Tuesday, December 30, 2008

14


Today is my wedding anniversary. Fourteen years of wedded...well, anybody who's been married more than six months knows it's not all bliss.
But it's nice to have that perspective. The good times are better when you know you've survived some bad. The commitments become stronger when you realize that sometimes, that's all you have to hold you together.
This man is a wonderful, steady rock of a man. He's my calm and sanity (what of it I choose to take).
He had no idea what he was signing up for when he eagerly asked for my hand. I didn't either. I would probably have warned him if I'd known he was destined for a life of yarn and thread, mess and chaos.
For the most part, he's not sorry about it. That's the great mystery of the two of us. We are so vastly different, but we still work in our own way. We're a couple unlike most you'll meet, at least I've been told so. We make people laugh.

We are getting better and better at this.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Peace and Quiet

We are still wallowing in our peace and quiet around here. Pajamas and sleeping in and eating too much and such. It's all very nice. I had to go back to work today, but it wasn't so bad.
We got to visit my grandpa today. He is now off the respirator! He is speaking a little bit on his own and is responding. In fact, he seems a bit like his real self. It's really quite amazing - miraculous, even. The level at which he is communicating gives us hope that he will be his old self again. The nurses allowed Drew & Emma to come into the Surgical Intensive Care Unit, which doesn't usually happen. It was good for them to see him. It helps dispel some of their fears that stem from just not knowing about what's going on. It was also good for him to see them. His face brightened and he tried to show us how he could move his legs and arms. He waved at the kids and, when Emma was a little shy to shake his hand (lots of IVs are intimidating to a girl with such a big imagination), he took her hand and kissed it. We asked him if he'd like a Christmas song, and his eyes grew wide and he nodded. He tried to say "I'd like that very much!" So, we sang Away in a Manger, then had to leave so we didn't overstimulate him. It was more activity and more people in his room at once than I believe he's had yet.
When we got home tonight, we broke out the new Uno deck that we'd put in Andrew's stocking. Shockingly, this is one that hadn't yet been added to our gaming repertoire. We explained the rules and dove in to play. Emma was a little slower in grasping the concepts than Andrew, of course. She had to draw four cards because the player before her laid down one of those "+4" cards. She said things like, "I've got some really great cards!" and "Boo-ya!" as she picked them up.
She will never be a good poker player.

I am trying to use this bit of down time between the end of one year and the start of the next to sort a few things out. You know, I've said here and there for a year or more that we need to make some changes in our life as a family. Some things to help us deal with the day to day and live our lives instead of letting our lives happen to us.
Chris and I have made the extraordinarily difficult decision to put our beloved downtown cottage on the market. Honestly, this will not be easy for me. But we are a family of four and our kids are not getting smaller. We have less than 1200 square feet, one bathroom and no dishwasher. I love the character - the squeaks in the floors, the glass doorknobs, the window and door trim that I designed, the porch that I won an award for - but, I have a sneaking suspicion that I am sacrificing things that would be good for my children in order to hold on to my little house. Granted, it's more than my house. It's my home. I've never lived longer in one place. Seriously. And I've poured much of myself into this home. I've spent 15 years reading magazines about old houses and cottage style and have relished the chance to put some of my dreams and ideas into action here.
I have thought this over a lot. I think rash things like, "In other countries, 1200 square feet would hold an extended family of 20!" And then I remember that they don't have backpacks and euphoniums and two birds in cages of their own. I make crazy decisions like, "If I just throw away all my lotion-making stuff, my sewing stuff and my knitting stash, we might be able to fit!" And then I remember that I'd be even more miserable if I couldn't make stuff, and honestly, that wouldn't free up enough space for a slumber party. I think that maybe we should throw away all the kids' toys and buy them bicycles. We'll be that healthy, all-organic, downtown family that bikes to the lake every evening after their wholesome vegetarian supper. And then I remember that we are carnivores who like to watch TV after supper.
My kids don't have anywhere safe to ride bikes. The house isn't big enough for them to run and wrestle in. We can't host more than one kid for a sleepover, and that really pushes the limits of comfort. They have to be supervised outside because we back up to an alley that sometimes plays host to shady characters. There is a bar a block away. On Saturday nights, you can sit on my porch and listen to drunk people threaten and swear at each other. There isn't even anywhere to hang a basketball hoop.
I mean, it's not smack in the middle of urban America or anything , but it ain't the suburbs.
So, if we can sell for the price we need to get, we can purchase (for nearly the same mortgage) at least 1600 square feet, three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a garage on a nice, residential street. It won't be a historic district. It's likely to need a kitchen update and we will probably have to rip out some shag carpeting. But all in all, after tears and talks and prayers, we think it's time to put the health and happiness of our kids first. There will be time for a lovely bungalow when they've gone to college.
As I hinted above, there is no guarantee we will sell. This is something of a leap of faith. Something we've decided to leave in God's hands, I guess. We're finally willing to jump in, head in the direction we think is best for our kids, and see what happens.
So, if you know anybody that needs an adorable, well-loved, historic home with an award-winning front porch and heart pine floors, let me know. I hope it goes to someone who adores it as much as I.

