Thursday, December 30, 2010


Gifts are my love language.  I feel like that's a little bit despicable as love languages go...but There it Is.  I love gifts.  I love to give gifts.  I love to get gifts.

Here are some favorites (besides the weather book) of this Christmas...and something to remember besides the sickness...

poor sick baby

1. Emma made Adam a die out of clay and a card with the following instructions:

Every day, roll the die to get a number.  Follow the instructions on the square with the same number.  You can only use this once a day, or we would all be your slaves 24/7!  Also, please don't wake anyone up at 2 a.m. to give you a massage.  You should also have a witness.  You may say you have a 5, but you could really have a 6.  Don't you love how little rules there are?


1: receive one free back massage from family member of choice
2: have two family member of choice do a job for you
3: sing three songs of choice with all of family
4: receive four five-minute massages throughout the day by family member of choice
5: have all five Davis family play board game of choice
6: receive six hugs from family member of choice

Adam was reading this list aloud and Braeden, from his near deathbed on the couch croaked, "Wait a minute...I didn't agree to this.  I didn't agree to any of this."

I particularly liked number 5 because Emma is constantly on the prowl for someone to play a board game with her and usually no one is willing.

She's tricky and sly.  (And sweet.)

2. My parents always send us a generous check for Christmas (thank you!) but I always enjoy even more the small package that comes in the mail a few days before Christmas.  Here's what was in the package this year:

Inside were copies of all the letters we'd written to Santa on Christmas Eve (since 1974!).  Every year, to our delight and entertainment, our dad would write the letter to Santa (and he hardly ever wrote what we wanted him to write).

Every year Santa answered our letter.

Santa's writing is really close to our mother's handwriting (and usually included motherly advice like admonishments to share and be good).

The binder of Santa letters is a treasure to me.

3. I was lucky to have Olivia draw our family's name this year.  (And lucky enough to have Jennifer live near Olivia so she could help her with our gift.)  Olivia made us this book:

You might recognize some of the pictures (she took them from my blog):

That Olivia...isn't she something?

3. Talking to my family on Christmas Day is one of my best presents every year.

It was a lovely Christmas with lovely gifts. I don't want to brag (oh, I know, I don't mind bragging) but Emma and I are whizzes on the handbells Adam gave me.  We rock Mary Had a Little Lamb like you've never heard it before. 

And I haven't even mentioned Janet's chocolate covered cherries which deserve their own category...

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

I've Learned

I've learned that Santa isn't much for encouraging social behavior:

one of Emma's favorite Christmas gifts...

I've learned that I'll do almost anything for my kids if they're sick.  (Don't tell them I said that.)  In the past few days Braeden's been more sick than he's ever been.   I've been to the doctor, pharmacy several times, and grocery store several times.  My boy wanted juice.  Then ice cream.  Then pudding.  Tonight I made eggs and cake for dinner because it was what he wanted.  He laughed last night.  Then he wrestled with Mark a little.  He's feeling better.  I think I'll give him ice cream and pudding and cake to celebrate.

I've learned that Mark will never be one to sign his name without reading the fine print.

Our children gave Adam some Moleskine notebooks for Christmas. We had picked them out as per his specifications.  They were wrapped and under the tree. In the days preceding Christmas, Mark kept a careful accounting of what was under the tree.  He counted and sorted and shook presents.

On Christmas morning, Adam opened the notebooks but first read the tag.  It read:

To: Dad
From: Braeden, Emma and Mark

I asked Mark why he'd crossed his name out.

He said, "Because I didn't know what was in that package."

(He was not about to be held responsible for a questionable gift.)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Giving In to the Geekiness

Adam gave me this book for Christmas. 

That man loves me.  I am already on Chapter 2 and I would be further if I only had time.

I love the weather.

When I was happily reading my new book on Christmas day, I considered two things--1) Adam knows me well and 2) I think I've finally jumped in with both feet.

I'm a nerd.

A weather nerd.

It's really interesting though.  In my brief reading I learned how Seattle compares to NYC and Miami for annual rainfall (37 inches for Seattle, 47 inches for New York City and 56 inches for Miami).  Seattle gets a bad rap because of the grey skies and misty days.  I learned why we have such mild winters...not simply because of the ocean like I always thought but because the Rockies and the Cascades block the cold air.  Fascinating, eh?

