Friday, December 30, 2011

Christmas Recap

Our Christmases are always filled with precious memories.  (No, not the cheesy figurines.)  Precious memories and, well, peculiar ones.  Probably because my whole family is just a bit off-kilter.

Do you mean to tell me that other families don't pass their gifts around so everyone can smell them?  Or openly discuss the possibility that gits of special bath soap may reflect a deficiency in one's bathing habits?  Or, as my cousin did after lunch, heave oneself onto the couch face down muttering,

"The food-baby.  If I lay on it, maybe it will go away."

And then there are the gift-opening traditions.  We open one gift at a time, so it won't be a free-for-all, and so that people (especially smaller people) can properly demonstrate gratitude.  Also to give my mom time to carefully collect the bows that are nice enough to be used again.  And again.  And again.  And the boxes.  When my Nana was still living you might receive a gift, wrapped in a box that was older than you were.  Possibly from a store that had closed in the 1950's.

Ahhh.  Good times.

Actually, they are good times.  The boys heartily proclaimed this the best Christmas ever.  And they're right.  Every Christmas is the best one ever.  And it's not just the gifts, either, though we like them ;D

You see, we view the holidays as an opportunity to spend time together.  With each other.  Sitting around the living room, (or standing around the array of cookies in the kitchen, more likely), finding out what's been going on in each others' lives.  That's what we do when we have company over, too.  Talk together.  Get to know each other better.  Find out what they've been doing, what they think about things, what's important.  Some people think we're kind of weird (probably true), but I think

conversation is a dying art that needs to be revived :D

But now that Christmas is over, I am SO ready to move on.  In fact - don't hate me - I took the tree down the day after Christmas.  Had we not been trekking down to the in-laws the following day I might have waited a bit.  But coming home yesterday, which felt like eons after Christmas, I knew I'd want it all gone.  And after three days in the bottom of a valley, in non-stop pouring rain, even more so.

I love Christmas.  Just about everything to do with it.  And the decorations are part of the joy and celebration.  Now, I don't want to tart up my house until truckers stop to ask if Earlene is working this shift, but we do like things festive.  Yet as much as I love it, it wears on me after awhile.  When you add the piles of gifts we've received (wonderful gifts!) it's all just too much visual clutter.

Time to shift to winter mode.  Move things away from the windows so as much light as possible can come in.  Clear off all the surfaces.  Give the house a winter-y look.  Time for things to be new and fresh and clean.

There may be no snow outside, but inside sparkles with joy. 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Confession

Every year I think I'm going to do Christmas better.  

I'll get my shopping done earlier.
I'll make more gifts.
I'll send out a Thanksgiving letter instead of a Christmas card.
I'll decorate with what I love and purge what I don't.
I'll have more people over.

And there will be peace, and joy, and cookies for everyone, right?

But in the real world, we have a weekend SAREX campout (seriously, who plans this in cold, dark northern latitudes in December?), choir practice, CAP squadron meetings, youth-group, a PTO day (hallelujah!), Tuba Christmas, Messiah performances, 20 or so relatives to lunch, the kids' Christmas program at the Chapel, and one boy with new glasses, and homeschool, and laundry, and a living room full of boys playing Risk.

And Christmas is four days away and they've eaten every Christmas cookie I've made.  And I'm still trying to get Christmas cards addressed, wrap the last few presents, and find the best picture of the boys to give the in-laws, out of the five thousand or so (no kidding) I took on vacation.

So it's not exactly sleep in heavenly peace around here.

But neither was the first Christmas, was it?

A crisis pregnancy.  An unplanned road trip.  And how far is it from Nazareth to Bethlehem?  About a hundred miles?  Really?  Nine months pregnant and riding a donkey for a hundred miles?  With no place to stay?  No comfort.  No guest towels.  No room service.  No privacy.  A baby, born in a barn.  No epidural.  No crib.  No Pampers.  And unexpected company!  Shepherds, foreigners (at least they brought gifts!), angels.  No, not exactly sleep in heavenly peace.

