Monday, December 31, 2007

A long reflective Meme

End Of the Year Meme

1. What did you do in 2007 that you’d never done before?

  • Ran? Walked? Crawled? Participated in a 5k. It was not fun. I am wondering if I can get myself back in shape enough to repeat this torturous event this year.
  • I started a blog.
  • I sang a duet with my daughter. This was something on my list of "things I want to do before I die." Who knew I would accomplish it when she was ten.
2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

Every year my New Years resolutions are almost identical. I will carve out time every day to spend in Bible Study and prayer, and I will get this booty back in shape. The fact that I make the same resolutions every year should be a good indicator of my previous lack of success.

This year I am keeping my New Years Resolution simple. Try to stop leaving the house looking like I rolled out of bed. Stop using the excuse of having four children and being overweight as a reason to stop caring what I look like. Wear a little makeup. Try to avoid pants with elastic waists in public.

Stacy and Clinton would be proud.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

This is a question that is going to get me in trouble. I am in my early thirties. People I know are giving birth left and right. If I start listing them, I'll leave someone out. But no one I am closely related to.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

No. Not close to me. Besides my cat.

5. What countries did you visit?

Really? Not, "Where did you travel?" but "What countries did you visit?" Is there really a large segment of the population that visits new countries each year? I visited New York for my cousin's wedding and South Carolina for a family trip.

6. What would you like to have in 2008 that you lacked in 2007?

A waist.

And money. This has been a hard year for us financially. I am sick of pinching pennies and worrying about bills. I know, without a doubt, that God is trying to teach us - me in particular - through this process. I just wish I would hurry up and learn the lessons already so we can all move on.

I would also like to have a a beautifully decorated (not by me) self-cleaning home and a personal chef. I found those things lacking in 2007

7. What dates from 2007 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

Allie and I singing at the wedding. Putting my cat to sleep. Clara finally starting to walk.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

I home schooled my fourteen year old son through second semester of his ninth grade year. This was an all out war that included taking Geometry with him. I did okay with Geometry this time around. I also managed not to throw myself, or him, in front of a bus during this process. I found this to be a very big achievement.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Not learning how to adjust my lifestyle to a smaller income, and being happy in the process. Looks like God's going to give me another chance to perfect this though.

Also, not being gentler and kinder to my husband and children.

10. What was the best thing you bought?

As much as I have tried to find something more meaningful, I think it was our television. Our old one went kaput and The Man upgraded us to something wide screen and Hi-Def. I was uncomfortable with spending the money and I haven't really noticed a big difference, but The Man just loves it. He's like a kid about it, six months later still commenting almost daily about how much he loves it. Simply for how happy it makes him, it makes me happy too.

11. Whose behavior merited celebration?

Ben's progress in eating has been cause for much celebration in this house. Yesterday he ate one green bean and a couple kernels of corn. We clapped and cheered like he scored a home run.

12. Whose behavior made you appalled and disgusted?

Sometimes my own. Also, The construction company who over a year ago tore down a couple acres of trees down the street from my home, to make some kind of shopping center, but still to this day have not made a shopping center. Instead have just left this big ugly scar of scalped red earth where trees used to be.

13. What song will always remind you of 2007?

This song because Brandon and and his friends would all listen to it on their IPods on the bus everyday and come home singing it. Also, Til there was You because it's what Allie and I sang at the wedding. I will never hear that song again without remembering that experience.

14. What do you wish you’d done more of?

More Praying. Exercising. Outings with my kids. Keeping in better touch with my friends.

15. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Questioning. Worrying. Yelling. Eating. Maybe blogging.

16. Did you fall in love in 2007

Sort-of. With my nieces.

17. What was your favorite TV program?

Heroes. The first season.

18. What was the best book you read?

My Antonia by Willa Cather & The Road by Cormac McCarthy

19. What one thing would have made your year measurably more satisfying?

NOT gaining 20+ pounds. Shallow, but true.

20. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2007

Frumpy Housewife. See my New Years Resolution.

21. What kept you sane?

My husband. And my friends. And this blog. And my husband. Especially him.

22. Who did you miss?

Some of my friends that I have done such a poor job at keeping up with. And strangely my cat.

23. Who was the best new person you met?

I honestly can't remember a brand new person I met this year who made a big impression on me. But I have gotten to know some people, especially in my Sunday School Class, that have really inspired me in a positive way.

24. Tell us a valuable lesson you learned in 2007

That while this frazzled hectic time of motherhood is difficult, I will someday look back at it with wistful longing, and I should stop and try to find the joy in the moments before they are gone. And that God is big enough and small enough to handle my questions and doubts and help me find my way through them.

25. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

I am weary of the answers
More theory and cliché
They raise the letter of the law like a banner
'Til you're small and far away

All the questions in my head
Are from my heart instead

Be real to me now
That's all I'm asking
Be real to me now

I saw this Meme and decided it was a good way to reflect back on the year. I won't tag anyone because it took me forever to do, and I wouldn't want to inflict that pressure on anyone. However, I would be very interested to read your answers to it, so feel free to tag yourself for all, or a portion, of it.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

A Literary Year In Review

Several of my favorite bloggers have been ending their year with a synopsis of their reading endeavors over 2007. I have previously rejected any impulses I may have had to review books on this blog. Because, the thing is, nothing makes me feel more ridiculous about my own pitiful efforts at writing than attempting to critique someone who actually does it well. I end up feeling illiterate and silly. I finally decided to break this resolution because I would like to keep a record of the books I read and whether I enjoyed them, and because I really do love knowing what other's thought of books, I am going to be brave enough to do it here.

Unfortunately, it turns out my literary memory is as potholed as the rest of my mind. Once I have completed them, I return my books to the used bookstore for credit, except for the rare few I can't bear to part with. As a result I can now only account for my most recent reads of 2007 along with a handful of books that made a lasting impression.

So here they are already: my opinions on some of my recent and/or remarkable reads from this year...

The Road by Cormac McCarthy
I started with this because it affected me more than anything else I read this year. Oprah and I are at last in agreement, because I, too, thought this book was phenomenal. It was dark, and disturbing and sad, but ultimately a story about love and survival and it haunted me for months after I read it. And made me think about my life.

Harry Potter and the Half Blooded Prince by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
I am not going to review these books because it has been done a thousand times over by people much more capable than I. I loved them. Especially the conclusion. I will mention Deathly Hallows was the only book off of the The New York Times 50 Notable Books of 2007 list that I have read. Because I don't buy books new or in hardcover.

Seaglass by Anita Shreve
The Pilot's Wife by Anita Shreve

This is a new author for me this year, and I enjoyed both of these books. I found her writing thoughtful, easy to read yet engaging. I was immediately drawn into the pages of The Pilot's Wife while Seaglass pulled me in more slowly. I plan to read more Shreve in 2008.

Little Children by Tom Perrotta
I chose this book because it was a critically acclaimed novel which spawned a critically acclaimed movie. I have to admit I didn't enjoy it at all. I found the actions of the characters to be bizarre and self destructive in a way I couldn't identify with. Unhappy suburbanites dealing with their wrong choices by making even more wrong choices. I didn't bother seeing the movie.

Freakonomics by Levitt & Dubner
I almost never read non-fiction unless it's part of a Bible Study I am involved in or research for something in particular, but I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I cannot for the life of me figure out how to explain what it was about or remember how it applied to economics, but it did make me think and I found myself reading passages out loud to my husband. A really entertaining read.

Jarka Ruus by Terry Brooks
Tanequil by Terry Brooks
Straken by Terry Brooks
I am a long time fan of Terry Brooks but hadn't read this particular trilogy. I found it to be what I expected for the author but not exceptional in any way. I came away a little disappointed.

Vanishing Acts by Jodi Picoult
Jodi Picoult is not a new author to me. The first book I read of hers was The Tenth Circle followed by My Sister's Keeper. I enjoyed both of those novels much more than I did this one, I think because the characters were just typical suburban families, and so it was easier for me to imagine myself in their circumstances. This book kept me interested but was definitely not my favorite by this author.

Plain Truth
by Jodi Picoult
I read this book close to the beginning of this year and I am really having to wrack my brain for my impressions of it. I do remember I was intrigued to unravel the mystery of the story even if I did find the concept of the Lawyer living with her client in the Amish Community to feel forced and not particularly original.

The Giver by Lois Lowry
I hear this author mentioned often as a point of reference in young adult fantasy circles so I had high expectations. I wasn't disappointed. I plan to pick up the rest of his books for our home library if they ever make their way to the shelves of my used bookstore.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
This book came highly recommended to me by many people. I resisted it for a long time because, I am sorry to admit, of it's setting in Afghanistan. I didn't want to read a political novel. I am glad I finally did. This was one of my favorite reads of the last several years. While I did come away much more educated about the heartbreaking history of the country it was the story and the characters that really resonated with me. I am very much looking forward to reading his next book.

The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards
This book also came highly recommended, but I just couldn't get behind it. While the premise was interesting I just couldn't connect with the characters or their motives. I became frustrated with them. I just didn't love it.

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
Another recommendation. It was beautifully and intriguingly written although it had a slow start and I couldn't let go of the heavy fatalistic feeling. While that may have been intentional by the author, I found it was like a weight, keeping the pace down. Yet, I cannot dispute that this author has great talent in painting poignant scenes and characters.