I've also been reading why meteorologists are notoriously wrong around here (but apparently are getting more accurate).

I can't wait to read more.  I'm not sure why I find it all so enthralling.  Maybe it's because of my agrarian ancestry.  Maybe it's because weather almost always involves maps and I also love maps.  Whatever the reason, it's good stuff.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Maybe Christmas...Perhaps...Means a Little Bit More

On Christmas Eve, after eating pizza and basking in a day of time well spent together, we settled in to read some Christmas stories.  Everyone picked one...either to reread or one we hadn't read yet this season.  (On an unrelated note, we had Adam read The Christmas Dress for Ellen because I can't make it through the first page without crying.  By the end Emma was tear little girl is growing up.  Sigh.)

The book I picked was How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  I love it.

Three thousand feet up! Up the side of Mt. Crumpit,
He rode with his load to the tiptop to dump it!
“PoohPooh to the Whos!” he was grinchishly humming.
“They’re finding out now that no Christmas is coming!”
“They’re just waking up! I know just what they’ll do!”
“Their mouths will hang open a minute or two,
Then the Whos down in Whoville will all cry BooHoo!”
“That’s a noise,” grinned the Grinch, “That I simply MUST hear!”
So he paused. And the Grinch put his hand to his ear.
And he did hear a sound rising over the snow.
It started in low. Then it started to grow.
But the sound wasn’t sad! Why, this sound sounded merry!
It couldn’t be so! But it WAS merry! VERY!
He stared down at Whoville! The Grinch popped his eyes!
Then he shook! What he saw was a shocking surprise!
Every Who down in Whoville, the tall and the small,
Was singing! Without any presents at all!
He HADN’T stopped Christmas from coming! IT CAME!
Somehow or other, it came just the same!
And the Grinch, with his grinch-feet ice-cold in the snow,
Stood puzzling and puzzling: “How could it be so?”
“It came with out ribbons! It came without tags!”
“It came without packages, boxes or bags!”
And he puzzled three hours, till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before!
“Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store.”
“Maybe Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”

As I was reading it, I thought about our Christmas.  All our packages, boxes and bags.  All our ribbons and tags.  We were all set to have a splendid, ample, noisy Christmas, festive and replete with celebration.  I wondered, "What if it was all gone?  Would Christmas still come like it had for the Whos down in Whoville?"  I hoped so.

We put our cherubs to bed and within a half hour, Braeden was up again, throwing up.

Then again.

Then again. (And again and again.)

We took it as a good sign that his wit started to return as he limped feebly back to bed.  At one point he said gloomily, "It's the most wonderful time of the year."

I went to bed and visions of nausea danced in my head.

Our Christmas morning was not what I'd expected.  It was subdued.  Mark lay on the couch and clutched his stomach and was not all that interested in his presents.  After the last gift was unwrapped, he went back to sleep for a few hours.  Braeden bravely soldiered on but his heart was not in it.  He truly felt lousy.

That night when I went to sleep, I felt the littlest bit melancholy.  It was a bit of a letdown.  We didn't feel the joy and enthusiasm we normally feel and had been anticipating.  (I also considered that if that was the worst thing that ever happened to us, we would be OK.)

Then I went to church on Sunday.  Don't you just love church?  I was reminded again and again by every song and lesson and talk given.  Christmas means a whole lot more.  Our Christmas, in it's slightly melancholy way WAS merry, VERY.

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Joy to the World

Here's me, feeling Christmas-y and wondering why I have that one stray straight piece of hair going across my forehead.

Usually the Christmas season finds me hurtling along, making preparations and forgetting at times what it is all for.

This year, I've had my hurtling moments of course, but less forgetting.  I guess you could blame it all on a series of unfortunate events that have transpired in the last several months.   Those events have culminated in Christmas being all the more meaningful to me.

Every time I reflect on not so much the birth, but the life of our Savior, I become speechless and tearful and oh, so grateful.  Because of Him, because of His great atoning sacrifice, everything that matters to me in my life is more complete.  More safe.  More real.  When I consider that incredible gift, I feel like the most bedecked house, the most over-the-top, merry festivities are not enough.  They will never be enough.

I guess what is enough, what will have to do, are those moments when I'm quiet.  Those moments when I do remember and vow to do better and be better. 