DAILY BLISS: my grandpa - he's going to make it

Saturday, December 27, 2008

New Old Friends

Yesterday, we got together with some new old friends, Amy & Travis and their girls. There really isn't a classification for this relationship.
Travis and I have known each other for a long time. He's a little older than I am, but he always had a way of making me feel like I was brilliant and witty, skilled in Language Arts and on the piano. My 13-year-old confidence was really boosted by the way he and his friend Kevin treated me - like I was some kind of wunderkind. We knew each other through our teenaged years and his younger brother was one of my boys. I had three of them. Three boys that were my dearest friends throughout my growing-up years.
There aren't many people I have run across in life that really understand my sense of humor. I'm kind of a weird kid - I always was the weird kid. But Travis...he gets it. Maybe I learned some of it from him, now that I think about it.
When he met Amy, he was so obviously smitten. We could all see it. And we all were so happy - that kind of love couldn't have happened to a better guy. She and I met here and there - at wedding showers and those kinds of things. I always thought she was so beautiful.
Enter the blogosphere.
We've connected again, reading each others' blogs. There's history, so you can't really say that we're blog friends. But we really didn't know each other well before that. So, I guess I'd have to say we're new old friends.
They have a daughter about Emma's age and the two of them seem, from afar, to be such kindred spirits. They made the last-minute decision to head here to Florida for Christmas and we were so excited to meet up with them!
It was so unusual, sitting at a table, having easy conversation as old friends do, knowing that we'd never sat across the table and chatted before. We had lots of fun! Loads of laughs and great conversation. Oh - and the girls? Chloe and Emma? Fast friends.
See?




They have traded blog information and plan to keep up with each other too.
Here's a photo of all their beautiful girls and mine (Andrew' didn't really want to be in the picture):

Thanks for the fun, guys! Let's do it again soon, okay?

Christmas Day

I can't believe I neglected to mention in the previous post that, as we were leaving our Christmas Eve dinner, and precisely as my grandparents' pastor walked up the sidewalk at the restaurant (complete coincidence), we got word that Grandpa seemed to be responding to the medication and was waking up a bit. That they would be bringing in a respiratory therapist on Christmas Day and trying to remove his breathing tube.
Finally - some hope. Not much, mind you, as he was still unable to follow the "squeeze my hand" command, but some hope that he might pull through.

Christmas Eve blurred into Christmas Day since I didn't actually go to bed. I quickly wrapped my unfinished gifts and stuck them under the tree before Chris got out of bed, swearing a little along the way. I swear a lot more when I'm tired.
Family started arriving, bringing in gifts to be arranged under the tree, all clad in their Christmas pajamas. That's part of the fun. We all are wearing our Christmas jammies, except for a few of us who are too manly to do that. We started brewing the coffee (Barnie's Santa's White Christmas, of course) and put the cinnamon rolls in the oven. We woke up the kids, who walked out (as they do every year) to a room full of loved ones, presents, Christmas music and candles - white candles.
Andrew untied the bow around the scroll I'd made and read from it the Christmas story from Luke chapter 2. Then the joy began in earnest.
Presents and laughter, good food and coffee, love and even a little magic. Bolstering news about Grandpa, too. All of that added up to one of the nicest Christmas mornings I can remember, since the year my parents got us all sleds for Christmas (we lived up north when I was a kid - sleds don't do much here in Florida).
I was so tired and so busy keeping track of what gifts came from which people that I couldn't be bothered to mess with apertures and shutter speeds and white balance to take good photos. In fact, I hardly took any photos at all. But here's one:

Blurry and yellow though it may be, you can still see the kids' surprised faces as they opened a new Wii. That was definitely an exciting moment!

Once everyone made their way back to their own houses, I crashed. I napped the whole afternoon away. We had our traditional Mexican food feast for supper at my mom's house (I know that seems weird, but it sure tastes great after eating coffee cake and cinnamon rolls all day) and came home overly-full and happy. And sleepy.

We are spending these weekend days decadently - in our pajamas, eating Christmas cookies and drinking coffee all day long. The kids are playing more video games than they are likely to be allowed ever again and we may even get to see Grandpa today or tomorrow. He is awake, is in lots of pain, and is trying to communicate a bit. This is nothing short of miraculous! He recognized Grandma yesterday. My mom asked him, if he recognized her, to squeeze her hand. And he did! He squeezed her hand to request a blanket pulled up over his shoulders and to request a little TV. The fear over the last couple of days had shifted from whether or not he'd live to what state he would exist in. He was not comatose, did not have sign of stroke, but was not really responsive either. Vegetative is nearly the right word to describe it. And honestly, that would have been almost as awful as losing him.
As of yesterday, for the first time in a week, there is reason to hope he will be with us again. Maybe not fully as he was, but with us and part of the goings-on, just as he loves to be.
As my brother Jon loves to say, in his funny way, "It's a Christmas Miracle!"

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve dawned and found me over-tired, nervous about finishing my gifts and horribly concerned for my grandpa.
What's a girl to do when she needs a little Christmas cheer? A little public apron-wearing will usually do the trick.
My friend Becky and her family have lots of orange trees. Their oranges are particularly sweet this year. She brought me a bucket of them and those oranges gave me the wild idea to make fresh-squeezed orange juice for Christmas breakfast. So, I donned my cheery cherry apron - it's red and green, so it's perfectly Christmasy - and Chris and I took the kids out to the orange grove.

