Monday, December 21, 2009 your own risk!

"Do Less...Be More" special project for a friend.
So perhaps I have figured out how to link the video project we did for our dear sweet friend Julie Ochoa. After waiting 4 years, and getting the title "longest on the transplant list at UCLA" this young mom finally received a call that has given her new lungs & new life. It was priviledge to be awake between 2-3am, my scheduled prayer hour for her, but honestly all of our community of friends felt the world stand silently still as we waited through the surgery and first few days. Amazingly, and without any ability to know she would get a call 4 days later, she posted this to her own blog "STAND STILL AND SEE THIS GREAT THING THE LORD IS ABOUT TO DO BEFORE YOUR EYES!" 1Samuel 12:16
A month later, she is home with her wonderful husband and two girls, able to be involved with the preparations for the One who brought us all new life.
We are just hands on friends, so having to stay at a distance is challenging, but short of a sterilizing of all things germy, we love her enough to stay away...but too much not to do something special. I sure hope the link works...I'm sure I will hear from you if not and be able to redirect you somehow...enjoy a bunch of holiday spirit, dance style! Click on this link.
Merry Christmas Julie

Friday, December 18, 2009

Next to naughty in the dictionary...Mooch!

I don't care if these look like balls, they are ornaments, doggone it!

Or were ornaments and the Mooch spent the morning working his way to the top of Santa's naughty list
and I was all set to ask D to buy a couple of cans of dog food to give him a treat from the dry food he gets every day. Double dang!!

And if he could not add deception on top of the offense he would be so much better off. When I shouted at him, his response was absolute denial of any involvement. He acted like he had no idea how any of it happened and that the only reason he was anywhere near the brokenness was because he had just that minute chased the bad guy from the living room.>

Doggone it Mooch!

You might want to rethink it...

At brunch the other day with the mommies, we were sharing family traditions and Dot talked about how we save the paper at our house, no tearing unless someone buys their own paper and says its ok. Otherwise, everyone is armed with a knife to slice the tape and we carefully open each package and save the paper. Yes, there is leftover tape on all the paper and creases from presents past, little holes and tears, but every aged fold and mark, records time, family and memories. Its tradition and started many years ago with my mom and grandmother and I think it was because money was really tight and they both wanted really pretty paper and bows. So, after spending their budget on the beauty, they wanted to save it for next year.
As expected, and usual when our gift opening practice is shared with the rippers and tearers of the world, eyes rolled and giggles were covered. That's ok, we do not limit our family peculiarities to any particular area, but rather do many things that normal people don't understand. That way we make sure our children grow up to be weird don't fit easily into other families and stay close.

Anyway, today I did some wrapping and like every other year I looked at the paper and began reminiscing. I don't necessarily remember any certain gift when I look at the paper our family has used, some for up to 50 years. But I remember things like my grandpa always using the same gold crinkly foil for my grandma. When he was younger he purchased what he thought were some kind of bow or package decoration that he thought was entirely appropriate, truly it was little wreaths that were supposed to have candles set in the middle of them. I don't think anyone ever told him and he used them year after year. No tag needed, when you saw that paper with those candle rings you knew...from grandpa to grandma. When my grandmother passed away, I took the paper out of the box and saved it, never to be used again. The candle rings aren't in any of my decorations anymore. But I noticed as he got older and his eyesight was failing, he gave up on ribbons and tags and began to decorate and label his gifts with magic markers.

So touching it is to my heart that I can look at his writing on that paper and remember how much fun he was at Christmas allowing us to tease him and often tossing a perfectly timed joke back at us. And though I discourage sticking label tags to the paper, this one is oh so special, because it is handwriting that reflects an elementary age Dot with some thoughtful thing for her hero.
Call us crazy, but we also save the ribbons. Back in the day, there was no wired ribbon and I swear my mom and grandmother would make every single one of their own bows. Not the stick on kind. Wrap around the hand, fold in half, cut little "V"s, tie curly ribbon around the middle and fluff to perfection. Then, I say then...after Christmas they would cut the curly ribbon, stretch out the wider rbbon that had been the bow, iron it...I said iron it, roll it back around the hand and tie the curly ribbon and save it, unfluffed for next year. Yes, huh, they DID! Most of those bows are gone or don't make it on my packages because I have a special attachment to the wired ribbon and tieing the bows. BUT, but...I do save the ribbon as well. No ironing, but winding it back up and storing it neatly in a box for next year. Yes, huh, I have one obsessive-compulsive behavior and it is the Christmas wrapping. D is so proud, except it drives him crazy cause he is from a ripping heritage.
Call us crazier, but we also save boxes. Yes, we do. Fold them back to flat and keep them in a box.