Merry Christmas from our house to your house.

I hope you have a wonderful celebration.  I hope you love and feel loved.

I hope you Remember.

I hope I do too.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

It's The Thought That Counts

Every year, because I know she loves to decorate for Christmas (because she's where I come from), I give my dear grandmother a Christmas decoration.  This year Braeden and I carefully selected a nutcracker soldier.  He held a drum and when you wound the little knob on the bottom, he played music and played on the drum.  We thought she'd like it.

I surveyed my house and found a box the nutcracker would fit in.  He fit exactly.  I wrapped the box then I wrapped it again in brown paper.  I wrote, "Open Before Christmas" on the brown was after all a Christmas decoration.  I sent it on its merry way.

On Saturday night I had a message on my answering machine from my grandma but it was too late to return her call.  She said she'd gotten the present and I had to smile, thinking of her.

Sunday she called again.  She thanked me abundantly for the present.  My grandma is gracious and appreciative of the smallest gesture.  She always makes me feel like whatever small deed, I made her day.  We had a nice little chat.

Monday morning she called again.

That delighted me.  I always love to hear from my grandma.

She told me that she'd decided to have yogurt for breakfast. 

(I didn't know where she was going with that but she said it like that was significant.)

She told me she'd opened the yogurt box and there was a nutcracker soldier inside.

(Oh, did I mention that the perfect box for the soldier was a yogurt box?  The kind from Costco I get on a regular basis?  The kind that holds about 18 containers of yogurt?)

Suddenly it dawned on me.

"Grandma!  Did you think I sent you yogurt for a Christmas present?"

She said yes.  She told me she'd put it in the refrigerator and had decided she'd better eat it before she went to Nevada.  (She going to my parents' house for Christmas.)

We both giggled on the phone about the wooden nutcracker soldier that had spent a few days refrigerated and I asked her if she had thought that yogurt was a strange gift.  "Well," she said, always ready to defend my gift choices,  "I just thought you wanted me to have yogurt."

Wow, I love my grandma.

She's the kind of grandma that even if her granddaughter sends her a box of yogurt for a Christmas gift, she'll call her and give her profuse thanks.  She'll unquestioningly put the box in the refrigerator and dutifully decide she'd better get it eaten.  My grandma teaches me more than anyone I know what unconditional love is. 

I know know KNOW my grandma loves me.

(And that is the best feeling in the world.)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Reel Sorrey

Two things greeted us when Emma and I returned from our errands.


And this:
I couldn't decide whether the decapitated reindeer or the spelling was more tragic.  (Who teaches that kid anyway?)

I found the little perpetrator on his bed, head under his covers.

I hugged him and told him I love him.  He hugged me and told me he was sorry.  (About the decapitated reindeer or the spelling?)

I "fergiv" him for both.

The End

Monday, December 20, 2010

You Never Know

Saturday started out one way and then became packed with adventures big and small.

You just never know where your day will go.

Especially when you're married to Adam.

The day started in a somber way.  We drove two hours south to Tenino to the memorial service for Crystal, Adam's cousin's wife who passed away.  She was the loving mother of a two year old who is adorable and danced along to the music and just about broke my heart.  I know Crystal wanted to stay with her.  It made me grateful that I am with my children.

It was also somehow really comforting to see Evie dance.  Life marches along.  Also, when her grandmother was speaking, Evie went on stage and stole the show.  Her dad went to retrieve her and her grandma said, "No.  She can stay.  She's helping me through this."

It's a big job for a two year old to help everyone through but watching Evie in action, I know she's up to the task.

We started our drive north and our first stop was the Capitol building in Olympia.  On the drive past, it had given Mark wide eyes and he said it reminded him of the Hagia Sophia.  (It doesn't look like the Hagia Sophia so much besides the dome.  Still, we learned about the Hagia Sophia a few weeks ago in school...if Mark's going for star second grader/teacher's pet he's winning.  I love it when they remember things!  I growl at them when they don't.)

We walked up the steep steps in the rain (I was a rare Northwest day).  It was beautiful inside.  Mark's imagination was captured by the architecture and enormous Christmas tree, Braeden's by the legislative process.  Emma and Braeden rubbed the nose of the bronze George Washington bust for good luck.

