Friday, December 23, 2005

The birthday cake

A &S have been asking for the Betty Crocker Bake 'N Fill pan, so we bought it to make the birthday cake. The kids HATED the cake. Good thing the pan takes two mixes--enough for 12 cupcakes. They nibbled on cupcakes and ate A GALLON of ice cream! We'll still use the pan again. It was a fun baking project. We used a white cake and peppermint ice cream. Maybe a bad choice for such a large group.

Hubby took the girls to his office so I could get some wrapping done. They love going to his office when it's closed. They run laps, watch movies and get lots of drinks from the pop machine. I guess I'd better take advantage of this quiet time!

A Wild Birthday!

"A" had quite the wild 8th birthday party!

We had 15 for caroling. The one boy brave enough to hang with girls for the night went home at 9. Three girls left (planned ahead of time) at midnight. The rest (11 girls!) stayed up until about 1:30-1:45 a.m. They all woke up at 7:00.

We crammed them in the dining room for pizza. Then, we practiced our songs and went caroling. We haven't had carolers around here in many years, so people thought it was really neat. One lady started dancing in her living room and sang with us :-)

We came home, had hot chocolate and cake, opened presents. We decorated two gingerbread houses. I turned my back for just a second and the project took a wild, crazy turn. The kids spread frosting all over their hands and arms and tried to stack one house on top of the other. Soon, candy and cereal pieces were falling onto the carpeting. The table was smeared with frosting. I almost cracked. Instead, I took a picture and sent them to wash their hands.

We put in Madagascar and some of the kids watched. The others (about 6) decided to give people movie theater "jobs." Some were in charge of snacks, drinks...and spills. They even had a bathroom attendant. Yeah, strange :-0 Soon, one of the girls (who cried at least five times over the course of the party) started crying about how jobs weren't fair and she didn't like that game.

That was fine. It was time for bed. We spent the next three hours trying to get everyone to bed.

Overall, a fun party. I'm glad "A" now understands why smaller parties are more fun. It was quite chaotic, but memorable. I often do you get to have a sleepover with all the girls from your class? We can only hope future sleepovers will have a nice, small group of say...5 or fewer girls!

My girls were in bed promptly at 8:30 last night and no one woke me up until 8:15! I got 10 1/2 hours of much-needed sleep last night!


Silly side story: Earlier that night, we had our first major spill on the new carpet--a full cup of hot chocolate. I finally got it all out yesterday, but I thought I was going to need to use that Stainmaster Warranty! It's because of situations like this that one pays the big $$ for that stuff, afterall! Early in our marriage, hubby spilled a whole bowl of chili on our new white kitchen chairs. They came out and replaced the whole seat FREE! No questions. No hassle!

Monday, December 19, 2005

Officially Done!

As of 30 minutes ago, I have officially completed my Christmas shopping! What a day it has been. We (along with our siblings) decided we'd get our parents hotel and shopping gift certificates in one of Kansas City's finest shopping areas. One would think a simple phone call would be enough. Not so.

I first contacted The Fairmont on the Plaza. It took three phone calls and multiple transfers to the gift shop to determine no one there could help me. Can you imagine purchasing $250 worth of gift shop items? Yeah...right!

Frustrated, I changed shopping areas, this time selecting Crown Center. After three attempts at communicating with a reasonable person at the Westin, I sent a frustrated email message to the Crown Center management office. If the person at the Westin could have told me how to purchase a CG online, I would have taken that opportunity. Instead, she explained that she couldn't sell it, but she also didn't know where to find the GC link on their website. They also don't sell GCs on site.

I called the Hyatt and discovered that they sell gift certificates in the lobby until 11 p.m. each evening. Still, I would have to get in my car and drive out there. I called Crown Center to check on gift certificates--what I really wanted was a package that included hotel and shopping. A grumpy person answered and told me that I could buy a GC, but I still needed to get into my car and drive there.

Extremely agitated at this point, I decided S and I would go to lunch at Fritz's and try to have a little fun while we ran our unnecessary errands. (Fritz's is a theme restaurant where you sit on a "train" and order your food by phone and a mini train that circles the restaurant drops your food off at your table.)

As I gathered baby supplies for our outing, a manager from Crown Center called me in response to my email. WOAH! A link that actually goes somewhere. A link someone actually does something with! I was impressed. He confirmed that I could indeed purchase what I wanted at the places I narrowed down. BUT, still not conveniently over the phone or online. He did tell me to call him from the shopping center if I ran into any trouble and he'd assist.

We made it to Crown Center. Because I don't get that way often, I had difficulty navigating the stairs and finding elevators to get us to the various levels and through the link (walkway) to the hotel. But, we got the job done! We also had a fabulous lunch. S gave it a big thumbs up. And, Crayola had an awesome Santa exhibit where the kids had a chance to play and forget about shopping.

