Thursday, December 30, 2010

East Tennessee White Christmas

We weren't dreaming of a white Christmas but we got one. We drove 9 hours south only to be met with weather that we would have expected if we had driven 9 hours north.

My honey and I got out for a walk in the snow.

We saw this inviting lamp post outside a nearby cabin. I thought it would make a perfect holiday card. Look for it in your mailbox next year.

We followed this beautiful snow ladened path.

And found that the area looked more like an alpine village than the golf resort it is.

The snow was a highlight of the holiday but there were other things that made the holiday special. Like a little boy carefully hanging ornaments on low branches.

And a bigger boy hanging ornaments higher than he ever has before.

And a grandfather reading 'Twas the Night Before Christmas to a completely rapt 7 year old.

And grandparents surrounded by all their grandchildren.

And a small family

within a large family

 sharing the joy and spirit of the season.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

I'm Throwing My Stuff Into the Hodgepodge

This will be my first time joining a fairly new blogger meme presented by Joyce at From This Side of the Pond. It's the

I don't regularly play blogger games but since I'm all "shopped and wrapped and baked and ready to go" as Joyce said, I have no choice but to play today. So, here I go.

1. Share your Christmas Eve traditions.

I have continued many of my childhod traditions into my adulthood and imposed shared them with my husband and children. We set out cookies and milk for Santa, carrots and celery for the reindeer.  The ranking adult male (either my husband if it's just us at home or my dad if we are visiting family for the holiday) will read Clement C. Moore's "Twas the Night Before Christmas" to everyone, young and old, gathered around the Christmas tree.  My Dad is a great enunciator and always says "Donder" phonetically rather than "Donner" the way it has been bastardized by pop culture. I love that. After the reading, the boys get to open one present on Christmas Eve night which to their dismay is new winter pjs. They always act surprised that there isn't something better like a toy in this present. I don't know why they are surprised. The opening of a present is not a tradition from my childhood but one that my husband and I added. After donning the new pjs, there is always the feigned (or not) whining about going to bed. The kids are always coaxed to bed with the threat that Santa won't come until everyone is asleep. The threat is followed by a ringing of jingle bells from somewhere outside the window. The kids believe that these are the reindeers' jingle bells as Santa passes by checking on the sleeping status of the house. Between you and me, one of the adult males (usually not the ranking one) has to go outside in the cold and jingle the bells while the rest of us cover for his absence.

2. What was the best book you read in 2010? (we're not going to include The Bible here)

I am still in the process of reading my best book of 2010. The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. I am on page 659 of 983. I started reading it back in October....yes, nearly three months which point my prediction for the my finish date was August 2012. I have considerably increased my pace so I'm looking good to finish early. I have to say this is the best book for me in 2010 because it is a great story that has kept me engrossed at my snail's pace and any book that you read for more than a quarter of the year has to be good.

3. Do you have pets and if so do you allow them on the furniture?

My husband and I have had cats almost the entire time we have lived together. Neither of us were cat people before we adopted our first...a three-legged stray, Arnold. Arnold couldn't always get up on to the furniture by himself. So if he made it up on to a piece of furniture, we let him stay. That habit has carried over to the four-legged cats that followed Arnold. But we don't let them on the kitchen counters or any tables! I know some cat people who do. That's too much.

4. What event from 2010 are you most thankful for?

There isn't one event in 2010 that I could name for this. The entire year was filled with decision points for our family. I am thankful for each one. Some were very challenging decisions but each one has brought us closer and clearer on our goals and desires.

5. What did you do in 2010 that you'd never done before.

I started my wee little photography business. I committed to jobs that intimidated me. I took school portraits for a small private school co-op and slam-dunked the job! I gained confidence in my photographic abilities.

6. Brussel sprouts...friend or foe?

I love me some Brussels sprouts! Bad English aside, I really do like them. But only since I found a better way to cook them. As a child, they were nothing more than bitter, green, mushy brain-like things that triggered a gag reflect on sight. Now I roughly chop them so the brain resemblance is removed and saute in olive oil seasoned with garlic, onion, salt and pepper. They are a favorite here. But then again, anything sauteed in olive oil and garlic et al is a favorite here. 

7. Who would you nominate for man/woman of the year?

Kristen Wiig of Saturday Night Live fame. A comedienne isn't usually who you would think of for this honor, but Kristen has made me laugh more times this year than anyone or anything since Gilda Radner. We all need a bit more laughter in our days so I give my nomination to Kristen. And Gilda should have been nominated back in the day as well.

