Friday, December 28, 2012

Happy 2012 Mid-Holiday Hangover Slump Weekend

An almost Pinterest-worthy snap of our stockings hung on Mom's perfectly styled fireplace.  Evie's stocking absolutely refused to cooperate with this photo, but considering she's 2 1/2, I guess that's pretty much spot-on representation.

Hey, there, friends.  Hello from Missouri, outside of St. Louis, in a pretty little community on a hill where snow is just beginning to accumulate outside of cookie-cutter house windows still twinkling with Christmas lights, where I am sitting in my parents' lovely living room in front of a perfect gas-lit fireplace, next to a gorgeous red-and-white ribboned Christmas tree.  Yeah, it is just that good.  And I don't know about you, but I'm feeling a little holiday hangover in spite of it all.  What day is it?  When do we fly back?  Does school start up again next week?  No?  Should I wake the baby from her nap, soon?  What time zone is this?  Is it time to stop drinking coffee and start drinking wine again?  Has anyone seen a glass of water?

Christmas was gorgeous, and nearly perfect.  We had my entire family under one roof for the first time in four years, or maybe more.  My nieces had never even met Evie, and that oversight was just getting ridiculously out of hand, so I'm thrilled we all got to reconnect again, even for just a few short days.  Family really shouldn't be apart for so long.  My nieces are growing up regardless of how often we see them, so, yeah.  Wow.  It was good to see them.

On the other hand, I am a little concerned that my children are in real danger of being permanently ruined by first-world excess, and I'm not sure how to stop it without restricting all family members on both sides to one five-dollar gift each, or college fund donations only, or requiring the girls to donate one old toy for every new toy and no wire coat hangers!  But instead I just gave up and let Lena and Eve (and their very generous family members) enjoy the experience.  One day the girls will tell their grandkids about Grandma Rose's house at Christmas, with the catalog-caliber Christmas tree and the homemade fudge and the china plates at Christmas dinner next to the miniature snow-covered Christmas village with working street lights and tiny flickering bonfire.  And I let them sit in front of the fireplace with hot chocolate and old-fashioned peppermint sticks in Christmas mugs at 11am today because if they ask me one day why they don't remember the Christmas we spent at our own home in 2011 I'll be forced to say, "Because Mama somehow managed to ruin those cinnamon buns that came out of a refrigerated can, and even though your father and I meant to make a lovely sit-down family Christmas dinner, we sort of, you know, forgot, and then finally we all just passed out from sugar or bourbon comas, although even Mama doesn't remember that part so well..."

So, yeah.  I'm letting them Norman Rockwell this Christmas up as much as possible.  It's okay.  I'll sign them up for a Peace Corps Tots Camp over the summer, and it will all net out eventually.

This is all coming out wrong.  I am happy.  I've loved this Christmas.  I just can't believe it's already winding down.  Our flight on Sunday is looming too large.  And blargh, ugh, SUITCASES.  I can't even think about it.  Somebody rewind the week, please?

And another thing:  I've had a lot of time today to catch up on all my favorite blogs, and I'm feeling a little bit like I've let you down this holiday season.  I had a Christmas wishlist post all lined up, but that never happened.  I disappeared right before the day and didn't manage a nice lovey Merry Christmas post for you, either.  My Christmas morning photos turned out blurry, as always, and I haven't been out to photograph the gorgeous bare-limbed winter landscape here, either.  And now, when I should be giving you a perky rundown of my best posts of 2012, the best music of 2012, the most incredible photos, the most important news, the funniest memes, the cutest kittens, the worst hairstyles, the most interesting nail clipping collections, I've got nothing.  I mean, maybe, I guess I've got a couple more days to get my blogging butt in gear, but mostly I'm just lounging around the house in a pajama-clad fog, hoping for another piece of fudge, another mug of soynog, another evening with my family, another morning where my mom and dad handle the girls while Jimmy and I enjoy a magical extra hour of SLEEEP.

Yeah.  Pin that on your Pinterest board.  But I will bet you a dollar that this is how most bloggers REALLY spend their holidays.  Did I buy the materials to make my own Mason Jar winter landscape snowglobe?  I did.  Did I make it?  I don't know, did you make all of your Christmas tree ornaments out of last year's Christmas cards and homemade glitter?  Hmm?  Go ahead and send me a pin of your successful holiday crafting, and I will totally let you win Blogging Christmas while I toast you with one of Mom's chocolate-covered cherry cookies and absently wonder if I will ever remember how to put on shoes again.  Cheers.

Oh, you know I love you.