I wish I could say its cause we are so environmentally friendly, or the cost for new boxes is high, but honestly its just what we do. And seriously, can you look back at your boxes and see where one of your boys was wrapping and marked the box so he wouldn't forget who it was to? Because this is clearly middle school legibility and he wrote "Mom" for heaven's sake. I may be framing this one.
Today as I was wrapping I noticed that it is so convenient to use the same boxes over and over because the wrapping paper fits them perfectly and no waste or cutting.
Same thing with the ribbon, already cut to perfect length. We have, by this time accumulated more paper than we will ever use, but after all these years and all these memories how on earth could I part with a single piece even if it only makes it up and down from the attic and will never see an actual package again. But ahhhh tradition, quirky "call us silly" tradition. Time consuming memory making habits that tie us together. So roll your eyes if you must, mine are misting over with the tenderness of sharpy written on a piece of foil that will remind me of all kinds of goodness from Christmas past. Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Do Less... Be More - Update

Some sweet friend I like to call "Hot Beverage" (what, you don't call your friends by menu terms?) called on me for a little accountability on my holiday list posted in November. Its so fun to know someone cares enough to check in with me on my goals, because you know...its easy to list them, but the follow through is the challenge. Some would call it checking up on me, but she is so the "checking in" type, not the checking up kind and yes there is a big difference! So anyway, I went back to my list to see how being intentional was going.

Things I will do this Christmas season:

1. spend time with 10 little girls making gifts.- Done and what a treat it was! They made no-sew pillows, bracelets and a very meaningful jar, decorated and filled with notes to someone special in their lives. Before we left, each gift was wrapped and addressed to someone they chose and FYI exhausted moms, you will be relieved to know that when pre-teen girls think of someone they'd like to give to at Christmas, Mom makes the top of the list everytime

2. Spend time creating a special gift for a very special friend. Can I just say it wasn't just me and what fun we had and the gift will be presented tonight, Thursday the 17th and I will have to hold this post until afterwards or it will be spoiled. If I can get my techno mojo going,there will be a link on this blog so you can view it. If not, well, you'll just have to trust me! It was a BLAST! Giving really is the very best part of presents!

3. Leave early enough for every errand, that I can pass by a parking place (Oh, but for this post I was ready to bumper-wrestle a guy at the mall the other day, conviction it was, holy conviction that reminded me to keep all my parts inside the car and smile sweetly) or let another driver into traffic without having to threaten him with bodily harm. Have enough time when I am out, to let someone in line, help someone carry something, (I realized I haven't been out much, but today with the Deeds & Dot we did a little loitering at the grocery store looking for some grandmas and grandpas that could use a couple of extra hands getting their groceries to the car. And have a purse full of candy canes to offer every child I see. The Deeds took care of that at Ross and the mall last week and it was oh so fun!

4. Plan a NERTZ party for after the pitcher gets home, cause I miss all those friends of my kids, scheduled for Sat the 19th, but haven't gotten too many rsvps yet, of course I do believe the twitter/text/facebook generation doesn't do the rsvp thing in language I understand, so perhaps I have 20 hundred tweets that I cannot read expressing their excitement

5. Plan a Christmas gathering for some girls, cause I miss my friends. PJ's slippers and food, cause a girl just needs to take a break this time of year...can't wait.

6. Make a Christmas budget Missed the opportunity. After the fact, I can at least say that D and I had a verbal agreement so that kinda counts.

7. Stick to the Christmas budget eliminating the post Christmas credit card bill, stress & regret I have used the CC..., but with each purchase I have subtracted the charge from the check register, thereby putting the money aside which is kind of a victory.

8. Make room in the budget to surprise perfect strangers with something and keep my eyes open for just the right opportunities. I have only done this once so far and forgot to tell the lady at the coffee bean to keep the gift annonymous, so I was thanked profusely, which is not nearly as fun as being sneaky. After the sweetest grandma waited patiently for the Deeds to take her groceries from her cart to the conveyer belt and then after she paid, he walked her to her car and he put the bags in the trunk of her car, we found an inconspicuous spot at Starbucks, prepaid a couple of beverages, remembered to tell the clerk we were annonymous, bought the Deeds a chocolate milk then spied on the targeted strangers. I put on an old pair of sweats yesterday and found some cash in the pocket which I believe qualified as our budget for today. Again, giving is the most fun part of presents!

9. Spend several occasions snuggled under a blanket reading a book in the living room where the Christmas tree is, with carols playing in the background or if I'm lucky while Dann plays his guitar. So far one afternoon, but there is still time.

10. Plan a brunch for a special group of mommies where they can share and hear about each other's family traditions, and provide childcare for them so they can have a few hours off. It was so fun and heartwarming to hear them share the ways they want to celebrate the holidays and what a priority Christ's birth will be. Those are some amazing mommies...wish I had what they have at such a young age. Awesome, intentional, tender hearts.

11. Bake something yummy when Dann is home, so he remembers his mom and her holiday baking. Need to plan this for next week. 12. bake something yummy when my kids are here so they have similiar memories. hmmm not sure when all of the kids will be here except on Christmas... bound to be something yummy smelling that day.

13. See the movie "Everybody's Fine" with as many of my kids as can make it. It looks like this has been replaced with the Family Christmas at the Rubicon on the eve of Christmas eve.

14. Wish everybody Merry Christmas, everybody. I tried this early on, but people think it is kind of weird on Dec 3rd to wish them a Merry Christmas 21 days perhaps it is now time to smother them in good MC wishes.