Aside from stepping in a few ant piles, it was entirely delightful to be outside on that beautiful day, gathering warm globes of sunshine-in-a-peel into my apron.

We had a few errands still to run. You know those last-minute things? We forgot white candles for our Advent wreath, batteries for my camera and white chocolate for the peppermint bark. But I was running out of knitting time. So I knitted in the car on those blasted legwarmers, holding a couple of oranges (not the juice ones) that were destined to be an afternoon snack, a couple of Lakeland Limes (I can't find a decent link to show you what these are - but they're real, I promise. They look like tangerines, but are nice and sour) and my knitting.

I tried to take a few pictures of us in Publix, just to prove that I was wearing the apron out and about. My husband had a hard time understanding why we were doing this, but my kids just rolled their eyes, knowing that it was for the blog.

Once we were home and the oranges were washed, the juicing began. We used an antique juicer that my mom had at her house. I know we have an electric one somewhere, but this was entirely fun and very beautiful to use.


The juice was so tasty that it was tough to save it for Christmas morning. Really tough.

My knitting deadline was looming over my head, though, and I had only finished the slippers for Emma. I still had two-thirds of a legwarmer to go and a hat for my hubby. I had maybe done an inch or so of the hat. Hardly a start. I had thought I'd work on it a few rows at a time, sitting at my desk at work. But work had been too busy. I thought I'd work on it between batches of cookies on Christmas Eve. But Chris had been so attentive and so present in the house that I hadn't been able to even sneak one row.
Desperation brought me to this point: I faked a bath. Really.
I told him I needed a nap in the bathtub (sometimes I do this) and to wake me up in 30 minutes by knocking on the door. I snuck the ball of black wool and silk and my set of size 6 double-pointed needles into the bathroom. I ran the water. I actually sat in the bath with the ball of yarn on the floor, hands hung over the edge of the tub, knitting three and purling two, knitting three and purling two, row after row for 30 minutes. Until the knock came and I hid it in the shirt I had been wearing and snuck the hat back into the bottom of my knitting bag.
It was that bad, people.
Why had I bought sport weight yarn for this? If I had only gone with something worsted! This daggum hat was taking forever! It seemed like, no matter how many rows I knitted, it was still only two inches long!
But Christmas Eve church service was just an hour away and I had two children to dress and press and myself to fix and preen. Chris would have to take care of himself.
And we made it. We were more on time than ever for the Christmas Eve service at the Lutheran Church. Why there? It's where my family gathers. My uncle used to be the pastor there and my mom's extended family all attend there. It makes my grandparents so happy to have everyone in the same building to worship on Christmas Eve. This year especially.
But it's beautiful.
If you have never been part of a Christmas Eve candlelight service, I highly recommend it. Carols are sung and a message reminds you of what really happened - why we celebrate Christmas, even if it didn't happen in December. Even if trees came from pagan traditions. In spite of Rudolph and the way we confuse Santa and Jesus.
There was a procession of Joseph and Mary and the baby Jesus, and to my surprise, they were represented by Nick and Candace and their precious new girl Natalie. (Candace? I took some pictures. Send me your email, will ya? I won't post them here, since I didn't ask.)
And the lights go out, and the candles are lit, passing the light from the Christ candle in the Advent wreath to the candles of the ushers, who carry it from aisle to aisle. And the light is passed down the aisles from person to person. And before you know it, we are singing Silent Night, in four-part harmony, by candlelight. I wanted to take pictures for you. But some things are too sacred. Some things should be experienced. I cried. I always do. But this year, all of the past week just welled up into my eyes and I couldn't stop it.
We filed out of the sanctuary and went on to practice another tradition. We go out for a very nice dinner on Christmas Eve, all dressed up from church. Usually, it's just Chris and me and the kids with my parents. But this year, Grandma joined us and my brother Jon and his wife Sarah. It was such a nice pause. No knitting in my lap (both recipients of the unfinished gifts were at the table) and no cookies in the oven. Just my family and a tasty dinner.
We headed home to get the kids into bed. Chris started putting the presents under the tree and I set the table for Christmas breakfast. I wanted to work on his hat, but he was awake. I wanted to work on the legwarmers, but I needed to switch to the needles that I was using for Chris' hat. So I just waited. I watched the candles in our Advent wreath burn down, as the season of waiting drew to a close.

Tomorrow, they'd be replaced with white candles, in honor of the Pure, Spotless Lamb that was born for us. I realized that the season had passed too quickly. That my nose had been in my projects and my head had just been getting us from one place to the next with the right equipment in tow. That my heart had just been suspended, waiting for its moment to reflect on the season and its turn to find the magic of the season. Sure, there had been moments of magic. But still...I don't know. It was an odd one, this Christmas season. Not like the others.
Finally, around two o'clock, Santa went to bed.

