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Christmas Wrap-up

27 Dec

Another christmas bird

As usual, my family had a lovely Christmas.   Between the 6am waking up of my children and the feast at the end of the day, I had a thoroughly lovely day.  My family knows how to do Christmas and are quite exacting and obnoxious in our rituals.  It is a day of family time, drinking, eating, relaxing, stressing, and lots and lots of thoughtful gifts.  We only had my children this year as my nephews were with their father.  I missed their contributions to the event. We know how to cook a true feast in our family and we have some amazing cooks.  Preparing wonderful food with time and love and eating it with much appreciation.  It’s all good.

We are also ritualistic in our gift opening.  We take the time to appreciate the gifts so that everyone can see what everyone got and appreciate the generosity of it and the joy that the receiver had in the gift.  The kids find this politeness to be difficult (and, well, so do we adults) so we tend to push each other along.  “Yes, yes, it’s lovely, who’s next!”  When we get to the stocking opening rituals, we are less polite.  Stockings are a big deal in our family. We all contribute to the stockings with a range of silly little things (sample sizes of organic toothpaste) to lovely things (my mom has been known to slip a treasured family ring or necklace into our stockings).  We open stockings melee-style so the chaos of the moment is huge.  Lots of “Oooo, look at this!” and “Who put these in the stockings?” abound.

Christmas is a warm and happy day for us.  I’m proud of the way we all come together — my family and Greg’s — for the celebration.  This is far and away my favorite holiday!

Ruby enjoyed Xmas Day

Ruby liked it too and wore a golden bow most of the day.  She had her own stocking this year filled with dog toys.  She got a huge elf toy that she is currently de-limbing and there is hollofil all over my house which seems to be coming from a hedgehog’s nose.  Oh, and the rat toy my mother got her has already lost its tail!
A very merry rat terrier Christmas, indeed!

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Merry Christmas to all

25 Dec

xmas2008

Love, The Miller Family

Choosing just the right one . . .

6 Dec

Greg's Hero shot

We always get this same sort of tree from our favorite local tree farm, Crest Ranch.  I love trees that let the ornaments dangle and show themselves off.  I always make Greg do a hero shot like this.

After we hunted over hill and dale for our tree, we turned our attention to Greg’s mother’s tree.  We found it in pretty short order . . . in other words, she had picked it out and kept her eye on it while we were hunting.  🙂

Gage cut it down.  And, then, he got his own hero shot.

Gage's Hero shot

Pretty proud of himself.  He was still talking about it the next day.  He was impressed that he had lifted a tree above his head and pretty sure his friends wouldn’t believe him.  Greg helped him get it above his head but he held it there all on his own!  What a kid.

Ruth was there too, tired from a sleepover the night before.  She still managed to give me her patented “fake smile for the camera” smile.

Ruth

I’m lucky to have such a great family. The Holiday season can be stressful and full of hectic hustle and bustle but at the heart of it is family moments like this one.

The final result:

Christmas Tree 2008

P.S. Don’t worry about the snow falling . . . that’s just a special treat for the season from the good folks at wordpress.com. Hope you all enjoy it! Personally, I love it . . . no shoveling and we don’t have to cancel school!

Wordless Wednesday — Words Are Just Not Needed

5 Nov

Gage enjoying the rain

My little monster playing in the rain

Halloween 2008

3 Nov

Welcome to my front porch

Welcome to my house on Halloween.  I don’t go for very scary — don’t want the little ones to be too scared to trick or treat.  The kids really had fun picking out their pumpkins and carving them.  Carving pumpkins is Greg’s territory.  I take a bunch of seeds and toast them — yum!  I have had limited success in the past so I followed Pioneer Woman’s recipe today {click}.  She’s pretty reliable and they were delish!  We gobbled them all down — even the notoriously picky Ruth!

Ruth's pumpkin

Ruth couldn’t figure out how to get the eyebrows in so we pulled out that Sharpies.  There aren’t many problems that Sharpies can’t fix!

Gage's pumpkins

Gage took the Sharpie idea and ran with it.  He chose two little bitty pumpkins and had a blast decorating them.

Halloween Costumes

Gage chose to be Indiana Jones this year and Ruth was a Gypsy Fortune Teller.  We built most of their costumes ourselves.  I got Gage the wonderful hat and his favorite item . . . the whip!  Ruthie got a new pair of large Silver earrings.  Everything else came out of the their closets, or mine, or their Auntie Jennifer (who used to visit New Orleans regularly for Mardi Gras and has the most amazing collection of beads!).

It was a good Halloween.  The weather cooperated — the rain held off until about 8pm which was exactly when our kids got back from touring the neighborhood houses.

Dry kids.  Full candy bags.  Cheap costumes.  Yup.  It was a good Halloween.

