Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Boxing Day

Christmas Day has come and gone yet again. I'm always afraid that I will feel let down after Christmas, but I never do. In fact, I usually feel invigorated. It's time to carry on with life as usual! And I like life as usual. I like the routine, the normalcy, the calm. I love Christmas, of course. It's my very favorite time of year. But once it is done, the priority of my tasks shifts back into what it is the rest of the year. Like laundry. Today laundry is a high priority for me. If I do not do laundry today, Elise will not have pajamas to wear tonight.

I'm also looking forward to getting back into non-Christmas fun things. During December - well, prior to the 26th, that is - my evenings were pleasant but filled with Christmas activities. I may have wanted to read the book that I started before Thanksgiving, or work on the quilt that is waiting patiently for its border, but I felt compelled to address Christmas cards and wrap gifts. During December, my sewing room was transformed into gift-making, -hiding, and -wrapping central. I am anxious to restore it to its proper order.

Now that I think of it, there are so many things that came to mind in December that I wanted to do, but that I delayed in favor of holiday tasks and activities. And now here is 2007, peeking around the corner, with all of its promises of time and all of its hidden events and joys and sorrows. A new year is such a refreshing prospect. To paraphrase a favorite professor - All right, gang, let's make it a great year!

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, everyone! The day has finally arrived. What a great holiday!

Elise was not at all impressed with opening presents this morning. There were a couple of gifts that we left unwrapped, just sitting under the tree, and those were a big hit. Oh, well. Now we know, in case we ever have a 16-month old at Christmas again. We were excited for her to open her presents, and she did like them all once they were opened.

Andy and I decided some time ago that we would not exchange gifts this year, save stocking stuffers. Stockings are my favorite part of Christmas morning anyway. Well...I gave Andy stocking stuffers, and he gave me really nice gifts that happened to fit in a stocking. I suspected that might happen.

This afternoon we went to the zoo. The weather was great and the zoo was not at all crowded, not surprisingly. Some of the animals took the day off, but all of my favorites - the savannah animals - were out in full view. We thought that going to the zoo on Christmas would be a nice tradition to start, but alas, the Woodland Park Zoo will closed on all future Christmases. We might just have to go to the Point Defiance Zoo, which is a significantly longer drive, but still not all that far. Of course we didn't take into account that Christmas weather in western Washington in predictably unpredictable. Hmm. Well, something to think about.

Our neighbor just stopped by to borrow some wrapping paper. :) Funny guy.

It has been a nice day. Quiet, relaxed, happy. Now Elise is napping and I'm about to sit down with a cup of tea and some shortbread.

I hope you are all having a wonderful day!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Happy Birthday, Sweetheart

Dear Andy,

Today is your birthday. You are a certain number of years old - the perfect number of years for your age, I think. I'd like to tell you, in case you ever wonder, a little bit about why I love you so much.

I love you because you are so kind - to me, to Elise, to our families, to our friends, to perfect strangers. When you see a need that you can fill, you fill it. I love that you do kind things for people who will never know that it was you who helped them.

I love you because you do what is right even when it is inconvenient. You lead by example. You practice what you preach. You get frustrated when you see people you care about making poor moral decisions or compromising their integrity.

I love you because you have a most amazing sense of humor. It encompasses everything from random quirkiness to subtle satire. Even after four years of marriage, I still can't always tell when you're joking - you can keep a straight face through anything. Then you flash that quick, sly smile to let me know that you are joking, and just as fast as it appeared, it vanishes, so the rest of the world still doesn't know.

I love you because you are a problem solver. You don't give up. This goes along with the way that you fill needs when you see them. Whether the problem is intellectual, physical, moral, etc., once you see that there is a problem, you work on it until it is solved.

I love you because miscommunication drives you nuts. Crossed wires, misplaced blame, misunderstandings, mistaken identities - you want to give everyone a bird's eye view of the situation, whether in real life or on the screen.

I love you because when a transformer blows in the middle of the night, you explain to me exactly what happened, why it happened, and how it will affect us - even though my brain can barely recognize the sounds coming from your mouth as words, much less comprehend what they mean when strung together.

I love you because you get up with Elise every single morning. Other mothers must despise me. You let me sleep until I am rested every day.

I love you because you provide for us. We have never gone without anything that we need. At the same time, you are constantly looking for new opportunities in your own education and career. I know that you will always put the well-being of our family first, and within that parameter, you will always challenge yourself.

I love you because you have kept your promise to cherish me.

I love you because you offered to share your ChexMix with me.

I love you because you are kind to my family.

I love you because you will talk to telemarketers for me.

I love you because you will check on strange noises in the night.