I told him I'd be joining him soon. I just needed to finish that legwarmer.
I really just needed to finish his hat so I could get the legwarmers onto the right needles and wrap them up.
I was sure that they would be the only unfinished gift under the tree.
Boy, was I wrong.
I never did make it to bed on Christmas Eve, and I never did finish that hat. Chris would be waking up at six, I knew that much. And I hurried and hurried. I was so close. At five minutes till six, I was heading into the decreases at the top of the hat - the shaping that makes the top part round. That means I only had about fifteen rows to go, each of them consisting of progressively less and less stitches. I figured I could sneak into the bathroom and tell him I was washing my face, finish it up and still have it under the tree. Forget about the legwarmer. "I'll just wrap the one I already finished," I thought recklessly.
And then I dropped a stitch.
I dropped a stitch that unraveled about three rows back.
And there was no recovering from that.

For the first time ever, I didn't finish in time for Christmas. I know there's a personal lesson in there. You can read between the lines. I sure have. It will be different next year - maybe.

Christmas, Continued...

Monday and Tuesday before Christmas are kind of a blur. I jumped every time my phone rang. The news was never good and only sometimes worse than the last report. Overall, there had been no change in Grandpa's condition.
As I said, I had decided to forgo sleep in order to finish the Christmas gifts I was making. I had made a last-minute change from a purse I was knitting that just wasn't working out to a pair of legwarmers. Legwarmers are very long - lots of stitches. I'm not sure what I was thinking there, other than I know the recipient likes legwarmers. I stayed up into the wee hours of each morning, knitting by the light of the Christmas tree.
I had expected to do this some. I had expected that the Christmas glow would be peaceful and I would enjoy my time. But my exhaustion got in the way and I spent those hours entirely tense and hurried, never once peeking up at the tree.
At some time on Tuesday, a doctor told us he was going to try a new medication that may wake up Grandpa. He wasn't showing signs of a stroke, but he was also not responding to commands. He seemed to be in pain, which was a good thing, but was locked away inside his body.
We suspected the doctor was just buying time until Christmas was over. Then he would give us the bad news.
I got my shopping list from Chris. He does that to me every year. I spend three months asking him what he'd like for Christmas, getting only, "I haven't really thought about it" in response. This is a man with no real hobbies and no obvious collections. He's tough to shop for. Everybody knows it.
So, two days or so before Christmas, he'll hand me a fist full of cash (don't get excited - it's usually about $40) and a short list and send me out into the last-minute Christmas-shopping fray.

Not that I resent him for it.

I wrapped up my shopping and knitted some more.

Tuesday night was baking night. I look forward to this every year.
The girls all gather at my mom's house for a crazy evening of baking and merry-making, made-up-song singing and apron-wearing.

This year, we decided to streamline the process a little bit and everybody just brought one cookie recipe to mom's house, deciding to bake anything else they wanted at home. This worked out really nicely, reduced the pressure to be there or leave at a certain time, and made for a really pleasant evening.


I made the congo squares, my daddy's favorite, using his mom's recipe. They have also become my husband's favorite, so that's a good thing. They're like a fat chocolate chip bar cookie with walnuts.
Mindy made the peanut blossom cookies from the classic Hershey's cookbook. They're her hubby's favorites. The job of unwrapping all those kisses usually goes to the youngest hands in the room.

Yum!

And that's not even all of the cookies. My goodness!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Getting the Story Started

I seriously need to dump the last week or so out of my head. And every time I think about where to start, I get overwhelmed and just think about something else instead. This has been a week of deep joys and excitement, coupled with sadness and worry. I think I'll just start with December 19th and move on from there. On the 19th, we found out that my grandfather was going to need not just a pacemaker, but a bypass as well. We found this out in the late afternoon, as I was readying my kids for an evening at my parents' house and myself for my office Christmas party. Things went haywire from there. By the end of the evening, we were told that Grandpa would be in surgery in the early morning, next day instead of waiting until Monday. Saturday brought a day of waiting by the phone, frantic crafting (in a ridiculous attempt to finish all the handmade gifts on my list) and preparations for Andrew's recital. His surgery was more intense than we had anticipated, as I posted before, and by the time we got to the recital, we were nearly late and emotions were raw. My mom and dad managed to come and we all tried desperately to maintain a sense of normalcy.

Andrew, ever the confident performer, was quite brilliant. He even went on stage for an extra song (that he had not practiced) when asked to do so. I sat in that church, watching kids of all abilities and ages participate in the joy of music and I cried. Publicly, shamefully cried. "This is what it's all about, " I thought. Maybe earlier in the day I had been wondering why we were so busy, why our children were so involved in extra-curriculars (even though, by comparison, they are not), why I couldn't seem to do all the things we were supposed to be doing. But now, this moment was all that mattered and it was nice. Here's Andrew's euphonium solo:
video
I tried unsuccessfully to upload video of his guitar solo. No luck. I'll try again tomorrow.

