Sunday, December 30, 2007

Lucky 13

Today is my 13th wedding anniversary.
As I think back on it, most of you guys were there. That's pretty cool!
We spent a quiet day at home and enjoyed a nice dinner out (sans children), a cup of coffee, and a visit to the book store. No big surprises or anything like that. But...after 13 years, comfortable feels nice.
We don't always need deep conversation and excitement.
Sometimes, it's just enough to sit across the table from each other and smile enough to wrinkle up the corners of your eyes.

Knitty Gifties

As promised, now that gifts have been given, I can share with you how far my new hobby has taken me. I am now obsessed with knitting. I made my brother Jon an angora hat, my brother Joe a lightweight cashmere hat, and a friend another cashmere hat, only it was warmer yarn.
And I made two scarves. Two lovely, lovely scarves. First, Sarah's (Jon's wife):
A nice, plummy gray yarn from it's merino wool and a little silk, and for anyone who cares, I will post more details about the pattern on ravelry when I get around to it (I figure if you're enough of a knitter to want to know about the yarn, you probably already are on ravelry...and if you're not, just ask me and I'll be happy to share details!):

And the Mindy Scarf (Joe's wife), which all of you so generously voted on and offered opinions about and then the yarn told me it didn't want to be a scarf after all. So, my mom helped me buy this amazing yarn by The Fibre Company and it's kettle-dyed and it has yak and camel and alpaca and other wonderful things in it. I really just wanted to keep the yarn and pet it. But I made the scarf anyway:

And I had a lot of fun designing a little fake label with my ravelry username on it - kikiknits:

And that pretty much sums it up. I am currently turning the old Mindy Scarf pink yarn into leg warmers for my favorite little ballerina, who went up on toe shoes for the first time a couple of weeks ago (Did I have my camera with me? No. Aaargh!), and I think I'm going to do a cardigan for my mom for her birthday. No surprises though, we will fit this one as we go so we don't waste our work! And that means I'll be able to share pictures too.

Wrapping Up the Christmas Present

Usually, at this point in the year, I will journal or post something wildly sentimental and romantic. Something about family, tradition, Christmas and reflection.
This year, I am too tired. This season knocked me flat. Now, had I some vacation time, even just the day after Christmas, I might have recovered. But I had to go back to work on the 26th. We even went to bed at a decent time this Christmas Eve (something like 12:00, when it is normally closer to 3:00). We worked so hard to be rested and made our compromises at every turn, but....maybe I'm just getting too old for all of this.
I have been fighting a little virus since well before Christmas that seems to bounce right back in no matter how much Zycam I snort. That's also a large part of the problem, I suppose.
But all of that is not to say that our Christmas wasn't merry and bright. It really was. Nothing is better to me than my loved ones gathered in a warm spot and sharing their hearts with each other. Nothing.
Here are a few of the photos I managed to snap in passing over the last several days:
Cookie baking and talking to Grandma about Santa:

My beeeee-oooootiful tree, stuffed to the gills and ready for Christmas morning (Chris has transformed the gift-arranging into an art form):

Drew reads the Christmas story before we open presents every year:

My puppers waiting for her present (for dogs, we call this "Sausage Day," the day when Santa brings wrapped bits of Hickory Farms goodness to all the good little puppies), and my crazy little bro with the fishing pole he really wanted, wearing the crazy hat my dad got for him - and I swear, people, it was just a joke gift. Nobody in our family is that much of a redneck.....:

Shots of the aftermath:

Me and one of my favorite gifties - thanks Julianna! - (if there's anything I like better than polka dots, it's red polka dots....and if it relates to coffee, that's even better!):

