Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Holiday Home Tour 12.12.12

The twelve days of Christmas are right around the corner. But the twelves are here in triplicate today. In the spirit of twelve, we'll be making twelve stops on this holiday home tour. First stop: Memory Lane.

I started this project last Christmas and finished it last week, just in time. I gathered all the boys' Santa pictures from the past twelve Christmases and framed them in collage frames. This is now the focal point of our holiday mantel.

Sadly, I don't think we'll be visiting Santa this year as there are some skeptics in the house. But at least we now have the years of magical thinking captured and framed.

Speaking of capturing things, I found a new way to capture another batch of memories. I bought a merry and bright red scrapbook, embellished it with a holiday foil tree...

...and filled it with our family holiday cards from the past twelve years since the boys were born. I thought organizing made me happy but now I know holiday organizing makes me elfishly happy!

Just so you don't think we're all structure and no fun during the holidays, you must know that we honor the pickle tradition in our house. Now that's fun.

Even more fun is the funky holiday glasses that the boys received in the mail this week. They turn the view of your Christmas tree lights from ho-ho-hum... HOHOHO-LY SNOWFLAKES!
I put the glasses over my camera lens and this is what you see.

We like tradition as much as we like fun so I must point out some traditional holiday treasures that are included in my holiday decor. These caroling books grace the piano every Christmas season. They belonged to my parents' families and date 1942 and 1935 respectively.

I also display my mother's Christmas story and prayer books, dating 1941 and 1943.

And you thought it was titled, "Twas the Night Before Christmas..." Look again.

Another thing I have from my mother is something that has developed without my knowing.

 My mother has a vast collection of Santa Claus figures.

I never fully undestood her fascination with collecting them.

But it seems that I too have a fairly sizable collection.

How did this happen?

Maybe it happened while I was admiring my Nutcracker collection. Somebody stop me.

Thankfully my kids are always here to keep me in check during the holidays... after all, it is about them, right? And for them, we have a new advent calendar this year. Behind each door is a small surprise.

 Some days, there is a message or a fun holiday "to-do" item for the day.

I've lost count of the stops on this holiday home tour. Whether it was twelve or not, doesn't matter. What matters is sharing the joy of the season. May you have it and share it twelve-hundredfold.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Recipe for Holiday Giving in 25 Steps

I live in a house of boys. During the holiday season, they like to get into the holiday spirit, doing traditional holiday things like playing video games, having Nerf wars, lying on the couch and watching hours of TV...just like the rest of the year.

I, on the other hand, prefer to do the even more traditional holiday things like baking, decorating, writing lists and using ribbon. Strangely, none of my boys will join me in my holiday activities, unless of course I bribe them with extra computer or couch time. When they were younger, they would be my partners in holiday fun but this year (thank you middle school influence) even my youngest is requiring higher value bribes.

To combat the male dominance in the house, I threw them out. Literally, last Friday night I made them all, including my husband, leave. They went out to do male things while I had a night of holiday festivities of the feminine variety. A few friends gathered to combine efforts in making a large quantity of holiday gifts. Here's our recipe:

Step 1. Gather with your closest friends.

Actually this is Step 17. Steps 1 - 16 involve several internet searches, writing various lists, numerous visits to select stores to compare prices, and repeat visits to certain price competitive stores to purchase needed supplies. But once you get to Step 17, you're good to go.

Step 18. Stage all the ingredients in an assembly line fashion.

Step 19. Put the girls to work in a real assembly line.

Step 20. Take turns behind the camera and behind the stove.

Step 21. Take a break for some good conversation.

Step 22: Count your production.

Step 23. Have some fun with wine, I mean, twine.

Step 24: Recount your production.

Step 25: Wrap it up!

For the sauce recipe, click here.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Not So Black Friday

After my last post, which was fairly thankless, I should tell you that we had a very nice thank-filled Thanksgiving yesterday. I don't want to leave you with the impression that we had a horrible day and were unable to enjoy even a moment of it. That's not the way things are. It was a beautiful day with lots of wonderful food and conversations with many family members. We took the dog on two walks, between our meals and played with the kids. It was a day to be thankful for.