Sunday morning, we were trying to ready the house for church. During Advent, we split the teachings up - each family volunteers for one of the four Sundays. We also rotate the responsibility for bringing breakfast among the families in our church. We share a meal every time we're together. It works nicely. Anyway, not only was it our week to have the message, it was also our week to make breakfast, and, y'know, I just wasn't feeling it. And my mom called to tell us that we may want to get to the hospital as soon as possible to see Grandpa. That things weren't looking so good. So my amazing friends all divvied up the kid-sitting to buy us the morning, we shortened our church service, and we headed to the hospital along with Joe and Mindy (my brother and sister-in-law). It was pretty scary to see Grandpa as he was - swollen and unable to move or really recognize that we were there. He's in surgical intensive care, so we could only to in two at a time and greet him, then we had to leave. He did really try to say something to Chris, but we had to leave so he would stop struggling to communicate. We had lunch with Grandma at the hospital and returned home. By the end of the day, he was unresponsive and we were no longer sure he'd pull through. His kidneys were failing and he was being kept alive with machines. But he made it through that night. All the reports on Monday remained unchanged. Some doctors gave us reason to hope, and others told us to prepare for the worst.

It was hard to go to work on Monday. It was hard to pretend that life-as-usual was continuing. It was really hard to face down my Christmas to-do list with the limited emotional resources I had left. But I still had a pair of slippers, a hat and a legwarmer-and-a-half to knit. So I made the silly decision to stop sleeping.

(I'll pick the story back up tomorrow. This is getting long and I need to find some stretchy pants...but there is some relatively good news on the Grandpa front.)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Wishes

Once tomorrow has passed, I will extricate these days from my head and put them here.
Until then...

May your days be merry, your sorrows be small.
May the ones you love be near you;
That's the happiest Christmas of all.

(Michael W. Smith - The Happiest Christmas)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

No Change

If I had time today, I'd catch you up on Andrew's recital and a few of our traditions that we've been carrying on. But I don't. This is the trouble with working for a church at Christmas - the closer you get to Christmas, the busier things get!
We are still waiting on Grandpa. There has been little to no change in his condition. He is not very responsive, even after being taken off the sedatives he was on. But...he is still alive. Which says a lot, considering all he's been through this week. Reports are mixed. One doctor gives hope, another nurse has none. So, we just wait and carry on with Christmas, which is likely what he'd want us to do.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Quick Update

My grandpa's surgery yesterday was much more intense than they'd expected it to be. He needed a quadruple bypass and a valve replacement. He had a rough night and is not doing well now. My mom's post is a little more in-depth.
So I find that we are in a very awkward state. We've visited him at the hospital, but really can't stay there. The excitement is too much for him. And we are left with nothing to do but wait. Going about the business of Christmas feels wrong. But sitting around is worse.
Pray for his peace and comfort with me, won't you?

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Still Going....

Okay. Where were we?
Emma's Christmas performance was Wednesday. She is the one that it would seem, on the surface, is a stage hog. A ham. A natural performer. But she really isn't. She's great in living rooms, but stages make her nervous.
There was lots of excitement, though, mixed in with the nerves. She dressed in her lovely Christmas dress and we blew her hair dry and I let her wear a little mascara and some lip gloss. And she got up on the stage, sang her heart out, and sort of hid a little bit behind the girl in front of her. It was nearly impossible to catch a photo of her on the stage.

When it was done, she was so relieved and happy. We went out for hot chocolate and a cookie with everyone who came and got to bed very late.

Thursday was the Christmas party for her class. She is still going to a private school and the party was hosted by one of the moms at their (very nice, very big) house. I would like to state that I think it was a little excessive. They hired a Santa Claus, who was in the front yard waving as the school bus pulled up.

That's all. I don't really feel like complaining right now.
Excessive or not, the kids had a great time and decorated cookies



and played Reindeer Games.


Emma and I were very busy making some things out of beeswax and honey. She grabbed the camera and wanted to take pictures of the ingredients. Before I even knew what was happening, she had stacked the beeswax cubes up and was framing her shot. She decided something was missing and grabbed the jar of honey too.

That's my girl.

My grandpa is back in the hospital. They've been running more tests and took him in just this morning for a triple by-pass. At 85, that's kind of a dicey call, but there really isn't a choice. We had quite a time last night trying to balance that news with all the plans and commitments we had, considering it is the last Friday before Christmas, and I find myself today rather exhausted. I'm not angry, not depressed, not...you know...all those things that people complain about when Christmas time and Life Drama intersect. But I'm just tired. My mom is tired. My kids are a little worried about their Gpa and I am too.
But the parade marches on. We have Andrew's recital tonight with the music studio where he takes lessons, and then we're done with outside obligations. Then, we will tuck in and bake cookies and wrap all the crazy presents. We will run to Walgreen's at 11:30 because we realized we forgot batteries. We will sit down in our full, warm, candle-lit house and soak in the peace of traditions and love and quietly celebrate the birth of Emmanuel, God With Us. Because He is.

DAILY BLISS: an impromptu hula dance in my living room with Becky, her daughter, my daughter and me - a little ridiculous, but it was really fun

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Bursting

Last night, my son made me so proud. So, so very proud.

He performed in his first-ever band concert.
Here's a little euphonium duet:

I have been on this very stage many times myself. Music was such an important part of my identity growing up. It gave me connection to a good group of kids, many of whom I'm still close to. So, I'm thrilled for Andrew to start this journey of connecting to life-long friends and of exploring the arts. For him to take his first musical steps in the same place I took mine makes it even sweeter.