But it is Joy to the World.

We rejoice.  We celebrate.  We sing.  And we light candles and drip wax on our fingers. 

And we stumble imperfectly through it all, because...

For to us a child is born,
to us a Son is given,
and the government will be
on His shoulders.
And He will be called
Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God,
Everlasting Father,
the Prince of Peace.


Lift up your heads,
O ye gates,
and be lifted up,
ye everlasting doors;

and the King of Glory
shall come in.



Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Not Very Christmassy, But Real Life

There are reasons I don't go out to the garage very often.  Here you see a few of them.  (No, I don't mean The Boy.)

That makes my head want to explode.

This... well... what can I say.  It's the Testosterzone.

This, on the other hand, makes my heart sing.  Gunnar loves to take things apart and see what's inside.  He usually remembers to ask first, because - Lord have mercy - he is not so much into putting it all back together.  But, as Kerry's fax machine went belly up, he can have at it.

He doesn't just smash things, as we sometimes enjoy, but really takes them apart carefully.  Then he brings me his treasures ;D

Monday, December 19, 2011

Grasshopper Days

Grasshopper Days

For today, December 19, 2011

Outside my window...  still dark.

I am thinking...  what a whirlwind of a week we've just had!  All good, but kind of crazy.  Pics coming soon.

I am thankful for...  the kids' Christmas program last night.  Fun.  Low-key.  No stress.  All the kids, from preschool to high school, do their part.  And how cute are the little toddlers in their white angel outfits, with tinsel in their hair?  Or little curly shepherds' beards?  And hearing Luke 2 read by boys and girls in a motley collection of bathrobes?  Now that's what I call a good Christmas program :D

I am praying for...  peace and joy :D

I am wearing...  jeans, white mock-T, black and white and red snowflake sweater.

I am creating...  hmmm, working towards the peace and joy!

I am going...  to get Wyatt going on some school work, and to make cookies with the other two.  Yes, we are on break, but somebody has let himself get behind in science and history.  And yes, I know we're homeschoolers and flexible and all that, but I don't want procrastination to take root and flourish.

I am reading...  still finishing The Sign of the Beaver, and also reading Christmas books every night, as is our tradition.  We have a lot of Christmas traditions.  If you're interested, I've put links to them under the tab, above.

I am remembering...  Christmas 2008, when we had a LOT of snow.  So much snow we couldn't drive up Grandpa and Grandma's driveway, and hiked up, pulling presents on plastic toboggans, as Grandpa shuttled us up on a borrowed ATV.  The boys keep hoping for a repeat!

From the learning rooms...  just Wyatt, plugging away.

From the kitchen...  a few more cookies, and (probably) meatballs for dinner.

Around the house...  happy, happy, happy Christmas things.

Something I want to remember for later...  we had a crowd here on Saturday.  A fun crowd.  My dad's side of the family.  I put a Sharpie out by the (plastic) cold-drink cups so everyone could write their name on theirs.  (Yes, we do that.)  Grandma asked Gunnar to get her some juice, and he labeled her cup, "best grandma ever".  Yep.

On my mind...  am I missing anything???  Because it seems like maybe I can relax.

Noticing that...  my boys... I love them... but they talk All. The.  Time.

Pondering these words...  

Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace,
good will toward men.

One of my favorite things...  feeling ready.

A few plans for the rest of the week...  ironically, a few appointments for the boys.  Check ups, etc.

Here is a picture I am sharing...  

The elves, heading out on a Cookie Mission.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


In the spirit of holiday sharing, Wyatt and Tate brought home germs from last weekend's bivouac.  I may or may not be coming down with something.  If I am, I'm in denial.

Do. Not. Have. Time.

But I did get a Christmas letter written, get presents wrapped and under the tree (and - more importantly - out of my office), and started making treats today.  Tate, always VERY motivated to help, dipped an entire (large) bag of pretzels in white chocolate. And yes, I know it's not actually chocolate, but almond bark, really?  It's vanilla.  One of the mysteries of life, I guess.