For me, the highlight of the season is visiting with old friends who come to town, though there were only two this year. It is such a blessing to have this handful of rich, old relationships in my life. I've been reflecting on that a little bit this week and have concluded that it's a beautiful thing when the ties that bind are made up of a shared history rather than simply commonality. To know that, no matter how long you are apart, and no matter how seldom your face is seen, you are accepted and loved as you are (love you, B!) is a great thing.
One such friend of mommy's visited our house this week. We haven't given him an official name. We have tossed around TechnoSanta and RoboSanta, benefactor and Evil Overlord, but he told me today that he might like to be a Tzar. Dear, would you like that to be Tzar with a "t" or with a "c?" And would you like it specified that you are the Technology Tzar, the Robot Tzar or Crazy Uncle Czar? Either way, a friend of mine has once again bestowed unimaginable gifts of technology upon my children. I promise to post some geeked-out photos of Drew with his laptop ASAP. When Emma's arrives (the supply was a little short of demand, I understand), I will see how geeky we can make her for a photo too. Anyway, Mr. Tzar was cleaning out his dad's garage while visiting and found an awesome box of Star Wars stuff and thisses and thats for little boys (and big ones too) to appreciate and care for. Andrew gave them all a bath today, while Chris stood in the doorway and proclaimed things like, "I always wanted the AT-AT" and, "I used to have that same Jabba!" So, cleaned-up Star Wars relics:

And my favorite item from the box, a labeled calculator. It reminds me of a boy I used to know.....:

So, anyway, we are full and happy, over-cookied and ready for a good night's sleep.

DAILY BLISS: successfully hemming some cuffed pants (I am not a seamstress and this took me several hours to figure out) and new clothes!

Sunday, December 23, 2007


I am blissfully caught up in the whirlwind of preparation. There are dozens and dozens of cookies sitting in my kitchen, my last gift has been wrapped, I have hemmed some snowman pajama pants for (ahem) someone, and have made my final to-do list for tomorrow's happenings.
All is well.
I'll pop in after the big day and try to convey the crazy happiness that spills out of our family at Christmas.
Until then, I wish you a happy Christmas and the peace of Emmanuel, God With Us.

DAILY BLISS: cookie recipes without any eggs in them and peppermint tea

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Crunch Time

It feels like an eternity since I've visited this spot. I just discovered that it had only been Monday last time I posted. Certainly it had been a couple of weeks, my weary brain tried to tell me!
The busiest time of the year for church workers, this is. I have had to publish an insane amount of bulletins and newsletters and posters and such. Somewhere around Tuesday, I started to think I was not going to get it all done. I'm just talking about my little part-time job here. Christmas was not even in my thought process at that point., I wound up most of it and heaved that stress overboard.
Here are some lowlights from this week:
1) I found out my dog has a heart condition.
2) I got a filling. Yeowch.
3) Now that I pulled off the stunt of getting all that work done on time, my boss will think I am magic. Well...I am magic - just not as much as he now will believe me to be.
4) I scowled at my kids. A lot. And the most prevalent tone of voice has been the through-the-teeth one.
5) I'm getting glasses. That really belongs in the highlights, but there is not a highlights section in this post. I have always wanted glasses and I used to wear fake ones in high school. I'm not really sure why I did that. I guess I thought it was cute, though some people told me that I looked like Andrea from 90210. That stopped my fake-glasses era in its tracks. Nobody wanted to look like Andrea. She was the sensible one. This may, however, help with the scowling and irritability as I won't have to squint all day at work anymore.
6) I have not slept enough. I am back with the caffeine (Oh, coffee, I do love you so. Why must doctors insist that we stay apart?). That is the only way that I am able to stay upright at this point.