Drew is such an amazing guy. He's so confident and willing to try new things. I keep expecting that he will be like me - inhibited and filled with performance anxiety. Ugh. I get all jiggly just thinking about getting up on a stage. I always have and I suppose that won't change. But my boy strode up with confidence and played boldly. And I nearly burst with pride.

Want to see something else really cool? A happy little reunion:

These are two of Andrew's teachers, pictured with my brothers and me. A few of you guys already know who they are. Kevin & Shirley were my youth pastors and, frankly, the only people my brothers would honor with the title of "pastor" for many years. Shirley, I'm very sorry to say, had each of my brothers in her classroom at some point. I know I would have made up for that terrible twist of fate had I been in her class, but alas, it was not meant to be. Their son was one of my dearest friends. We even went to prom together!
It goes without saying, then, that placing my baby is in their hands has made the transition to public school - and, heck, middle school - so much easier for this overprotective mommy.

This is "that week" for us. You know the one? The week in December when everything is scheduled all at once? Emma has a performance tonight and Drew has another on Saturday. In between those events, we have all the usual thisses and thats, and a Christmas party thrown in on top of it all. I promise to shamelessly parade photos of my brilliant offspring across this page. When I have time.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Christmas Crazy

There is a special kind of crazy that I go every year, 'round about this time. I like to call it Christmas Crazy.
It's wholly self-induced, I'll admit. I get insane ideas like hand-making all Christmas presents and making sugared pecans as a gift for all my children's teachers. When I start counting teachers, I realize that there are also teachers that are in charge of the clubs they're in and a ballet teacher and music teachers and oh-so-many more adults that pour themselves into my children. That's a lot of pecans.
I look at my wrapping paper and decide there is no way I'll ever find satisfactory gift tags and I have to design some myself. Then the search begins for just-the-right Old-English-style fonts and frames. And I have to figure out how to make it print in just the right spot on both sides of the page...you know, so the front is for decorating and the back says "To:" and "From:" and all that.
And if I decide to make some lotion and soap (ha - "if!") I remember that I always wanted to try some with honey and beeswax from my neighbor's bees. Then I can't let go of the idea. But the labels I already have for lotion don't go with bees. And I start looking for royalty-free clip art and none of it works just right, so I pull out some sharpies and Emma's watercolors and illustrate my own bees and honey.

See what I mean?

I think this special kind of crazy deserves more research.
It needs medication with embarrassing commercials that you don't want to see while your children are in the room.
I could probably star in the commercials.

I can see it now -
The commercial opens innocuously, a mother and daughter shopping downtown and walking into the fresh foods market in search of lunch. Strains of Nat King Cole's "The Christmas Song" are wafting through the produce section. The mother looks a little frazzled (except for her hair, which was just cut and looks fabulous). There are dark circles under her glazed and glassy eyes and she stumbles a little bit, bumping into the apple bin. But she is still smiling a slightly crooked grin. Every few seconds she sort of giggles a bit. They are wearing holiday-inspired clothing and are chatting and looking like they're enjoying a girl's day out.

The voice-over says, "Holiday cheer is an important part of family life. But if your impulses to celebrate tend to interrupt your ability to function normally..."

(cut to scene of husband and son, toting brooms and cleaning buckets, buried in a mountain of crumpled papers, paintbrushes, glue and glitter)

"talk to your doctor soon about (insert name of new and experimental drug). You don't want to spend another holiday season like this:"

(Cut to scene of mother and daughter standing in the check-out at the market, salads in hand. The mother has a horrified look on her face, having just realized she had inadvertently belted out, "And so I'm offering in this simple phra-a-a-se, to kids from one to ninety-two," with her distinct and out-of-practice formal vibrato, and the cashier was staring at her).

Not that anything like that has happened lately.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Friday is the new Monday

Even though I don't get my Mondays off to make stuff anymore, I have Fridays through the rest of this month. And the most recent Fridays have been too full of other stuff to leave room for making anything. So, today was all for me - all for making stuff and checking it off my list. I'm super-tired, but it feels really good anyway.
Here's a peek at what I've been up to:
An R2D2 beanie for Andrew, modeled by the lovely Emma (who was very excited to be in on the Christmas secret), showing her best robot moves:


I'm a little disappointed in the lack of contrast between the gray and blue, but it is a little better-looking in person than it is in these photos. I was in a hurry and didn't really want to search out just the right skein of two-dollar yarn.

Here's a book strap for Emma, there's a better picture of the whole idea here, where I got the pattern. I had a little trouble with the buttonholes, which I've never done before. My automatic buttonhole foot worked fine the first time, but I had...um...technical difficulties after that and had to learn how to do it with just a zigzag stitch. They're not really pretty, but they work.

It's got a cute little pocket for pencils, too.

And here's the scarf I've been working on for my mother-in-law:


I made the same one for Sarah last year (in a different color) and I loved the finished product so much, I made it again. Emma helped me block it the other night. She was so cute working with the pins.

And now, I think I'll crash.