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen
I always read chic-lit on vacation. It's a rule. And this year for my trip to the beach I picked up this light and fluffy book. While basically it was a trashy love story with a dash of mysticism, I have to admit I liked it more than I expected to. I found the way the author painted the home and garden in the story as a character, in it's own right, enchanting. A quick, enjoyable read.

My Antonia by Willa Cather
I'll end with this book, because I recommend it most of all. I chose to read it because it was on several of my favorite blogger's lists of favorite books. I confess now, I had never even heard of it until then. The story, it's so simple it's hardly worth mentioning. The life of an immigrant girl as she grows up on the plains of our country. But the words, I wanted to savor them slowly, repeatedly, holding the flavor of them on my tongue like hard toffee. It was really, truly beautiful writing. So just in case, I am not the only person left who hasn't read it...well please, go read it.

And...here is the list of what is sitting on my nightstand right now waiting to be read in 2008:
Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz
The Last Time They Met by Anita Shreve
Light on Snow by Anita Shreve
Love in the Time of Cholera by Garcia Marquez
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquirel
Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons
Lost Horizon by James Hilton

So what were your best and worst books of 2007 and what are you looking forward to reading in the new year?

Friday, December 28, 2007

Okay I admit it...I totally bought Clara and Allison matching pajamas in pepto hot pink. I couldn't help myself. I mean how often is it that one stumbles upon PJs in girls size 14 and toddler 24 months in the same obnoxious holiday fabric? Not often enough for me, apparently.

But look how cute they are...

Can't you just see Allie's radiating enthusiasm? She liked the pajamas, but seemed slightly less than overwhelmed with the idea of her baby sister having the same ones.

Oh and here's Clara giving Allie love...

How adorable is that blob of hot pink sweetness?

And I also admit that at the point these pictures were taken they had been wearing these same pajamas for the last 48 hours. At least. But today the madness ended. Hot water and soap and clean non-VonTrapp family like clothing prevailed.

And the man seemed relieved. Because my girls were not the only one sporting the same PJs for two days straight. And I think he was worried I would soon start drinking vodka for breakfast and developing an unhealthy attachment for the residents of Salem. I looked that up by the way. I don't watch Soaps, I promise. Or drink Vodka. For Breakfast.

And then we took our newly clean and clothed selves out to dinner. Our family goes to dinner together at least once a week. And typically it goes well...but we could tell almost immediately this was not going to be the case tonight.

First we lost Ben.

Oh relax, it was just a little BBQ place. But somehow when they sat us we managed to leave Ben in the entryway, and it took us a few minutes to notice. Because with a big family, plus an extra, it takes a few minutes to arrange a highchair, get coats off and decide who is sitting where. Which is when we discovered we had an empty place. I ran back to find him standing very dejected in the entryway. Poor little guy. But really he should learn to keep up.

I kid. I felt guilty, I swear. But I still can't help but wonder why the hostess didn't bring him over to us. Did she think he was waiting for the rest of his party to arrive?

The rest of the dinner was a downhill slide from there. Ben dumped his milk all over himself and Allie's friend. After we told him repeatedly to stop playing with it. And I scooped him up dripping and said harshly "Now, look what you did!" Ah yes, one of my finer parenting moments. So he started wailing and I apologized and hugged him while convincing him to stop crying, as I ignored the condemning glares of the other patrons. And man, those barbecue eaters can stare you down. I have found the crowd at the Mexican restaurant to be much more forgiving. Maybe it's the margaritas.

And then Clara cried the entire time because we wouldn't allow her to play with her milk. And there seemed to be an exorbitant amount of getting in and out of the booth: potty runs and something about Allie's friend being left handed. I guess they were clashing elbows. Lets just say the restaurant seemed to give a collective sigh of relief as we herded everyone out the door.

And when we got home? We all got back in our pajamas. Okay different pajamas. Clean pajamas. But still...some days getting dressed is just overrated.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The most wonderful time of the year...

Christmas Day is behind us, and it is without even a twinge of wistfulness that I bid it farewell. We enjoyed it, all of it: Christmas Eve at my moms with tons of cousins and laughter and the hot roast beef on hard rolls of my childhood. Followed by a less cherished, but equally steadfast tradition of wrapping presents from Santa long after midnight. A bleary eyed Christmas morning of five minutes of unwrapping the same gifts and two hours of taking them out of their packaging and assembling them. Brunch, utilizing our new waffle maker, and then a tradition I implemented last year of simultaneous mommy & baby Christmas naps. Lastly, over to The Man's family gathering that evening, where all the children entertained us by singing their favorite Christmas Carols. Because my children and their cousins come from generations of hams performers. There's not a shy one in the bunch. It was like Norman Rockwell meets the karaoke Bar.