Not that you asked, but I will tell who I would NOT nominate for man/woman of the year: anyone named Kardashian, anyone who personally knows or who has been in the same room with cast members of the Jersey Shore, or anyone who is involved in the productions of shows about the aforementioned groups of people. There, I feel better now.

8. Insert your own random thought here.

What else to say but Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas Traditions and Holiday Suspicions

We had our annual audience with the BMIR Friday night. I didn't think it was going to happen this year. Just over a week ago, both boys came to me and said, "We don't want to go see Santa this year." They looked at each other and nodded after saying those words, like they had rehearsed this. I hid my shock and slight worry and asked why. The older one said he "was too old" for it and the younger one said he "didn't feel like it" this year. So as to not fall into whatever game they seemed to be playing with me, I just said "Okay, if that's what you want."

I knew the day would come when they would no longer want to go see Santa. But I'm not ready. I like seeing Santa them see Santa. I like wondering if Santa can really come through on Christmas morning with their requests.

But I knew they were playing a game with me. I'm older so I can play their game...only better. A few days after they started this, I asked them innocently, "So if you don't go see Santa, how are you going to tell him what you want for Christmas? You do still want some gifts from him, right?" ...Crickets.....

Then the younger one said, "You can tell him for us." Clearly, he still doesn't know how all of this works.

So I reply, "I could. But Santa probably puts those types of requests on a lower priority list than direct requests from kids."

To which I got, "Huh?"

To which I clarify, "Santa may not think you really are that interested in his gifts if you can't take the time to tell him yourself. Maybe you could write a letter at least and increase your odds." (My boys would rather do almost anything other than write so I knew they would not bite at this.)

In response, there was just a load of unintelligible grumbling coming from the boys and the conversation died.

For the next few hours, the boys spent a lot of time whispering to each other and avoiding me. They acted like a flimsy Survivor alliance on the afternoon before Tribal Council, conspiring but trying to act normal. Later, they came to me as a united force saying, "We think we will go see Santa after all." Match point: Mom.

So our Christmas tradition was preserved for another year. My younger one has always been suspicious of Santa and he continued his part of the tradition Friday night. He can't hide his true feelings.

But once Santa started listening to his very specific requests and actually knew what Beyblades are, my son started to ease up a bit.

By the end of it, he had lowered his suspicion to a manageable level but the true test will be whether Beyblades are under the tree on Christmas morning or not.

My older son had conceded to seeing Santa this year only in solidarity with my younger son. But he showed up with enthusiasm.

Until Santa asked my younger son if the elder one was a good big brother. His enthusiasm was briefly placed on hold while we all waited for the response.

Luckily, little brother had big brother's best interest in mind and gave Santa the proper answer. Although I am not sure Santa bought it completely.

That's okay. I'm not sure my boys completely bought into Santa after all this year. There was one awkward moment where Santa made reference to his own twin sons as teenagers...crickets again...

We don't recall that part of the holiday story. When the boys ask questions about that, which I am sure they will, I don't know how I will handle it. Thanks Santa.

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Scout is Good Sport

"I promise to do my best, to do my duty and blow so hard that my little lungs burn."

The Cub Scout Rain Gutter Regatta is almost as competitive as the Pine Wood Derby. In the Derby, my scouts usually get the awards for things like "Most Creative Use of Materials"

Or "Most Unusual Shape"

But my scouts have the secret for success in the Rain Gutter Regatta. They both have the boat design and the race execution down. I can't tell you the secret because then every scout would know...

They both felt like they had just won the America's Cup as their boats won heat after heat. But I'm pretty sure that "Booyah!" is not found in the Cub Scout handbook, which we had to remind the boys of only once. They were good sports after that. 

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Christmas Home Tour 2010

I love a home decorated for Christmas. It's so festive and makes the everyday sparkle. I am not the best decorator. There is no grand theme in our home. But have a few decorations that I really love and have added a few this year that have quickly become favorites.

The first new addition is my mother's vintage ice skates turned wreath that welcomes you in the front door.

Next, say Merry Christmas to our own little Smoky
who is filled with the holiday spirit even though he looks a bit down in the mouth.

The big draw of Christmas decorations is the tree. Ours is in the living room and is visible from the foyer.

A favorite decoration of mine are the ornate glass ornaments that hang from the living room archway.
They are too pretty to be hidden on the tree.

