Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Eve & Taxidermy

2 words that I never expected to type in the same heading! And what, you may ask, does taxidermy have to do with our Christmas Eve 2011? That is a long story. Let me give you the back story:

1) I am petrified of tigers. And bears. And lions. Oh my! Pretty much anything that could eat me. Or maul me to death. I'm not a big fan of wildlife in general which is, I know, very un-PC to say. (Oddly enough, the selling point for our new house was that it backed up into a forest. Every morning, I look out onto our backyard of trees & am thrilled to see the frequent deer visitor. Occasionally we have quail and even wild turkeys. But here's the thing: these wildlife darlings are AFRAID of ME. They bolt off when they see me coming. Unlike, let's say, a tiger which would smell my fear and run right to me!)

I used to visit zoos without horror, but now can't even drive past our local "Cat Tales"- zoo for all large cat animals- without shuddering. My children joke about wanting to have birthday parties there, because they know I will not attend.

2) My husband is the nicest, kindest person that I know. Over the past few months, he has become acquainted with an elderly gentleman named Jerry. He met him at the YMCA, where he learned much of Jerry's story while they worked out on adjacent treadmills.

Recently widowed (last Thanksgiving), the holidays have been very difficult for Jerry. He expressed his despair at the upcoming Christmas season, and my sweet husband decided then and there that we were going to visit Jerry on Christmas Eve and bring him a big fruit basket.

For days before the event, Quinn got the kids prepared (and very excited) for this Christmas Eve visit we would be making. The little guys were looking forward to it so much that they asked about when we were going to do our "special visit to Jerry" more than they even asked when it was going to be Christmas. It was very touching.

So where does taxidermy fit into all of this?!?

Well, that husband of mine forgot to mention that... JERRY IS A TAXIDERMIST! and that JERRY LIVES IN HIS HOME WHICH IS BEHIND HIS TAXIDERMY STORE & WORKSHOP!

Yes, true story, in order to actually visit Jerry, you must WALK THROUGH HIS COLLECTION OF LIONS & TIGERS & BEARS. I am shaking as I yell/type this... two days later!

We knocked on Jerry's door, our large clan standing in the snow armed with an even larger basket of goodies, and all I could think was, "Please, please, please don't invite us in." Of course he invited us in. And then all I could do was put on my game face and will myself to disassociate.

Jerry was adorable. He didn't cringe at the presence of so many strangers on his doorstep. He wasn't afraid of inviting so many six-year-olds into his store and home. He didn't think twice before insisting that we come all the way inside so that we could see his treasures. He even claimed that we "made his Christmas."

The kids were beyond thrilled. We saw tigers, lions, ligers, (a cross between the two that I didn't even know existed to be afraid of) bears, wolves, and on and on. Jerry took great pride in showing us his extensive supply of taxidermy tools and animal skins. (I refused to even let myself wonder what the hooks and tubes and hoses were for. And the glass eyes? Don't even get me started. ) I smiled my way through the tour, clenching Quinn's hand to the point of breaking skin, he later said.

And then, in the spirit of Christmas, Jerry offered to show us his "special pet"- the one that he never lets visitors see. "I'm pretty sure he won't bite ya," said Jerry, as he opened a locked back door.

Which is when my fight or flight system kicked in. Actually, it was mostly flight. Certain a yet-to-be-taxidermied tiger (alive and kicking) was going to pounce through the door for attack, I was ready to scoop up my young and run like the devil. (Quinn was on his own!)

In hindsight, I realize how irrational it was to believe that a real, live tiger was behind the door, but as anybody knows, phobias are never very rational.

Behind the door was a huge, 15-foot tiger (once alive, now the pride of Jerry's taxidermist heart.) He asked us to help carry it in and then he set the animal up so that we could take pictures with it.

I've posted one photo here. What you can't see is Quinn and Taylor laughing their heads off in the background while I tried to be polite and pose with the animal of my nightmares. This was somewhat of an "action shot" for me, and I am blurry because I was turning my head left-to-right-and-back-again, over and over, to be certain that a) the beast couldn't possibly come back to life b) there were no other animals, stuffed or otherwise, who would attack.

I know, I know. I've never claimed to be sane.