Just Priceless.

Overall I would say it was one of our better years, judging just by it's failure to produce any truly memorable events. We are known for ruining holidays with illnesses in our home. We have had pinkeye on Christmas morning, head lice on New Years Eve, and a plethora of other viruses that have caused tears and disappointments over the years. But this year we were all healthy and well behaved. Even Clara was an angel when we put her to bed at 10PM two nights in a row.

But today, this week starting with December 26th, truly is my favorite time of the year. When the planning and preparing is over and the family is home together. The children are still giddy with new toys and leftover goodies and the days go by lazily and unplanned. We go to the movies and play board games. We invite friends over and sleep in late (Someone please tell Ben he is supposed to sleep in late!). Today the children and I stayed in our new pajamas the entire day, sending The Man out at one point for batteries to feed our new toy frenzy.

And even now, as I sit writing this I do it to the soundtrack of my little boy and my husband crashing cars together. There is nothing like listening to your three year old squeal "Yeah baby! I smashed you up!" to his father to bring on the post Christmas warm fuzzies.

And so it is with a genuine light heart, at last, that I wish you all - Zipity Do Dah, pass the wine & throw another log on the fire, because Christmas is over until next year - Holiday blessings.

Here's a family snapshot from yesterday at The Man's family gathering. Brandon isn't in the shot because he was at his mothers. I am sure he was enjoying himself, but his cousins were all there and we missed him greatly. Our family just doesn't seem complete without him.

Oh and someone asked me why Ben was pouting. It's because he is three. And he didn't get his way about something so trivial I can't even remember it. And because he's three. Did I mention that?

Friday, December 21, 2007

Oh Christmas tree

I have made it known that I struggle to find joy in the Christmas season. Things like baking, and shopping, and countless places to be - which I imagine, maybe erroneously, bring other people merriment - feel like drudgery to me. What will I buy? What will I wear? How will I get it all done? For that reason, when we go through the trouble of getting our tree, dragging it home, and decorating it, I want it to be where I can see it. We have a front window of our home that would be perfect to display the tree to our neighbors but I am adamant that I want it in the living room where our family spends most of it's time. Nothing softens the hard edges of my scrooginess like hanging out in the living room with my kids by the soft light of the tree, the air pungent with the aroma of pine.

Unfortunately for us, there really isn't a good place in our living room for a tree, so we shift some furniture around and stuff it in a corner by the chair and a half. Even with this cluttered, much less than elegant appearance, it's still worth it to me. A slumpy sofa. A cup a cocoa that I don't get to drink until it's cold. A fire to make me nervous and a tree. It's how I most enjoy the season. And no one would really describe my home's style as elegant anyway, we go for more of a romper-room feeling around here.

This year, however, has been one ongoing battle to keep Ben and Clara out of the tree. Clara, in particular, can't keep her hands off the thing. With an amazing amount of dedication she will systematically strip the tree of everything in her reach. We find bows and ornaments strewn everywhere in our home. And I have become weary of reassembling it twenty times a day. What typically brings me joy has now become the biggest of my Christmas chores. So I made the decision that for this year, and maybe next our tree would look like this.

It's really quite charming don't you think. The top half is so weighed down with all my kids ornaments that they are often prompted to throw themselves to the floor in a suicidal quest for elbow room. Either that or the tree throws them down, disgusted with it's naked bum.

Overall though, it has brought me a twinkly toddler friendly version of peace. And that's really all I ask for these days. Toddler-friendly peace.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Milestone

When Ben was 13 months he started therapy. At that point he had just started crawling and was eating nothing but stage 2 babyfood and cheerios. It was determined he had an aversion to textures on his hands and feet and particularly in his mouth. With nominal occupational & physical therapy we were able to get him walking by 18 months and playing with Play-doh and other aversive textures by two. However...Despite extensive therapy with both a speech and occupational therapist, our progress in the feeding department was virtually non-existent. By age 2 & 1/2 we had exhausted the resources of 3 therapists and made the collective decision to discontinue therapy at that time. The therapy sessions were torturous for Ben and myself and seemed to only produce the results of making any attempt at feeding him, even just for meals, an all out war. At one point he regressed to consuming nothing but milk and a few crackers for almost a week.

So feeling hopeless and defeated we decided to let Ben eat his baby food, if it meant he would just eat something and take an extremely low pressure approach to introducing any new foods. Age three came and went and while we had been able to get him to try a few other things, he was still eating oatmeal for breakfast and babyfood twice a day, with yogurt and crackers for snack.