Round trip, including lunch, playtime and errands: four hours.
Time spent on phone the past few days: over one.
Number of happy grandparents this Christmas: four
Number of happy shopping girls: two
Number of times I forget my camera when I go to Crown Center: countless!

I really need to take my camera every time I get to that part of the city. Even when I don't plan to go to Crown Center (such as when we are at Science City) we end up there and I wish I had my camera. Always a good time...even if I didn't want to be there!

So, that's my Christmas shopping story. Mission accomplished.

When we got home, I had a voice mail message and an email message from a manager at the Westin. No, they couldn't sell the GCs onsite, but he was calling to tell me how. Unfortunately for them, I had already purchased elsewhere. As a marketing person, I'll just say there are too many marketing and customer service lessons in this tale to count.

Thursday, December 15, 2005


I'm sitting in a hotel. I just finished two book reviews. I'm in my PJs...and I'm thirsty.

The problem? I won't drink hotel tap water and the vending machine right outside my door is broken. I really don't want to wander all over the hotel to find a Pepsi in my jammies. (And, what I really want is a Coke Zero, which they don't have here because they sell Pepsi.)

For those of you who are keeping track-- I had a huge headache by the time I left for my meeting yesterday. I slept on the plane. I wrote a teeny tiny bit. I got in, skipped the holiday party, shared a bottle of wine + some sort of coffee martini with a friend (no, that didn't help the headache, nor did I feel better this morning...and it has nothing to do with writing, except that my poor, over-worked brain and body really needed to sit and relax and the wine was really nice).

I'm preparing to write now--sans Coke, which is not a good thing. Meetings tomorrow and girls' night before we head home. I haven't written much, but I have enjoyed the break from Christmas and birthday preparations!

While I'm gone, hubby is getting a taste of my life--he's on vacation and still got pulled into three conference calls today, which he had to take on mute with a screaming baby in the background. He's also fielding RSVP calls for the big slumber party/caroling bash, taking the kids to Chuck E. Cheese's and had to do a diaper run (because I forgot that small detail before I left town!)

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Just 2 1/2 weeks!

I love Christmas. I really do. But, this year, I'm counting the days until the holiday season is officially over. I'm exhausted and ready to move on already. So, just 2 1/2 more weeks of holiday cheer left.

In that time, I have:

A business trip to Tampa (tomorrow)

A school holiday party (Tuesday next week)

A birthday slumber party for A (Wednesday next week). The original list of 12 girls was adjusted to 15 when we invited four boys for caroling and realized we were leaving out three girls from her class. It just didn't seem right, so we invited 'em all!

Christmas (next week, obviously)

Miscellaneous family commitments the last week of the year.

It doesn't look so bad on paper, but all the little details to keep dancing around in my head!


Today was S's last day of pre-K for the year. Her teacher gave them a baggie filled with red M&Ms, cinnamon candies and red jelly beans and included the following note:

"I wanted the perfect gift for you, but couldn't decide just what to do! I almost sent you a dozen roses--instead, here's a bag of reindeer noses!"

Isn't that just the cutest? S thought so!

Last year, we received baggies of oatmeal and red baking (decorator) sugar with this note about reindeer. We made up extras and distributed them around the neighborhood. Not sure we'll do that this year since we'll be spreading holiday cheer with the 15 girls and four boys caroling!

Reindeer Food

Up on the housetop reindeer pause.
Out jumps good old Santa Claus.
Santa gets cookies and leaves some toys.
But the reindeer tummies make lots of noise.

Ho Ho Ho! We need some food!
Ho Ho Ho! We need some food!

Up on the housetop, click, click, click.
Leave us some food when you feed St. Nick!


1. Wait until Christmas Eve.
2. Open the bag. Sprinkle reindeer food on the lawn.
3. Hop into bed and wait for Santa.

The cinnamon ornaments we made for S's party favors were a big hit. Three moms called me MARTHA! I'd usually take that as an insult, but this was the first crafty thing I've tried that has really turned out well. They looked just like I imagined them. And, S had a ball helping me.

I'm off to bed--after I find a few books to read and gather writing materials for the flight!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Have a Holly Jolly ...

Have a holly jolly birthday! Yes, that's us. Instead of writing, I'm planning yet another birthday party before Christmas. Almost-8-year-old "A" has decided that she wants a birthday sleepover. We're inviting 12, count 'em--12, girls to the party (plus three boys who will go home before bed time.)

I was a bit freaked out by the idea of having 12 second grade girls over night. That was before I had a brilliant idea that "A" happened to love. We're going caroling. Pizza, practice, caroling, hot cocoa and cake, presents, a craft or two. I think this party will be one of the easier parties I've planned. We're also thinking about making gingerbread houses, but we started one this afternoon and it's not looking so swell.