My husband decided to venture out for the 10:00 pm early Black Friday opening of a local electronics retail store. We have never been Black Friday shoppers but why not try to get a good deal? said he. And besides he didn't have to go to work today, so going out late would be fine. Our 12 year-old went with him as a witness to the insanity. That's what they found. The line to get in said retailer was the length of football field. The retailer was controlling the traffic inflow into the store, not car traffic but people traffic. They would only let a few folks in at a time to quell the mob stampede. In the football field analogy, my two shoppers were on their 35-yard line, 65 yards away from the end zone. In the fifteen minutes that my husband committed to this attempt, they moved only 5 yards. It was a "3 and out" play and they gave up. They came home after 5 yards with no TV. There was no way they were going to stay for more. Like the University of Tennessee football team; they are better off not playing if they can't compete.

Speaking of my husband, he participates in the most popular fitness activity for men over 40: cycling. He rides several times a week and cycling is his mental and physical release. And he gets to wear spandex. Here's something you don't see everyday.

He usually doesn't wear this much spandex at one time, but it was pretty cold yesterday morning.

Speaking of cold, if we get the cold hard winter that is being predicted, we are all set. We rented a wood splitter this week.

It was a family work day.

So bring it on winter! There's another wood pile like this outside too. We are ready!

And on this Fragmented Friday, I leave you with this. Our Cub Scout Raingutter Regatta was held earlier this week. The Regatta adds another meaning to Webelos.....We- Blow!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Roux of Rue

It is time for Thanksgiving.  Not just the day and the big meal, but it is time to give thanks. I have much to for which to be thankful: the wonderful family I have, my husband, my healthy kids, my health, my friends, the mere fact that we live in America and not one of the many warring, perilous places around the world. I could continue with this list but these are the top things that come to mind.

But even with all these blessings, I must admint I am finding it a bit difficult this year to give thanks. If I acted on some of my feelings, my thank you might sound more like, "Thanks a lot!" dripping with a sauce of sarcasm or worse, a roux of rue.

Amid the good things, 2012 also brought with it several helpings of disappointment, disbelief and despair. Sadness was served up for my family and me. Maybe you were served some too. We lost a loved one and recognized the first anniversary of another significant loss. All in our families (mine and my husband's) have struggled this year in many ways. But I know my family is not so different from yours. I am trying to recognize the benefit for these struggles, and my plate keeps coming up empty.

On a broader level, after the election, half of our country was left feeling like commerically-bred turkeys, ready for consumption. The other half of our country walked away from the election table feeling full and sated. And now the government is arguing over who gets credit for the meal and who's going to clean the kitchen. Politics always ruin dinner.

Trying to explain all of these personal tragedies and public debacles to my two young sons all the while leaving them with some shred of innocence is near impossible.

This isn't the Thanksgiving post you were expecting? Please accept my apologies. But I can't write a glib, all roses Thanksgiving post this year. I know I have an abundance for which to be grateful, but it is hard to appreciate stuff when the real things are out of order. People you love struggling, people you love no longer with us; those are the real things. Some of those real things may not change easily. And some of them definitely can't change. Even so, my sarcasm and bitterness definitely won't help.  I know that gratitude is healing when change is slow and all else fails.

I grew up in a house full of Boy Scouts, my three brothers. At many a mealtime, we recited the Boy Scouts' Grace. I was recently reminded of that prayer as it was posted in my son's Boy Scout Camp dining hall:

Our family version of this prayer was this:

For food,
for raiment,
 for life,
 for opportunity
for friendship, for fellowship
We thank Thee O Lord

Now that I have been reminded of this prayer, I recall it as one of my favorites back then. I like this simple prayer today just as much.

The path back to gratitude will have to be a simple one for me. I can be grateful for these simple things: food, basic necessities, life itself, opportunity, time with family and friends. These are real things too. Thankfulness for the other real things that are blocking my path to greater gratitude will have to come later.