15. I will put my amazing husband at the top of my list of people to give my time to and thank him for being so patient when I let my life get out of control. FOCUS...FOCUS...FOCUS. I have to admit this is my weak spot on the list. But with time left, I need to get this together and make sure he knows how much he means to us. My weakness does NOT reflect the amazingawesomegreatness of him. He has just left our home at 9:45pm to go back to church to make sure the coffee pot was turned off after he spent 2 1/2 hours there rehearsing for Christmas sunday worship because what is more offending for two non-coffee drinkers than the smell of burnt coffee in the morning. Amazingawesomegreatness and he chose me to spend his life with! Glory & grace.

So I challenged you to come up with your own list of do less & be more. If you did...carry on, don't give up. If you didn't, its not too late. With a week + left, make a short list, reasonable, doable, enjoyable. Include one thing that will pamper yourself, one thing that will bless your family and one thing that will bless & surprise a perfect stranger. Fill me in if you have a chance.

And...Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Sweet Confection Perfection

Every Thursday Dot has Bible study and I get the Deeds. Its always fun. I most always have a plan to do something new, or something different or a new way of doing something old. But CHRISTMAS! There are way too many opportunities, too many choices, too many very important holiday adventures to pack into a couple of hours once a week. Today Dot extended her morning to pray with a friend and have lunch with another. So the Deeds and I had quite a day planned. I so wish I had a camera full of pictures of each stop we made this morning to document how a 3-year-old can turn even the simplist errand into a Christmas event. But somehow lugging the camera around to catch the shot, changes the whole experience. So followers, you'll just have to use your mind's eye for the best parts.

We started the day making candy cane fudge. I don't know if that is the real name, but we were making it, so we got to name it. Stirring boiling candy for 10 minutes doesn't allow much involvement for a preschooler, so we decided to add candy canes and certainly they needed to be crunched into sprinkle size pieces. I am sure Julia Childs has this photo right next to "Candy Crunching Technique" and if she doesn't she should.

With each perfectly placed crumb of candy cane, I am sure this will be the best fudge we have ever made together!

D was working overtime at station 5. "DD, can we go visit Papa at Station 5, because that is where the fireman pole is and I can give the firemen candy canes." Well little man, yes we can. So we left the fudge to cool and headed off to see Papa and the pole. The firemen got their candy canes, the Deeds got to sit in the tiller seat papa did his killer demonstration of pole sliding and we were off to shop for Daddy.

A couple of weeks ago I asked Micah what he wanted to get Daddy for Christmas. "Well, he already has a backpack so I think I would get him a "------"." Oh, that's a good idea. What color would you get him?" "Well, red is his favorite color, so a red one". For heaven's sake, if he knows what he wants to get his daddy and even the color at 3 years old...I'm making it happen, just for the sake of the story. Anyway, we headed to Ross and the Deeds reminded me we needed to take the candy canes in to give to people. I was thinking we would take them to the mall and he could give them to other kids he saw, but mercy, he clearly had an agenda and I was not about to get in the way of his generousity. He was seriously chasing people down at Ross to try to give them a candy cane. I mean, spotting them, running after them, calling to them etc... Now, let me just say, if a blond headed, toddler runs up to you anywhere and offers you a candy cane of any size for any reason, please...TAKE IT and just thank him! Please! I can tell you it causes at least 10 kinds of confusion to a little guy trying to spread some Christmas cheer when he hears "No thank you, I don't eat sugar, I'm a diabetic, I don't like candy canes". Just take it, smile and appreciate the gift. Thankfully, it didn't hurt his feelings or anything, he just looked at them like "I must not be hearing you right because I am offering you sweet heaven here and I think you just turned me down." Anyway, needless to say our quick gift selection took about an hour and the equivalent of a mile of running down holiday shoppers.

We made a couple of other "quick" stops, having left the candy canes in the car. Then we headed to the mall. It has been a very long time, like never that I have gone to the mall without an agenda except to follow a pint sized elf around as he spies and pursues person after person to gift with a peppermint delight. We did have a target audience, grandma's or children but not babies. It was so fun. Seriously, just watching him work was a "joy to my world". Kids loved him, grandmas hugged him and we just took our sweet time wandering down to the play area at the opposite end. We decided ice cream for lunch was a necessary addition to this most festive day. Wandering all the way back to the car with vanilla goodness filling our tummies and covering the lower half of one of our little faces. A couple of napkins and a buckled up car seat later we headed home.

It took very little coaxing to get this tiny elf upstairs and down for a nap. He chose a Christmas story book, complete with little paperdoll type characters. So after reading the book, I told him I'd come back in a few minutes and it would be time to stop playing and lay down to go to sleep. About 10 minutes later I came into the room and found him missing...?? Where in the world? So I walked around the bed and saw...a knee... And then a tuft of blonde hair... and one pillow at a time...I found him.

He loves to hide and wait with anticipation to be found. But today with all the festive responsibilites he was saddled with, this little helper, couldn't stay awake long enough to be found. Sweet perfection...that's what I'd call today. Sweet confection perfection!