And then, a few months ago something changed. While I cannot be certain, I attribute the change to Clara. She was no longer eating babyfood and was sitting with us at the table eating what we ate. Ben suddenly seemed to really want to eat "big-people food" as he called it. He would point to the baby on the Gerber jar and say, dejectedly, "This food is for babies". It hurt my heart for him to see him want to be able to overcome his aversions, but be unable. Ultimately it did have a positive effect. He started occasionally, spontaneously, randomly, trying small bites of table food. Most foods were rejected because he couldn't get past the texture, or the taste, but little by little we were able to add a few new foods to his repertoire. And a few months ago we were down to eating baby food just at dinner time. To let you know what a huge deal this was for us, here is a picture of him -a few weeks ago - feeding himself waffles for the first time.


This was monumental not just because of the waffle, a previously rejected food, but because it was the first time he had fed himself with a fork. Yes, at 3 and a half he had never used a fork. Because when you only eat babyfood and yogurt there is little opportunity to try.

But tonight... tonight I made breakfast for dinner. Pancakes, eggs, bacon & apple sauce. It's one of the other kids favorite meals. I made it as a celebration for being finally out for Christmas break. And tonight, as usual, Ben sat with us at the table while we ate. And as usual, we offered him some food to try. But to all of our surprise, tonight he accepted. And even more shocking, he ate an entire pancake, and three pieces of bacon and some applesauce.

For the first time, my family of six sat around the table and all. ate. the. same. food. for. dinner.

It's something I have been praying for, for nearly two years. And have shed countless tears about. At one point, I had actually just accepted that Ben would still be packing yogurt and crackers for lunch when he started elementary school. And while we are certainly not off babyfood yet - Even if he does continue to eat these foods, the boy can't live on pancakes and bacon - and probably won't be for a long time to come, this was a very big first step. And I am terribly, terribly excited. And for the first time in a long time, full of hope.
**************************
And in the spirit of celebration I give you this dizzy video of Ben & Clara celebrating tonight. Because, as cliche as it sounds, I really couldn't have asked for a better Christmas present.
video
My little wired-on-too-much-Christmas-candy cuties. Oh and Clara's seventeen months now. And as you see, still bopping around on her knees. Which, when you have a three year old who just learned how to use a fork, doesn't seem like such a big deal.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Pride and Apprehension...

A couple days ago I was snooping around in Allison's email account. Yes, I am a snooping parent. And I am unapologetic about it. Especially in things involving the internet. I require Brandon's MySpace password and Allison's email password or they are not allowed to have these accounts. I am not flexible on this. I don't check them daily, but periodically, randomly, I do. Knowing who they are talking to and what they information (true or false) they are sharing about themselves is something I feel I need to know.

While snooping, I read an email from Allison to a friend of hers. This girl is popular, obviously wealthy, gossipy and boy crazy. She is so unlike Allison, who is not popular and makes known to all her disdain for boys, that I have always been curious and a bit wary of Allie's friendship with her. But they don't see each other often and their relationship has not progressed much past the casual level. Allison's email to her said something along these lines:

"Please do not send me any more emails. I do not want to hear the bad things about all the people you don't like, or about all the boys you do like"

I was very surprised to see such a harsh email and spoke to Allison about it. Apparently, this friend was regularly sending emails to Allison and all her other friends disparaging people she didn't like, or gushing over boys that she was "In love with". Allison was bothered by it, and asked her not to send them to her anymore.

She emailed the girl and asked her not to send her mean, gossipy emails anymore.

I am still reeling from this. That my middle school daughter of her own accord took a stand. And I am not saying she is never mean or gossipy, but in this situation, she chose not to be a part of part of something she knew was wrong.

And I am so proud of her I could burst.

And a little bit worried. Because I am concerned about what this, this one tiny stand, might mean for her. And a little part of me, a part that I would never share with her, doesn't want her to be the one taking a stand. When it means she might get hurt. Because while the mother in me wants her to be strong, and just, and good, the mommy in me just wants her heart to be safe.

But quiet voices and safe hearts are not God's desire for me. Or for my child. Or for His own.

Which is why it's good I didn't write the plans.

****************
And for completely unrelated reasons, I am heartsick today. An anxious. And sad. About things that I can't talk about here. And I am not sure I would, even if I felt at liberty. Because some things seem worse when you put them into words. But I ask you to pray, even not knowing what you are praying for, because God knows. And that's enough. It is.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Scroogie Conversations from our weekend...

Allison-Mom, my black pants smell really bad.
Me-Your concert is in an hour, why are you telling me this now?
Allison-I can't wear them like this, they smell.
Me-Well try not to inhale.
Allison-Mo-om!

***********************
Me-Ben, Please put baby Jesus back in the manger.
Ben-But I love baby Jesus.
Me-I know Ben, But you might break him.
Ben-Wide Eyed - Break baby Jesus?
Me-Yes, Ben, you know that's not the real baby Jesus, it's just a decoration.
Ben-Oh. The real baby Jesus is tougher?
Me-Yes Ben. Much tougher.

