wearing all the sparkly clothing she got, washing a window with her window washing kit, which she whisperingly told Dave, “Was all I really wanted.”

So Merry Merry Boxing Day to you! And me!


CATEGORIES: holidays

Easter Eggs

March 30, 2010

We branched out a bit in our Easter egg designs this year. Rather than doing our usual rubber band designs, we got all inspired by this month’s Martha Stewart magazine and used electrical tape to make patterns (ok, Martha really mostly says to buy some kind of craft-store adhesive vinyl, but it was clear it was the same as electrical tape). Everyone had a good time making shapes, and, most especially, making their initials. I, as usual, just about had an anxiety attack due to ceramic cups, dye, and breakable eggs. I think I put way too much Significance on this type of once-a-year holiday ritual, and so I’m already worked up in a tizzy by the time we start.

After last year’s Easter debacle, I am going to plan ahead and be a little better prepared. I’m totally stealing the mixed-up egg idea from Make and Takes, and I think I might also do something which I read about somewhere else (where?) where you put a few puzzle pieces in each egg, so then the kids can put together a puzzle when they’ve found all the eggs. And I’ll throw a few jellybeans in there too, just so I’m not the world’s biggest anti-commercial-holiday ogre.

Can you sense my anxiety at this potentially disastrous mess? Though make sure you also notice Zuzu’s excellent Liberty of London from Target dress. She wants to wear it every day.

Henry and his jack-o-lanterny face egg.

Eli and his E.

As usual, the eggs were eaten almost as fast as they were made. Zuzu’s Z egg is in the lower left corner. Dave made my favorite egg: the one on the bottom row with the big green stripe.


CATEGORIES: activities, holidays

Free Valentines!

February 8, 2010

I get so sick of the Valentine thing every year. I mean, I really don’t care about it. I know Dave loves me and he knows I love him. I don’t want to spend our money on some bouquet of flowers just because Hallmark tells us to. (Though I’m always happy for an excuse for baked goods and chocolate.)

Mostly I can’t stand the enforced Valentines in school. I refuse to buy those stupid licensed character Valentines, so I force Henry to make them himself, and it’s a struggle. I mean, why wouldn’t it be? He’s hand-making 20 Valentines on a deadline. But this year Ohdeedoh came to our rescue, with a list of Free Printable Valentines. HURRAH! Just printed some out, and Henry has whipped out four in the last five minutes.


CATEGORIES: holidays

Because you always wanted to know

December 23, 2009

According to Dave’s mom, today is called Christmas Adam (because Adam comes before Eve). Now that you know this, you’ll find you can use this term all the time. Because, really, all sorts of holiday events often happen on Christmas Adam. I have incorporated this term into my lexicon for so many years I forgot that it’s not well known (I said something to Eli about how we were going to bake cookies on Christmas Adam, and my mom, overhearing, wanted to know what on earth I was talking about). So, go forth! Have a lovely Christmas Adam!


CATEGORIES: holidays

Signs of the Times

December 21, 2009

Cookie baking aftermath:

About to watch “Charlie Brown Christmas”:


CATEGORIES: baking, holidays

Christmas Presents I’m Most Excited About

December 18, 2009

Here’s what I’m excited to see the kids open in a week:

I got Zuzu this Penelope Peapod doll, and I have to say it’s adorable. I have been on the fence about getting her a doll; she’s pretty into trucks and things, but she does love to cuddle with stuffed animals like they’re little babies. I took her with me to the toy store and she fell in love with this doll. And with the little basket/purse/bassinet it comes with.

Eli’s getting a giant working crane that he’s going to freak over. I’m also looking forward to his reaction to the motorcycle policeman who comes with a crossing guard stop sign — I think the toy company made the whole thing specifically with Eli in mind (unless, wait, maybe…is it possible Eli is a generic type of kid, and there are legions of children who love motorcycles, policemen, and crossing guard stop signs?).

Henry is going to go nuts over the dinosaur sticker encyclopedia he’s getting. He has the animal version, and it gets daily use. I think he’s also going to love the Enchanted Forest game, which he played with for a good solid hour once at Maple’s Organics.

I’m also psyched about the vintage copy of A Hole is to Dig. Thanks, Vintage Children’s Books My Kid Loves (or, well, thanks to her Etsy shop).

Things I got for free or super cheap (hurrah!):

A Leave No Trace game, 99 cents from Goodwill. This is from the same company that makes Rush Hour (we have Rush Hour Jr.), which all the kids love (though I’m not sure they’ve ever played it the proper way). Evil Mom Thoughts: “It’s a one-person game, which means I don’t have to deal with it.”