Our next unexpected detour was Cabela's.  We'd never been to Cabela's and were really not dressed for the experience.  I comforted myself that my wool skirt was plaid (outdoorsy?) and while they were high heeled, I was after all, wearing boots.  I've never had a strong urge to go there (since I don't like to hunt or fish or camp it's really not my scene) but it wasn't all that bad.  I hustled around trying to keep up with Mark as he looked at all the trophy animals.  A lot of people stared at my clothes.  A few people looked at me with hostility.  (And hostile looks from the Cabela's crowd is a little disconcerting...these people are likely gun toters.)  We escaped with our lives.

Next we stopped at some furniture stores...the ongoing and painful recliner quest.  I will spare you the details.

I still don't have a recliner.

(I'm less comfortable than I'd like to be.)

Finally, exhausted and with starving children (I was a rare Northwest day), we stopped in the International District in Seattle at a Thai restaurant.  Dinner took longer than it should have because we tried eating with chopsticks.  The only things I could successfully balance in my chopsticks were cashews.  Adam and Emma are pretty good at it.  Mark finally gave up and just stabbed his tofu with his chopstick and nibbled away.

When we got home, we all five lay on our bed and finished listening to Skipping Christmas.  We'd listened to most of it in the car.

Lying there sandwiched between children, I reflected on our day.

I decided:  I really like these people.

Friday, December 17, 2010


I feel smug that I figured out the perfect way to get Mark up without him snarling at me like an angry bear cub.

Yesterday Emma wanted to play Robo Champ (our new game Grandma Geri gifted Mark with for his's a Lego game.  For Mark.  What could be more fitting?) with me before she caught the bus .  I told Emma I needed to pack her lunch and eat breakfast and get ready to teach school but thanks for asking.  Then I said, "Go wake Mark up...he'll play with you."

And he did.  He bounded cheerfully out of bed.

I am so onto him and his "I'm exhausted" routine.

I feel conflicted about football.

I don't know that I've ever had many football thoughts in my life but my cousin, Harvey, the football player, is coming to town.  His team, the Atlanta Falcons are playing the Seahawks.  (Don't tell Seattle but I hope Atlanta wins this one.)  I called Harvey to see if he could come over for dinner.  (I would have had to contemplate later what to make for dinner.  Something that makes a lot?)  He couldn't.  He's a little busy.  Go figure.  He offered me free tickets to the game though.

That would be fun.

Except for one thing.

It's on Sunday and I'm the one that has spent her entire life learning what I should do on Sunday:  go to church.

The good news is that I was able to ask Harvey if he could give the tickets to Adam's brother who is a big fan.  It's nice to be able to make someone else happy.

I feel like my kids are gaining on me.  

Yesterday I took Braeden to the doctor because his knee has been hurting him.  He hurt it two years ago sledding and lately it's been bothering him again.  I didn't think it was that big of deal but he did.  He wrote "Call the Doctor" on my list.  (Lesson here being I will do what my list tells me to do...but not what my children tell me to do.)  The doctor told us that his old injury was hurting because he was growing and it was stretching.  We went to the doctor 37 days ago (unrelated) and he had grown 1/4 of an inch in that time.  If Braeden continues to grow 1/4" every month, he may realize his dream of being as tall as my brothers.  I doubt it, but a kid can dream right?

Last night, for Emma's school concert she was supposed to wear a red shirt and black skirt.  (She told me that on the way out the door yesterday morning.)  Luckily she had a black skirt but the red shirt she wanted to wear was not deemed worthy by her mother.  She had a little solo part and I wanted her looking shiny and bright.  I told her to wear my red sweater.  She said, "I won't look very good wearing a sweater that's way too big and looks like my mom's!"  (Because see, what Emma and I do is argue about clothes.)

The sweater fit her perfectly.

This morning I handed Mark his breakfast and said, "Here you go, Little Man." 

He said, "What did you call me?"

I said, "Aren't you a little man?"

Deeply offended, he said, "I am not little.  I am grown-up.  I am eight.  I have been for seven days now." 

I feel exuberant about Christmas vacation.