Fall Ritual – Pumpkin Farm

27 Oct

Pumpkins 2008

Fog
Fat
Pumpkins
Provoke smiles
and much silliness
Soon they will be Jack O’Lanterns

©2008 Liza Lee Miller

My House Monday – An Long-Awaited Update

26 Oct

Long awaited by me at any rate . . . not sure how eagerly my readership is to discover what we’ve been doing on the house but oh well.  🙂

When last we met [click], we had finished the flooring and then school was starting soon and . . . well, you can imagine how much we’ve gotten done since school — that giagantic time sync — started.  Well, actually, maybe you can’t because you don’t know to factor in the persuasive insistance of on Mr. Miller that progress be made.  Oh, and his mother is also amazing and comes to help us a lot.  I have given up a few precious Saturdays to get work done many times since school started.  So, here is my update . . .

Before:
New Dining Room Table and Chandelier

This is my “old” dining room looking it’s best.  First of all, notice the nasty carpet.  Ugh!  I’d never put white carpet in a house.  We intended to get rid of it within a year of moving into our house.  That was 2001.  Sooooo, you can imagine how glad we were to get rid of it.  The new flooring is a godsend.  Also notice the white drapes that don’t quite reach the floor.  Lovely — highwater drapes.  They are all the rage.  They were necessary because our old slider took up most of that wall and was aluminum framed with single-paned glass.  In the winter, that room was unbearable even with the drapes (of course if they’d reached the ground it might have been better!).  The worst thing about the room though was the traffic pattern.  The table was designed to be smackdab in the middle of the room and that meant that all the traffic had to go around it.  It was the hub of the house — traffic came in from the entryway and living areas of the house, the kitchen, the backyard, and the garage access all went through that room with a table right in the middle of it all.  Useless design.  My architect husband had to fix that poor planning.

During:
Dining Room Update

During shots can be chaotic and overwhelming.  Note that the new floor is in and the new slider is in.  We got a smaller slider and re-oriented it so that it opened on the opposite side.  We also moved the light switch so that it is by the slider in the right place.  The walls are painted the same lovely yellow as the kitchen walls so it feels continuous.   Let’s look at some details.

Dining Room Update

New slider — smaller and double-paned glass.  Light switch recently moved.  Stool there to facilitate painting of walls.

Dining Room Update

Oh, we went ahead and took out a ugly, dangerous electric wall heater in the dining room.  We patched the wall and put in an electric socket.  Much more useful.

Dining Room Update

Most of our house has very rough-hewn trim at the windows and doors.  But, Greg felt that a more elegant look was called for in the dining room.  Hey, he’s the architect.  He also wanted to make sure that our {ahem} inexpensive vinyl sliding door looked less like an inexpensive vinyl sliding door.  Nice trimwork painted the same white really dresses it up.

Dining Room Update

Looks nice, doesn’t it?  The switchplate cover is one I did at our last Crafty Chix day in September.  I’m not happy with it but I can live with it.  🙂

Dining Room Update

This wall will eventually house a sideboard and a flat-screen tv.  Those are high-priced items that will have to wait awhile.  So, it’s hard to see how this will look eventually but it’s still looking better and better.

Dining Room Update

This armoir is an “antique”.  It used to house the kids’ tv and videos.  Now it’s my
“office/studio.”  It’s going to house my art stuff and my computer.  I’m turning my office (aka the dungeon) back into a full-time laundry room and pantry.  It’s going to take some getting used to but I think it will work out well in the long run.  Doesn’t it look gorgeous on the new floor with the yellow paint?

Nearly done:

Dining Room Update

So, it’s nearly finished.  Through the slider, you can see the white door to the laundry room.  It’s getting a fresh coat of paint.  The table is uncovered and in place.  We moved the chandelier to it’s new spot.  So much work still to do but my goodness this much feels very, very good.  As I type this, I am sitting in that black chair there on my laptop enjoying that cup of mocha on the table.  What a change from just a few months (and a lot of hard work) ago.

Well, I’d better get dressed . . . my mother is due here mid-morning so she can learn to be a teacher!  🙂

Sleep

6 Oct

For me, having children solved all my sleep problems.  I used to be a habitual insomniac.  Several nights a week, I’d be wide awake and frustrated.  3am was my nemisis time.  The number of showers I’ve taken at 3am . . . amazing.

But, the amazing sleep deprivation of having two kids under two years of age.  Well, that cured me.  I can fall asleep before I’m back in bed now.  Greg says my breathing will go to “I’m asleep now” breathing in 3 breaths after my head hits the pillow.  It’s a beautiful thing.  (Although, admittedly it’s not the cure for everyone!  🙂 )

Then, I also had a bout of Sleep Apnea.  Not a fun thing.  Oh, I was sleeping but the whole getting oxygen to the brain part . . . not happening.  So, I wore an attractive sleeping mask for a couple of years while at the same time losing 20 lbs.  (It was 30 but I gained weight over the summer and . . . well, you know.)  Thankfully, that was what was causing the Apnea for me so I’m in good shape now for the brain and oxygen thing — which, it turns out, is pretty important.

Being exhausted during the day, though, didn’t seem all that unusual to me after kids who woke up repeatedly all night and then the Sleep Apnea.  Follow that up with becoming a teacher and doing it while going to school for my credential and its easy to understand why I’ve come to expect to sleepwalk through life.

