Monday, December 31, 2012

Books I read in December 2012

Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink ***

This was a book I read aloud to Mark for school.  It's a good one.  It's set in the Wisconsin frontier during the Civil War (though the Civil War plays very little part in the story).  Caddie Woodlawn in a tomboy and gets into all sorts of adventures.  I loved that the story is based on stories the real Caddie told her granddaughter, the author.

Olivia told me that our mom read us this book when we were growing up and I have no memory of that.  I think either I have a bad memory or Olivia does.  (Probably Olivia.)

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese ***

I liked this book.  It was long and involved and fascinating.  It was set in Ethiopia and it turns out I know very little about Ethiopia so that was interesting to me.  There were painful parts of the book...primarily the hormonal teenage boy stuff.  Bleck.  If you can soldier through that (skim--it's what I do) then it is a really great read.

Heaven is Here by Stephanie Nielsen ****

LOVED this book.  It was fabulous.  I highly recommend it.  I've read her blog for awhile and felt like I knew the story of her plane crash but I did not.  It was heartbreaking and incredibly inspiring.  I felt new found appreciation for my roles as wife and mother and felt very blessed to have a healthy body.

The Truth about Style by Stacy London ***

This is one of those books I picked up on a whim.  Usually I don't finish them because they're silly but I liked this one.  It's partly about style but mostly a memoir.  I am not always a huge memoir fan but I enjoyed this.  I usually wear jeans and t-shirts and sweaters and occasionally, hoodies (repeat, repeat, repeat). Maybe I'll get some style someday.  (No promises.)

The Rent Collector by Camron Wright ***

This book was set at a municipal dump in Cambodia.  It's about a family that lived there, gathering trash to support themselves.  Through a series of events, the young wife and mother learned to read.  It was an interesting story, compelling and sweet and filled with hope.

It also bugged me.  At the end of the book, there are pictures, photographs.  Also, it says the book is fiction.  The pictures are from a documentary about the dump.  So are those the real people?  Are there really people with those names?  Is the story true at all?  If it weren't for the pictures at the end, I would have just thought it was a good story.

We read this book for book club so I'll be interested to see if the pictures mattered to anyone else.

(I showed Adam and he didn't think the pictures were problematic.  They confused me though.)

Friday, December 28, 2012

My prescription

One night we were having dinner at Brooklyn Brothers Pizza which is almost as good as New Haven pizza, but not quite.  (It is more accessible though.)  Braeden was elsewhere and Adam and Emma and Mark and I were talking about different ailments and their advertised prescriptions you see on TV.

Who knows how these things get started?

Adam said as long as you gave the ailment initials and the right sounding prescription, you could have any pharmaceutical commercial.

Our favorite:  HSD or hungry stomach disorder.

The prescription:  Nutella.

I almost choked on my Brooklyn Brothers' Pizza.

"If you're suffering from HSD, ask your doctor if Nutella is right for you."

"Some common side effects of Nutella are feeling full, sticky fingers, licking lips."

"Do not take Nutella if you are nursing or pregnant or could become pregnant."

On and on went the advertisements for Nutella. 

"In some rare cases it was reported that people taking Nutella were beat up in the 7 Eleven parking lot but not any more often than people who were not taking Nutella."

I stopped drinking my soda altogether because it was too dangerous while laughing.

On Christmas morning the first gift my children wanted me to open was from all of them.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

True colors

Being sick on Christmas is not fun.  (Yes, that's the kind of profound wisdom you have come to expect from this blog.  For free too.)

Mark was sick on Christmas.  At first we blamed him for obscene candy and cookie consumption of the night before.  That's why you're sick, Mark. 

Except it wasn't.

Because it turned out to be contagious.

When your children are sick, you clean up after them.  You change sheets, you do laundry, you lecture them for standing in the middle of the carpet to throw up, but you scrub it up stoically.

Because they're yours.  You love them.  In sickness and in health.