Which reminded me of something else I want to dip... truffles.  No, not the fancy kind (I leave that to my sister).  Noooo, I've been waiting for Candy-cane Joe-joes.  You know, like mint oreos, but much, much better.  (Trader Joe's have bits of crushed candy cane in them.  Yum.)  We want Joe-joe truffles.  And I had to act fast, before certain family members (*ahem*  Kerry) eat all four boxes. 

Then when the older boys went off to youth group, Gunnar insisted on making gingerbread men, which he doesn't even really like all that well, but somehow he felt they were necessary.  And would you believe it, I don't have a gingerbread man cookie cutter?  Went to borrow one from my neighbor and she didn't either!  But she loaned us her Easter bunny cookie cutter which worked great.  With some minor modifications.  I rolled and cut out the cookies and Gunnar ripped off their ears and reshaped their heads.  He liked that part best.  As he dried and put away the dishes I mixed up a double batch of mint meringues.  No rolling, not cutting.  Just mix them up, put them in a hot oven, turn it off, and leave them in all night - easy squeezy.  That's my kind of cookie.

Now, to get said Christmas letter into cards, envelopes addressed, stamped, etc.

How hard can that be, right?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Grasshopper Days

Grasshopper Days

For today, December 12, 2011

Outside my window...  a glorious, sunny, frosty day.  I soak up light whenever I can get it, because we'll probably have clouds and rain later in the week.

I am thinking...  I think, I really think, I'm done Christmas shopping.  One gift card left to pick up at the grocery store doesn't count ;D  Hallelujah!

I am thankful for...  see above.  Now free to do more important (and fun!) things :D

I am praying for...  a man from church just diagnosed with leukemia, work for Kerry, peace and joy in the house.

I am creating...  good gracious, if you could see my office... well... I'm creating a MESS.  I've been wrapping in here and there is stuff EVERYWHERE.  No one else is allowed in.  But soon, very soon, I'll be done wrapping and can tidy up!

I am going...  to make Christmas treats this week :D

I am reading...  The Sign of the Beaver, with the boys.

I am hoping...  to have friends over before Christmas.

I am hearing...  the furnace blowing, ahhhhhhh.

I am remembering...  all my good intentions to have things done early - like gift-shopping and writing a Christmas letter.

From the learning rooms...  I left the boys home today, with their schoolwork, and went shopping with Grandma Grasshopper.  I love that they're old enough to do that now, once in awhile.  Not sure how much they got done, but anything is better than nothing.

From the kitchen...  ummmm, must think of something :o\

Around the house...  I love Christmas decorations.  I love my nativities.  I love candles.  I love Christmas music.  And I love the smell of my Christmas tree.

Something I want to remember later...  how much Gunnar misses his brothers when they're gone.  He does NOT like to sleep in the bedroom alone!

On my mind...  can't wait to find out if I'm going to have a niece or a nephew!

Noticing that...  how much Gunnar likes the words "hence" and "thus".  He reads a lot.

Pondering these words... 

let heaven and nature sing!

One of my favorite things...  hearing my boys sing Christmas carols.  Even the ones that don't exactly follow the notes on the page ;D

A few plans for the rest of the week...  choir practice tonight, CAP tomorrow, youthgroup on Wednesday, friends coming to dinner on Thursday, PTO day Friday (!), and a big family gathering on Saturday - here.  Whew!

Here is a picture I am sharing... 

Is it over-sharing to show a picture of our bedroom?  I love my bed... the soft, flannel sheets and the big down comforter... they call to me on these dark, cold winter nights.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Weekend

You'd think with two boys gone all weekend that life would be... I don't know... two thirds simpler?

Not exactly.

It's good to have them home. 
Along with their noise,
their activity,
their appetites,
and their piles of dirty laundry.

Friday, December 9, 2011

True Confessions

Well, well, well.  Another day, another boggling.