I love you because you will admire the work that I do, and you will offer suggestions, showing me that you are actually thinking about what I'm showing you, not just feigning interest.

I love you because you want to give me my Christmas presents now.

I love you because you made dozens of balloon flowers.

But take all of this away, and I will still love you. These things are symptoms, outward indications of the man that you truly are. You truly are made in God's image, in the very likeness of God. I am so grateful to have you. You are an amazing blessing to me.

I am so proud of you, and I love you very much.

Love always,

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Let the baking begin!

Andy gave me such a lovely gift today. He took Elise with him to run (my) errands, leaving me alone in the house. He's really wonderful about doing that, and frequently takes Elise with him so I can have a bit of time to myself. This afternoon I used my free time to restore order to the living room and to bake. Bake! Hurray! There are snickerdoodles in the oven as we speak. Or write. Whatever.

I really love baking. It's relaxing, it produces quick, tangible results, and it's relatively easy - if you stick with things like snickerdoodles, anyway. I don't bake all that often, mostly because there are only three of us in our household, and it's hard (not to mention unhealthy) for three people to consume an entire pie, cake, batch of cookies, etc. That isn't really a great excuse for not baking cookies - many of them freeze well. But it is a good reason for not making the others all that often. At Christmastime, however, I can't help it. Baking is as much a part of the festivities as setting up the tree, singing carols, and giving gifts. My most vivid holiday memories involve baking. My mom made the same treats every year - fudge, Clifford tea cakes, Russian tea cookies, candy cane cookies. We loved twisting the candy cane cookie dough into uneven, misshapen little candy canes, oftentimes so uneven that one end would burn while the other remained doughy. We always had fun, and baking together was always a key part of our Christmas tradition.

So now I'm the mom (weird) and the traditions Andy and I establish today will be an important part of Elise's childhood memories. Kitchen memories are important, I think. Everyone should have good kitchen memories.

Oops. As I was writing about how I love to bake, and how relaxing it is, etc., smoke started pouring from my oven! Well, come on, I didn't say I was good at baking. Fortunately, the smoke did not involve the cookies. It involved something on the bottom of the oven. I don't know what the object originated as, but by the time I got to it, it was a 1" chunk of crumbly blackness. Big metal spoon to the rescue. Cookies, as you were.

Nine and a half minutes later, my snickerdoodles are cooling and making the whole house smell good. Friends who were here earlier, I'm sorry I didn't make the cookies while you were still here. You're welcome to come back for them.

Back to the recipe box I go!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

First Day of High School

Last night a friend called to ask for assistance on behalf of her mother. Her mom teaches child development at a local high school, and today the class was supposed to observe and interact with toddlers. The only thing was that they had no toddlers. Makes observation tricky. So this morning Elise and I went to the high school. It was an interesting experience. First off, I don't think I've been to a high school during school hours since I was in high school, going on ten years ago. It doesn't look like much has changed.

Fortunately, another friend had also agreed to go, and she brought her 17-month old son. I don't think the kids necessarily cared, but it was nice for me to have someone I knew there to talk to. There were only five kids - little kids, that is - there, and probably about 20 teenagers. The teenagers all had little stations set up with a different activity at each, Montessori style, and the toddlers were free to play at whichever station they pleased. Elise and Colin both beelined to the blocks. After a while, they went back and forth between the blocks and the confetti. That's right, confetti. One group of teenagers had a large, shallow plastic tub full of confetti - actually circles made by paper hole punchers, which apparently a local printer had saved for them. The little kids had a great time with it, and it was fun to watch them, knowing that I wasn't going to have to clean it up.

Elise seemed to have a lot of fun. I tried not to direct or help her too much, as the point was for the students to observe toddler behavior. Every once in a while she would fall (the floor was hard, slippery linoleum, typical of schools, and once the confetti was spread around, it was really slippery) and would come over for a kiss, or she'd get a piece of confetti stuck to her hand and would come over to have it removed (she hates having things stuck on her hands), but other than that, she pretty well ignored me.

Watching the teenagers was entertaining. It was easy to pick out who had been around little kids before and who hadn't. One group was supervising finger painting, and the teacher had to remind them to wash the toddlers' hands afterwards. My friend and I were amused by that, because we wouldn't even think about doing something like that - it was just be an automatic reaction. You don't let a two year old get away with his hands covered in wet paint. Another student came in towards the end of the class and immediately laid on his stomach on the floor and started playing with the toys, so he was at the toddlers' level. When Elise tripped on a block and started wobbling, he stabilized her with his hands in front and back of her. This boy has been around little kids before.