If you can turn away from the beauty that is the living room, you will see the candy-striped bannister.

Another favorite of mine is the beaded garland on the mirror in the foyer.

I love it so much, I leave this up all year long.

We do have children so all of our decoration can't be so adult. So we have these guys that the boys made several years ago.

And we have an impressive collection of Mickey & Santa snow globes.

One holiday dilemma that I have struggled with for years is what to do with all those holiday cards? How do you display them? Do you put them in a decorative basket? This is what I have done for the last few years.

Ribbons and clothes pins tacked around the kitchen doorframe make a nice display. We can see all those great holiday photo cards that everybody sends. I haven't received that many yet. Hey people, where are my cards? I haven't sent mine out yet, but here's a peak.

I hope your angels are watching over you this holiday and all year long. I have a few that came from my parents' collection that provide a little extra protection during the holidays.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 10, 2010

An Anniversary Gift, One Year Late

I gave my husband his 15th anniversary present today. Nevermind that it is our 16th anniversary. The present was imagined and intended for the 15th; it just took me over a year to get around to making it. The gift is a photo book of us - pictures of us from the earliest of dates to as recent as last month and everything in between. It spans 23 years - half his life and more than half of mine. This is where the book started.

At a sorority formal in 1987. He still makes me smile like that.

We have always taken self-portraits of us together. You know, lean our heads together and one of us holds out the camera pointing back at us to snap a shot. So most of the pictures aren't that flattering. But we're always smiling. There are several, better pictures of us taken by others. But I made sure to get as many of the self-portraits in as possible, even the really bad ones. Those are our private moments, in the midst of a crowd or surrounded by our children. We take a brief moment to capture just us.

I also included several images of us individually, usually taken by the other. These are the shots where one is looking at the other and seeing something that no one else sees. You can't capture that on film but we always try.

A photo book like this is a great gift for a nice round anniversary like the 15th. Normally I would be annoyed that I didn't get it made and given last year. But I am happy that it worked out this way. The 16th has been a challenging year for us with lots of new life surprises and decisions. But we've come through closer and we head into our 17th legal year with high hopes and strong love and a book that documents our life and love through the years. I'm not sure we would have appreciated the book quite as much last year.

Happy Anniversary to us!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Measuring Post-Thanksgiving Brain Activity

Even though it's December and I should have already done this, I have to post about our Thanksgiving. When I am done with this, I might actually start getting ready for Christmas. Really, this is the only thing that is keeping me from jumping right in to my holiday to-do list.

We spent Thanksgiving in Tennessee, God's country as I have said before. In case you forgot what God's country looks like, here it is. This would have been our view if we had looked up and past the mountains of food on our Thanksgiving plates.

The food mountains were nearly as beautiful as these. We shared a fabulous meal with several members of my husband's family and my parents. The food was plentiful and delicious. The turkey was moist. In fact, all the food was moist. One of the family members, who happens to be Scottish and therefore hasn't celebrated many Thanksgivings, was coached to use "moist" when complimenting the Thanksgiving feast. You can't go wrong if you say it's "moist", he was told. We laughed frequently as everyone noted how moist every dish was. Say moist enough and it loses all of its intended meaning and becomes something else not so appetizing or complimentary.

As surely was the post-meal activity at the first Thanksgiving, my kids got the older "kids" involved in a heated session of MindFlex. The older kids had only heard about MindFlex but had never seen it in action so they were very excited to test their cerebral skills. And my kids wanted to see what the big kids were made of. MindFlex reads your brainwave activity via a wireless headset and uses your brain activity level to manuever a ball around an obstacle course. Think it. Move it. Believe it. Says so right on the box. It was funny to see who actually had brain activity after Thanksgiving dinner and who did not.

Some thought the best approach was to stare fixedly at the ball to increase your concentration.

Some thought that the closer you put your face to the ball and obstacle course, the more effective your efforts would be.

Others thought that you could somehow use hand gestures to effect the ball's movement.

Not surprisingly, there was some brain activity detected in all subjects who tried MindFlex. These are really smart young adults we're looking at here. But I do think the testing was unfair since their systems were riddled with L-tryptophan and maybe a wee bit of wine. How else do you think my boys could have convinced them to wear that silly headset and take MindFlex so seriously?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Good Thank-You Note Goes A Long Way...

If you haven't been good this year, there is still a little time to clean up your act a bit before Christmas. My kids are already working on buttering up the BMIR to make amends for some of their antics this year...

We'll see how well this tactic works.