And now, we pick up the burden of the Christmas Crunch. You know the one? The one that means I could stay up 24/7 until The Day and still not get it all done? So, here are some compromises I have made:

1) Regular old present-wrapping. Now, I'm not a snob about how other people wrap their presents, just about how I wrap mine. I like paper that coordinates so all the presents look nice together. I like the paper to coordinate with my tree. are the sub-categories of this item:
a) Whatever the heck kind of wrapping paper is closest to the cash register is what will enclose my gifts
b) Instead of hand-aging those white mailing tags and using stamps to decorate each one individually, I will use the sticky ones with foil designs. They were also close to the cash register. Some of them will be written on with blue ink that totally clashes. Those are the ones my husband wrote before I caught him and told him to at least use black ink.
c) Plastic bows that come in plastic bags. I don't like these much. I really like real ribbons - grosgrain ribbon to be precise. This has nothing to do with being eco-friendly. I just like real ribbons on packages. Also, I really like to untie real ribbons on packages.
d) No-one will have dangly present decorations that are or are not handmade

See how much? And that's just in the gift-wrapping category.

2)Cookie baking will probably not be beautiful and carefully planned. No matching aprons will be involved for all of the cooks. It will be a haphazard, sweaty, wild and stressful occasion. But it should be fun.
a) Also, I will not necessarily be piping icing and trying to make things look like they came from a bakery. Probably Emma will decorate most of the cookies. She is, um, very thorough.

3) I am not going to clean my house from top to bottom. It's not going to happen. We mostly cleaned a while back. My bedroom? Yeah - it never got finished. We will wipe up the obvious dirt and pay the kids 10 cents for every hairball they pick up out of the corners. That ought to do it.

4) Mostly, I am also not going to stay up until 3 AM Christmas morning trying to set up the breakfast table and clean and wrap gifts. But I say that every year. And every year, I'm up until 3 AM anyway, because I thought I had things way more under control than they actually were.

I know I sound like a psycho. These are all things that only a psycho would do. The problem is, they are all things that I love to do. I love, love, love to wrap my gifts carefully and put handmade touches on each one. It's how I tell people how much I love them - that each one of them are special to me and they deserve to have an extra 10 minutes spent on them. I love to make tons of cookies that look like they would cost $5 apiece at a bakery. It's not a compulsion to outdo anyone or to measure up to something. I'm not worried about shattering my domestic goddess reputation (smirk). It's just an expression of what's in my heart.
But it won't all happen this year. It just won't. I have a sneaking suspicion that people know how I feel about them anyway. I tell them all the time.

DAILY BLISS: Printing the last holiday church bulletin, picking out my first pair of glasses and snuggling on the sofa with Emma

Monday, December 17, 2007

Congratulations Mindy!

My sister (in-law) just finished college! I am so proud of her! Go Mindy-Sue! Joe took us all out to dinner in honor of the occasion. Go Joe!
Our family celebrates, um, a lot. All the time. But this was a dressy occasion, which we don't often do, so photos, smiles and excitement abound. I took this shot of Joe and his lovely bride:

And here I am with two of my favorite chicks:

Anyway, with the season in full swing, it was so much fun to go out in the chilly night air in super-high heels. And it was even better to celebrate my sister who has worked so hard.

DAILY BLISS: A blue sweater (thank you, cold front), a blue polka-dot apron (thank you, DeeDee) and a big pot of chili on the stove

Friday, December 14, 2007

Words From My Son

Andrew so rarely says funny little things anymore. His funnies aren't the innocent observations of life anymore either. They're becoming more and more cleverly crafted...he laid one down in the car today.
Emma had purchased a box of Dove chocolates with her own money (yes, that's what she likes to buy - chocolate). She loves to open them up and read the sayings. And then keep the wrappers for inspiration. I kid you not.
But she shared one with Andrew. He announced that his wrapper read "decorate your life." And I slyly asked him what in the world he thought that might mean. In a feigned voice of shock and woe, he exclaimed, "my life is dull!"
I just thought that was well done.

DAILY BLISS: honeycrisp apples (they may replace my braeburns as favorites) and a heavy, gray sky

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Promised Photos

Here are a couple of photos from the big Christmas performance.

A blurry shot of the kids, but the tree looks good. Priorities, people!