We didn't know what to do about Mark on Christmas day when we all were supposed to convene at Grandma Geri's for what is arguably the most Christmas fun in town.  I said I should stay home with him because it was Adam's family and he should be able to be with them.  Adam said he should stay home with him because he was sick on Christmas once when he was a little boy and made his mom miss Christmas fun so he owes it to the universe to repay the debt.

Geri said to just bring Mark.

So we did.

He was asleep so I took the older (still healthy at that point) two and Adam stayed home to do the dishes and joined us after Mark woke up and had a bath.

Sitting in the family room at Geri's, surrounded know, family, someone commented on how quiet it was.

"Because Mark's not here," Brian said.

"He makes that much noise?" Stacy asked.

Brian nodded.

Later, when Adam brought Mark, he went straight upstairs to the den.  He nestled in a leather recliner with a blanket and watched the Disney channel.  Adam, Braeden, Emma and I took turns sitting with him.   Other family members popped their heads in from time to time to say hello.  When we chatted online with Whitney and Kelly in Atlanta, they wanted to see Mark too so I carried the laptop upstairs so they could lay eyes on his peaked little face.

Braeden had sickbed duty so I went downstairs partway during Christmas bingo.  Scott gave me the gadget he'd won.  "For Mark," he said.

Mark knew it was almost time for presents so he came downstairs.  Braeden gave him the Sprite he'd won in bingo and Mark sipped it and sat quietly next to me.

Geri had a game for us to play.  Candy was involved and the Mike and Ikes were in high demand.  Jackson won the red box of Mike and Ikes.  He brought it over, for Mark.  Mark asked, "Is there still the blue box?"  I shushed him.

"Be happy Jackson gave you these," I whispered. 

Later, Talia came over with the blue box.  "Mark can have these," she said.  I put them in our bag, for later.

When it was finally time for presents, Mark still sat by me.  Usually he scampers around delivering gifts to everyone.  Brian said, "Mark, can you just run across the room a couple of times?  For me?"

Mark just groaned.

Everyone missed the usual Mark, the one we're always telling to calm down and sit still.

The next day Mark was mostly back to being Mark and Braeden fell hard.  In the afternoon he went to take a nap.  Mark went too.  He came back downstairs and said, "Braeden's asleep.  I didn't really need a nap, I just decided to stay there until he went to sleep.  In case he needed me."

You don't just have your spouse in sickness and health, you have a family.

Families can be welcoming, funny, and generous.  They cheer you on your way and welcome you back home.  They are imperfect and can be disappointing.  But when someone is sick, when you have a man down, sometimes they really show their true colors.

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Christmas spirit

It's here!

I think I woke up with a smile on my face.  Then I read an email from my parents filled with love and memories and Christmas greetings and I started to cry.

That's kind of the way of things for me though.

Yesterday after church while we were waiting for the boys to come to the van, Emma and I were sitting together, eating cake pops Janet made.  (Janet, I'm assuming you didn't just make them for the primary children so I took one.  Whether or not they were intended for me, I couldn't help myself.  You are a cake pop genius.  And a chocolate covered cherry genius.  And really good at knitting...)

Anyway, Emma and I were eating our cake pops and she started telling me a Christmas story her teacher had told her at church and soon both of us were crying big tears onto our cake pops because the story was so touching.   

I inherited, from my dad, a lot of extra water in my head and it leaks out.

Last night, armed with a few boxes of pineapples tied with red ribbons, we drove around making deliveries.  I had a list of people and addresses and Adam was driving but I was not navigating.  

(navigation=not my thing)

Our kids ran the pineapples up to the doors.  We stopped at a few friends' houses but mostly we delivered pineapples to our kids' teachers.  At Braeden's seminary teacher's house, he invited Braeden in and introduced Braeden to his adult children who were home for Christmas.  It made Braeden feel valued.  He loves both his seminary teachers and said last night, "They make such a big sacrifice for me."

Yes, that's early.

Emma took a pineapple to her Young Women leader and came back to the car with a wide smile.

Mark pranced to the door of his beloved primary teacher and then to the door of his beloved cub scout leader.  He was rewarded with a hug from each of them.