Sometime last year, Greg read an article somewhere about sleep cycles and how all your zombie days would be over if you’d only follow a 90 minute sleep cycle pattern.  I was skeptical to say the least but after he raved about it.  I gave it a try.  Here’s the deal . . . (not, it doesn’t involve sending me any money or investing in a scheme where you pay me and I pay someone and then we all get tons o’ cash in a few months!) . . .

A typical sleep cycle lasts 90 minutes and has 5 stages.  Each of these stages is important.  If you get woken up in the middle of a sleep cycle, your brain is foggy and out-of-sorts and you sleepwalk through the day.  If you sleep until you wake up on your own, your brain is fresher and more alert and you are perky and happy and whistle while you work all day.  Tra la!

So, I wake up at 6am everyday.  The only trick to this is figuring out when to go to bed.  I want to work backwards in increments of 90 minutes.  So, 6am – 90 min = 4:30am; 4:30 am – 90 min = 3am; 3am = 90 min = 1:30 am; 1:30 am – 90 min = Midnight; Midnight – 90 mins = 10:30pm.

My best going to sleep times are 10:30 pm and Midnight.  If you subscribe to this theory, you’d rather stay up until midnight than go to sleep at 11pm.  When that alarm goes off at 6am, you’ll be in the middle of a sleep cycle and you’ll be groggy and miserable.  Much like I am this morning . . . I went to BED at midnight but didn’t fall asleep for about 1/2 hour.  Not wise.  My alarm went off and it was like walking through molasses to reach my alarm and turn it off.

So, if you have trouble with grogginess during the day, take a look at your wake up time and try adjusting your bedtime.  You might find it works nicely.  It’s also another reason to enjoy the weekends . . . you don’t have to do math at bedtime . . . just go to bed and wake up when your body wants to wake up.  That’s what really convinced me.  Left to my own devices, I’d wake up at a multiple of 90 minutes from when I went to sleep.  Pretty cool.  Tonight, 10:30 pm . . . without fail!

Trying to keep it positive

3 Oct

Yesterday was a long, long day.  Not a bad day, really but way longer than it needed to be.  There was drama at work (cranky colleagues with a screw the rest of you attitude).  There were injuries.  My very, very dramatic son hurt his finger and really wanted a lot of attention for it.  (Watch, he’ll wake up and it’ll be 3 sizes bigger, purple, and clearly seriously hurt and I’ll feel like a heel.)  Then there was that quintessential mothering moment of staying up late doing something for your child that they should have done on their own but damn it there isn’t enough time and they need the sleep more than you do.

Still, I’m pretty damn proud of my daughter.

Our school does something called Town for the 5th graders.  They get to earn money in their classrooms (fake money, of course).  They get the opportunity to create a Town business if they want to.  My daughter and two of her friends created a bookshop.  They are making journals and selling them.  Ruthie wanted to make comic books and sell them too.  All the other kids get to come and buy the wares of the Town businesses.  Ruth has been addicted to comic books like Garfield and the like.  The amazing thing is that she learned a LOT from reading them.

She drew up her cartoons but in typical Ruth fashion, she eschewed the idea of using pre-printed layouts for her comics, did them on binder paper with her own lines drawn and the like.  Now, to be honest, I love what she came up with but it was messy and hard to read and full of eraser marks and misspellings.  Soooooo, I needed to come up with a solution that helped her do something that looked better but didn’t say, “Wow, honey, all that hard work you did . . . just not good enough!”  I know that kids like Technology best — whatever it is if you tell a kid they can do it on the computer, dang, they are all over it.  So, I went to a site I’d played with a year ago called Toondoo.  And, we had a solution.

Here is Ruth’s first comic strip.  I LOVE it.

Ruth's First Cartoon

Ruth

Life . . . it’s what happens when you are trying to sleep . . .

25 Sep

So, most people know that being a teacher is a butt-kicking job.  I come home most days absolutely REELING.  Then I have to run my household — cook dinner, check homework, clean something (ha!), keep up with laundry, and all that.  So anything that throws my routine (if you can call it that) off is a serious annoyance.

Yesterday, was an early-out day at our school.  The kids go home around 1pm but we teachers stay and work all afternoon.  These are days when I am very glad my husband works at home (although our on-campus afterschool care program totally steps up and watches my kids for me on those days when he’s otherwise occupied).  Still I honestly thought that I’d be getting home and washing Ruby with the chemical mix I mentioned yesterday before I could cook dinner and all that jazz.

Instead, I came home to excited children tripping over one another to tell me that they had washed the dog.  “We knew you’d be tired after all those meetings, Mom, so we did this for you!”

Talk about a burst of energy.  I’ll say it now — to make it official — I have an awesome husband, an awesome daughter, and an awesome son.

I also still have a stinky dog.  Only a little stinky though so I think I’ll give her one more bath tonight and hopefully we’ll be done with it.  Fingers crossed!

The cold that’s stalking me is waiting for the weekend.  I feel the symptoms coming on a little bit more each day.  Yesterday, it was a sore throat.  The day before, sinus pressure.  We’ll see.  I have decided that if I get really sick, I’m not going camping.  So, I figure it won’t hit until I’m halfway to our campground.  That’s the way life works, right?