Here's Emma waiting for her chicken nuggets at Chick-fil-a and a couple of friend-y shots:

And a couple of performance shots. One day, when I have 20 minutes, I'll put a circle around their faces. If that ever happens. Until then, you will have to play "I Spy" and try to find my kids in the crowd.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

I'm Dreaming Of A.....

We watched White Christmas last night. It's become another one of those annual things that we do. Chris and I have always enjoyed the movie, and Bing simply makes me swoon. My brother Joe has observed that his voice is "so smooth it's!" Joe and Mindy have joined for a few years and it's the one tradition that I can always count on Mindy to make sure we do. I put a roast in the crock pot in the morning, and when I got home, I was able to serve a wonderful dinner to both of my brothers and one sister-in-law (the other is out of town), sit around my living room, lit with the Christmas tree and candles, feed everyone way too many cookies and homemade hot cocoa and enjoy one of my favorite movies of all time. It's a wonderful thing to be occupied with something and have the realization sneak up on you that there is really nothing else you'd rather be doing just then.
The kids are in a performance tonight at the church/school Advent service. Chris will not join us until it nearly begins, which means I had to go online to learn how to tie a tie for my boy. I think it's the Pratt knot that's highly recommended by my fashionisto brother (see that? that's the masculine form of "fashionista"). That took me several tries, but I think I've got it. Photos are sure to follow soon.....
I do love their school. As we watched the movie last night, the Andrew caught sight of a sign that was part of the scenery that said "XMas" something or other. He asked what "XMas" meant. I was about to give him the answer (hint: it doesn't really mean what most people think it does) when my first grader piped up and said "the X comes from Jesus' name. It looks like a P with an X over it." Of course, she is talking about the Chi Rho. Brilliant! Did I mention that I love their school?
And I leave you with a fabulous Emma quote. She is working on a project for school that involves glitter and beads, and was philosophizing about creativity - specifically, I think I complimented her on her skills. She replied, "All it takes is a little bit of magic and a lot of knowledge." There it is. The art of womanhood, summed up.

DAILY BLISS: splenda candy canes

Monday, December 10, 2007


There isn't much to say about today. It was just another day in a string of days that each hold a string of events connected by me drawing lines on the road with my car.
But I wanted to mention that I am so enjoying this season of Advent. We celebrate it every year, and I have definitely menitoned parts of our celebration before. We lit the candles tonight - two candles this week - and read the story of Joseph (we follow the Jesse Tree devotional method which takes us through the lineage of Jesus, leading up to Christmas, when we read about His birth). The kids completed their little activity and participated in our little "discussion" about God's ultimate purpose being fulfilled, even though the circumstances in Joseph's life certainly didn't seem like they would amount to anything good. We sang a Christmas song and said our prayers and the kids brushed their teeth and scooted off to bed. And we left the candles lit for just a little while. No fresh insights were revealed. No life-changing moments occurred. But.....this practice, this its What am I trying to say? The simplicity of it allows my heart to find a few moments of peace every day during this awfully hectic time of year. To shift my focus off of Xmas and onto Christmas. And that makes a world of difference.

DAILY BLISS: teaching Emma how to do a latch hook rug and hearing Andrew's increasing piano skills as he relishes the chance to play Christmas songs