When we returned home, after a stop at Grandma Geri's as well, I felt a warm glow inside that I think must have been the Christmas spirit.  It made me happy to deliver pineapples but really, they're just pineapples.

What really matters to me, what matters more to me than I can express, are the people that love my children.  They tell them stories that touch their hearts, they make them feel important and loved.  They make sacrifices for them.

President Thomas S. Monson said:
As we seek Christ, as we find Him, as we follow Him, we shall have the Christmas spirit, not for one fleeting day each year, but as a companion always. We shall learn to forget ourselves. We shall turn our thoughts to the greater benefit of others. 
Those wonderful teachers of my children epitomize the Christmas spirit.  

I am grateful for them.  I'm grateful for this season of reflection on the many ways I am blessed because of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

(I'm thankful for Janet's cake pops and chocolate covered cherries and scarf she knitted me.  Because we all know I can't knit!)

P.S. Janet also gave me a textbook size book on how to knit.  She has not given up on me!

Friday, December 21, 2012

A list

Things making me happy this morning:

1) an email from my mom with a sweet story about my 95 year old grandma

2) the lights on my Christmas tree

3) having my kids home from school

4) reading a good book that is breaking my heart and inspiring me all at the same time

5) laughing on the phone with my sister first thing in the morning (and having first thing be not all that early--see number 3

6) looking at real estate online with Adam at midnight--is it symptomatic of a mid life crisis when you are looking at million dollar vacation homes you'll never be able to afford?  Whatever.  It was fun.

This one is not a million dollar home but just...stunning.  I can't imagine the thought processes that went into these decorating choices.  I'm guessing color blindness and maybe drug use?

Just look at the pictures.

You'll look around your own house and think, I am doing all right.

I hope your day is a good one.  I hope there are treats in your kitchen and lights on your tree and warm socks on your feet.  Recipe for a sublime life.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Ominous calendars: Mayan and otherwise

It's not just the Mayan calendar that makes the future seem dicey. 

I have a calendar hanging on my wall that I like all the time except the first day of each month when I have to change it.  I have to shuffle the numbers and it's sort of a pain.  Usually though, the reordering of the numbers goes off without a hitch.

Last weekend, Adam asked me what was going to happen after the 30th.

I gave him my best blank stare.

He asked me again.

More blank staring.

He pointed to the calendar.

I'm not sure how that happened.

If the Mayans were wrong and the world doesn't end tomorrow, we still may have problems.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Christmas ornaments

After going to two ornament exchanges in the last week, I learned something about myself.  I realized why I'm never that excited about the ornaments at exchanges.  I freely admit that they're beautiful.  The thing with me and ornaments is that I like two types:  thematic ones that contribute to the overall look...

thematic case in point

 ...and ones with a certain sentimental significance.  If they're ugly (and believe me, some of mine really are) I don't mind in the least.  Because they matter.

Our family room Christmas tree has a certain scrapbook quality to it.  It's a three dimensional record of my life.

There's the angel ornament I got as a little girl (I bought Emma a matching one and we always hang them side by side).

There are other ornaments I've had since I was a little girl.

The sugarplum fairy my parents gave me the year we went to the Nutcracker Ballet and my Donald Duck from my first ever trip to Disneyland.

There is an ornament from Adam's childhood.

It's a soccer player made of salt dough.  Every year I fear is its last but it is hardy.
There are also newer ornaments that mark occasions in our life:

from when we took our kids to London
I love seeing these ornaments and remembering.

It makes me happy to hang these three soldiers on our tree.  Olivia got them for us in Poland.

one soldier is distracted and not looking at the camera
 I tried to narrow down the three ugliest ornaments I have (it was hard).  They are so ugly, yet so beloved.

First, this plastic-canvas-googly-eyes-yarn-and-pom-pom confection:

I think I was about six when my mom brought it home from somewhere.  I begged her and she gave it to me.  It's a testament of my mother's love for her little girl (I mean how could she part with something so lovely unless she really loved me?) and also a testament to some person's fabulous taste in craft projects.  Someone spent a bit of time on that poor thing!  