This Christmas Eve turned out to be a little traumatic for me- I won't lie. But I loved seeing how excited Quinn and the kids were to try to bring a little Christmas spirit to somebody who was having an even more traumatic Christmas Eve than I was. "I thought today was going to be awful for me," Jerry told us. "But you just made it wonderful."

That alone was worth it. Quinn and the kids are already planning our next holiday to include a visit with Jerry. I'm all for it! Although I think this time we'll invite him to our place. Our house is always a zoo- I'm sure he'll feel right at home.

Friday, March 25, 2011

A Wee Bit Into St. Patrick's Day...

Maybe it's because I'm Irish. Maybe it's because Quinn went to Notre Dame. Maybe it's because I love Lucky Charms & feeding my children all things green one day a year. Or maybe I just have a penchant for green food coloring. Whatever it is, I LOVE St. Patrick's Day!

So when Tanner was asked to build a leprechaun trap for school, we (uh, I mean he) had a great time with it! We tried to outsmart those contrary little leprechauns with a little reverse psychology:

And my little leprechauns were so excited to wake up and find that their own leprechaun traps had been sprung. Somebody tapped on my face at 6 am to tell me: "Mom- I think we caught a leprechaun! And guess what? He totally messed up our rooms! They're a mess!" (Actually, that was because they forgot to pick up their rooms the night before, but we went with it.) And then there were squeals of delight when they discovered the green "pee" (ie, food coloring) in the toilet. "Mom! Mom! That crazy leprechaun used our bathroom and forgot to flush!" They even made us sleep in green pajamas just in case a leprechaun tried to come and pinch us!

Even the dog got into the spirit of the day:

And the big kids? Well, they drew the line at talking in an Irish accent all day (though that didn't stop me!) But they tolerated my silliness, they ate my green eggs and ham for dinner, and they wore green. Carter even announced, "I used Irish Spring soap today especially for you, Mom." What a good lad!

Friday, February 4, 2011

A Visit From Aunt Katie!

We were delighted to have Quinn's sister, Katie, come visit us this past weekend! Besides being super cool and a load of fun, she is like a human playground for my little guys and they adore her. She all but stepped off the plane before they attacked her.

We hadn't seen Katie since October 2009 at our Disney World Bastian Family Reunion. As you can see, not much has changed. The kids love nothing more than hanging all over poor Katie!

On Saturday, we all went ice skating at the outdoor rink at Riverfront Park. The little ones had never been on ice skates before, and we were nervous about how it would go. They LOVED it and spent over 2 1/2 hours on the ice before we could drag them away.

Besides ice skating and shadowing Katie's every move, the kids learned a new trick. Katie introduced them to a computer distortion program called "fat booth". They spent hours laughing at distorted versions of themselves and, when that was unavailable, found ways to distort things themselves:

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


We all know that I have not been the most diligent blogger. And I'm horrible about keeping a journal (although I just did a church Activity Days lesson with 10 - 12 year girls about the importance of journaling... ooh, the hypocrisy!) But there is one thing I have done with regularity: I write down all the silly/funny/cute things my kids say. And I have a hefty backlog now, so I'll share a few:

Today Bailey held out a DVD for me to turn on when Riley shrieked, "Noooo! Bailey, you can't hold my Sleeping Beauty DVD like that! You have to hold it by it's belly button so it'll be safe!" Huh? She demonstrated, sticking her finger through the hole in the middle. "See? Use it's belly button so it won't get scratched."

Sydney is the only triplet able to ride a bike without training wheels. Much to the vexation of her sisters, she picked it up in no time. But, sweetheart that she is, there is no gloating. In fact, she tries like crazy to teach them how to ride their new bikes. Today she was holding Bailey on the bike in the road and called out, "Look, Mom! I am demonstreeting to Bailey how to ride a bike! They call it demonstreeting cuz you teach somebody how to do it in the street. Cool."

Riley to Bailey: "Hey, no tattling. Just remind your own business!"