My mom was never one of those "Mom and Dad can hardly wait for school to start again" sort of moms and neither am I.  I want my kids HOME.  I want to rock around the Christmas tree, roast chestnuts by an open fire, jingle bells, deck the halls, or at the very least, sleep in.  Two whole weeks of delicious time to play games, read books, and sip hot chocolate stirred with candy canes.

If things get a little slow, there's a lot of fudge in the fridge.  We'll be just fine.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Do Less, Be More

The other day I was on the phone with Olivia and in the course of our conversation, her two year old dumped water on a wrapped present, she had children fighting over applesauce, and she tried to get them to clean up. She also told me about how the same two year old (lucky for him he's an adorable little man) had started unwrapping presents.



Olivia's in a different stage than I am.  I can romanticize it and tell myself I miss it but then I remember and I don't really miss it all that much.   Being able to safely stow the gifts under the tree is not bad.  Not bad at all.

But I'm in a new stage with new challenges...and they're plenty challenging for the likes of me.

When I talked to Marianne lately, she told me something surprising.  She told me, "I am struggling with something that you don't struggle with."  How could that be when from where I sit my big sister is near perfect?  (Turns out I just had been pulling the wool over her eyes.  I struggle too.)

We were talking about our children (don't be shocked) and their burgeoning independence and who they're becoming.  It's disconcerting when they're not interested in what we're interested in.  It's complicated when they don't excel where we excelled.  It's mystifying when they have completely new and different interests.  It's disappointing when we let our own sense of worth enter in.  (It's not about us.  But sometimes we forget that.) 



You know how I love a good quote so how about this one:

Do less, be more.

I like it.  I like to think about it in terms of my children.  Even though I sometimes forget, I really do care a whole lot more about who they are than what they do.

While I don't always like what they do or do not do (or what they struggle to do well), I almost always like who they are.

They are loving.  They are funny.  They are creative.  They are messy.  They are snuggly.  They are almost always ravenous.  They are mostly trustworthy.  They more or less want to do the right thing.

They are a little bit nuts.

These are all things I can appreciate.  These are things I can get behind.

I didn't take any of these pictures...they did and I found them on the camera.  My kids are goofy.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Biggest Deal Since...Mark's Birthday

Last night was Mark's first cub scout meeting.  He went with the hat.  That hat must be the single dorkiest fashion option available to 8 year old boys.  Braeden insisted on one when he was a scout.  He wore it a few times then realized it was the single dorkiest fashion option available to 8 year old boys.  And we saved the hat?  How did that slip by?  I don't know but Mark found the hat and wanted to wear it.

I'll just have to wait until he makes the discovery.

The single dorkiest fashion option available to 8 year old boys discovery.

What a cute boy though, huh?  Maybe if you have those big brown eyes you can pull it off.  (Maybe I'm his slightly prejudiced mother...)

Mark loved his first pack meeting.  He even behaved pretty well.  Before we left Adam showed him tips and tricks for proper neckerchief placement and cautioned him to "obey the laws of the pack".

In other words, refrain from running around like a banshee.

There are fabulous leaders that make cub scouts very fun.  I know he's going to have a great time.  And that makes me grateful as his mother.

Perhaps the highlight of last night was the surprise visitor at the end:

Santa Claus!!!

Whatever Mark wants, it's top secret.

P.S. Please notice how expertly those patches were sewn on Mark's shirt.  My life's work.

P.P.S. Lest I get criticism constructive comments from my dear nieces, I promise to not blog about Mark tomorrow.  I know you want his siblings to get equal billing.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Best Sort of Boys

Gavin and Mark, engrossed in a video game at Alfy's

Mark thinks we should adopt Gavin.  It would be fine with me (although his mother might not be willing to part with him).

I thank my lucky stars that Mark has Gavin for his friend/neighbor/partner in crime/adoptive brother.

I love the complicated games they create and the rough and tumble way Mark and Gavin play and argue and yell and forgive and adore each other.

Perhaps they're an acquired taste though.

Once, Stephanie (Gavin's spectacular mom) was talking to another friend at book club.  This other friend was complaining about the "wildness" of her youngest boy.  Stephanie said, "Maybe it's something about the Gavin and Mark."

This other mother, who knows Mark and Gavin, looked horrified.  She said, "Oh no!  He's not like them."

I say, too bad for him.

They are passionate boys.  They tire out their mothers.  And teachers.  But I have a feeling they're going to turn out OK.