I ended up taking nothing to critique group after all. I just couldn't focus. Fortunately, I have lots of "air" time in the next few weeks. I'll be traveling to Florida without kids next week, which should give me some good writing time.

I'm going to a holiday wrapping/card addressing party tonight. I'll be working on my cards. Our Christmas picture of the kids is beautiful. S took especially good pictures--she looks like a princess--better than a princess, really.

Other than two birthday party invitations and about 15 birthday thank you notes, my other big writing project is our Christmas "letter." I took the easy way out, but here it is:

Happy Holidays!

Instead of our usual Christmas letter, we thought we’d give you a Christmas quiz. Select the best answer to each question below. Then, see how you score!

1) A is in second grade and will be eight next month. She is involved in her school’s Spanish club and enjoys writing and singing. She plays:

a) soccer and basketball…and would add more activities if she had the time.
b) Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz.
c) guitar in a rock band.

2) S just turned five and can’t wait to go to school next year. She is learning to read and:

a) plays soccer and takes swimming lessons. She scores lots of goals!
b) likes to kiss boys.
c) ran a marathon this year.

3) K is 18 months. She adores her sisters and enjoys reading books. She climbs everything, is becoming quite the talker and:

a) loves to play with dolls.
b) HATES water—just like her sisters.
c) is not allowed to grow up.

4. C traveled a lot for work this year. He finally bought:

a) Chiefs season tickets.
b) a cool car.
c) HP stock to support his family’s printing habits.

5. Kim insists there’s nothing new to report again this year. She:

a) still enjoys writing children’s stories.
b) would love to play in the snow and freeze her toes off every day.
c) is pregnant.

6. C & Kim will celebrate their 15th anniversary next year, so they're skkskslaljhchcht and going to :

a) dkkdksksksks!
b) the library.
c) a Star Trek convention

ANSWERS: A—of course, “A” is the correct answer for all of the above. Give yourself one point for each correct answer.

If you scored:

· 5 or 6—HOORAY! We’ve done a pretty good job of keeping in touch with you this year.

· 3 or 4—ARE YOU ASLEEP? If we talked to you, you weren’t paying attention.

· 2 or fewer—LET’S TALK! What have you been up to? We miss you! Give us a call at xxxxxxxx. Better yet, send an email to 123456 or 67890. We’re much better at keeping in touch with email!

Friday, December 02, 2005

Seriously...You've gotta check this out! NEED to check this out. If you love books or you know anyone who loves books, you need to check out the Book A Day December Giveaway at YA Books Central.

There's some great prizes--including A City Christmas Tree, Snowbaby Could Not Sleep, Anyone But You and A Great and Terrible Beauty.

Winners posted daily on the YA Books Central blog where you can always find out about the most recent reviews and interviews posted.

Kimberly has done a fantastic job with this. I'm totally amazed. Me...I played no role in this; I'm just thrilled to review picture books for the site. Check it out and pass the link on!

Cinnamon Hugs

S and I had the greatest morning. Her Chuck E. Cheese birthday party is this weekend. I hate, hate, hate giving gift bags with junky toys in them. So, we decided to make our own cinnamon-applesauce ornaments and "ice" them with puffy glitter paint and loop a red ribbon through the top. The kids will get: an ornament that S made, the recipe to make their own and a gingerbread cookie cutter. I hope the parents don't turn up their noses --because we think they turned out pretty fancy.

To make the dough, combine equal parts of cinnamon and applesauce. (We used one cup of each.) Roll the dough and cut ornament shapes. Dry flat for two to three days. Our second batch, has been cooking for over an hour at about 200 degrees. The dough was too sticky, and I was out of cinnamon, so we added ground cloves and allspice. house smells lovely!

This all reminds me of my emotional connection with food. I love the smells and the warmth of baking. I have wonderful memories of baking and frosting Christmas cookies with my family. I think this also explains why I can spend days baking at Christmas and throw it all way, only eating a few bites.

Which reminds me of that book I like...A City Christmas's all about the many reactions and connections people have with Christmas trees.

Which reminds me that this little project is closely related to my new writing project. (YES! I have a new idea, part of which WILL be ready for critique group.) I had another cooking-related project that I abandoned a few months ago. I've decided all the research from that project still relevant to the new project, so I'm looking at this as a fresh approach.


Related to post #1 from earlier this week, Cynthia Leitich Smith just happened to have some thoughts on the same subject regarding the critiques of her own first drafts.

And, just in case you missed sure to check out December's Book A Day Giveaway at Young Adult Books Central. While you're there, check out a few of the new book reviews and interviews!