Last week I was reading to the kids using my (very good) French accent.
Tanner: "Can you stop talking like that?"
Me: "What? You don't like my French accent?"
Tanner (perplexed): "Who's Jackson?"
Me (perplexed): "Uh, I don't know. Jackson who?"
Tanner: "Your friend Jackson."
Me (still perplexed): "Uh, I don't have a friend named Jackson, I don't think."
Tanner: "But you just said... your friend Jackson. You were reading like your friend, Jackson."
Me: "Ohhhhh... my French accent!"
Tanner: "Could you stop talking like him, please?"

Bailey, last month when Sydney had a cold: "Oh my gosh, I could not sleep at all cuz Sydney was totally snorkeling all the night long."

Me, calling down the stairs: "Hey, are you guys being good?" Silence.
Tanner: "Well, that depends... My good might be different than your good."

One night I made an adventurous curry dinner that only half of the children liked. Bailey was teasing Riley for liking the "dasgusting" food so much when Riley replied: "Don't be rude, Bailey! Remember- we all have different taste bugs on our tongues that tell us what to like. Jeez!"

Sydney: "You guys are constracting me & I'm trying to do my homework!"

Tanner played flag football during September & October. At the first game, I was talking to him at the sidelines.
Me: "So... the whole point of this is that you try to grab the other team's flag?"
Long silence followed by a shrug.
Tanner: "No one really knows."

Tanner, singing at Christmas time: "Release Navi Dog... Release Navi Dog!"
Me (chuckling): "That's a great Christmas song, Tanner."
Tanner: "Yeah, I really like it. But I have no idea what a Navi Dog is. Maybe it's like a chihuaua. But then I wouldn't release it. I'd keep that Navi Dog!"

Tanner, talking to my parents when they came to visit in November: "You know, I have like seventeen bucks!"
Grandma: "Wow, that's a lot of money! How'd you get so rich?"
Tanner: "Well... I lost a lot of teeth."

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Christmas Morning- A Personality Inventory

I'm a total sucker for personality inventories: The Color Code (Red-Blue!), Love Languages (Acts of Service- if you love me, you'll do the dishes), RIASEC Inventory (Social all the way)... My best friend and I can have entire conversations based upon the "Color Codes"of others. (eg- "So my new neighbor is a total Red. But she's married to a Yellow- you can imagine how that plays out.")

I've spent vast amounts of time analyzing my own children and trying to figure out which categories they fall into with the different inventories. But on Christmas morning this year, I discovered a personality inventory that puts all others to shame for, in opening their Christmas presents, the true personality of each of my kiddos manifested themselves plainer than the nose on Rudolph's face. Accordingly, I've developed "The Christmas Morning Personality Inventory" with the following categories:

"The Grateful Receiver"- Carter
Carter's Christmas wish list this year consisted entirely of books. I'm not kidding. Like 20 books, many of them hard-t0-find and spendy. But when a child asks for books, well, you give him books. From "How to Get a Five on the AP US History Exam," "Preparing For the AP Physics Exam," and "Tonal Music"" to all things Tolstoy... Carter received each of his gifts with sweet gratitude and excitement. He immediately cracked open each book upon receipt and proceeded to ignore the rest of us until it was time for him to open another present- er- book. Of course we threw in a few surprises not on the bibliophile's list (Chia SpongeBob, Peanuts Christmas CD, etc.) and he was equally gracious about receiving these. But then it was back to the books. Just like in his every day life.

"The Gusher"- Taylor
Tay is certainly the most fun to shop for because I know she will be THRILLED with each and every present she receives. Never fail, she will jump out of her seat and gush about whatever it is she has opened- "Wow... an electric blanket! How awesome! This is great! I didn't even know I wanted one of these!" or "No way! Brainetics! This was at the top of my list! I totally wanted this so bad! But I didn't think you'd be able to get it! This is the best Christmas ever!" Each of these gift-opening events is followed by big hugs and kisses to the giver. You can see why it is so gratifying to give to this child. She's a gusher- as is her way with life, she opens it all with gusto and expresses her joy and gratitude to the fullest. Every family needs a gusher.