It doesn't take much.  I'm easily boggled lately.  I could blame the boybarians.  Or hormones.  Or just about anything.  Today, how about Stuff-Mart?

I went out Christmas shopping this morning.  Again.  And even though it was a work day, and - compared to a weekend - not really very crowded, it still felt kind of crazy.  So many people.  So much stuff.  You know, I've figured it out.  What it comes down to is just


That's it.  Really, I'm good for about two, three, maybe four hours until my eyes glaze over and I get a headache.  (I know, I know, first world problems...)

Anyone else?  Am I the only one with matching chromosomes who doesn't feel very merry about Christmas shopping?  And then, of course, I feel guilty about that.  Because it's not as if I'm being forced into buying obligation-gifts for a bunch of people I could care less about.  This is my family!  I love them!  I want to give them good things!  I'm just not a shopping-as-recreation kind of gal.

Still.  I had a list.  I worked the list.  I made progress.  So that was good.

Actually, here's the funny thing.  The best thing I found today was for... me :D  I didn't mean to be shopping for me, but as long as I was in Value Village (looking for stuff for Gunnar to take apart), I might as well keep my eyes open, right?  (You would, wouldn't you?)  And I was rewarded with this:

An LL Bean Christmas sweater.  For twelve bucks.  Granted, it won't look quite like that on me, given that I'm not that tall, nor that skinny, and - duh - I have hair, but still... love it!  Funny thing is, when I got home and looked at it again I became convinced that someone I know has this very sweater. But who?

So after my slightly overwhelming shopping expedition, I arrived back home and helped Wyatt and Tate get their stuff organized for The Bivouac.  Which they're all excited about.  And here, again, I'm boggled.  Because I, for one, would not be excited about a weekend campout in December.  What they're going to accomplish in roughly seven hours of daylight, with a projected high temp of 42F (that's about 5.5C, my friends), I have no idea.  I hope it's not treating hypothermia.  I'll let you know, when they get back.

In the mean time, I have presents to wrap :D

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


A plea to my fellow mothers of boybarians:

With two boy having only recently entered the teen years, I'm by no means an expert on this whole taming wild carnivores parenting adolescents gig.  But there's one thing that bugs me no end every time I run into certain friends of my boys.


Too much hair.  Too long.  Too shaggy.  Too girly.

Yes.  I realize there are bigger issues.  Drugs.  Promiscuity.  Violence.  I get it.  But honestly, take it from someone who lived through the seventies.  The groovy shaggy look is a sad mess. 

We all know what is the natural focus of the teen years.  ME.  ME.  MEAnd hair in his eyes and covering his face allows him to avoid relating to others through eye-to-eye contact.  Besides, he's too busy cocking his head at just the right angle, and flipping the hair almost-but-not-quite out of his eyes.  It's annoying enough to watch a girl constantly fidgeting with her hair, but a boy?  Twice as bad.  Awful.  Help him rise above the narcissism.

And for heaven's sake, help him look like a young man.  You may have found his curls adorable as a toddler, but it's time to lose the effeminate look.

It all 'clicked' with me as I've been driving the boys to their CAP meetings, and interacting with the other cadets there.  You see, at CAP there are (*gasp!*) grooming standards.  Not only are all the cadets and officers in uniform, they are also all neat and tidy.  They look up, meet my eyes, and greet me.  And it doesn't hurt that they unfailingly call me "Ma'am", and jump up to hold the door open, too.

Sure, their behavior matters more than their appearance, but don't you think there's some interplay there?  Maybe a lot?  And let me assure you, as an adult, it's much easier to approach and interact with a young man who has a fresh, clean, open face than one who is ungroomed, immature, and unmanly.

There are things you do for his own good, whether he likes it or not.  Keep his hair short.

Wednesday Brain Dump

1.  Remind the boys that today is Pearl Harbor Day; don't forget.

2.  Listen every morning as Gunnar announces how many days are left until Christmas.  Appreciate that he's excited, but nearly have heart failure on a daily basis, given my level of unpreparedness.  Try to smile, cheerfully.