Second, the ornament Marianne and I made:

It was part of a kit and the base is a Styrofoam ball.  Notice the dingy and nasty ribbon.  It is a sight to behold.  Marianne insists that she still has hers and that it's pretty.  I believe the first part of her statement but not the second.

Next, this glamorous velvet delicacy:

You may be surprised (because you didn't know I was so talented) but I made it in 5th grade.  Actually Nathan Shirtcliff finished it for me because all the bus kids had to leave early because of a snow storm.  I deserve all the acclaim for it though.  (Stop trying to take credit for my masterpiece Nathan Shirtcliff!)

Honorable mention: Mark's Yoda with a severe head injury.

Poor Yoda was a casualty of the year our tree fell over.  We don't talk about that anymore (too painful) but we still hang Yoda carefully on the tree.  His head is half gone but look at the resolve in his eyes.  He will soldier on like a good Jedi.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

One excruciating day

Yesterday Emma stayed home from school and I took her to the doctor because off and on she has had a weird lump near her collar bone.

The doctor (not our regular doctor, just the one we could see that day) said, right in front of Emma, that it could be leukemia or lymphoma so she wanted to have some blood work done.  She said she'd call me with the results.

In the way of mothers everywhere that don't want their children alarmed, I acted cheery as best I could.  Emma was stressed about giving blood and I tried to be chatty and make it seem like no big deal.  "Leukemia or lymphoma" echoed in my brain.

Leukemia or lymphoma.

In the car, driving home, Emma said softly, "I hope I'm OK."

I swallowed hard.  I asked her if she was worried.  She said no.  I told her I wasn't either.  We stoically lied through our teeth.

When I got home, I went in my room and locked the door.  I went in my bathroom and locked that door.  I went in my closet.  I sat on the floor and dialed Janet's number.  I wanted to talk to her about the seminary carpool but I burst into tears and spilled all the worry out to her.  She picked up the worry and carried some of it for me.

Let me know, she said.  I promised I would.

And we waited.  Adam called a few times to check.   Stephanie texted me.  I texted back my situation.  She promised prayers and took on a little more of the worry.  Janet texted to see if I knew anything and to tell me she was thinking of me.  Marianne called me and the thought crossed my mind to recruit Olivia, Jill, my mom, anyone who would listen, on the worry train too.  The more people who knew, the better I would feel?

I decided that since I had to put myself back together after talking, I'd better keep myself intact.  I felt brittle and tense.  I absolutely had to smile and act like I was fine.  For Emma.  She stayed home all day.  She didn't go into her room to read.  She stayed close by.  A few times she wanted a hug.  She was subdued.  She startled each time the phone rang.  I'd answer and her eyes would widen and search my face.

It was never the doctor.  I kept imagining how silly I would feel when I found out I was just being overly dramatic and she was really fine.  I kept telling myself that was what would happen.

But what if it wasn't?

I forbade myself from researching leukemia or lymphoma on the internet.

When Braeden got home, he rescued us with his obliviousness to our inner anguish.  He distracted Emma and made her laugh and help him make a white elephant gift for mutual tonight.

Finally, finally we heard from the doctor.  Besides being slightly anemic, she is fine.  Nothing to worry about.  She. Is. Fine.

I went to Emma, tears on my cheeks.  I told her the happy news.  She said, "You're crying?  I'm fine, Mom.  I'm fine."  Then her arms were around me, comforting me.  Braeden was floored.  "You're going to make me cry," he said.  I explained the whole awful day to him.  He was shocked.

It was quite a day.

Just one day.  How grateful I am that by nightfall, my world had been righted.  My heart breaks and I ache for those whose despair can't be so quickly erased.

I hope for more empathy from myself.  More appreciation for the gift that is healthy children.  More gratitude.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmas songs and faith

It feels disrespectful, when I acknowledge all sorts of trivia here, not to acknowledge the loss that occurred in Connecticut last Friday.

I thought about it when my kids came home from school Friday, safely.

I thought about it when I hugged them tight.

I thought about it when I read words others had written, people all over the country, shocked and devastated to some degree or another.

I thought about it on Saturday at our ward Christmas party at church.  I tied shepherd head-dresses on the little primary children I love for the nativity play and I marveled and was grateful for their safety, their presence.

This morning when I was picking up seminary kids, I turned the radio away from the news because I can't take it anymore.  On the station I turned to, a singer from the 40s was crooning a Christmas song.

I considered all of the things Christmas songs have seen us through.

Christmas songs have been the backdrop through wars, disasters and heartbreaks public and private.  The Christmas songs come around every year like a boomerang, promising peace on earth and reminding us of the good news of Christ's birth.  They prompt us to recall memories of happy Christmases in the past, they reassure us that better days will come.

I have felt warm assurance when I've read words that are true.  I know, despite the horrors and tragedies that sometimes happen, we have a loving Heavenly Father.  I read what an LDS stake president, close to one of the victims families said, "It's tragic.  But as far as that tragedy reaches, our faith reaches further."

I hope that those affected by this great loss can partake of that love and faith.  It is there for the taking.

For that I'm grateful.

Friday, December 14, 2012

My rare bird

My boys are always front and center.  They without fail want something.  They want attention.  They want to talk.  They want to show me something.  They want me to drive them somewhere.  They want a snack.  They want permission to do something.  They want to be logged onto the computer.  (They time that one strategically because when they have plied with me requests all day I am more than happy to log them on to the computer.

Just for a little peace.

Emma is more like a rare bird, one that you just see glimpses of.  She breezes in the door after school and may or may not have an anecdote to share from her day.  She eats a snack with a novel in her hand.  She'll answer my questions, briefly, and then go back to her reading.  She sits quietly on the floor and churns out her homework, oblivious to noise around her.  She plays the piano.  (The boys practice, she plays, fully immersed.) She slips away to her room and shuts the door and if I ever need my scissors, tape, glue, Sharpies, or anything else like that, they are in her room too because she is constantly creating something in there.  She emerges at times to read me a poem or show me something, then she is gone again.

Every once in awhile when I think she's not paying attention, she stuns me by saying something wise or witty or brilliant.  (Every once in awhile, when I think she's paying attention, she so isn't.)

A few nights ago she let me braid her hair.  I am abysmal at hair so it was nice of her.  We chatted and strategized about the waterfall braid I was attempting.  (I am not skilled enough to do my own hair plus her straight hair is easier to work with than my crazy curly mess.) With my fingers deep in her smooth hair, with her intelligent brown eyes looking back at me in the mirror, I found myself profoundly grateful to be her mother.

I love the constancy of my boys, the way they insist on always being in my orbit.

I love the rarity of my girl, the way she insists on being in her own orbit.  The times she allows our paths to cross.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Little things

Olivia sent me a package and inside was this table runner.

She was shopping and needed cheering up so she bought something for me that she thought I'd like (I do!) and she sent it to me.

Here's hoping Olivia is depressed a lot in the future.

This should be where I say that I bought something for Olivia to cheer myself but (sorry little Ciocia) I did not.

I did decide it was time to cheer myself up though.

To keep myself from being dragged into the abyss by gloomy weather, today I want to acknowledge some cheerful little additions to my day.  Everything on the following list has two things in common.  They smell wonderful and they make me happy.

Mrs. Meyer's dish soap:

Anything Mrs. Meyer's delights me and my nose.  The dish soap may be my favorite though.  I look forward to washing dishes.  (OK, maybe that's not true.)

Bath and Body Works lavender chamomile pillow mist:

I bought this about a week ago.  When I changed the sheets in my kids' beds, I sprayed this on all of their sheets and pillows.  I felt like a good sleep fairy, spreading (or spraying) joy.  I spray my pillow every night...and Adam's if he lets me.  It seems luxurious and smells lovely.

Ginger Body Butter:

I usually shy away from things like lotions or candles that smell like food (they give me a sense of false hope-- the candle smells like cake but you are not getting cake).  I love this stuff though.  Maybe it smells more gingery than gingerbread like?  It is thick and creamy and fragrant.

Bath and Body Works soap:

Jennifer gave some of this to me (last year?) and I loved it.  Usually I use Mrs. Meyer's hand soap but I bought some of this because when my hands smell like peppermint, it is a good day.  (And it reminds me of Jennifer.)  I take delight in the fact that it is foaming.

It truly is the little things.

Little things console us because little things afflict us.
Blaise Pascal

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Christmas in the Northwest

moss taking over the world

Sometimes it feels less like Christmas in the Northwest is the gift God wrapped in green and more like it's the gift that got doused in water when the Christmas tree fell over.

Yesterday I overheard Mark in his bedroom, singing.

"I'm dreaming of a gray Christmas.  Just like the ones I've always known."

Since they really are the only ones he's ever known, he bears no ill will toward the gray skies.

(I'm trying to not bear ill will but I may hide in a suitcase and go to Tucson with Jill for Christmas.)

For now I'm going to go take some vitamin D and turn on every light in my house.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Ten on the tenth, part 2

Last Friday, Mark had a birthday party.  It is brought to you by the letter P and the number 10.  Mark has decided his favorite color is purple so the invitations to his party were purple.

We ate pizza.  Mark opened presents from his friends (they know him very well...Legos, Star Wars stuff, money to buy Legos and/or Star Wars stuff.)  I made a cake.  For the first time in years, it wasn't a Lego cake.  It was still an ugly cake though.  He wanted chocolate with purple frosting.  Not exactly an appetizing combination.  Also, we went to the pool.   We could have popped popcorn and played pictionary if things got slow.

But they didn't.

First, they all armed themselves and started a Nerf gun battle.  Is an almost 16 year old too old for that kind of thing?

Apparently not.

Braeden and Mark were on one team. (Maybe that other little guy crouched on the stairs was on their side too?)  The other team was holding Gavin hostage upstairs and Braeden and Mark had to rescue him.  I tried to take a few pictures but I felt like an embedded reporter in a war zone and mostly had to stay clear to protect myself.

a helmet and shield seemed like the right idea

Braeden and Mark formed a plan and stormed the stairs:

It seems Mark gave his weapon to Braeden...

...and just went into battle with his bare hands.
Then I decided it was time for everyone to come and eat. 

And they ate.

One boy said, "If someone touches my stomach, I will throw up all over everything.  I usually have 3-4 slices and I just ate 7."

I said, "OK.  I...really...hope that doesn't happen."

We headed to the pool which is one of those times when you realize you are a genius.  They caroused around and were loud and wild like the undomesticated creatures boys this age are....

...and my house didn't get destroyed.

The next morning Mark had Lego sets built before breakfast.

he always keeps a knife nearby for opening plastic packages quickly

I am grateful for my newly minted ten year old.  I'm grateful for his good friends.  I'm grateful for Adam and Braeden and Emma and their help in managing a wild group.

I'm grateful for all of the celebrations in life that make it wonderful.

Speaking of celebrations, here are the red-headed birthday kids last night at The Old Spaghetti Factory.

I'm starting to think they're a little spoiled. (It's a birthDAY red-heads, not a birthWEEK.)

(I do love them though.)

Monday, December 10, 2012

Ten on the tenth, part 1

ten years ago
Yesterday when everyone was all fancied up for church, I told them I wanted to recreate this picture.  I meant something along the lines of stand in front of the Christmas tree in an orderly manner.

They had other ideas.

Weird kids.  (I shouldn't have shown them the picture from ten years ago.)

Gone are the cradling-Mark-in-the-crook-of-Braeden's-arm days.

The other day I glanced out the window and saw a group of Mark's friends.  Then I realized the one holding the umbrella was Mark.  I recognized the umbrella (it was mine) before I recognized the tall kid holding it.  In the same way I think my youngest brother (the one with two children) is about 16, I think that my youngest child is still a baby.

He isn't.

(And Ammon isn't 16 either.)

There is no baby left in my baby boy.  He is ten.  In the bitter and sweet emotions that swirl around growing children, the best choice is to choose the sweet.  He's growing up.  I enjoy my kids more and more the older they get so I will blink back any melancholy and tears and embrace these children that insist on leaving their cherubic baby traits behind.

My kids keep getting more interesting, funnier, smarter and more challenging.

What's not to love?

Mark's fellow red headed cousin Talia's birthday is two days before his.  (We try to keep those red heads together.)  We celebrated their birthdays last night at Grandma Geri's:

Mark and Talia with Braeden singing along to "Happy Birthday" in the background.  All captured inexpertly by Pinkie Pie.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Light up the night

I lit the candles.

I set a fancy table.

Last night we celebrated pikkujoulu, which if you're a regular around here, you know that means "little Christmas."  It's our small family Christmas party before Christmas.  It makes sense in my head.

Here are some looks at past pikkujoulu celebrations:  2009, 2010, 2011.

We always have clam chowder.

Two pots full.  You have to have enough + Braeden invited Jadon over and two teenage boys eat more than one teenage boy.  (You're welcome for the tip.  I know all sorts of trivia like that.)

Adam brought home sour dough bread bowls which were divine but not pictured.  Not a lot is pictured actually.  We just enjoyed.  Geri came over, bearing gifts.  We feasted, then gathered in the living room for our "program".

In the past we've been a little more together when it came to the program.  Last night, not so much.  I wanted to play a stirring rendition of "Carol of the Bells" with my handbells but we couldn't find the piano music and it's not the same without the piano music.  I blamed Braeden and he blamed Emma and I don't know who Emma blamed.  I ended up playing the song by ear on the piano and I handed out bells and made everyone participate.  It lacked a little something (chords) but we made up for it with enthusiasm.  How can you go wrong with handbells?  I played the piano (badly) for some Christmas hymns and Braeden and Emma each played a Christmas song on the piano.  I asked Mark if he wanted to do something.  He said, "I think I'm going to do a dress up," and he scampered out of the room.

I don't think I've ever heard anyone use dress up as a noun like that.

He came back as a shepherd.  I asked him if he wanted to tell us about shepherds in conjunction with Christmas and he said no.  Just the dress up.

I hope the shepherds really did have terry cloth to wear.  It looks comfy.

Adam read from the scriptures with music in the background and it was beautiful but I did not cry so there's something of a triumph for me.

That and the desserts:

SEVEN types of fudge.  Salted toffee was a clear winner but I thought the Oreo held a lot of promise.

It was a lovely night despite all our folly and lack of talent.  It's more about being together than anything.  And it was about the light. 

The lighthearted laughing and playing Christmas songs on handbells.

The lights on the tree, the candles.

Remembering why.
Then spake Jesus unto them again, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.
                                                                                                      John 8:12

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Dala horses

I am trying to remember life PM (pre-markers).  It was a cold lonely husk of a life compared to now.  And there were a lot less cookies involved.

Emma and I launched our new project:  Dala horses.

First, because it's the natural order of things, I baked the cookies.  I was on the phone with Marianne at the time.  (I do my best work when I'm on the phone with my sisters.)

I kept saying, "Ahh!  I killed it!"  Because I kept breaking the legs off the horses when I was removing them from the pan (and we all know what happens to horses when they break their legs).  Marianne said, "Stop what you're doing."

I said, "But I have to get them off the pan."

She said, "Stop.  It's obviously not working.  Let them cool on the pans."

So I did.  I don't know what other people do when they're being irrational but I listen to my sister.  After the horses cooled on the pans, I could move them without any danger.

I frosted them red.  Emma said, "Oh, they're all red?"

Then I remembered I was going to make some white and some blue.  Maybe next time.

I've wanted a Dala horse for a long time.  A wooden one.  But every time I see a pretty one that I like, it is really expensive.

These were in my price range.  And edible.  (bonus)

Emma did some and I did some.  I think I like most of Emma's more than mine.  She's a good marker partner.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


It's possible you remember this, when I arranged our books by color.  It has delighted me and been maybe one of the dumbest thing I've ever done.  (Well, probably not.  I do dumb things.)  When we need a book, there's a certain amount of brainstorming as we all try to remember the color of the book.

This is no way to live.

A few days ago, I was looking for a book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to be exact. I decided Mark had to read it instead of Old Yeller.  No reason except I like that book and used to tell kids in my class at school that Roald Dahl was my uncle.  I could not remember what color that book was.  I remembered what was on the front cover, but I had to remember what was on the spine.  Rats.

I looked downstairs on the neutral bookshelves.  I looked on the stair landing at the rainbow.  I looked at the two rainbows in the school room.  I looked at the white books in the school room.  I looked at the brown and green and black books in our bedroom.  Repeat, repeat, repeat.

I texted Adam:  Whose stupid idea was it to organize the books by color?

He (perhaps wisely) didn't respond.

It makes me feel a little manic when I lose something so I kept looking and looking and I was going crazy and crazier.  

Until I gave up and gave Mark The Bronze Bow to read.  He said, "Do I have to?"

I said, "Unless you want to read Old Yeller."  (That may be my go to threat from here on out.)

When Emma got home, I told her about the trials and travails of being foolish enough to arrange your books by color and she said, "What book were you looking for?"

I told her.

"Oh.  It's in my room."

She produced the book (which incidentally is mostly white on the spine) but the damage was done.  From now on it's the Dewey Decimal system around here.


Just for now.

A little Christmas cheer from my bookshelf to you.

Do I have other things I could be doing with my time?  Probably.  (But it's a cute little tree isn't it?)

Speaking of organization, the fabulous Charlotte Louise Dahl was born yesterday.  The newest in a long line of wonderful nieces, she evened the score in my very symmetrical family.  My parents have three daughters and three sons and 10 granddaughters and 10 grandsons.

Congratulations Tabor and Katie and sweet big sisters, Olivia and Ruby. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

When your husband irritates you...

I usually write the Christmas letter we send out to our family and friends.  Adam may give some input but I have the ultimate editorial control because I am the one who does it.

This year, our aging printer gave its last gasp and I ordered another one from Amazon.  It came in short order, you know Amazon.   (unpaid celebrity endorsement--if we're imagining I'm a celebrity)

It's still in its box.  Mark and I were all set to hook it up one day but the instruction manual is right on top of the box looking all intimidating and menacing and it makes me squeamish so I am leaving it in the box until Adam can attend to it.

(Mark said I'm a coward.  He's right.)

Adam is deeply entrenched in Boy Scout rechartering (you're jealous, right?) so he hasn't pulled the printer out of the box either.

The point of all of this is, Adam printed the letter at work.

Right after he hijacked it.

I had carefully not written anything about me in it because I didn't want to.  I write about myself to my little heart's content here on my silly blog and no one has to read it but when I send something into someone's home, I feel differently about it.

Adam added some things about me.  I protested and told him not to.  He is as disobedient as he is un-intimidated by printer instructions though.  He changed it a little but he said that it was staying.  I am at his mercy because of the whole printer instruction thing and because it is against my nature not to have sent the Christmas cards by now!

I was feeling frustrated with the dear man, fuming and washing the lunch dishes.  I was doubly irritated with him because when we were decorating the Christmas tree he took oodles of pictures of me.  We are all well aware of how unphotogenic I am.  "Stop taking pictures of me!" I would say.

"No," he would say.  (See?  Disobedient.)

Then he said he wanted me to put them on my blog.  I told him I didn't want to put them on my blog.  And I wasn't going to, because disobedience runs in our family.

Then, while I was still cleaning up the kitchen, I reconsidered.  I thought it wasn't such a terrible thing to have a husband that wanted you represented in the family Christmas letter and it was perhaps even sweet that he doggedly took pictures of an uncooperative and unphotogenic subject like me.  I went from feeling frustrated to feeling loved.

And that's not a bad place to find yourself.

Just for you, Adam.  Here's one of the pictures you took:

As you can see, decorating a Christmas tree takes great concentration.  Just look at the razor focus.  That's the festive pin I wore to church that day.  Mark said, "Mom, I like that pin but why are you wearing an egg?"

Who knows?


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