Have a simple but Happy Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Pick a Holiday, any Holiday

This time of year all the retailers decide to move right on through the actual holiday that is next on the calendar and bombard us with items pertaining to the holiday that is second in line as far as dates go. They force us into the Christmas season before we can even give thanks for the blessings we already have, yet alone purchase the blessings that we will be gettin' for Christmas.

I am fighting against the early start of the Christmas season today. And I am doing it with an equal and opposite force. If they want us to go forward in time, my blog today forces us to go another holiday. If you don't want to go forward past Thanksgiving just yet, settle in here for a moment and slide back in time with me to Halloween. This is all just a lame excuse to set up my Halloween photos that I have only now downloaded. 

Halloween 2012 was the first time either of my kids wanted to dress "scary". By scary, I mean this:

This is Helios as Michael Myers the Halloween movie killer as Groucho Marx in the Hunger Games. This costume evolved over an afternoon rather than being a specific, well-thought out you probably might have guessed. I suspect this was the only Michael Marx Everdeen out trick-or-treating in 2012. Mark my words: I predict it will be one of the best-selling costumes for Halloween 2013 now that I've put it out on the web for the masses to see and embrace.

Halloween 2012 was also the first year that Leonardo didn't dress up. Middle school. Enough said.

Both boys wanted to carve pumpkins though so we got down to business. They let their personalities lead their carving styles. Leonardo chose an intricate design from a stencil book and set to work.

Michael chose a free-form design and stayed mostly in character.

He let me know with a mere look that he was not open to help or suggestions and I decided based on his reputation to let him do it his way.

Actually, his way turned out nicely even if his technique was a bit murderous.

All the while, Leonardo made slow but precise progress.

In fact, Leonardo took so long on his masterpiece I began to wonder if he was reproducing The Last Supper or possibly the Mona Lisa...

Michael Myers (no longer Marx) Everdeen just decided to play some computer game rather than wonder what his brother was doing.

They were both proud of their creations. Leonardo didn't recreate a famous work but chiseled out this scary face and completed it with a creepy color-changing LED light thus combining art and science, as he is known to do.

Michael Myers Everdeen thought his jack-o-lantern looked better in the Groucho glasses so they became part of his Halloween display, thus adding humor and the unexpected as we have come to expect from him. 

Our Halloween culminated in our ever-growing neighborhood chili dinner and group trick-or-treating.

A motlier crew you will not find elsewhere.

Hope you had a haunted Halloween!  And now you may move forward to whichever holiday suits you.

Friday, November 9, 2012

My Amazing Race

I don't routinely watch The Amazing Race but have seen it a few times. From my limited knowledge of the show, here is my take:  each episode, the contestants are put through seemingly nonsensical, purposeless challenges only to be moved forward to another nonsensical, purposeless challenge.There are various snafus along the way to keep things interesting.

As I was driving around this morning following my list of errands, it occurred to me that I am living my own version of The Amazing Race...minus the all-expenses paid travel to exotic places and travel companion. Here is My Amazing Race challenge for the morning which I had to complete in a very specific order otherwise I would fail this challenge:
  • Text two other moms to confirm afternoon tranport for my kids (thanks ladies!)
  • Email various school personnel to give permission for altered afternoon transport
  • Travel by van to dry cleaners for drop-off and pick-up
  • Notice that all my buttons are literally hanging by threads on the coat I am wearing; leave said coat at dry cleaners (snafu #1)
  • Travel back home to get another coat
  • Realize while at home that list of errands is sitting on kitchen table. Be glad I came home for another coat (snafu #2)
  • Travel to the Golden Mile to service station to check warning light that keeps coming on.
  • Service station is next to ToyRUs, conveniently, thankfully since new Nerf Darts are needed for weekend lock-in (bonus point!)
  • Rendevous back at home with Egg Lady for black market, organic egg delivery
  • Travel again by van to pick up root beer & Cool Ranch Doritos (for the lock-in, of course)
  • Return home again to clean the bathroom, finishing with a shower
Ok I know this isn't as thrilling as the actual Amazing Race. But this is the life of a mom of tweens and my daily list looks about this random every day. I am happy to say I won this particular challenge and can move forward to the next seemingly nonsensical, purposeless challenge tomorrow.  And I happy to be able to do this crazy, random stuff for my kids and family. There is sense and purpose to it all, I just know it.