************************
Allison-Mom, I signed up to bring chicken wings to our party on Thursday.
Me-Chicken Wings?!?!
Allison-tentatively -Yes
Me-Allie, we discussed this.
Allison-Mom, They said they already had all the paper products they needed.

************************
Me-BEN STOP! I told you that present was for Gramma. What are you doooing?
Ben-Sheepishly- She needs help unwapping it.

************************
Me-giggling-Look Brandon, here's your Michael Vick ornament from last year.
Brandon-Oh great, we're hanging convicts on our tree now.

************************
Me-Ben, please, put that ornament back on the tree.
Me-Clara, don't touch the tree!
Me-Ben, stop playing with the ornaments.
Ben-Cwara's taking off the ornments!
Me-Clara, no!
Ben-She's breaking it!! That's MINE!
Me-BEN & CLARA GET AWAY FROM THE TREE! Can't you just watch TV?

Cross posted at Worst Mama.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

A Question for my Blogging friends...

Last night while I was, as usual, not sleeping I was skimming some of my old blog posts. I originally started this blog as a kind of record of my life as a mother of four. Since then it has become more about using words to fill some kind of need for expression or organized thought. And even a bit about this illusion of community. But I haven't lost sight of my original purpose, to preserve something. To hold on to memories more solidly than my mind has been able to manage in the past.

Nearly all of what I write about is my children, and I have often thought I would like to find a more concrete way to preserve a portion of those writings. Just a fraction. For myself and also for them. Someday my children may be parents themselves and I would love for them to have the opportunity to read how they drove me crazy how much I joy I received, and maybe a wee bit of how I struggled, parenting them.

I would give a lot for such a record of my own mother's thoughts while raising us.

So my question is, do any of you print any of your posts to save? Is there anything that you write that you then put in hard copy for yourself or your children to see when years down the road the archives, and memories, may not be available? Or am I the only one so self-importantly deluded as to think that my offspring would even be interested?

I have been wondering about this for a while now and would love to hear some thoughts.

Friday, December 14, 2007

We wish you a merry Christmas - you and your kid.

In the spirit of my previous post: of 3 year olds yelling carols and cherishing moments with my children, I give you my Ben...

video

He really is just a shy whisper of a child, isn't he?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

These are the days...

Here I am.

I know that you have missed me, you whole seven people that come by here regularly. And I have missed you too. I have been itching to write so badly, it's embarrassing really. But it's Christmastime. And Christmastime leaves no time for anything but Christmastime. With four children it becomes an all encompassing black hole of a thing, sucking up time and thoughts and money until there is nothing left. And I admit I don't handle this gracefully. More like with whining and frazzledness and plastic smiles when my children are involved.

Saturday night I sat on my couch with The Man, a worn blanket pulled over my knees despite the unseasonably warm weather weather outside. After a busy day of Christmas activities, I was exhausted and strongly feeling the martyrdom of my role as Christmas-maker. I needed the coddling of a fuzzy blanket and a hot drink. As I was sipping tea and trying to will my mind to stop making lists, I looked up to see Allison and Ben standing in front of the entryway table.
Their heads were almost touching as they bent close to the nativity we had just put out that day. I nudged The Man to look their way, and we watched in silence as Allison pointed to each figure and introduced them to her little brother.

"These are the shepherds.
This is the Angel that came and told them that Jesus was born.
These are the kings who came on camels to see Jesus.
This is Mary, she is the mommy.
This is Joseph, he is the daddy.
And this is Baby Jesus in the manger" she said lightly, carefully lifting the little porcelain baby and putting it in Ben's hands.

Been gasped.

"I love baby Jesus!" he exclaimed excitedly clasping his small hands around the even smaller figure and pulling it up to his face.

And tears came to my eyes as I watched my daughter try to explain The Christmas Story to her baby brother. It was one of those perfect gooey parenting moments that I knew I would want to remember forever; etch it into the walls of my mind so I can gaze at it again and again.

This moment has been with me for days now. Singing to me. Whispering to me a secret over and over until I finally started to hear it.

'This is as good as it will ever be'

Today I woke up and dressed Ben and Clara in Christmas outfits for Ben's three year old program at school. We dropped him off, went to buy our designated food item, and came back to watch a room full of three year olds jingle bells and yell Christmas Carols at their parents. It was delightful.

It was also about ten minutes, and constituted half a dozen items on my to-do list for this week. Wash and press red shirt for Ben. Check. Buy preschool music teacher gift. Check. Buy sodas for reception. Check. Charge movie camera. Um...not so much.

