Agatha Christie had a nice trick of starting a story with multiple threads, each leading inevitably toward the same end... murder.
1. Steve likes Reese's peanut butter cups so when I saw a recipe for a shortbread cookie cup filled with melted chocolate and peanut butter cream I decided to make it for the holidays. The cookie wound being wildly unsuccessful (a nasty combination of gritty and gunky) - so much so that I still have a dozen of them in a container on the porch/freezer.
2. The peanut butter filling for these cookies is cream cheese and peanut butter, lightened by whipped cream. When I started the cookies on Christmas Eve morning I misread the recipe and subsequently made the mistake of whipping twice as much cream as I needed.
3. It snowed heavily on the 24th but with my mom already in residence and my brother's family not expected until late the next day this mass of snow was most welcome: soothing and Christmas-y. We had nowhere to go and no way to get there even if we had wanted to do so.
4. So I looked at the bowl of freshly whipped cream and the snow coming down and my mother and Papa Stan and Steve grouped around the kitchen as I worked on the cookies and I made a decision.
5. I made Irish Coffee.
6. We are not - as a family - accustomed to drinking whiskey at ten in the morning.
7. Whether Steve is an inconsiderate jackass or whether he was merely merrier than he had any right to be at that hour is a question that will be debated for many Christmases to come but he first placed his not-nearly-empty-enough coffee mug on the shelf above my desk and he then batted it over like a kitten, like a kitten with hams for paws.
8. Irish coffee poured over my laptop before pooling underneath it like Lough Dhulough.
9. I screamed and raced to snatch it from the creamy poisonous puddle.
10. I was too late.
11. Steve and Papa Stan were convinced that the laptop was simply damp and needed only a good airing to restore it to its previous robustness. This was ridiculous. Here's a hint: if something/one reeks of whiskey and is completely unresponsive it/he/she is in need of professional care.
12. There was nothing to do about it on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day and then my brother and his family arrived and the fact that my computer had x's for eyes took a backseat to the fact that my entire family needed to have their Mii's updated so that they could all - from biggest to smallest - eviscerate me in the new Resort Sports bowling.
13. It wasn't until days later that I was able to call the Apple store to see if they would mind if I just dropped my laptop off with them and then I could do a quick jog through the mall while they fixed it. They thought they might be able to let me bring it in sometime this year and then it would be a few weeks before they could actually, you know, look at it. Fortunately the local guy who subcontracts with Apple was less booked forever and produced a diagnosis within an hour: dead.
"You mean comatose?" I asked.
"No. Dead," he replied.
"As dead as it can possibly be."
14. I cried and we commended its casing to the deep and then Steve and I tried to decide whether or not to buy the old laptop the Mac guy had refurbished but which was too outdated to run most of my software or whether I should just go back to a simpler time and start stamping out my correspondence with potato handblocks. As we were debating these options my mother bought me a new laptop. It's hard to express how nice this was. You say thank you when someone holds the elevator door for you, thus saving you a minute's wait in the lobby. How can thank you suffice when someone keeps you from plunging into the Dark Ages?
15. So that was that. I back up to Steve's work server so my files were saved and parts of my hard drive were salvaged and other than the occasional moments when I turn to Steve and ask whether he remembers that time he killed my laptop everything is back to normal.
It lead to something of an epiphany, though. While I missed my computer I began to appreciate its absence. I got more done and read more and took longer baths. Not that I am anxious to eliminate my computer again any time soon, just that I liked the lack of distraction and I am trying to spend more time with my computer off and closed. I am even thinking about moving it out of the kitchen - both for its own safety (who knows when I might find myself with extra celery stalks and decide to make Bloody Marys?) and to prevent myself from going over to it every few minutes and dithering. I spend way too much time frittering about online. I don't mean time spent writing my blog or reading others or anything like that (why should I? it's a large part of my social life, such as it is) but I had gotten into the habit of checking my email every five minutes. Yeah, sure, there will always be a new message from Lands' End (does Lands' End stalk you too? I actually do want to know when they are offering free shipping or 50% off kids turtlenecks but to email EVERY DAY? this persecution must cease) when I check but obviously that can wait an hour or two. It is just a habit and what better time to try to break a habit than with the new year.
In a similar vein I am also trying to finish one project (and by "project" I mean "cleaning the kitchen" or "putting away laundry") before starting on another. I distract myself. This is such an ongoing problem in my life that I suspect I have already written a similar sentence in the past but: I clear the kitchen counter and discover a sock so I take the sock to the laundry room where I find stacks of leftover boxes from Christmas so I start to dismantle the boxes to recycle them but I find a receipt in one which reminds me that I wanted to save that receipt to return something so I take the receipt into the kitchen where I start to clear the counter again.... thus I spend all of my time and energy half-doing things so that by the end of the day I am tired and yet nothing is done. Depressing. I'd like to stop it.
So those are my resolutions and despite the fact that I have been picking at this post for over a week I am not going to just abandon it this time and I will post it - come tedium or repetition - before Caroline and Edward start lunch.
"Happy New Ear!" as Caroline says - a charming bookend to her "Merry Christmas Tree!"