I am especially thankful to be able to play along in My Amazing Race when there are things going on like the continued struggles of those in the Northeast following Sandy and the winter storm earlier this week. I also don't know how long My (and our country's) Amazing Race will continue when I watch the news and listen to all the concern about the fiscal cliff that we are approaching. OMG!

One last random thought...on a local level, this weekend the Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts in our area will be picking up non-perisable food items for the annual Scouting For Food drive to support nine Frederick County food banks. The Scouts in this area supply 75% of the food donations to these local food banks. Please remember to put your food donations out on your front porch Saturday morning before 9:00 a.m. for the Amazing Scouts to collect. The collection efforts are an Amazing Race in and of themselves!

There are other amazingly random things going on at Mrs. 444s Friday Fragments

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

21-Day Yoga Challenge

My profile over there says I am a yogini-in-the-making.  What's that all about?  I have been practicing yoga this go around consistently since December 2011.  That's not a long time to be doing anything really.  Consistently in this sense means a few times a week, without missing a week over the past many months.  I say "this go around" because I have practiced yoga at many different points in my life and in many different ways. This time, not quite a year and counting, my practice has been noticeably different to me than in past times.

In the past, yoga was a side dish to my main course of exercise. This time, yoga is the main course. And since it is the main course, I am paying more attention to the details of my body, my breath, my mind.

Yoga makes me aware of my posture. I just sat up straighter as I typed that and my organs thank me for it.

Yoga makes me eat healthier. When I was a runner, I ate for fuel to burn: the more, the better. For yoga, I eat for ease on my organs, support for my body and lightness in my system and movement: the better, the better.

Yoga makes me quiet. On the mat is the place where my mind can go blank. In the best possible way.

While I can't deny its physical benefits and its ability to de-stress me almost at the mere thought of getting on my mat, mainly yoga makes me feel good.

Sol Yoga is my studio of choice. I volunteer there a few times a week in exchange for class time. Volunteering my time has helped solidify my own commitment to practicing yoga. One thing I know about myself is that I commit much deeper to something when I know others are counting on me too.

I have recently committed to Sol's 21-Day Yoga Challenge, eleven days ago to be exact. The challenge is to commit to practicing yoga every day for 21 days to cement the practice into your daily life. It is said that it takes three weeks to make or break a habit. Eleven days into this challenge, I feel the benefits. I feel better.  I feel stronger.  I feel better able to handle stress. I feel like I want to do some more yoga. I can't wait to see what happens after the 21 days. My practice before starting this challenge was consistent, but it wasn't a daily thing. I want it to be.

No one else is counting on me to fulfill this challenge, just me. But like committing fully to things when others are counting on me, I also commit fully to something when I have some accountability.  So, I've set up a 21-day Yoga Challenge accountability list on my top right sidebar to track my challenge results. I've been to Sol classes and then done a bit on my own at home.

The big question might be why participate in this challenge at all? It's just yoga. And it's just for me; nobody else benefits. But that's not true. While my yoga is just for me, lots of other people benefit from my yoga. Namely: my husband, my kids, my family, friends, the groups I volunteer for. When I do this small, daily thing for myself, I have more patience, energy and caring to give to all those around me. Yoga makes me feel good and feeling good makes me a nicer, more giving person.

10 days to go!

Friday, September 28, 2012

She Is From...

Today would have been Anna's 18th birthday.

This is a tough day for my brother and sister-in-law and for our whole family. A majorly tough day in a long line of tough days.

To ease this and other difficult days, I think about wonderful times with Anna. The happiest of times I recall are the ones she spent with my boys. The three of them had such fun together. Even with the age differences, Anna always played with them and made sure to squeeze out every ounce of fun she could have with them. I want to preserve all those fun times in my mind and in my boys' minds.

I recently wrote about where I Am From. That exercise gave me the idea of writing down the boys' memories of Anna. Could I look through their eyes, gather up all those moments in time and capture a snapshot of who she was in my boys' minds and lives? Remembering where she was from for their perspective may be one way to preserve the essence of Cousin Anna and all that we miss.