And sadly, this is what Christmas had become for me, one incredibly long list of things I must get checked off, by tonight, this weekend, or Christmas Eve. And try as I might, I can not seem to get this list shortened one iota. I have four children with four different Sunday School teachers and parties and church and school programs. And I am always behind. There isn't even a tree in our home yet, something I am acutely reminded of by the stack of this years handmade ornaments sitting on our kitchen counter.

Truthfully, I had actually come to dread this time of year. Something that was miraculous and magical and exciting to me my entire life had simply become one big extended chore.

But Saturday night I feel that God gave me new perspective on this time in my life. What is it that I wish was different? Someday soon, my kids will be older. The days of countless parties, and programs and teacher gifts will be behind me. I will be able to shop for gifts without the whining of toddlers. Will I really find this a relief? Or will I sit nostalgic for the days of three year olds yelling carols and middle schoolers making their first attempts at 3-part-harmony? Surely I will miss the feeling of lying awake unable to sleep on Christmas Eve because of my own excitement at my children's joy. Of living rooms on Christmas morning knee deep with boxes and wrapping paper and bows.

Won't I cry when Allison no longer wants to have her annual caroling party? Won't my heart ache when there are no more babies to share the story of Jesus with? Do I really wish I had less people in my life to love and buy gifts for? Which grandmother or niece or faithful Sunday School teacher would I like to do without? Am I honestly longing for a day when the kids are old enough to not jump with excitement at the thought of going out to buying a tree or baking cookies? How could I possibly wish for days when no one here cares if we have one?

Yes it is busy. Extremely busy. The things to do pile on like weights sometimes. But aren't the things I am doing (Okay not All- but many) things of value? Yes, it is a materialistic holiday fraught with consumerism and irreverence to the newborn King. Yes, my son's one true wish is to get an XBOX 360 for Christmas and we can't afford it and might not buy if we could. But isn't the fact that I am miserable this time of year simply a heart issue and not a world issue; born from my inability to appreciate the life I have. And my failure to realize that in some ways, These will be the best Christmases of my life. Days that I will look back on with a sense of loss when they have passed.

I don't know if I will have much time to blog between now and December 25th. My new found perspective hasn't made my lists any shorter. But I hope that during all the scrambling to check things off, that I will be able to hold tightly on to the knowledge that I should stop and appreciate the small joys of my children in this season. Before they are only memories to grasp at with regret.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The great card fiasco of 2007 - Update AGAIN

They sent me the same cards again!

The same. blue. dark. holly-less. cards. Again. When I opened them I almost cried. Proof that this card thing has gotten way out of hand. I am making one last ditch effort with another photo company using the silly photo from this post and am going to pick up the cards at Target momentarily. Suddenly Ben's expression just seems to represent the entire Christmas card experience.

The errant photo company will be giving me a refund and there will be no longer be any love between us. It's over. Finished. I will move on to another. Oh and if anyone knows someone, I am open to blind dates.

I should have stuck with the bad-picture cards I received originally. They would have been in the mail a week ago. Instead I now have ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY bad photos of my children. One hundred and fifty.

So I am hosting a contest inspired by Chrissy's comment. The most creative idea on what to do with the cards will receive a copy of this new book:

25 Easy steps to making Christmas as stressful and complicated as possible.
By Chaotic Joy

*******************
Using Kodak Gallery I had my one-pose not great (particularly of Allison) - but not awful & kinda funny cards printed at Target and they were ready for pick up about 20 minutes later. When I picked them up they were cheaper than my Shutterfly order and miraculously looked just like I was expecting. Cue Hallelujah Chorus.

Thus my Christmas Card saga of 2007 ends with a semi-happy ending. Next year... I'm splurging for professional.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Sweet Sunday Night Nothings

Oh the weekend....It was simply fabulous. My children woke up fever free on Friday morning and my house was cleaned by someone other than I. A fact I have given God heartfelt thanks for probably a dozen times. I have so many posts about the deliciousness of this weekend, barely started and flitting about in the wide open places of my brain. A few words dancing here, a whole couple sentences trolling about over there. But I can't seem to find the desire to sit and reign some of them in, or the discipline to add to them.

So I am going to leave them be, even with the knowledge that not captured they will likely fade away and tomorrow I will be left wondering what I ever thought I had to say.

And tonight I leave you simply with my thoughts that I have great friends and crazy, wonderful kids. And a God much bigger and wiser than I will ever be. Thank goodness.

Oh and go read this post by my friend Lisa, who I don't really know, but I wish I did. I would love to have her over for coffee and wallow in our mutual scrooginess and talk to her about how she got so wise. And I know for her, I wouldn't even have to clean my house.

And that's good people.

****************
Oh and pssst...since you are all so sweet to be worried: I still have no new cards from the online photo company. The newest rumor is they will be arriving tomorrow.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Do you see what I see?