We were just there for 45 minutes, but it gave Elise a chance to play with other children and explore some new toys and activities. The teacher commented that, for being an only child, Elise seemed remarkably comfortable in playing with other children, trying new activities, and interacting with strange adults (well, teenagers) without me having to be right at her side. That made me happy. I don't really worry about her social development, because I don't believe that very young children need constant social stimulation for healthy development. The trend of daycares, playgroups, and preschools is, after all, a fairly recent one. That said, I do sometimes feel very sorry that she is an only child at this point, because she so loves to play with other children, and - this will sound silly - I'm afraid she gets lonely. I know that she eventually won't remember a time when she didn't have younger siblings, and she won't harbor resentment over having to play alone for the first few years of life, but still...Maybe I feel this way because it is something I personally have no experience with, being the fifth of ten children. Playing alone? There were days when I would have done anything for the chance to play alone. Well, anyway, I try to play with Elise a lot myself. I try to take advantage of her naptime by completing my highest priority tasks during that time. That way, when she is awake, I can stop what I'm doing to play with her if she wants me to. At the same time, I want to teach her to be patient and not demanding, but there are times when I simply can't stop what I'm doing to play with her, and I think those times are frequent enough to teach the lessons of patience and, in a way, humility, so when I can put aside whatever I'm doing when she asks for my attention, I try to do that. (Hmm. That was quite the run-on sentence.) And that is a comfort to me. Elise may not get as much social interaction as her daycare peers, but she gets a heck of a lot more one-on-one attention and love than they do. (I do NOT mean that parents of daycare children love their children any less. I just mean I get the chance to exhibit my love for Elise more often, because I see her more often.)

So, that was Elise's first day of high school. It came a lot faster than I expected it would. It was a little bit disturbing to realize that when I was their age, the high school students I met today were Elise's age. Yep, I'm old.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Dinner and Gifts

Last night we attended the Christmas gathering of our small group. [Is "small group" Christianese? I think it probably is.] *REVISION* Andy and I meet weekly with a group of people from our church, all right about our age, to study the Bible and worship God together. Last night we all met for a Christmas celebration. (Better?) We did a progressive dinner, which I had never done. It was a lot of fun! We went to four different houses for appetizers, salad, dinner, and dessert, respectively. We brought Elise with us, and she really did quite well considering how late it was (we didn't get home until 10:00) and how much running around we did. She had her moments, but for the most part she seemed to just enjoy all of the attention that was lavished on her by our friends.

At the last house, we had dessert and coffee (which is, in my mind, pretty much always a good way to end an evening) and exchanged gifts. Each couple brought one "real" gift and one white elephant gift, and we drew numbers to determine who got to choose a gift first, typical white elephant style. If someone else had a gift that you particularly wanted, you could steal it from them rather than choosing from the pile of wrapped gifts. I chose number one, and we were playing by the rules that said number one got to go first AND last, so I chose a gift from the pile - an amazingly hideous pair of sweater socks - and then at the end, after everyone else had their gifts, I "stole" the prize gift - a soft, heavy fleece blanket - from someone else, leaving him with the women's sweater socks...which he had brought in the first place. Poor guy. Andy suggested that we already have too many blankets as it is, but I was not about to go home with the sweater socks. I love socks, but these were...wow.

Towards the end of the gift exchange, we noticed that there was one too many gifts. Everyone denied bringing an extra gift, so we were bewildered. At the end of the exchange, we decided that the poor guy who was stuck with the sweater socks should also get the mystery gift. As he was opening it and we were all trying to figure out where it came from, one woman suddenly yelled, "JOEL!" (her husband). Joel broke out into a huge grin and just looked back at her. She had figured it out. Joel had slipped the extra gift in. It was this book. We all had a good laugh, and I think Joel's poor wife was thoroughly embarrassed.

All in all, it was a very enjoyable evening. Really, I can say that about this entire month. This has been a very enjoyable Christmas season. The mix of family, friends, activities, and rest has been just right. I hope the same is true for you.


It's so great that we can play music on our computers, isn't it? I have been sitting here working for the last hour and a half with Christmas music playing. It's great to have the playlist and volume control and everything right here at my fingertips. Now, I'm not so lazy that I would complain if I had to actually get up (gasp!) and go to the stereo for musical options, but I am happy nonetheless that I don't have to do that. It's a small thing, but I appreciate it.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


Imagine all the muffins...really were cupcakes.