She is a walking malapropism (not unlike her older brother who peered at the combination of things on his plate the other night and said, "Hey! Are those mashed potatoes?! What - exactly - is this sheepish pie?") and when she uncovers her eyes to shout "Peeking You!"she is delicious.
I love this picture. The folded hands, the stretched legs, the inward eye, the contented smirk... she is a never-ending source of delight and what-the-hell?
Edward is straight-forward. He has a few moods, mostly variations on delighted and embarrassed.
He also does a nice take on berserker rage but I don't get many pictures of that since I am usually busy defending myself.
Edward doesn't bend his knees when he runs or when he dances and although a corner of my mind wonders if this is quite, exactly normal the rest of me just enjoys how cute it is. His resemblance to a bear is uncanny and I can always tell when it is Edward coming around the corner due to the thumpthump thumpthump of his peculiar gait. That and the fact that he is usually wailing, "CAH-AH-YINE!" meaning "Caroline took my train/bear/book/car/plastic broccoli and I need you, Mother, to retrieve it for me."
Caroline never tattles. Ever. She waits. Sometimes she will attempt to lure Edward with another toy but for the most part she is content to let him have whatever it was she was playing with and move on to something else. Her attention span is less than half of what he possesses. They are funny.
And they're TWO! Caroline and Edward turned two last week.
Almost everything they received for Christmas and their birthday was a hit but for the two'ish year old on your list I can most heartily recommend a couple of things: my friend Noelle bought them a basic no-frills shopping cart and it is awesome; I bought a pair of Leapfrog My Pal dogs and although they are vaguely tacky Edward and Caroline both love them (you personalize them online and the dog says "I love you... [Edward]" or sings a tuneless but surprisingly haunting "Me and my pal... [Edward]... are the best of friends" and Edward beams and shouts, "OhTAY!"); Edward got a very small wooden Thomas the train set that they both like to play with. Oh and Patrick loves Quiddler, for what it is worth. It's a kind of Scrabble'esque card game, fast to play and easy to learn.
Where was I?
Right. Caroline and Edward (who have already gone down for their nap after lunch - I'm failing already.) You know, that ineffable twinness that has escaped me since they were born is becoming more clear as they get older. I used to describe them as the Craig's List roommates but they are starting to get a twin thing. For starters they look more similar as Edward's hair darkens and Caroline's hair turns chestnut and they have the same eyelashes, thick like caterpillars. Beyond that they have a connection that is easy to perceive but hard to express. Different interests, different personalities but they click. They play together a lot. The toy kitchen (we went uber-plastic and got the combination kitchen/market from Step 2 - it's quite cute and the oven door that stopped closing within seconds was fixed with a piece of duct tape on the inside of the door) was a huge success. Edward puts his cars in the sink and Caroline bustles over like a health inspector and tosses the cars out again. Repeat ad infinitum.
Not that they don't fight sometimes. They do. In addition to Edward's frequent petitions to get his whatever back he also has twigged to the fact that he is bigger than she is and has started trying to use this to his advantage. Fortunately for the sake of balance and equality, Caroline is a thousand times more agile so an attempt to dislodge her
inevitably results in compromise
Someone left a comment a post or two ago suggesting that part of Patrick's improved disposition might be due to the extra one-on-one time he is getting from me while we drive and I think this is emphatically true. We didn't get a whole lot of jealousy when the twins were born but there is definitely a level on which Patrick felt and still feels threatened by his siblings. He adores them - especially Caroline who shouts "SUPER PATRICK!" when he comes home from school; what's not to love about that? - but he does compete with them for attention more and more as they get older. So the drive helps, as does the new school which enables him to be both wildly creative (they have the flexibility to approach things in lots of different ways: this week's spelling assignment was to write and film a movie and make up his own spelling words to go with it) and reassuringly middle-of-the-road (they have started division and he is having to work at it - it's good for him.) If I had it to do over again I would have moved him sooner and if you have a kid you are wondering about and there are options available I urge you like a scary zealot (me, not you) to explore those options. The difference is unbelievable.
If I had realized ahead of time that I was going to be writing a resolutions post I would have written this whole thing with neat segues but I didn't so I didn't. But in keeping with the obvious theme (Things/People who need/want/require my full attention but have been receiving only chunks and slices and what I intend to do about it) it has become increasingly obvious that Steve and I are knee-deep in children and work and responsibilities and we barely see each other. I mean, we see each other all the time because he works at home and I spend my days going from room to room with a sock in my hand but we don't see each other. Long ago we used to play computer games together or tile bathrooms or travel. Now we get Patrick to bed by 8:30, pick up the toys, clean the kitchen, pay bills, check email and go to sleep. I used to be somewhat skeptical about the much lauded panacea of couple's therapy, Date Night, but I would love to be able to go on a date with him. Just Steve and me and a waiter. 2009 however was not kind to us so I am hesitant to start throwing money around on babysitters. Once bitten, you know.
So I don't know. What do you do? Oh hey I wrote that as a shrug but I guess it could be an actual question: what do you do? Do you go out? Do you stay in? Do you and your partner/spouse/significant other share a hobby? Do you have any idea what I am talking about?