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Catching Up

Sigh. There's a lot to catch up on here.
I have scrapped the Mindy Scarf all of you so kindly voted on. I really do apologize. I have frogged maybe three scarves altogether and finally concluded that my problem was the yarn. It's lovely yarn with cashmere and silk, but it just didn't want to be a scarf. So, I panicked and searched for patterns, decided to get new yarn and resorted to checking out a yarn store in Winter Haven (probably a 30 minute drive) in an effort to avoid the long drive to Tampa to the only local yarn store I know about. The Winter Haven store was a complete bust. So I tossed my daughter into the car on Saturday, dropped the boys off at the chess meet (2 wins, 2 losses) and popped by my mom's house to see if she wanted to go to the yarn store with us. Not that she knits or likes yarn that much....but it just seemed like a fun thing to do anyway. I'm so glad she went. I poked my fists into countless cubbies full of yarn, searching for just the right springiness and fluff and softness. And I found it. I pulled out the most gorgeous hank of yarn! In the perfect color! And it was way over my budget. Here's where mom comes in handy, you see. She said she'd help me out. That it would be part of my Christmas gift to enjoy knitting with such a fine yarn. That she wanted me to have the opportunity to make something that was actually as special as I wanted it to be.
I love my mom.
So I left the yarn store in such a tizzy. Alas, I cannot share this lovely yarn or the scarf I finally settled on until after Christmas. But you will like it, I'm sure. And the pink yarn will be some legwarmers for my little ballerina. It will be much happier in stockinette stitch.
On a sadder note, though, my mom lost her dog this morning. More than her dog, I guesss. Her baby. We have all had a very sad day filled with hugs and tears. Emma has a little book that she made called "Old Friends Remembered" which contains mostly portraits and names of wild creatures she has met and who have gone on their way. She made an entry this morning for little Opie, the red-headed, feisty, too-big-for-his-britches poodle. We had a nice lunch out with my mom and dad to get all our minds off the sadness. My family does everything big. We fight big, we party big, and we love even bigger. And this fierce love extends to our critters - they are part of our family. So we mourn their passing in a big way, too.
Over lunch, Chris reminded me that it was our turn to provide dessert for church tonight. I remembered having seen some pre-made gingerbread cookie dough where we had just been grocery-shopping and decided that this Shortcut to Holiday Fun would be just what the kids and I needed today to bring a little Christmas into our home. I ducked into the store on our way home from lunch, imagining that I would just grab it and head out. But this particular store had no such shortcuts available to me. Being a Bear of Little Brain lately, I was not able to formulate a Plan B right there by the dairy case. As I tapped my head and repeated "think, think, think," my inner homemaker (who has been feeling oh-so-ignored) suggested we just make gingerbread men from scratch. I said to her that it seemed such a fine idea and we would just buy icing and call that a shortcut. And it was done. I came home and donned a tank top (it is 84 degrees after all) and my Mrs. Claus apron and pulled out my recipe book. To my dismay, this dough was going to need to chill for two hours in the refrigerator. And I had exactly two and a half hours before church. This would never do. I mixed furiously and flatted out the dough and stuck it in the freezer to speed things along (there's a handy little tip from me to you, in case you haven't thought of it before). But I was also happily surprised to find that this recipe did not call for eggs. That means that these little gingerbread men would not make my face all red and itchy! And although I'm not really supposed to have sugar or white flour for another couple of months....perhaps I could just let it slide this once.

We so didn't have time to make homemade gingerbread men, but it was really worth it to squeeze that in to our day. I already feel more Christmasy than I have yet this year, and our Advent service tonight gave me a chance to just meditate and reflect and be still.
Well, plus, I ate a cookie for the first time in....I can't remember the last cookie I ate. That may be the real reason I feel so much nicer.

DAILY BLISS: icing and sprinkles and a husband who runs around behind me to clean up the mess in my wake

Friday, December 7, 2007


I had the pleasure of introducing my kids to Mr. Bean tonight. We watched (finally) Mr. Bean's Holiday. It took them a couple of pratfalls and facial contortions to catch on, but in short order, they were both howling with laughter.
I love Mr. Bean.

DAILY BLISS: dinner out and cashmere yarn

I'm An Aunt!!!

Born yesterday, my first real nephew, Gavin Christopher! He looks just like his Papaw (Chris' dad) :)

Kiki loves you, baby!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Breezing By

Time enough to report the blisses and not much else....

DAILY BLISS: Gingerbread man sleep pants and driving behind a car with a yellow lab in it who was fully enjoying the wind in his face. In fact, he looked like he was trying to eat the air. I love dogs!