Lately, I've noticed on several occasions that Gavin, who's older than Mark, has been trying to civilize him a bit.  It delights me.  Gavin tells Mark softly and earnestly what he's doing that's wrong and how he should behave instead and Mark seems grateful for the advice and changes his ways.

The wildest colts make the best horses.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Highs and Lows

Sometimes the pressures of parenthood get compressed into awful moments where I don't know what to say and how to comfort and how to make things better.

Sometimes my kids make me laugh out loud and I can't believe how lucky I am to be the one sitting next to them and benefiting from their dazzling humor.

Sometimes my kids make me so angry/frustrated/disappointed/tired that I feel like making a paper chain counting down the days until they go to college.  Can I make it that long?

Sometimes I take a moment to read a Christmas story to them nestled on the couch with arms and legs filling all the empty spaces and I think there's nowhere I'd rather be, ever.

Sometimes I feel all these emotions within the space of hours or minutes and I want to ask them for a little time to sit down and catch my breath.

But that never happens.  It isn't what I signed up for.  (I should have read the small print.)

To paraphrase a quote I used to have hanging on my fridge though, "Life (with my kids) is like pizza, even when it's bad, it's good. "

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Best Gift That I Ever Got

He is a builder of Lego creations that knock my socks off.

He gets in trouble for tackling his friends at church.

He likes to make up jingles for commercials...he has a whole string of songs for Chuck's Seafood Grotto in Snohomish.  I am completely unable to explain why.

One of the few activities he'll willingly hold still for is being read to by his dad.

He runs headlong into life (and people) but is deeply offended if he has to walk outside in the rain (even though I remind him he's not made of sugar and won't melt).

He'll talk anyone's ear off.

He is either deliriously happy and enthusiastic or really, really cranky.

He has more energy than caffeine does.

He is convinced he's my favorite child.

He can be very focused when he's using a compass.

Very focused.

Come on, look at your mother.

He makes me want to laugh, hug him tight and wring his neck on any given day.

He loves chocolate.  A lot.

He is and will always be my baby.

He is the best Christmas present I ever got.

And today, he is eight years old.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

It Sounds More Impressive Than It Is

This week I had my first endeavor as an art docent.  It sounds very hoity-toity.  Marianne said I should put it on my resume.  (Not that I have a resume...but if I did.)

In the school where Emma attends, they have a parent run art program.  The lessons are all provided and the parents go to the classroom and teach about art.  And they are called art docents.

I loved every minute of it.  Teaching is exhilarating for me.  There is nothing like the look on a child's face when they suddenly take an interest in what you're saying or make a connection between new and already stored knowledge.  It made me happy.

Not that I'm in a hurry for my kids to grow up (I've considered inventing an anti-grow-up my spare time), but when they do (if I don't get the anti-grow-up pill perfected in time), you'll know where to find me.

I'll be in a classroom. 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Away in a Manger

Braeden and Mark made a nativity scene out of what else?  Lego.

I can't decide which is my favorite feature.

Is it the clone trooper angel?

The wise men and their gifts?

they look wise but none too friendly

Probably my favorite part is the gun toting shepherd.  Go ahead wolf.  Make my day.

Sorry about the blurry nature of all of these pictures. Remember how we need a new camera? Now we need a new dryer and when you live in a place where clotheslines have a certain no about them (rain much?), that trumps a camera. Rats.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Everyone Wants to Go To Neverland

Yesterday was Pikku Joulu.  It is well documented on this blog.  Here and here and even here.  

It's our made-up holiday.  If you're going to make up a holiday, you might as well do it with a name that's hard to pronounce.  That's what I've always said.

I took a good hard look at our tradition this year.  Because I've had a difficult autumn (difficult in some ways, lovely in others), because I'm as busy as I've ever been, because I feel a great deal of burn out lately, I seriously considered scrapping Pikku Joulu.

But then I remembered two things.  Traditions and the fact that I'm a grown up.  Last week Braeden was lamenting his lack of free time and angst over growing up.  We were in the van at the time and from the back seat, Mark said, "Everyone wants to go to Neverland, but no one can."

(Mark can almost always be relied upon for comments from the back seat that Braeden finds unhelpful.)