Monday, December 11, 2006


Last week made me really appreciate our life, mine and Andy's. We had many unexpected events happen, all things that required our time and attention. This made for a tiring week, and on Saturday night we breathed a deep sigh of relief, but it was still a good week. I found myself asking whether being available for all of these unexpected events was a good thing or a bad thing. I think good. The thought crossed my mind that perhaps it meant we had too inactive of a lifestyle. Something came up every day from Tuesday on - and we were able to accept all of them? Maybe that means our daily life is too open, too uneventful. But after a little pondering, reason wrestled that thought to the ground. I'm glad we were able to accept, were available to help where needed. To have that kind of flexibility has been our goal and hope. It is strange that once it came to fruition last week, I questioned its value. I guess that just shows that I have a whole lot of growing and maturing to do, as I obviously still see things through the eyes of this world.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Reason

I don't know what's going on this week, but I can't seem to accomplish anything. My house...my poor, poor house. I cannot keep it clean. Forget keep, I can't even get it clean. I can't quite figure out why. And the Christmas decorating? Yeah. The tree is done, but the other decorations are just sitting in various locations, wherever I happened to set them as I unpacked them from their boxes. The nativity is up, thanks to my husband, but it has a tea light lamp, a stained glass nativity, three candleholders, and a ceramic church - not to mention a pitcher of dried flowers, a wrench, and a piece of plastic - in front of it. Normally Christmas decorating comes naturally to me. That's not to say that it necessarily looks good, but it is something that I enjoy and that I do quickly. Not this year. I stare at a surface and then at a pile of decorations, and I cannot make the two work together. The Advent wreath that Janene made for me a few years ago is up, and it has a calming effect. It is such a good reminder that I am not awaiting the arrival of my family or the giving of gifts or even the unlikely event of me getting my act together. I am awaiting the arrival of my King. And when He arrives, I want to be ready. Being ready has nothing to do with the neatness of my house or the appealing arrangement of ornaments or the number of things crossed off my to-do list. It has everything to do with this:

16So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

That's what I really want to do this season. Spread the Word. Treasure and ponder "these things". Glorify and praise God for all He has revealed.

Somehow, after writing this, my house doesn't seem so messy, my to do list so long, or my decorations so important. Hmm.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Pray for the Kims

I just heard the sad, sad news that James Kim's body was found. I've been following this story closely and I'm just heartbroken over the news. Please pray for his family and friends, especially his wife and daughters who have already been through so much these last two weeks. Pray that his four year old daughter's memories of him will stay strong throughout her life, pray for the baby who will not remember her father, and pray for his wife Kati as she faces this tragedy and raising her two daughters alone. My heart goes out to her.

O Tannenbaum

Our tree is finally decorated! We put it up on Sunday afternoon but just decorated it last night. It was so much fun going through the ornaments. There were, as usual, several that I had forgotten about. We found that Elise received seven ornaments last year. Three of them were specifically "Baby's First Christmas" ornaments. This makes me happy, even if it is a bit excessive. We plan to get an ornament each year for each of our children so that when they start their own families, they will have a collection from which to build.

Elise is fascinated by the tree and keeps asking me what each ornament is. She seems to especially like the Nutcracker ballerina, although that could just be because the ornament is the most obvious ornament at her eye level. She keeps blowing on the tree. I'm not sure if she's trying to blow the lights out, or if she is being the wind. Whenever it is windy out, I show her how the wind moves the trees, so she might associate wind and trees now. Either way, it's cute.

Having the tree up makes me want to decorate the rest of the house. Well, the living room, anyway. We don't really have enough stuff to decorate the whole house, and I don't know that I want to acquire enough stuff for the whole house. That would mean that for eleven months out of the year, we would have to store all that stuff. But we do have a few things that will go in various rooms. I have a child's nativity set that I think I'll put in Elise's room. Unfortunately, it is missing Baby Jesus. I won't put it up unless I can find a Baby Jesus for it. It would just be dismal. I might make one. It would be obviously out of place, but that's ok. I thought of making one from a peanut, but didn't want anyone in my house to have an allergic reaction to Baby Jesus. Talk about a bad association.

Pictures will be posted sometime this week, hopefully.


This morning Elise is fascinated by the James Bond DVD jacket that she found in our living room. It's the kind with the cardboard flap that closes with Velcro. She has shunned her own books in favor of the James Bond "book". She just keeps pulling it open and "reading" it as she would any of her real books.

I feel like I should tape a little dress over the picture of Halle Berry's rather exposed body.

I am turning into my mother.

Saturday, December 02, 2006


I didn't think I would feel any holiday-related pressure this season, but when I turned the calendar over to the December page, I did suddenly get the sense that I had too much to do and too little time in which to do it. Reason quickly took over and I realized that there really isn't all that much to do. We have only two gifts left to buy, and I have two left to make. That's certainly a better status than we've ever before had on December 2nd. There are cards to write, gifts to wrap, and packages to send, but those tasks really aren't all that monumental.