On Monday I ordered Christmas cards from a certain online photo center using these two exact pictures in a two photo collage.


Today, I received the cards in the mail and they looked like this:

Um...Anything seem off to you? The color? The dark and dreary quality?

Yeah me too.

Oh and see that reddish part on the side. It's part of the design. A design that is called"Red Holly Leaves". I am guessing because online it has red holly leaves. Not on my card though. I am calling my card "Rust Imagine-the-Holly Leaves." Maybe the leaves are like one of those optical illusion paintings. If I stare at it long enough, they will suddenly appear. In 3-D

I am starting to get a feeling that a decent Christmas Card is not in God's plans for me this year.
*****************
In fairness to the online photo service, I have just ended a 30 minute long phone call with a very nice woman, who spoke very marginal English, in their customer service department. After emailing her this picture (a version that included the missing Holly part) she finally admitted that their may have been an error in their printing process and is overnighting me a new shipment.

It's possible that tomorrow I will receive much-improved cards and we will be all kissy kissy again.

One up, one down.

Well Clara's fever is better, although the snot is still an issue. I'll kindly spare you the details on that! She seems to have passed her germs onto her brother - no surprise there, those two are on top of each other - and he is now feverish. Which means that I had to cancel my sister-in-law who was supposed to come clean my house tomorrow.

And no it wasn't pity, I was paying her. She does it as a part time job. And so desperate was I to have this pigsty less, well, totally-freakin-disgusting before Saturday, I was even willing to let a member of my husband's family see it at it's worst. But now, she can't come because she was bringing my nephew, and Ben is sick. Which just stinks.

That, and...Ben's sick! My poor little guy never gets sick. He isn't complaining but he has that glassy, feverish, red-cheeked look, and he doesn't really want to get off the couch. And seeing my silly, mischievous boy in his footsie spider-man pajamas so quiet and still gives me a little heartache. Which makes me just want to curl up with his hot little body in my lap for hours on end.

And I think I will. Because, today there just isn't anything that seems more important. He's my heart, that boy.

Oh and I am posting over at Worst Mama Today too.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

I've got whine...who's got cheese?

Clara is sick, sick, sick. Feverish, miserable and a veritable factory of snot. Too much information?

Yeah. I know. Sorry.

I am thinking she might have an ear infection but I am trying to wait it out. I despise taking my children to the doctor and am a firm believer that the body will fight off most things on it's own. This has been going on for a few days now though and if I don't see improvement by tomorrow, I'll make the call. Just because it is killing me to see her so miserable. And because I can't get more than two feet away from her. Which is kinda hard. When you have 3 other children.

My bins of Christmas decorations are still sitting in the hall. I am hosting my annual holiday brunch for my girlfriends from highschool and their children on Saturday, but things like cleaning and shopping and decking the halls just aren't happening. Sitting on the couch with Clara-bear for hours and hours watching recorded episodes of Sesame Street over and over, while using 543 tissues...that's what's happenin. Much to Ben's very vocal dismay.

Oh and blogging, that's not happenin either. Besides this post of course. And probably won't be happenin anytime soon. Because eventually I do have to clean and shop and deck the halls. Or at the very least calling a cleaning service.

You know while I lock myself in the laundry closet with a bottle of wine.

*************
Oh and I have a confession. You know those really awful Christmas cards I received last week. I ordered new ones. I couldn't get past the awful pictures. So I created a collage at Shutterfly which should be here this week which I am much happier with. But it totally throws my "Oh I am not going to stress about perfection this year" theory out the window. Along with the $30 I spent on the first batch.

I am so weak. And predictable.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Shameless bragging

Allie has a blog. I just set it up for her this weekend. It's set as private so it's doubtful anyone will read it besides her father and I and if she's lucky a kind friend or family member. But seeing what she writes is so much fun. This was part of her entry this morning

"Today is definitely my favorite day of the week, also known as "Sunday"! I just love Sundays! Do you ever get that feeling where all your problems are put away and you are full of happiness?! It may sound a bit extreme, but I do! It kinda gives you that feeling as if the house is clean without you ever cleaning it! Cool, huh? But it's not the day that puts me in this mood, it's church! If there's only one thing important in life, it "is" definitely the experience of leaning new things about Jesus! Living in a house full of Christians, is a complete blessing to me. In fact, if it was still November, thats something I would be thankful for."

Really. How can you not smile reading this sweet and peppy post. I love that girl.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

A bit of bizness

I decided to go back and delete the posts on our adventures with Brandon this week. As I predicted, I have decided I have gone too far. I would never want them to cause hurt if discovered at a later date.

Sometimes I let me own need for an outlet, and support, cloud my judgement.