3.  Achieve this with more difficulty, these last couple of days due to "girl issues".  'Nuff said.  Ugh.

4.  Have managed to get the tree decorated while boys gone at CAP.  Pictures soon eventually.  Normally love doing this, but this time... mustering will-power to leave the couch, hot drink, and heating pad takes more effort.

5.  Am conquering the lethargy, aided by occasional doses of Nutella,  so dangerously good it should probably be a controlled-substance.

6.  Have convinced Wyatt to join me in the chapel's Christmas Choir.  Discovered he's a bass!  Who knew?  Am surprised he agreed to come at all, a situation helped greatly by the choir director's sense of humor as well as after-practice reward = ice cream.

7.  Must dig through gift box and see if that helps the preparedness situation any.

8.  Remember why I'm doing this...  :D

Monday, December 5, 2011

In Which We Get Our Christmas Tree

Today was The Day. 

The perfect day to get the tree.
Not raining is always good, and today was sunny and cold.
School can wait.

We can see Mt. Baker, along the way to the tree farm.

And we go by this church, which I like for the traditional look and the graveyard on both sides.

The view from the tree farm... acres and acres of firs, surrounded by mountains.
That's Mt. Baker, hiding in the clouds.

And the Twin Sisters poke their heads over the foothills across the river.

But we are all about finding the perfect tree.
Wyatt scouts them out.

Tate is just happy to be there, finding the Perfect Tree.

Yes!  This is the one!

Gunnar concurs.

Tate and Gunnar use the Swedish saw like a cross-cut saw,
and have the lower branches trimmed and the tree down in minutes.

We've been coming to this same lot for ever.
Any size Douglas Fir, twenty-five bucks.

 Not to mention, hot cider, cookies, and candy canes in the office, by the wood stove :D

We've got it in, up, and lighted.
Ornaments tomorrow.

*Happy sigh!*

Grasshopper Days

Grasshopper Days

For today, December 5, 2011

Outside my window...  still dark.  Oh these short winter days!  Looks like it will be cold and clear.

I am thinking...  about Christmas gifts and shopping left to do.

I am thankful for...  a big crowd at Tuba Christmas (fun!), and both Messiah performances went well.  A couple of odd quirks, like the lights in the sanctuary all going off briefly in the middle of one of the solos (huh?) but we carried on.

I am praying for...  us, Christmas, focus amid the hustle and bustle.

I am going...  to get two boys out of bed, to get our day going.  Can you guess which two are still sleeping?

I am reading...  The Courage of Sarah Noble, and Captured! with the boys. as we talk about the relationship between the colonists and the Native Americans.

I am hoping...  to get a Christmas tree, today or tomorrow!

I am hearing...  the washer and dryer.  I often throw a load in the wash before bed, to dry in the morning, or start one in the morning when I get up.  Or, when it's been a busy weekend, both.

I am remembering...  wishing for snow, like my boys do now.

From the learning rooms...  Wyatt - experiments with water, algebra equations with exponents, reading Tom Sawyer, and the Presidents leading up to the Civil War.  Tate - has set himself a goal of getting a week ahead in his school work, so is working steadily on all his language assignments each morning.  He's also studying geology (three categories of rock - can you name them?), volume of solids, and going to write a research paper on an event in American history.  Gunnar - multiplying three-digit by two-digit numbers with carrying, working steadily on is language assignments, excited about primeval reptiles (studying aquatic Zoology this year), and - with Tate - we are reading about the Colonists and the Indians (Native Americans).

From the kitchen...  about to put a roast and some veggies in the crock pot.  Yum!

Around the house...  I scaled down some of our decorations this year.  I'd rather have less out that I really like, than everything I've ever gotten.  Lots of candles, though :D

Something I want to remember...  how determined Tate is to impress and/or please those in authority over him.  And the way Gunnar comes cheerfully to Messiah and then sleeps through the first half.

On my mind...  if I'm going to get any Christmas cards out this year, I'd better write a letter!