Growing up is at times an unwelcome prospect.  It means work and responsibility and a lack of sympathy when you are an eighth grader complaining to your mom about how busy you are.  Often though, it means you have to just get over yourself and accept it.

I'm the grown up.  The keeper of the traditions.  The guardian of the magic that means Christmas to my little family. 

Tradition has been a woman's province. Women have kept the family strong through the value of tradition in the family, community and region.
Sharyn Mccrumb

I was the recipient of wonderful traditions while growing up.  My mother, through busy and stressful times, through difficult financial seasons, through sassy children and muddy boots, kept those traditions alive.  Like her mother.  And her mother.

I can't drop the ball.

Family traditions counter alienation and confusion.  They help us define who we are; they provide something steady, reliable and safe in a confusing world.
Susan Lieberman

Growing up has pleasant sides too.  One is that as keeper of the traditions, you can also be author of the traditions and you can amend them as well.  I was reminded of that when I made our clam chowder for Pikku Joulu.  I use both my mother's and Adam's mother's recipes.  Side by side.  I add some of one and some of the other and come up with my clam chowder.

It seems symbolic of all the things we've learned from both good families.  As grown ups we're able to take what we want.  We can make it our own.  We can mix up some magic for our children.  We can keep traditions alive.

When you look at your life, the greatest happinesses are family happinesses.
Joyce Brothers

How can I not be the happiest girl in America?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Waving a Magic Wand Over Our World

Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.
Norman Vincent Peale

This weekend was a getting ready for Christmas sort of weekend. (Is there another kind in December?)  In addition to watching Mark's basketball game (with a disappointing end for him that was negated by a trip to The Blazing Onion and then a peppermint milkshake by Adam when we got home), we decked our halls some more.

We have one boy who has to help hang lights whether he likes it or not.

And another boy who is just itching to climb a ladder (but we'd rather he didn't).

last year that house wasn't there...they're closing in on me...

Our newest Christmas Bear (who was purchased at Yellowstone) made his appearance:

we haven't settled on a name yet

Mark and I played a "We Three Kings of Orient Are" duet...without a lot of matched tempo or rhythm.

And we decorated our other tree!

The reflected lights make it look like she has a rare skin disease...she doesn't.

I love all the ornaments on the tree...the shiny balls, the cross-stitched framed ornaments Adam's mom made me when we were first married, the ornaments from different trips, and our children's babyhood.

Perhaps my favorite though, are the really (really) ugly ones, those I made in elementary school, I've hung onto since my own childhood.  They melt my heart a little and conjure up memories of the fresh pine tree with fat colored lights in my parents' living room.

The whole reason we got out the camera and shook it into submission until it would work, was so we could document who got to put the angel on the tree...every year it is a question.  I take a picture every year so then we can have a record. (Not the most efficient method but it's worked so far.)

Except one thing, looking at the pictures I realized we forgot to put the angel on the top...

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Here's Hoping

This morning Braeden and I, along with a lot of other people, helped set up for the Christmas party at our church.  You may remember this about me.

Today I was setting spoons on tables and correcting the knives that had already been placed.  I looked up and saw Braeden at the next table over, fixing the knives on that table.

I didn't know whether I should apologize to him for the inherited neurosis or throw my arms around the kid.  My boy.  He knows how to set a table.

Perhaps there's hope that he'll someday learn how to put his shoes away, hang up his clothes, make his bed, eat politely, put his dishes in the dishwasher, put the cereal away...

Friday, December 3, 2010

A Tale of Two Toothbrushes

There are two types of people in the world:  people who are OK with sharing a toothbrush and people who aren't.

I'm an aren't.

(I also don't think anyone should lie on my pillow.  Bleck.)

Adam's much less squeamish about such things.  Recently, on a trip, I let him use my toothbrush because he forgot his.  I for sure love him, because I'm usually not so cavalier.  I mean, I brush my teeth with that thing.

The other night, Emma was in the shower after basketball practice and Mark needed to brush his teeth.  There comes a time when you just want the kids in bed so Adam took one for the team and let Mark brush his teeth in our bathroom and use his toothbrush.

You can imagine my horror when I went in the bathroom later and saw my toothbrush wet and slobbery on the side of the sink and Adam's hygienically still in the toothbrush holder.

Mark had used my toothbrush!