Tomorrow we are going to get our Christmas tree. I'm really looking forward to it. We're going to get it from a tree farm this year. We've always bought pre-cut trees in the past, but since Elise is old enough to enjoy outdoor activities, we decided to go and cut our own this year. Should be fun. I love decorating the tree. I don't have any of the ornaments from my childhood, unfortunately, but we have dozens of ornaments from Andy's childhood, and we have added quite a few of our own over the last five years. We inherited some special ornaments from Andy's grandmother. Even though I never met her, these ornaments hold special meaning. We have one ornament from our honeymoon, one from our first Christmas together, one from our trip to Austria, and one (actually several) from Elise's first Christmas. There are a few from former coworkers, a few from my kids at church. Our tree is full of memories and stories. It's fun.

Tonight we went to a Christmas party. It is an annual event that provides us with a good opportunity to catch up with some people whom we don't see very often. It was a bit awkward this year because we didn't know most of the people there, but it was still nice to visit with the few we did know. Among that particular group of friends, we are the only ones with a child, a fact that is becoming less and less common. It was interesting to watch and think about. Everyone seemed to enjoy Elise's presence (although next year I think we'll leave her with a babysitter for the evening), but it was obvious that...well, that our lives were very different. The closest parallel to us was the couple who had brought their dog with them. They bring it everywhere. Tonight they had forgotten to bring his food with them (something I have been guilty of with Elise), so our hostess made a big bowl of rice for him. They had to let him out of the car periodically so he could stretch his legs. They have labeled themselves the "quintessential yuppie dog owners", and...well, they may be right. But I mean that in the nicest way imaginable. They are dear friends and we always enjoy spending time with them.

Our holiday plans changed this afternoon. We had planned to spend the weekend of the 16th and 17th with my family in Portland. Today, however, my mom asked if my younger brother could stay with us next week while my parents are out of town. Since my parents will be driving up to pick him up next Saturday, Andy had the fabulous idea of just celebrating Christmas with them then, rather than making the drive down to Portland the very next weekend. As I think I mentioned in a recent post, Elise simply does not travel well right now, so we were looking forward to a sleepless weekend trip. This way works out so much better, at least for us. I hope it works well for my family, who have all graciously agreed to it. I think we'll have a good time with Joe, my brother, as well. I have really never spent much time with him without the rest of the family around. I moved out when he was five, and now he is fourteen. Anyway, my plans for the upcoming week have changed rather drastically, but I think it'll be a good week. I just need to make sure that we have enough clean towels and sheets, pillows, and food for a small army.

By the way, the reason my parents will be out of town is that my older brother, Nathan, is being commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Army, and they are flying out for the ceremony. He enlisted in the Air Force eleven years ago, when he was nineteen. He has received awards and commendations for excellence at every job to which he has been assigned. He has earned his bachelor's degree in his "spare" time. He married a wonderful, lovely woman, Laura, and the two of them have two beautiful children. Nathan adores his children and is a wonderful father. Becoming an officer has been a longtime dream of his, and unfortunately an opportunity to pursue that dream did not present itself in the Air Force, so he decided to transfer to the Army. He has been in OTS, away from his family, for several months, and next week he will be commissioned. Not surprisingly, he has received commendations for excellence and has been placed in a position of leadership in OTS. I am immensely proud of him. From what I understand, he will be stationed with a unit that frequently deploys to Iraq, which is more than a little unsettling to my family. But Nathan loves his country, and I think he would welcome the chance to serve in such a way.

Well, that was a detour from my holiday thoughts. We are looking forward to a few Christmas-related events in the coming weeks, but what I am most looking forward to - and actually enjoying already - is introducing Elise to Christmas. We have read the story of Baby Jesus several times, and she has learned that Santa Claus says, "Ho, ho, ho!" I have told her that every time we've seen a Santa Claus over the last several weeks, and a while back she started responding, "O, o" when I would ask, "What does Santa Claus say?" Well, last night I was rocking her late at night (see Andy's post) and the television was on. I wasn't paying attention, but she must have been, because she sat up suddenly and said, "O, ho, ho!" Sure enough, there was Santa Claus on the TV screen. It made my night! I am really looking forward to having the tree set up, as I think she will just love it. We have determined, however, that we won't be able to keep the wrapped gifts under the tree prior to Christmas this year. Too tempting for our own little Curious George. Oh, well.

Right now I am going to stop typing away on this tiny keyboard and instead am going to drink the tea that my husband made for me some time ago, wrap a blanket around my shoulders - it's freezing in here - and watch Miracle on 34th Street. Good night.