"The Introspective Receiver"- Tanner
Tanner is the exact opposite of The Gusher. No matter what gift he receives (from the remote control helicopter he'd been dying for to a brand new bike he begged Santa for), the giver must not ever hope for a demonstrative display. That is simply not Tanner's style. He receives everything with a quiet intensity and a softly whispered acknowledgement: "A remote control helicopter." As if to say, "Oh, of course, a remote control helicopter. Exactly what I'd been wanting. Of course." He then proceeds to open the packaging and read all instructions and become completely absorbed in that task. It can be underwhelming to behold. But underneath all that introspection lies Tanner's easy-going security. He seems to lead a charmed life, and is secure in his confidence that the universe will give him exactly what he wants. Or, if not the universe, perhaps he just knows that he has both parents wrapped around his charmed little finger.

"The Joyful Giver"- Sydney
When it was time to open family presents, Sydney was beside herself with excitement. Not for unwrapping all the gifts with her name on them, mind you, but because she could not wait to give out the gifts she'd gotten for everybody else. "Can we open mine first?" she begged. "Well, we need to take turns so each person opens a present," I replied. "No, I mean can we have everybody open my presents to them first? Pleeeeease?!?" Uh... okay. And, despite the fact that we had the kids draw names for their siblings, Syd had a gift for EVERYONE. For weeks, she would come home from school and ask for wrapping paper so she could giftwrap a present for somebody. I figured she must be drawing pictures or making things at school for her siblings. Au contraire... as we opened Syd's presents, we discovered the true source of her gift-giving: The Lost and Found. Yes, we each received something that Sydney found on the bus, left behind by some poor child who is probably still looking for his mittens! But if anybody in this family is getting to heaven based on good intentions, it will be Sydney. She loves nothing more than helping and caring about everybody else. She is so sweet, so sincere, and so earnest in all that she does.

"The Suspiciously Brave-Faced Observer"- Bailey
It is not in Bailey's nature to be thrilled for others when they are opening a gift that she herself would like to possess. It was torture for her to watch others opening their presents on Christmas morning, but -shockingly- she put on the bravest of faces. Through gritted teeth and a painfully tight smile she would say, "Oh Sydney, you got a Liv doll! That is so great for you!" or ""Wow, Riley, you got a LiteBrite! That is very happy." Time and time again. It was almost hard to watch. I kept waiting for the cheerful facade to crack, but she held to it and was eventually rewarded with a Liv doll and LiteBrite of her own. But that's Bailey for you- she's a scrappy little fighter, suspiciously watching to make sure things will go her way and perfectly willing to duke it out if they don't. Yet she has days where she tries oh-so-very-hard to "be nice for Santa and Jesus." And, trust me, it is NOT an easy task for her. She is lots of spice with a dash of sugar, and she definitely gets an "A" for the effort!

"The OCD Opener"- Riley
For Riley, the joy of Christmas morning was less about opening presents and more about promptly disposing of the wrapping paper. She took great delight in throwing away all gift wrap and was completely determined to do so before she would allow herself to even really look at her gift. I have more video footage of Riley cleaning up after her Christmas presents than I do of her opening or playing with these presents. She even picked up after her siblings! To each her own. She's a funny little thing. This is my child who lines up all her crayons in a certain order before she colors. When she does her homework, she not only circles the right answer, but insists on crossing out all the wrong answers as well. She likes things to be "just so", and once she has an idea of how things should be in her head, she stubbornly sticks to it. With the chaos of six kids in the house, a little OCD is a breath of fresh air!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

2011: New Year's Resolutions

Happy New Year 2011 to everyone! I know resolutions tend to be very personal, but I decided to share mine this year:

2. shock my wonderful family & friends by writing on my BLOG
(I'm talking to you, Kelly Bishop!)
3. catch up on about a year and a half's worth of events... on my BLOG
4. update the music playlist on my BLOG
5. redesign (get rid of this tired floral pattern) my BLOG
6. reconnect with friends on my BLOG
7. share funny stories and kid quotes... on my BLOG
8. follow the example of my awesome blogger bffs
(my sisters, Joonie, Sarah, Holly, Kelly, etc...) and BLOG

Wow, I'm catching a pattern here. Feel free to hold me to these New Year's resolutions, friends! While certainly not life shattering for anyone, I WOULD like my children to have some kind of record of these crazy days we enjoy. Happy New Year's, friends and family. We love & miss you all!