Here are our toothbrushes:

his and hers

Mark, being a red-blooded American second grader of course assumed his dad's toothbrush was the blue one.

But it isn't.  Adam's is the pink one.

We get our toothbrushes in mega packs from Costco and when we need a new one, we're too lazy enlightened to care about the color.

Mine is the blue toothbrush!

And I don't want to share!

Get some hot water! Get some disinfectant! Get some iodine!
 Lucy Van Pelt

I'd like to think that perhaps with this post I've scraped the bottom of blogging about petty trivialities but you never know with me.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

My Little December Tree

 I know I'm not alone.  We are all going a little crazy this time of year.  My mind raced all morning with all the To Do on my list.  I was frayed and flustered and frazzled (and I can't think of any other applicable words that start with f) but finally a bit calmer when I lay it all out to Janet on the phone while I loaded my dishwasher and folded laundry. She understood, and feeling understood is a wonderful feeling.

Then I was taking my daily therapy session walk with Stephanie and we compared notes on our days.  I wasn't the only one with a busy day.  What she had planned for the afternoon wasn't humanly possible.  (The admirable thing about Stephanie is that she smiles amiably anyway in such cases.)  I volunteered to pick Gavin up from scouts and we decided we might survive.


Picking up the car pool, I chatted with another mother.  We were herding cats gathering kids towards the parking lot and she said to me, "I am ready for this day to be over...but it's not's not over..."

Motherhood and December and school age children.  It's like a tornado every day.

I feel a little like Charlie Brown.  Sometimes I wonder what the point of it all is besides making us harried and hassled and hounded (and I can't think of any other applicable words that start with h).

Charlie Brown: I guess you were right, Linus. I shouldn't have picked this little tree. Everything I do turns into a disaster. I guess I really don't know what Christmas is all about.
[shouting in desperation]
Charlie Brown: Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?
Linus Van Pelt: Sure, Charlie Brown, I can tell you what Christmas is all about.
[moves toward the center of the stage]
Linus Van Pelt: Lights, please.
[a spotlight shines on Linus]
Linus Van Pelt: "And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, 'Fear not: for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.' And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.'"
[Linus picks up his blanket and walks back towards Charlie Brown]
Linus Van Pelt: That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.

I bought this little tree to remind me.

It makes my heart happy.

And hopefully it will remind me that I DO know what Christmas is all about.

I do.

And it is tremendously wonderful.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Shaken Not Stirred

Adam discovered that if you turn our camera upside down,  shake it (vigorously) and smack it against your hand, it will work.

(We're still in the market for a new camera.)

Until we replace it, we're going to have to pause our photo worthy moments while we turn the camera, shake and smack it.

To celebrate that we still have a (sort of) working camera, I took pictures of my living room in a rare moment when it wasn't littered with books and shoes and Mark's detritus (mostly Lego creations but also, lately, some weaponry...don't even try to attack our house, we're armed and dangerous).

Nothing makes me happy like bright red.

(unless it's a rare moment when the camera working coincides with the living room being clean)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Messages From Emma: Cryptic and Otherwise

Yesterday I found this in the school room.

I'm not sure who it was intended for (because it's in written with Greek letters).

I'm not sure why Emma would write something using the Greek alphabet.   I'm not sure about a lot of things about that girl.

Sometimes she makes things more clear though.

It was her turn this year to set up our little Christmas village.  (You wouldn't believe the negotiations that have to take place over whose turn it is for what.  Oh?  You're a mother?  Then you do believe me.)  Emma proudly configured the houses and people on top of the piano.  She was excited to show it all to Adam when he got home.

"This is my house," she said...

"'s you and me, Dad..."

"...there's Mark's son with the tree and my daughter and her friend by the snowmen..."

 "...there's Braeden with his son..."

"...there's Mark..."

Am I the only one that feels nervous that Mark is holding an ax?

"...there's Braeden's daughter on the swing and my son..."

Adam asked, "So where's your mom?"

Emma paused.  "Um...I guess she's in the house."

Sometimes I get embarrassed by the effusive love and attention my children shower me with.

Janet and I like to tell each other the following quote at such times:
Motherhood is not for the fainthearted. Frogs, skinned knees and the insults of teenage girls are not meant for the wimpy.
~ Danielle Steel

And she isn't even a teenage girl yet.



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