She Is From...

She is from belly laughs and banister kisses.
From Georgia pine straw clutched in baby fat hands.
She is from big brown eyes that see family first.

She is from the far-flung worlds of Coral Springs, Marietta, Naperville, Roswell, Stamford, Moscow, Bristol, St. Charles, Heaven.
She is from countless Hard Rock t-shirts, each one a visit to a new city with a passport stamp to match.

She is from Crazy Frog and back seat giggle sessions.
She is from a little snack o' brownie and creeper face.
She is from iPhotos captured with her outstretched arm.
She is from lean in and smile!

She is from Sticky Lizard and Sticky Chicken, tucked secretly in a suitcase for a sneaky surprise when you get back home.
She is from joint letters to Santa on Christmas Eve and
shared surprises Christmas morning.

She is from River Rat and yellow tubes rule!
She is from The Back Porch, Kenny Chesney and Rascal Flatts.

She is from Evergreen.
From the hot tub, the upstairs bedroom and Playstation battles.
She is from rides through the Cove, picnics, deer counts and bear sightings.
She is my partner in Forced Family Fun.

She is from every trip to Townsend, every curve in the road, every peak of the hills, every misty wisp on the mountains.
She is tethered to me, running in the rain, saving me from the big storm.

She is from hugs that are real
and hopes that are pure
and love for me that never ends.
She is my Anna.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

I Am From...

Most of my sentences start with "I". Don't yours?

I is your seat in the house for viewing your own life:

front row, center.

Today my front row, center is jumping on a band wagon.

Someone I know in real life and in the blogging world made me aware of this band wagon when she posted her self-penned, autobiographical poem called I Am From...

I Am a worldwide writing prompt set in motion by George Ella Lyon. The idea is to consider the people, places, things that helped shape you and put them in poetic form. I couldn't resist the invitation to jump on this wagon, especially with the license to start so many sentences with "I". This particular I Am From... is about a young me and the story stops short of the start of my adult life. There could be volumes of my I Am From... that remain to be written. But for now,

I Am From...

I am from a living room drawer overflowing with loose snapshots and Polaroids covered with grandchildren’s fingerprints. From pink shag carpet and a gingham canopy bed to match. I am from Holly Hobbie, Donny Osmond, Pooh Bear and Stretch Armstrong.

I am from the baby of the family, three big brothers, Boy Scout Camp, summer swim team and never being old enough to ride my bike to Colonel’s Market. I am from honeysuckle and tire swings. From fear of the basement, the pump house and the upstairs alone.

I am from red hair, glasses and late blooming. I am from carpenter’s dreams.

I am from vacation bible school at the big church in town. I am from memorized verses and all the Books and a prize trip to Opryland. I am from organized religion, dismantled for me to see what’s underneath the pulpit and the dogma. I am from God is, underneath it all.

I am from the woodwinds, a reed softening in my mouth, right thumb calloused by a pad worn thin.

I am from three grandparents I never really knew and one who was all a grandmother ought to be. I am from wagon wheel, canasta, and hearts, find the thimble, and Apples of Gold. I am from homemade vegetable soup where potatoes might be turnips. I am from no aunts, no uncles, no first cousins, from the extended family that stopped short.

I am from having it all, moved through where did it all go and arrived at we didn’t really need it anyway.

I am from silly songs, family jokes, spoons magically hanging from noses and everybody talking at once. And from laughter too.

I am from parents volunteering, chaperoning, speaking out at meetings, calling teachers and superintendents, chairing committees and running PTAs.

I am from the curves and dips of the old road to Townsend. I am from the rope swing and Body on Tap rinsed clean in Great Smoky mountain river water. I am from Marlboro smoke twirling out the window of my best friend’s Triumph rolling home back down the old road.

I am from parents who held on to the rails and each other during the inevitable rocky parts of married family life. I am from work it out until it can’t be worked out. I am from commitment, loyalty, forgiveness. I am from a love so deep and insistent that it is too overwhelming to explain.

I am from these things I wouldn't change.

So where are you from?