Monday, December 3, 2007


This has been such a crazy couple of days. Of course, you all ready about my Friday night (and thanks for all the compliments on the tattoo!). Saturday, all the girls in the family went shopping for our annual Christmas pajamas. Sometimes this coordinates with the boy's lights/tools day, sometimes not. Emma enjoyed her first lobster tail at lunch, where we all fueled up elegantly for the shopping excursion ahead. Saturday night was my friend Shayla's 30th birthday party. Which was really fun because it was a cocktail party and everyone was dressed so beautifully. Chris even wore a suit, and can I just say that my man looks good in a suit! There are pictures of all of these things, but I've been a little photo-happy here lately, and I really don't have time to add them to the post.
Sunday was another crush of activity, ending with the first Sunday church service of Advent. That's always fun for me, and it's sort of when Christmas gets going. We had a really nice service - a little liturgical in nature - and lit candles as we read the prophecies about the Messiah from the Old Testament. Just as the increasing light of the candles brightens the room, the prophecies about the Coming Messiah gave increasing hope to the people of Israel. I'm really looking forward to our worship times this season.
Anyway, after that lovely pause, today just rushed by me in a flurry of catching up with little things at work, trying to get some Christmas shopping done this afternoon in my Monday "me" time (which really wasn't "me" time today - and why, oh why do I always seem to wear tall secretary shoes on days I have to run errands?) and grabbing the kids in time to pawn them off on my Julianna, who took them to dinner and a movie while we tried to accomplish ALL of our Christmas shopping in one night. Make that four hours, but toss dinner in there and it's closer to three. So, I'm pretty much wiped out and over-budget at this point. That's what happens when you don't have time to plan well, huh?
This is the first Christmas season that's actually stressing me out a little bit. It's not that I don't have holiday stress normally, but it's just that it's a different kind of stress. I'm usually rushing about making and creating and celebrating. But this year seems to have a lot more just chores and regular life stuffed into it. Maybe it's just that I don't have the white space my brain likes to have. I need that time to think and just "be." And I just don't have it right now. I'm hoping that, with shopping pretty much done already, we'll be able to settle into the business of meditating and family activity, baking and wrapping and singing in a more relaxed way - very soon.
We shall see.

DAILY BLISS: tabbouleh salad for lunch and clearance racks

Sunday, December 2, 2007


I could not be more proud of my mom and dad than I am right now. Because they're awesome. Mom called me up this afternoon to let me know their parade was coming by my neighborhood in a few minutes. My parents? In a parade? Oh, yes. Pardon the poor quality of the video. I had a little girl tugging and pulling and hiding from the noise, while still trying to wave. Oh, and also I was laughing and waving and yelling "Merry Christmas." Yep. My mom and dad ride in the annual Toys for Tots Motorcycle Parade. I'm sure that it has an official title, I just don't know what it is. You get to ride in the parade if you donate a toy.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

My Friend

Here we are at, say, 15:

And at 16. And yes, that's my husband that is standing next to Becky. I didn't want him at the time and tried to get her to take him. Didn't turn out quite how I'd planned.....but Dave! Lookin' good, man!

And just yesterday:

Love ya, Beck!

Guess What I Did Tonight!

And guess who went with me?

There are times in a girl's life when she just needs to do something wild with her girlfriend. This is one of those times. So, we didn't get smashed or anything, but we did have a nice dinner out, at which I enjoyed a gingerbread cookie martini - yum! We went to a little tattoo place and went for it and showed off our artwork to a couple of our brothers and went to the 24-hour Starbucks down the street for heart-to-heart chatting and even solidarity in silence.
Mom? Do you have any of those prom photos of us scanned in? It'd be nice to stick one up here and just see where Becky and I have been....
Anyway, here's a goofy shot in Starbucks:

And a close-up of my little ladybug, which looks awfully small next to hers, I guess, but a giant-sized ladybug would have been a little scary: