Sunday, December 31, 2006

Will Finally Got His Easy Bake Oven!

Since the sun set on Christmas, people have been asking Will how his Christmas had been. He always said, "Good," or "Fine," but then told them that he didn't get his Easy Bake Oven. He had mentioned to me that he wanted an Easy Bake Oven, so I put it on the family Christmas list that my mother-in-law requested. I had no idea how serious he was about this particular gift.
However, it was pretty clear when he opened up his gift from Aunt Brenda ... it was an Easy Bake Oven, as pink as can be. Will whooped and hollered and held the box up, "It's my Easy Bake Oven! It's my Easy Bake Oven!" At the suggestion that he should thank his Aunt Brenda and give her a hug, Will flew over to her and leaped into her arms for a hug, much to the delight of everyone in the room - especially Aunt Brenda.
Kara got an Oven, too, and they both got additonal mixes to go with it. Will can't wait to start baking after his nap today.
Cousin Richie made a comment about boys baking, but his daughter, Lauren, got a set of Sesame Street tools with a drill, screwdriver and tool belt and much more. She loved it as much as she loved her pretty shoes and purses, if not more, so, the gender role reversal is equal in this family, I'd say!

Christmas at the Christisons

For the first time in years, all of Grandma and Grandpa Christison's (Rodney's maternal grandparents) grand- and great-grandchildren were in attendance for the family Christmas celebration - 25 people all together. It took four hours to eat finger foods and open all of the gifts in a very hot, crowded living room, but I think everyone realized how special this event was. Gifts were exchanged and everyone had their turn being watched as they opened their gifts. Grandma also has made a Christmas stocking or "sock" with little gifts inside. The granddaughters, Jill, Lisa and Abby, worked with her all day to prepare the feast.
Photos, from the top:
Rodney's cousin Abby and her finace Joe. Joe proposed at their college in St. Louis on Christmas Day. The wedding will be late next year.
Abby's sister Kate with Xan
Rodney with baby Hannah.
The grandkids, clockwise from me: Me, Rodney, Lisa, Jill, Kate, Amy, Abby, Joe, Richie and Jim. I think the two who are grandma and grandpa are obvious ...
The great-grandkids, left to right: Hannah, Kara, Will, Xan and Lauren.
Aunt Sam feeding Hannah.
Kara and Will paused long enough from their wrestling to pose for a picture.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Xan's First Haircut!

Much to the delight of everyone, I think, Xan received his first haircut yesterday. He was quite good about it, until the end, when he got tired of sitting for so long, and started to fuss. Cousin Amy, a hair stylist by trade, did a great job getting rid of the "rat's nest" and magically transforming Baby Xan in to Toddler Xan.

Will also got his hair cut and Amy added the fun, colored hair gel in shades of Mustard and Tar. The addition of Mrs. Potato Head's earring just added that special touch to his punk look!

Country Cousins

Rodney's cousin, Amy and her husband, Richie, now have three girls: Kara, 4, Lauren, 2 and Hannah, 2 months. Will and Kara are only 9 days apart in age (similar to Amy and Rodney, who are only 3 weeks apart in age.) and have practically grown up together. They are always excited to see each other and this trip was no exception. Lauren and Xan interacted quite well together, despite the age difference and it was a pleasure to meet the tiny, sweet Hannah. Will and Xan's Aunt Jilly held her for awhile and it made me realize just how small she was. I have never seen either of my sons when they were as small as she is now, since they were both more than 8 pounds when they were born.

The Great White Hunter

I don't know how great he is, but he certainly is white (poor boy just doesn't tan at all). And as far as hunting goes, Rodney hasn't killed anything with his bow as of this posting. He and his childhood friend Cory have hit the woods the past couple of days in the hopes of bringing in a big buck. The only big things I've seen so far are the beer bellies ... HOWEVER, if the big buck happens to get shot by my husband, I'll be sure to take photos and upload them. :)

Will's Reading!

Big news while we're visiting the Illinois family: Thanks to the encouragement and teaching talents of Grandma Peggy, along with some good preschool prep work, Will is now reading some simple sentences. He called his Grandma Nancy to read to her and has read to all of the Illinois family. Grandma Peggy said he just needs to read a little bit every day from now on and he will keep improving his skills!

Monday, December 25, 2006

Opening Gifts and Grandma Nancy and Grandpa Mark's House

As if Christmas at home wasn't enough, we had Christmas across town at the grandparents' house, too. Those present besides our clan: Grandma Nancy, Grandpa Mark, GG, GG's friend Hazel, Uncle Joe, Aunt Gina and Aunt Gina's sister Katie. It was quote loud and disorderly when it came to the gift opening. I remember Mom and Dad making Joe and I wait gift by gift, taking turns to spread Christmas out as long as possible. Apparently they have gotten more lenient in their "old" age because gifts were being opened with abandon. One quite humorous gift came from GG. Both boys got T-shirts from, in honor of our late, great "scropion" who came to visit. (If you missed this story, scroll down ... it was quite an event for us!) Christmas dinner is at 5:30 p.m. and then the Guthries will be heading home to finish packing for tomorrow's flight to Illinois. Merry Christmas everyone!

Christmas at the Guthries

Santa was generous this year at the Guthrie house. He delivered a red bicycle for Will and a walker toy for Xan. Luckily, Santa had let me know that Will would be getting a bike, so I got him a helmet, since there is a helmet law in California. Other big hits for Will: Clothes (yeah, right!), plastic food and plates, DVDs, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle action figures, shoes and plenty of little stocking stuffer toys.
Xan made it through about 20 minutes of Christmas gift opening before he was cranked up enough for a nap. But he enjoyed playing with his walker, and mastered walking with it in no time. Turning around when he ran out of space was a different story. He also enjoyed eating the wrapping paper and trying to steal the scissors.
Rodney got a memory card for his new digital camera, so it will now hold 170 pictures, a full-sized poker table, poker chips, clothes, DVDs and more.
Rodney collaborated very well with Santa, and gave me a beautiful blue topaz bracelet, a 30 GB iPod with case, scrapbook shelves, a circle-making tool and plenty more.
Of course, the dogs were not left out. Slade, Marble and Ripley each got a new collar, treats, fresh breath chews and squeaky toys. Slade was especially thrilled with the big squeaky ball, Ripley like the fuzzy toys he could easily pick up and Marble appreciated the new collar, but was more concerned about breakfast.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Annual Pie Delivery to the Firemen

Every Thanksgiving and Christmas, my mother bakes an extra pie to take to the local fire station. Sometimes she puts her address on the pie, sometimes not. I guess she figures it's good Karma and maybe the firefighters will show up a few second faster if they notice that it's the Pie Address that's on fire. Regardless, Will usually goes to deliver the pie and Christmas Eve 2006 was no exception. The firefighters were very kind, shaking his hand and showing him the fire truck and ambulance. Uncle Joe and Aunt Gina went, too, as did Rodney, and Joe said Gina had a better time than Will, since she hadn't taken a fire station tour before. Next year Xan will get to go.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Holiday Party

My Mom's friend, Diane, hosts an annual Christmas party at her home on Lake MissionViejo. Her home is stunning, and the decor, ambiance, food and fun are all great and it is a lovely way to spend a Southern California Saturday evening in December. Both boys got to see Santa. Neither boy cried. Will is old enough now to like Santa and not be afraid of him and I don't think it occured to Xan to be afraid. He just stared at Santa's beard. And stared ... and stared. Santa finally handed Rodney jingle bells to ring over my head as I took the picture, so we could get a nice shot of Xan and Santa.

Our "Scorpion" Visit

I was shopping at the mall Thursday evening for a very necessary holiday party outfit, when I got a call from Rodney.
"Do you want to be freaked out now or later?" Uh, now, please. Because then I'll just worry about what the heck it is!
"We have a scorpion in our kitchen."
I did not freak out, but I did ask pertinent questions: Is it alive or dead? "Alive." Is it contained? "Yes, in a Tupperware." (In one of my GOOD Tupperware containers, by the way, but I did not scold on this point because, after all, the scorpion was contained.) How big is it? "About 2 inches."
Hmm... two inches? It must be a baby, then. Scorpions get to be about 4 inches long or more. I'm sure Rodney knew this, since he has been to Iraq, Land of the Scorpion and Big Ugly Desert Things. My last words: Call the landlord and see what we need to do about an exterminator.
I found a lovely holiday outfit that can be worn at other times, as was my goal, and drove home. I walked in the door, Will talks non-stop about the scorpion that ran near Daddy's boot in the kitchen.
I find my GOOD Tupperware container and peer through the clear plastic to get an eyeful of UGLY. Whatever this is, it is NOT a scorpion. It is a giant ant with something white coming out of its rear end. Egg sac? Oh, God, that means MORE of these in my kitchen! Then I remember back when I was in high school, I worked at a pizza parlor just down the street and one morning I took out the trash to find two of these things dead outside. We called the county and when the guy came, he didn't know what they were, but he gathered them up and took them away. I never did find out what they were.
Putting two and two together, and the proximity of the two locations, I figured it had to be an insect (it WAS an insect - it had a head, abdomen and thorax, six legs and antennae - I knew science class would pay off sometime) that was native to the area. A very LARGE scorpion-colored insect. I understand why Rodney thought it was a scorpion, especially with the white thing at the end, but there were no pinchers and the white thing was not a stinger that curled over the back at any time. You'd think a guy who has been to Iraq twice would notice that, but I'll give him a break.
I called my friend Nan's husband Peter. He's a retired contractor who might have encountered something similiar. His response: "Sounds like a giant termite. That house is old. They are probably all over inside the walls." I'm paraphrasing, but that's all I remember before I did start to freak out. One of these suckers, I can handle; a houseful, no way.
I called my parents. Dad says it is a Jerusalem Cricket or a potato bug. It doesn't look like any cricket I have ever seen, but whatever. Do I need an exterminator? Will he come out at 8:30 p.m. on a Thursday? And why hasn't the landlord returned our message yet! Dad says I should call our family friend Rob, who is a local park ranger.
Dad left message for Rob. Got on the Internet and typed in Jerusalem Cricket. Lo and behold, that is the UGLY thing in my GOOD Tupperware in my kitchen. Also known as a potato bug. Nocturnal, subterraneous and indicative to this area. Biologists even come here to study them. As a matter of fact, two of the researches have email links. I email them my bug info. It doesn;t hurt to gather as much info as I can. i might need to make an educated decision later.
Rob calls back and confirms that I have an UGLY Jerusalem cricket. He assures me that they do not sting, are not poisonous, but can bit woth their big mandibles. He seems them dead quite often in the women's restroom at his park. No worries.
I read more about UGLY via the Internet: They usually are found alone or in very small groups (so, there! Peter!) they eat live and dead plant matter (not blonde 30-year-olds or 8-month-old babies), hatch in the spring, become adults by the fall and make good pets. Make good pets! Yeeech!
The landlord called and she is happy to hear it is not a scorpion and we're all OK.
One of the researchers emails me back: The white thing is a parasite exiting the bug and it will die soon. Oh, yuck! Poor thing ... what a way to go.
Will wants to take the bug to preschool for show and tell - but only if I put it in a jar and TAPE IT SHUT so he can't jump out. Ok...
Dad wants to see it, too, so he'll check it out when he picks the boys up from preschool the next day. OK, fine, you can have it and I don't want to know what you do with it.
So Rodney takes the bug out of my GOOD Tupperware the next morning and puts it in a jar. I tape it shut, and being the scrapbooker I am, I take some pictures of Will holding it. The bug goes to preschool and I thought it fair to warn the teacher before I just handed her a jar filled with UGLY bug. To my surprise, she was truly thrilled to have it. I guess a former teacher would find them once in a while in her garden and bring them in for the kids to see. They hadn't had a visiting UGLY bug for a couple of years. Ok ... good - and here is a info sheet I printed off the Internet for you - enjoy the bug.
I get to work and check my email. The second researcher lives less than a mile from me and would like the bug for his research photography. He's a biology professor at a local community college. Sure, I'll contribute to science. Call dad to let him know I will be picking the bug up from his house that evening to hand over to the bug guy. Call Rodney for the humor - he doesn't find it overly funny. Call Mom and she gets a good laugh.
At 6:15 p.m., I drop the bug of to the bug guy in the Baskin Robbins parking lot. He's thrilled. The white thing is now pretty brown and the bug is barely alive. Bug guy tells me that the white thing is not a parasite, but the bug's intestines - he was probably smashed (Rodney assures me he did not smash the bug. The smashing must have occurred in his pre-kitchen days). I chat with him for a few moments. Highlights: For years they thought there were only 5 species of these - turns out there are over 200. There is also no history on why it is called a Jerusalem Cricket. It is a cricket and it is assumed that these things were discovered back when "Jumpin' Jerusalem" was a common swear phrase (like, Oh, crap!) and, when you happened upon one of these UGLY bugs, that's what you said first. Makes sense to me - I'll buy into that.
So, for 24 hours, my life was all about an UGLY bug that was not a scorpion, but managed to thrill both adults and children with its sheer oddity. Oh, and did I mention that it was UGLY?