DAILY BLISS: lunch with the hubby

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Fun

I should post. It should be something deep and meaningful.
We are celebrating Advent, as is our tradition, and it is beautiful and peaceful.
I am making lots of presents. I'm a little behind, but they're all turning out nicely. There are deep and meaningful thoughts going on in my head, but I just haven't had the right moments to fully capture them.
Things are busy, you see, and we are about to hit (next week) the week of Christmas Crazy that leaves you bleary-eyed and messy-haired and wondering what happened.
Oh wait. I'm in big trouble there.
I caught sight of myself in the mirror yesterday and I was looking a lot like that already. I had pieces of hair sticking up everywhere around my glasses, which were perched slightly askew on top of my head. I had circles under my eyes (late-night knitting, people) and streaks of mascara prancing across my temples (presumably a sleepy eye-swipe, but who knows?).
And guess what?
So far, I'm fine. When I look like that, messy and wild, I know I've been having fun. I have so many Christmas secrets in my head that it may burst open. But that would probably be nice, too. Knitted gifts, scented handmade soaps, Christmas cookies and filled-up stockings would probably come flying out and fill the room. And then my to-do list would be finished. Hmmm. Must look into the consequences of allowing my head to burst open....
Sure, I'm a little frustrated because I won't have time to make these beautiful Christmas package sashes that Amy Butler designed, and I'll probably have to just use plastic bows. Oh well. I'm a lot less frustrated about it than I was last year. That's progress, right? I probably won't have time to make hand-stamped, glittered gift tags either. Crap. Those are lots of fun.
But you know what? I'm having more fun than a person should be allowed to have anyway. I should be satisfied with all this fun, so I'm working on it. I'm working on letting go of my quest for more and more fun to cram into my life.
Because, really. I'm pretty sure this is all the fun I can handle.
There's absolutely no telling what I'd look like if I added any more.

DAILY BLISS: A really rainy day

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Christmas Mushroom

My hair guy and his wife are having their first baby soon and I wanted to make a little somethin' for the little guy. I came across this pattern for a toadstool-shaped rattle and I absolutely fell in love. Actually, I came across the pattern first and started trying to think of someone who might want one. I'm not as thoughtful of others as I'd like it to sound. Whatever.
But isn't it cute?

The pattern is free, from the Purl Bee, if you're interested. I love the little spots on the cap. Just to give you an idea of how wonderfully chunky it is, here it is in my hand:

Ugh. Please ignore my horrendous fingernails. Maybe I need to get a manicure person too. But that would be just more presents to make. I can't commit to that.

We enjoyed one of my favorite Christmas season traditions last night - the annual White Christmas viewing with my brother and his lurvely wife Mindy. They were kind enough to stop at Starbucks and pick up hot chocolate for everyone. We provided the sofa and the candy canes. And Mindy and I sang our annual duet - "Sisters." Well, we also sang pretty much all of the other songs in the movie too. But we're considering working up the dance number for next year's viewing.
Andrew laughed and laughed at Danny Kaye's mugging and Emma stared dreamily at the dresses. The husbands bore with us heroically. And for just a few minutes, we were all still and quiet and in one place. It was so nice. I do adore that Bing Crosby. I have lots of his records (yep - actual vinyl ones).

DAILY BLISS: My mom's childhood ornaments (Shiny Brites, of course) in an apothecary jar. I must get around to taking a picture....I love to just stare at them.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Mouse King

Alright. I'm sitting at my desk at work, absolutely overwhelmed by the emails that are sitting in my box from the weekend. Too many little tasks - none of them difficult, but too many to finish in the hours I have. This is supposed to be my part-time job.
So what am I doing? Powering through my to-do list?
No.
No, I'm going to show you some pictures of Andrew as the Mouse King on his school's Nutcracker-themed float.
He's in the tech club and they all helped to build the float. The guys that helped build it also had the opportunity to be on it. And my son volunteers for everything fun and extra that he hears about.
Also, he was very relieved not to be the Nutcracker Prince. He didn't want to have to stand next to a girl on the float.
Of course, he didn't mind being next to his sister long enough to "stab" her. She obliged with a dramatic death scene.



And that's about it for post-able photos. Chris and I are in that stage of parenting where we have to tag team on everything because our kids are going in different directions at the same time. I made the call to send him to the parade (actually, he was supposed to walk next to the float to supervise, but somehow he missed that memo) while I took Emma to ballet. I entrusted my camera to him.
I should have given him some lessons first.
So, I missed the parade and I don't have a ton of pictures to show for it. No video either. He wasn't sure how to do that with my camera.
And yeah, I did cry a little bit when I got home and found out about all of that.
But this is the Christmas season and mommies really don't have time for tears. We have to keep driving to practices and knitting presents and making merry.
Maybe I should get back to work. Or maybe I'll knit instead. My boss isn't here today...

DAILY BLISS: I splurged on some Yankee Candles - they're just the best and my house smells like Christmas now

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Dash Away, Dash Away, Dash Away All

Hello, Blog. I'm in a hurry, but I wanted you to know that I'm alive. I mean, I know it hasn't been that long since I posted, but it sorta feels like it. We've had a lot drama since.
None of it too bad...the house across the street had a fire. That was dramatic, but nobody was hurt.
Andrew was in the Christmas parade. More on that when I have time to check out the photos.
You, know. Just life stuff.
I'm knitting a scarf that is taking so much longer than I'd anticipated. That's going to set me back a bit. And all I can do while I'm knitting furiously (needles all a-smoking) is think of all the other projects that are yet undone. I have start-itis. So many things that I can't wait to start and little desire to finish any of them. That bodes poorly for Christmas crafting, I tell ya.

