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Interview with Xander

I asked Xander a few questions this morning, and he’s a big ol’ liar. His favorite color is purple, and he won’t touch a carrot with a 10 foot pole. However, his favorite song IS “Little Talks,” so, whatever.

I must be in the Holiday Spirit if I’m sharing this recipe with you. It’s SUPPOSED to be a family secret (though a quick google search tells me this recipe is not exactly unique).

Still, though.

Growing up, Mom made this candy every year at Christmas time. I have vivid memories of watching her pour the toffee out onto foil on the counter tops, and having to keep my hands behind my back so I wouldn’t sneak any tastes. She made them for our teachers, and her prayer group friends, people from church. And it was always a special treat when she’d slip us a piece of it before wrapping it up.

For the past few years I’ve started making The Candy. I send some to John with work, or bring it to holiday parties. It’s a small thing, but it’s fun to feel connected to the other women in my family, past and present, who also continue to make this every year.

So, without further ado, Christmas Candy (as written by my mom):

Toffee

From the kitchen of Cindy B.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 lb butter (salted)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup slivered almonds
  • ~1/2 lb chocolate candy (milk or dark, chips or chopped up bars)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts

Preparation:

Have ingredients at room temperature.  You will need a heavy saucepan, approximately 3 qt. capacity, and a wooden or silicone spoon to cook the candy.  Have about 2 feet of aluminum foil laid out on a heat resistant surface to pour the candy out on, and a large metal tablespoon ready to spread the candy.

Cooking:

Over medium to medium-high heat (I use about 6.5 on my electric stove), bring the butter to a full, rolling boil.  Add the sugar.  The butter and sugar will be separate.  Cook, stirring, until the mixture returns to a boil and comes together with no oil separated.  Add the almonds.  Continue to cook and stir (the mixture tends to scorch so be sure to cover the entire bottom of the pan with your stirring).  The mixture may separate again (Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t – I have no idea why.  It is harder to stir if it separates a lot, but doesn’t seem to affect the results.)  Continue cooking until the mixture comes together again with no oil separated, and develops a rich caramel brown color (total cooking time is around 20 to 30 minutes).  The almonds should look toasted.   Pour out onto prepared foil, and quickly spread as thin as possible with large metal spoon.  Place chocolate candy on top.  When chocolate is melted spread evenly and sprinkle evenly with chopped walnuts.  Allow to cool until chocolate has set.  Break into pieces and store airtight.

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Note:  If almonds should start to get very brown before the mixture comes together, pour mixture onto foil immediately.  Use paper towels to remove any excess oil before topping with chocolate.

Note (from Emily): This year my candy separated a LOT at the end, and I was worried it was ruined, but I continued to stir it once I’d moved it off the heat and it came together pretty well.

Flexibility Training

When I wrote the post about taking away Xander’s pacifiers, I was somewhat surprised by the responses I got. In a good way, but also in a thought provoking way. I got a lot of comments here and on FB and Twitter along the lines of “good for you for knowing when to relent.”  And….yeah. YEAH.

It got me thinking.

There’s this idea in parenting that you have to stay strong. Stick to your guns. Don’t back down.

Yes. And no.

I mean, I see where the idea comes from. You can’t very well tell your two year old that he must eat his dinner before giving him a cookie and then giving him a cookie when he throws his plate to the floor with a devilish smirk (I HATE SMIRKING).

But why can’t you amend your previous stance to “if you take two bites of this, and two bites of that, then you can have your cookie” and show him that you recognize his effort?

Like many parenting idea(l)s, I took this one way too seriously. I figured the experts knew. I mean, they were DOCTORS (mostly). So.

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We recently had parent conferences with Xander’s preschool teachers. I know, it seems somewhat silly to have conferences for three year olds (he is very adept at smearing paint on paper with his fingers!), but still. Two things that came up, as they did last year at a different school with different teachers, are that Xander is very smart, and he’s very sensitive.

(I know, I KNOW, that that may sound like a brag, but it’s not, I swear. A lot of his smarts comes from us letting him play reading apps on the iPad during quiet time, so it’s not like I’m taking credit for that, or anything.)

And being smart or sensitive or both is not BAD. I think it’s good! I love that my boy is empathetic, as much as a three year old can be, that he cares about people’s feelings. But these traits also mean that he can be….manipulative. He likes to test and see what he can get us to do for him, what techniques work, how much whining until we cave, etc. Not in a sociopath sort of way, but just…he’s three, you know? They already test boundaries and push buttons. Xander just seems to realize a bit more of what those buttons can end up doing.

****

I was pondering aloud (or, rather, quietly but with my fingers on Twitter) whether or not I was being too inconsistent with Xander. I constantly go back and forth on timeouts, and whether they “work,” and when to use them,  blah blah blah …boringmommyblogcakes. My old boss and good friend (and mother of two grown up, well adjusted boys) told me that it doesn’t really matter, in the end, what the consequence itself is, just as long as he knows that certain behaviors are not acceptable. Sometimes he may get a timeout for being sassy (like if he’s already been warned, or I’m immersed in something and can’t take the time to sit down and talk to him, or I’m just fed up), and sometimes I may just remind him that I won’t listen to words or voices that aren’t nice.

Sometimes for Xander a timeout is the worst thing I can do. He flips his lid and it takes so long to calm down that the initial transgression is lost amid his panic. Other times he needs to get it out and find his own way.

It’s not easy to know which one is right. I’ve gotten it “wrong” many times. But I’m trying. I’m learning.

It’s made doubly hard because there are opinions everywhere. Whether you seek them out or not, someone has an opinion on how you parent your child. And I’m all too aware that people might think I’m being too easy on him. Too soft. That he won’t learn if I don’t show him who’s boss.

And, sadly, I’ve given in to that at times. I’ve ignored by gut because I thought my gut was wrong. Relenting is not always a sign of weakness. With Xander, I’ve seen him spiral into an honest to god panic attack over discipline and no. Just no. That’s not ok. He’s a child, he is learning his way and his place in the world and he needs to know that John and I are in his corner. We are his safe people. If I let him “get away” with something, it’s not because I’m letting him win, it’s because I know how hard it is for him, and how hard he is trying. I know that that extra dose of sensitivity he has makes him terrified that, in some way, John or I won’t like him.

So sometimes he gets the cookie and the peas remain untouched.

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We’ve been doing the Advent Activity Calendar. Somedays it goes great. Somedays I make the executive decision not to do our “assigned” activity because it’s not worth it. If Xander is over tired, or being naughty, or overstimulated, or just not interested….it’s not worth it.

I’m learning to be flexible. To let go of the things I can’t control.

And with kids, the list of things outside of my control is so long I can’t even tell you.

I had thought that it might make me feel bad if I didn’t make it through everything on my list. That I should find a way to cherish this magical holiday time with my children come hell or high water.

But, come on. Sometimes glue and glitter is just one more mess to clean up and your preschooler would be happier watching Wonderpets with some graham crackers.

****

This post is rather disjointed. I’ve gone over it three times and, well, I guess that’s just the way it is. Parenting is disjointed, right? I guess I just wanted to say that…it’s not a bad thing to change your mind. It’s not a bad thing for me to change my mind. I don’t know why that idea exists, but I think or kids deserve more credit than that. And so do we.

Advent-ing

Did you all have a nice Thanksgiving? Despite that fact we are far from extended family, this was one of my favorite Thanksgivings yet. We went over to a family friend’s house and the kids were totally the center of attention and they ate up every moment of it. (As for the actual food, well, Xander ate up lots of cheese and crackers.)

I hung up the Advent Activity Calendar and, 2 days in, it’s a big hit. So far we have: decorated the tree and opened a new Christmas book. The tree, well, it was maybe TOO much of a good thing. Xander spent no less than 4 hours rearranging ornaments  and was whipped into a positive frenzy by the end of the day yesterday. It was rather rough. BUT, he had fun. Mostly. Apart from me screeching at him nonstop to CALM DOWN, STOP SCREAMING, WHAT ARE YOU DOING OH MYGODSTOPITPLEASE.

Somewhat related (in that it’s the holidays so everything related to Christmas or the like is On Topic), I have decided that it is no good not to have the Style and/or Food Lush gift guides this year, so I am asking for everyone to tell me a few (reasonably priced) things that you are hoping to get (or give) as gifts this year. I will compile the answers and put them in a new post.

Here are lots of pictures from the tree decorating.

J and X Tree Blog

 

X Tree blog

 

Xan and tree blog

 

hands tree blog

Card

We tried to do a photo session with both kids for a holiday card. It went about like this:

So instead we did it one child at a time.

Anyway, happy Thanksgiving Eve. I hope everyone has a great day tomorrow.

Advent Activities 2013

Jen has done one of these Advent Activities lists for the past three years, but this is the first time I’ve seen it, and so I am blatantly copying it.  Every day from December 1 to December 24, Xander will pick an activity out of an Advent Calendar with a seasonal/holiday activity on it that we will do that day. (I ordered my calendar on Etsy, because crafts are straight from Satan and I ail have no part of them).

Most of the activities I will stuff into the bags the night before, depending on our schedules the next day and how everyone is feeling. There will be exceptions for local events that are calendar specific.  (Cross promotional: if you’re looking for a list of local Burlington events to enjoy, then check out my post on Burlington Vermont Mom’s Blog.)

So, in no particular order, the Banks Family Advent Activities:

  1. Cut our own Christmas tree and decorate it. This will probably happen this weekend, which is a bit early for us, tree wise, but since we are traveling for Christmas, we don’t have to have the tree last as long.
  2. Make a button tree or wreath. (This, like many others will be, is taken directly from Jen’s post). Jen links to this one. We did a similar tree for John for Father’s Day, so I already know that Xander can do it and will enjoy it.  We may give it to Gram and PopPop for Christmas (SPOILER ALERT, Mom and Dad. Sorry.)
  3. Go to our small town’s tree lighting and train hop. This will, obviously, be a date specific activity.
  4. A neighboring town has a European style market and the BEST ever Santa Clause.  Again, date specific.
  5. Another local one that won’t help you: our favorite museum is hosting a holiday kick off party with lots of fun stuff (trees and crafts and snacks and YAY CHRISTMAS!)
  6. A sleigh ride at the farm.
  7. Candy Cane Hunt. You guys, this sounds SO AWESOME. I can’t wait. We have a park with a short trail right in our neighborhood that would be PERFECT for this.
  8. Build a snowman. Xander has been talking about building a snowman since Halloween, so as soon as we have a good and wet snow, this will go on the list.
  9. Sugar on Snow. This is a Vermont, or at least New England thing. I’d never heard of it before, but basically you pour hot maple onto snow and make taffy out of it. A lot of local sugarhouses offer this in the winter.
  10. Build an indoor snowman. I’m on the fence about this, because MESS, but…it looks like something Xander would love that might be good for a day when Luna is napping while he is not in quiet time.
  11. Open a Christmas book. I just got a few new Christmas books at Marshalls today. I’ll wrap one of them up and let him open it early, and we can add it to his pile of bedtime stories. This year I’ll try to remember to pack up his Christmas books at the end of the season, so he’s not reading them in May and asking me about Santa Claus and what presents he’s going to get.
  12. Decorate cookies. Like Jen, I’ll pre make mine and let Xander decorate them.
  13. Botanical Gardens Lights. This is one for when we are visiting my parents. The Botanical Gardens in Huntsville do a great light show that you can drive through. John and I will pack up Xander after Luna goes to bed and drive down. I’ll pack some fun snacks/hot chocolate.
  14. Shop for Angel Tree (or similar). I mentioned this in my Traditions post, but I want to start this concept early, so I plan to take Xander to a toy store or the mall so we can buy a toy together to donate.
  15. Watch a Christmas movie during dinner. I really want to try a Muppets one this year, but I’m not sure he’ll have the attention span. We may have to do something shorter.
  16. Go ice skating. Xander’s never been, and I haven’t been in ages. I think he’ll like it.
  17. Make bead candy canes. I can handle this one. I’m sure of it.
  18. Make a Santa Belly ornament. Jen, you’re the cutest. Really.
  19. Write Santa a letter.
  20. Make gingerbread houses. I’m not sure if I want to do a kit, graham crackers, or a non-edible version, but this is such a traditional activity that I really want to include it.
  21. Go to Starbucks and get a special Christmas treat. John and I, clearly, love Starbucks, so I thought it would be fun to let Xander get a steamer (or hot chocolate) and pick out a pastry.
  22. Go sledding. Either in our yard, or one of the MANY sledding hills around town.
  23. Open the Advent Calendar. This will be Day 1, obviously, but I have a reusable cloth one with velcro ornaments and Xander gets to take one down every night before bed.
  24. Open a present on Christmas Eve. We already do this, but it’s still going in the calendar.

Back up ideas include: open another Christmas book, paint chip Christmas trees, visit mall Santa (please, no), paint swirl ornaments, make hot chocolate, make chocolate dipped pretzels (or similar treat – to give away (mostly)), color on snow with food coloring in spray bottles.

I may try to make one or two of these “party” ideas for him. But, we’ll see. We are still somewhat trapped by Baby Nap Schedule, so who knows. We may end up doing more of the at home ones than the local events ones.

What are YOU doing this year?

 

I like to think that I would have been able to maintain my post a day for all of November had I not gotten sick. But, I did so…who knows. I’m on the mend (knock wood) and I’m hardly ever falling over any more, so that’s nice.

First I have a favor to ask. Xander, for months, has been talking about a Blue Digger Tractor, and how he Really! Wants! One! Really! Bad! Anytime I ask him what he’s going to ask Santa for, this is his answer. A blue tractor. Problem? Yeah, tractors don’t typically come in blue. Amazon has one, but it’s $40 and that’s just too expensive for this particular Santa Claus. So! If you see a toy tractor that is blue and it’s not amusingly overpriced, will you let me know? Thank you!

Secondly, don’t forget about the Ornament Exchange! You have until Thanksgiving to enter, and I will send out assignments on Friday. You don’t have to be a blogger or a twitter-er to play.

And finally, I am wondering how you schedule/plan your housework? We have had a cleaning service come twice in recent months, just to get us to a good baseline (OMG the filth, you guys, it’s amazing and terrifying), but it’s not an expense we can afford on a regular basis.  When it was just us, or just us and Xander, I’d normally take a full day a few times a month and clean All The Things, but I don’t feel that this is a practical approach. So how do you do it? Do you take a room a day? Or break it down by chore?

Dress Me, Please

I missed my post yesterday! There goes my perfect NaBloWriMo record. Drat.

Anyway. I’m sick. So. I think that excuses me, yes?  I’m on a giant horse pill of an antibiotic and I’m praying to anything/anyone who will listen that the baby and I don’t get thrush.

So I am going to outsource some things that I am looking for, OK? Ok. Thanks.

  • I need a dress for my brother’s wedding. It’s right after Christmas,  during the day. I’m not in the wedding, but I will probably be in a few pictures. The official color for the wedding party is a jewel tone/sapphire blue. I was thinking of something purple-y, perhaps? Anyway, my midsection is still rather squishy, so I would like something with more of an IMPLIED shape, rather than an actual thing (i.e.: elastic or tie waist? Not so much.).  Does this look wedding-y enough?
  • A more casual, but still cute, dress for the rehearsal dinner. Comfy. And maybe with a nursing accessible neckline.
  • Also shoes.
  • In fact, does anyone want to just come and dress me, please?
  • I’ve always gotten Xander new Christmas jammies each year, and want to continue the tradition. Where are your favorite ones coming from lately? And Hannah Anderson, while darling, is not really in our budget right now.

The Fafi Fairy

About a week ago, I decided that it was Time with a capital T for Xander to give up his pacifier (“fafi”). I’m not sure why I decided this. I mean, he’s certainly old enough, more than old enough. I think I was feeling frustrated because potty training is a bust (still) and  he’s just so Very Three and, well, SOMETHING had to give. (Oh, yeah, he only gets his pacifier at bedtime or during quiet time.)

So I came up with a plan. John and I told Xander that the Fafi Fairy was going to come and take all of his pacifiers away and leave him with a brand new toy! He could write her letter and tell her what he wanted to get (a tractor). This weekend he actually instigated it by repeatedly asking when she was coming and if she was going to bring him a Brand! New! Digger! Tractor!

And so we went for it.

(Do you get a sense of foreboding? You should.)

Bedtime was pretty hard, but he did eventually fall asleep without the pacifier. Yay!

But.

He woke up around 11:00 or so. He woke up and was flipped the eff out. I think he was so tired and out of it that he could not figure out WHY he was so upset, which made him more upset. But I have never, ever, seen him freak out like this. He was sobbing and choking and screaming and arching his back and rambling nonsense and I honestly thought, for a while there, that he was having a fit. He was screaming NO! and It hurts! and I don’t feel good! and Make it Stop, Mama!  He asked me to change his diaper. He asked for water. He wanted a story. The light on. The light off. He whimpered, “I don’t understand what is happening to my body.”

But nothing was helping him, obviously.

John and I ended up in the living room with him, watching a muted TV show, just to calm him down enough so he could breathe. As the show wound down he started crying again. He didn’t want to go to bed. He was scared. And sad. And didn’t feel good.

So we gave him the pacifiers back. We told him that the Fafi Fairy said he could use them just at bedtime, until he was a Big Boy and ready. And that’s what we’ve done since Friday. They go up on a high shelf as soon as he wakes up, and he doesn’t get one until he’s going to bed.

Part of me feels…defeated. But mostly I feel foolish. I know Xander. I know that he’s sensitive and doesn’t take well to abrupt change. He needs to do things slowly, at his own pace. I know he won’t have a pacifier in college. And honestly, even the worry about his teeth isn’t that strong, because he usually drops it early in the evening and stays asleep. I pushed him when I knew he wasn’t ready because *I* wanted him to be ready and that’s just…stupid.

I’m not sure why I got such a bee in my bonnet about it, but man. Do I ever need to remember to listen to my instincts. To remember that John and I know our son better than anyone else. What will work and what won’t.

Last night he dropped the pacifier and woke up, scared and crying. “I don’t want to go to sleep! I want the sun to come up!” John gave him the pacifier and he was asleep in seconds.  I hope that he doesn’t remember this for long.

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Phoning It In

Literally. I’m sending this from my phone.

The weekend has been kind of crazy and rough with colds and regressions and even less sleep than usual, so please accept this picture of my baby in snow man pajamas in place of a more involved post.

I’ll be back tomorrow.

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