Noticing that...  I still have not put away the spoils of Friday's shopping expedition.  Oops.

Pondering these words...  let earth receive her king.

One of my favorite things...  how well twinkly lights, candles, and Christmas music go with a hot cup of cocoa.  Speaking of Christmas music, though, my friend Dan has re-posted some interesting thoughts on O Holy Night, a carol that never really sat right with me.  Read why, here.

A few plans for the rest of the week...  just when I thought Monday night rehearsals were done, our church is going to have a Christmas choir, so three more Monday evenings to go!  Boys have CAP on Tuesday, then I think we can coast a bit :D  But they have a bivouac this weekend.  I'm a bit boggled by that, as I'm not sure what they intend to accomplish by
camping out in December when there is a grand total
of about seven hours of daylight to work with
but they boys want to go, and I'm assuming it's SAR-related.  Crazy, though.

Here is a picture I am sharing...

About 42 tubas at Tuba Christmas!

And 70 Messiah singers, including - at the far end of the first row - a ten-year-old soprano.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Saturday Brain Dump

Because I'm too tired to form coherent thoughts longer than a paragraph.

1.  Yes, it has been a crazy week,  thanks for asking.  Yes we did have something going on nearly every single day.  Why people live like that on a regular basis is beyond me.

2.  But this week is an exception, and it was lots of fun things, including Tuba Christmas (biggest ever, in our town, with forty-two tubas), two Messiah performance, some Christmas shopping, as well as CAP, youthgroup, rehearsals, etc.

3.  Tate had his eyes tested, and *surprise!* has inherited the family tendency to near-sightedness.  This came as a shock to Tate, who continues to insist he sees just fine, in spite of the fact that when the eye doctor asked him to read the lowest row of letters he could make out, he started with the top row.  And made mistakes.

Tate is such an emotionally solid/stable kid, it surprised me that he was so upset.  Could be that compounded with his hearing loss, he just can't stand that another system is malfunctioning.  Though I have assured him that glasses are much simpler than HA's.  Hearing aids can amplify sound, but they can't "fix" your hearing the way glasses can truly correct your vision.

Also, he seemed to think that needing glasses would automatically exclude him from lots of job opportunities.  I have no idea where he got that idea, and assured him that I couldn't think of any.  (At least, not any that his hearing loss doesn't already affect, like joining the military.)

I hope I've been able to reassure him on that front.  About the only things I said that might have cheered him up were:
     *  Lots of people think that glasses make you look more intelligent, and
     *  Hey!  Your glasses will probably help a lot next time you go hunting.

I think I hit pay dirt with that last one.

4.  Wyatt and Gunnar get their eyes tested later this month, and if family history plays out, Tate may not be alone...

5.  Tate also has appointments this month with his regular doc, (just a check up), and his audiologist at Seattle Children's.  I'm totally embarrassed to realize it has been so long *cough* a year and a half *cough* since we were down there.  Just go ahead and tattoo a big "L" on my forehead.  Good grief. 

I'm hoping his hearing aid needs maintenance, because something has definitely changed.  Getting a lot more huh?  Of course, he's getting to the age where he doesn't want to admit he didn't hear something.  And/or he doesn't know what he missed.

6.  If there is a shopping disability, I think I have it.  I know, the stereotype is that women love to shop.  I must be missing the gene.  I want to give gifts to my family.  Good gifts.  Because I love them (my family, I mean!)  And, yes, I am doing some of my shopping online.  I'm just not very good at shopping.  In any venue.

7.  Good thing tomorrow is Sunday, because I need a day of rest.  Exhaustion and hormones are catching up with me.  But if I get my school planning done for this week, maybe we can get out and get a Christmas tree :D

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Gunnar Wonders

In the (old, Boris Karloff cartoon version)
How the Grinch Stole Christmas,
why is Max, the dog,

the only living thing with ears?

Maybe that explains all the noise the Grinch hates.

Seen On A Sweatshirt

... of a 12 or 13 year old boy.

Who buys this for their kids?