Anyway, we'll catch up soon.

DAILY BLISS: shopping for Christmas pajamas

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Blackout Night: Christmas Style

So, we left on the tree lights. Big deal. I don't see why we should waste an entire evening with a lovely Christmas tree in the dark. Who made up these completely arbitrary rules about Blackout Night anyway?
Oh?
It was me?
Well, then. I'll try to stop feeling guilty.
We ordered pizza for supper (not that I can eat it - I had a salad) and walked to pick it up. It's either incredibly fortuitous or a really horrible thing to have a pizza joint within three blocks of your house. I will not decide which one. I'm afraid of the consequences.
We turned out all the lights and cuddled up by the tree, eating our pizza (and salad) quietly. Or maybe not so quietly. Upon reflection, I must admit that my children have been pretty wound up. Maybe it's all the holiday excitement. But still, we were in the same room, focused on each other, everyone talking at the same time about the day that they'd had. And it was great.
We played several rounds of Alphabet Rummy with these scrumptious cards:

I think you can get them at Target too, but the link is to a cute online store. They're intended for younger kids, but I'm so smitten with the illustrations - there are tiny little fairies and bugs peeking out from all sorts of places. So, we used them anyway, even though we don't have younger kids anymore. Sigh. Somebody'd better get around to making me a niece or a nephew soon (one that lives close by I mean. No offense Daniel & Melanie, but couldn't you guys move a little closer?).
Anyway, once we had put the kids in their rooms for quiet time, we found out that Rudolph was going to be on TV, so we let them come back out with their pillows and we laid around and watched TV. On Blackout Night. Whatever.
But it's Rudolph, right? We left the house lights off anyway....
And I spent the next hour singing along with Burl Ives and seaming up this cute little Christmas gift for somebody small on my Christmas list. I didn't have a small person with me today to model it, so I used a balloon.

And oh, this yarn. Oh, I loved it. It's Knitpicks Imagination yarn, for those of you who care. I have never been one to use those multi-colored, self-striping yarns yet. Mostly because I'm not a sock knitter. Yet.
Isn't it gorgeous, though?

I hope I can show you more finished gifties by the end of this week. There won't be too many more that don't have to be secrets, though....
But I'm having fun in Christmas Gifty Land, making and making and making.

DAILY BLISS: unexpected coffee and soy eggnog

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Rubies

I am just now getting around to eating a little supper. You know, it's not been a bad day, just a busy one. And what's for dinner tonight? A pomegranate.
As I gingerly plucked the tiny little jewels from the fruit, I contemplated that commonly used metaphor. They really do look like jewels - little rubies, in fact. Transparent and richly colored. And I was hungry, so I picked one up before I'd finished and crunched it between my teeth. And suddenly, inexplicably, remembered that there used to be a cartoon on Sesame Street that involved crunching rubies between some teeth.
And do you know how big of a dork I am? I had to look it up right away. And sure enough, it's the Alligator King.
Don't remember? Here:

Weird.
I have to admit, the thought of eating rubies used to make me a little nauseous every time I saw that particular short when I was a kid. I hope I don't subconsciously associate that with pomegranates from now on....

Monday, December 1, 2008

Trimming

Yesterday, we put up our tree. I'm not sure it's done yet, but we got the biggest part of it done before we had to return to real life today. Oh, real life, why must you butt in on all my fun?
I've always been the one who wanted a pretty tree - a fussy, matchy-matchy tree. But it never really works that way, and I've outgrown it by now. I look at all of the pretty color schemes in magazines. I love the blue and white trees and those modern trees with teal and brown. But, you know, once I catch sight of something glittery and red and green, my heart melts and I'm a goner. So my tree is traditional. And I like it. All four of us pick a new ornament every year, so we do have a quite a few oddball ornaments too.
Like my husband's snowboarding polar bear. Oy.

As the years have gone by and my children have grown older, they have been able to participate more and more in the tree trimming. In the excitement, they get a little jumpy and antsy and it's all I can do to keep up with handing them precious glass orbs to put on the tree.

I don't really get to decorate it any more at all. I have been relegated to this task:

I guess I'm, er-hmm, the hooker.
Sorry. I know that was in bad taste.

And, even though the kids tend to concentrate all the ornaments in the middle range of the tree, I don't have to worry at all about it being pretty and balanced. I don't worry because, well, my husband takes care of it. There are good reasons that he is an inventory analyst. He is very particular about certain things. While the kids are wildly flinging ornaments, he spends his time spreading them out and making sure that there are no two of the same color are next to each other. Oh, and he makes sure that most of the odd ones are in the back.


I usually put ribbons around it like a garland, but I'm thinking I won't do that this year. It takes forever and I'm trying to un-fuss our holiday a little. But I'm not sure...maybe I want a beaded garland or something. Just to shake things up a little, you know? But even as it is, I think I love it. I think it's Christmas now.


Lovely.


DAILY BLISS: a sweet little hat I'm knitting and loving - absolutely soft yarn in fun colors