Wooden Noah’s Ark toy from Freecycle. I actually got this a few years ago, and then had reservations about introducing something with so many scatter-able parts. But it’s been in the closet for too long, and it’s time to bring it out.

A giant stack of wild animal cards, free from the library. Henry has a half-filled notebook of these, thanks to my mom’s library. In the same way the motorcycle cop is tailor-made for Eli, these are tailor-made for Henry. Animals + organization + animal facts + maps = Henry heaven. I seriously think that, once he opens this, he may not get to any other presents for the rest of the day.

I’m also looking forward to the Shins and Decemberists CDs I got for Dave.


CATEGORIES: holidays, toys

Children’s Book of the Week: Christmas Books

December 14, 2009

Every year we get the same Christmas books from the library, and I love that they’ve become such a part of our holiday ritual. We do have some Christmas books of our own that get year-round use (Mary Engelbreit’s The Night Before Christmas, The Polar Express, Mortimer’s Christmas Manger, and The Nativity) though I’m considering putting them away this year and bringing them out with the ornaments next year.

Here are the ones we love from the library:

Christmas in Noisy Village by Astrid Lindgren, illustrated by Ilon Wikland

Oh, I love this book so much. It’s from a little Swedish girl’s point of view, telling us how they spend Christmas in Noisy Village, a little group of three farmhouses where there are a bunch of children (and so it’s always noisy). There are all these homey, old-fashioned traditions (the children bringing their sleds out into the woods to gather wood, because everyone has to help out with Christmas work), but everything they do is also completely understood by any kid right now: baking cookies, waiting for Christmas to come, a Christmas feast. I just love that it’s all wrapped up in these old-timey words like “This cooky smell is the kind I like best” and “Christmas Eve is the longest day of the year. Waiting for presents is what turns your hair gray” and “I wish Christmas would come oftener, don’t you?” The kids all love this book as much as I do, and I’m so glad to see it’s still in print.

The Mole Family’s Christmas by Russell Hoban, illustrated by Lillian Hoban

Russell Hoban, how we worship you! This is such a great book. Delver Mole and his parents do their mole work, digging underground and being very nearsighted. Delver hears about Christmas from a mouse, and starts to dream about asking Santa for a telescope — because he’s heard about these things called “stars” but is too nearsighted to see them. His family knows that, in order to get a present from Santa, you need a chimney, so they go through all the trouble of making a chimney so they can ask Santa for the telescope. There’s some harrowing action with the local owl, but in the end it’s the owl who delivers the moles’ letter to Santa and makes Christmas happen. Like every Hoban book, this one is enormously fun to read, and the illustrations are wonderful.

Peter Spier’s Christmas by Peter Spier

My aunt turned us on to Peter Spier when she gave us People, which is a book that, after two years, is still one that can absorb the kids for hours. Christmas is no different. There are no words, just these lovely detailed illustrations that you get completely lost in. You follow a family as they prepare for Christmas (grocery shopping! decorating!), have Christmas (complete with feasting and church and presents), and then clean up afterwards. Every time you look at it you’ll notice something new, especially in scenes like the shopping mall or the church, where there are loads of people doing all kinds of different things (well, ok, in church they’re all mainly doing the same thing, but that’s what makes finding the fussy child even more fun). There is something incredibly magical about this book that I’m not even sure I can describe. This one is out of print (as is The Mole Family’s Christmas), and prices on are ridiculous, but it shows on on eBay at more reasonable prices (and, in fact, I just snagged us an eBay copy because someone else got the library’s copy this year, and I found that I really missed it).

Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree by Robert Barry

Last year my mom said to me, “What’s that Christmas book about the tree that’s too big, and they keep cutting off the top, and more and more animals get the tree bits as it gets smaller and smaller?” Apparently it was one we had read when I was little, but I had no idea what she was talking about. Using my almost-librarian skills, however, we figured out that it was Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree and quickly inter-library loaned us a copy of it.

It’s great. Wonderfully effortless rhymes, and my mom’s synopsis is pretty much what happens. Mr. Willowby, a rich man, orders an enormous tree, one that’s just a trifle too enormous, so he cuts off the top and gives it to his maid. But the top bit is just a bit too big for the space where she puts it, so she cuts off a bit, and everyone else who gets the tree top does too, until finally a mouse family takes the last little tippy top bit and it’s perfect. I actually got us our own copy of this this year too (despite me telling my mom last year not to get it because we don’t need any more books) because it’s so wonderful, and we can fit it in with my new plan of packing away the Christmas books.

There’s another we got this year, but it’s the first time we’ve gotten it, so I can’t really call it one that has worked itself into our Christmas library book tradition. It’s An Early American Christmas by Tomie DePaola. DePaola lives in New Hampshire, and I guess he got curious one year about how Christmas used to be celebrated. Turns out it wasn’t really celebrated at all. So he tells the story of a family that comes from Germany and who does celebrate Christmas, and all the things they do, and how the other people in the town eventually celebrate Christmas more as well. There’s some really neat stuff here that I didn’t know about, like folding paper decorations and coating them in wax to hang outside on the bushes, or all the different kinds of cookies they make (as well as a maddening reference to “the Christmas pyramid” that isn’t explained any further — what could that be?). Henry has really been taken in by this book, making all kinds of paper hearts-in-hands and birds to hang on our windows.

One other that we got this year that I love but the kids are not quite as into is Little Tree by e.e. cummings. But I really love e.e. cummings, so that’s why I love this book. It’s just a lovely little poem about picking out a tree (a little tree) and bringing it home. I will say that the book we got from the library is illustrated by Deborah Kogan Ray (the one on is illustrated by Chris Raschka), and I really love her pictures. She also illustrated this book we have by Charlotte Zolotow called The White Marble that is such a marvel of children’s bookery — I keep wanting to review it here but it’s such an enigma I’m not sure I can do it justice. At any rate it’s a summer book so I can wait until then. Anyway, seek out Little Tree if you want a nice poem-in-a-book in your Christmas book collection.


Christmas countdown meltdown

December 4, 2009

I should know better than to try to run an errand after school. I took the kids to Broadway Gardens to get paperwhite bulbs at around 4:00, which involved
1. Eli almost peeing his pants
2. Henry disappearing while Eli was peeing in employee bathroom.
3. Finding Henry, and then losing Zuzu as she kept walking on the other side of the car from me (we were walking in the same circle…luckily some people saw the vaudeville routine I was inadvertently involved in and helped me out).

And then we drove home, saw lovely Christmas lights that I had just put up that morning, all lit up on our porch, and Henry whined, “You should have waited to put them up with ME,” and Eli whined, “Those aren’t NEARLY enough lights.” And then I hated them until Dave came home.

Christmas anticipation is so hard for kids. It’s really a lot of pressure. You’ll get a giant bounty of presents if you’ve been good, and also if you’re willing to put aside the notion that you’re kind of frightened by Santa. I get it, but boy it’s hard to deal with. This week Eli had a meltdown for at least 45 minutes, big fat tears and all, because I wouldn’t let him have ice cream at 8:30 in the morning. And then, when he finally calmed down and chose something wiser to eat, he picked kippered herring. Parenting makes no sense.


Pre-Thanksgiving Bounty

November 26, 2009


CATEGORIES: Eli, Henry, Zuzu


November 12, 2009

Why do I let myself get all worked up about stupid Halloween costumes? This year Eli wanted to be a crossing guard, and I scoured the internet until I found just the thing (which is, in fact, a real crossing guard outfit, since it turns out no other child in the history of Halloween has ever wanted a manufactured crossing guard costume before). Henry wanted to be an alien penguin, and since I predictably couldn’t find that anywhere on the internet, he promised he’d make it himself out of paper on the day of. Which he did end up doing, but then (realistically) decided that the paper costume was a little crazy, and he’d just be a spider like last year. And then at the last second Eli decided to be Eeyore, like two years ago.

The only one who kept her original costume was Zuzu, and that’s because the costume we already had in her size was foisted upon her without any input on her end. I didn’t even really explain the Halloween concept to her, just shoved her into the turtle costume (complete with its prominently missing snap, as you can see in the photo). I really think any normal kid would have freaked out at this point (“You’re making me be a turtle, when I should be going to bed? And you’re adding a turtle headpiece?”), but Zuzu acted like this was the best thing that ever happened to her. She was so psyched to be walking around dressed up as a turtle. Here they are all gussied up:

And here’s a 4-second video where I tried to capture how happy and determined Zuzu was to be turtled. Note that it’s only 4 seconds long because she was so determined, that she just walked right out of the room.

The other great thing was how much she got into the actual trick-or-treating. She happily climbed the stairs at each house (all six of them we went to), and after getting candy, happily waved goodbye. There were also a few houses where it became clear that she didn’t get the concept at all, because, as the candy-giver was getting her some candy, Zuzu was looking through her goody bag to see what she could give in exchange. She kept trying to trade.

It’s a good thing we only went to six houses, because the boys had eaten all of their candy before 7:00 the next morning.

And we only got two trick-or-treaters. Why? Swine flu scare? Saturday night Halloween? I was ready to give the whole bowl of candy to Trick-or-Treater #3, but no one ever showed up to be the lucky one.


CATEGORIES: Eli, Henry, Zuzu
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