Cookie baking aftermath:
About to watch “Charlie Brown Christmas”:
Mom on the edge.
Cookie baking aftermath:
About to watch “Charlie Brown Christmas”:
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.
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.
One of the boys fiddling with something breakable.
Julie: Stop fiddling with that. It’s going to break.
Boy continues fiddling.
Julie: I said stop. That’s going to break.
Julie: Hello! Over there! STOP! It’s going to BREAK!
Other boy comes in and starts fiddling with breakable item. Julie takes breakable item away.
Julie: I was just explaining that you guys can’t play with this. It’s breakable.
Julie turns away, item is somehow recovered, and immediately broken. Boys look surprised and remorseful. Steam comes out of Julie’s ears and she starts screeching. Zuzu wanders into room with a capless Sharpie, which she is applying to her lips like lipstick.
Let me just take a super quick break from my giant research paper to report some important cookie news. I picked up a bag of Limited Edition Nestle Tollhouse Dark Chocolate and Mint Morsels (I got them at Target), and I’m here to report to you that the cookie recipe on the back of the bag, Mint Chocolate Delights, tastes exactly like Thin Mints, only actually much better. I did use Double Dutch Dark Cocoa from King Arthur, and that probably made a difference, also. Yum!
(For the record, that Double Dutch Dark Cocoa is the only cocoa I use any more. It’s unbelievably good.)
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 amazon.com 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 amazon.com 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.
I am in the midst of an incredibly intense, compressed, massive-workload-inducing class for library school — my last class, in fact. It runs through January 22 and is going to run me ragged. Updates to World of Julie are likely to be sporadic and spotty during these next six weeks. Bear with me!
Zuzu, being a third child, doesn’t say much. She is extremely communicative, but doesn’t really use conventional words. She uses a lot of signing and pointing and appropriate facial expressions. Eli was the same way. He didn’t say anything except for “Dada” and “Harpo” until he was 22 months old, at which point he started saying things like, “I would please like a grilled cheese sandwich and I’ll eat it at the table.”
Zuzu says “Dada” and “Mama.” She says thank you, but she doesn’t actually say “thank you.” Instead she says “in-dah.” I don’t know where it came from, but it definitely means thank you. And, at some point, she interpreted the sound of the smack of a kiss as “vwa-pah!” and so now that’s the sound she makes when she kisses. (Incidentally: it’s not easy. Try it. It’s easy to kiss someone on the cheek and say “mwa-pah” but getting that v sound in the beginning is tough.)
And so, I present to you: Zuzu and her vwa-pahs.
The Great Quillow by James Thurber, illustrated by Steven Kellogg
Henry brought this book home from the school library, and it looked innocent enough, and then Dave opened it up to read it to the kids and said he felt duped. It’s essentially a wall of words. From the outside it looks like your basic 10-minute picture book, but it’s practically a chapter book.
But still! I have to recommend it, because it’s really quite wonderful. You have to love James Thurber; he writes in a way that is smart and funny and assumes kids can follow along with fairly sophisticated concepts (because they can!). Hunder, a big mean giant, comes to the outskirts of a little village, demanding three sheep a day, a pie made with a thousand apples, and a chocolate the size of a spinning wheel, as well as some clothes and boots. The people of the town are freaking out, because they’ll have to essentially give up on sleep to get all the giant’s work done. But Quillow, the town toymaker, who is pretty much dismissed by the townsfolk as an eccentric weirdo, has a brilliant plan to make Hunder think he’s going insane.
Steven Kellogg’s illustrations (as always) are wonderful, and the intricate story moves right along, despite being longer than you expected. Henry and Eli played “Quillow” every day after they read this. Love it! This book was originally published in 1944 (with a different illustrator), and republished in 1994, and is now out of print again. Oh well. I bet your local library has it!
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.
I love this so much I can hardly stand it.