So here's what I do have for you:  a post-Christmas pre-New Year's wish for a relaxing, quiet, happy winter weekend.  No shopping, no baking, no wrapping, no traveling necessary (I hope).  If you are still with your family, be quiet and cozy up with them, enjoy a little more time to tell them in person that you love them.  If you are away from your family, relax, enjoy the peace, send them a text to tell them how good it was/would be to see them.  Try to remember what was good about the last year.  Try to think of something good to come in the next.  Eat anything, because nothing counts anyway until Tuesday.  Or really Wednesday.  Pick up a bottle of something bubbly for Monday night.  Breathe deep.  Get some sleep.  Go easy on yourself.

I'm sure you've earned it.  I will say you've earned it.  In fact, that is my Christmas gift to you this year:  YOU EARNED IT.



Monday, December 17, 2012

with us

Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Emmanuel,
(which means, God with us).
Matthew 1:23

Like so many others I'm having a difficult time processing the events of last Friday.  As I kissed my sleeping babies that night, I could only think of the parents who couldn't do the same, and my heart broke for the hundredth time, just as it did again this morning when I hugged my babies goodbye and sent them off to school.  My arms ache for my own children, and they ache for the mothers and fathers who lost theirs.  How can there be any comfort for this?

There can't.  Can there be?  I don't know.  I don't know, but I am trying.  And I can't presume to know what could comfort a grieving parent, but I know for myself that I am trying to find comfort in three words:  God with us.  The essence of Christmas:  God with us.  An incomprehensible fact:  God with us.

God with us.

God with us.

God with us.

(God, be with us.)

Friday, December 14, 2012

I had planned...

I think it was Christmas two years ago that I drew a picture of my family's old house for my parents, made prints for myself and my brothers, then wrapped them all up and stuck them under the tree.  The house was just a suburban tract home, I suppose, but it never once felt that way when I was growing up there.  Mom and Dad bought it before it was built, made all of the style and layout choices, then proceeded to have three children and raise them there until each of us moved out.  They lived there for forty years before finally moving to a nicer community further out from the city just, what?  Three years ago?  Four years ago?  I'm already losing track.

It was time for them to move on, but it was painful to say goodbye to the old house.  I studied art and set design in college, so I put my drafting and sketching skills to work to draw a picture of it because I was trying to say goodbye.  And then I really was surprised at what that picture seemed to mean to them

Since then I've thought off and on about opening an online shop so I could do the same for other people.  Mom and Dad always call when someone they know has seen their picture and asked if I would draw a picture of other homes, so I assumed there was a least a little bit of polite interest.  Then a couple of weeks ago it seemed like I had extra time on my hands, and with Christmas on the horizon I thought, why not?  I logged on to Etsy to see how easy it would be to set up a shop.  (It is super easy.)  I uploaded a picture of my parents' house drawing, set a limit on sales for Christmas, and posted the link here and on facebook.  Then I hid under blanket for a few days.

And orders came in.  Enough orders that I've reached my limit for Christmas delivery.  Then Evie was sick for a week, I found out I'd misread Lena's school schedule and she's on minimum days all this week and next, and suddenly I was swamped.

I wanted to be writing here much more these past couple of weeks.  I have SO missed being in this space.  There is a file on my desktop of photos for the Christmas Wishlist post I wanted to make, and a tab open on my browser for the book recommendation I'm dying to give to you.  I wanted to spend as much time as possible with the Christmas tree lit, drinking hot coffee, listening to holiday music, and writing.

Impossible.  I'm sorry it hasn't happened, and a little disappointed.  On the other hand, I am so pleased.  I can't believe how lucky I've been to be spending my time lost in drawing again.  I'm tired, a bit stressed, and a somewhat physically sore, but mentally, creatively, and emotionally I feel so refreshed.  While I work I pray that my customers will be satisfied with their finished pieces, because I am enjoying this so very much.  I feel genuinely happy.

I don't know how much I'll be around this space over the next couple of weeks.  Absolutely I will be here again to wish you a merry Christmas.  But I did want to stop by to say I miss you very much, and I will definitely be back on a regular basis again in January.

And thank you, ever so much, for all of your support.



Friday, December 7, 2012

now that I can concentrate again

Eve came home from preschool on Monday with a fever that rose to over 103' and wouldn't break.  We kept her home on Tuesday, thinking it was a regular cold, and then late Tuesday afternoon she began to complain of pain on the lower right side of her belly.  Now, I really don't like to panic over a two-year-old's fever and runny nose, but when a kid that little is that specific about an acute physical pain, I have to take it seriously.  Especially when I couldn't talk her out of the idea.  Are you sure it doesn't hurt over here, baby?  What about here?  Does your knee hurt?  Your elbow?  Nope, she would not be deterred - her belly hurt just there, on the lower right, and then she got up off of the sofa and doubled over in tears.  Half an hour later I had her and Lena in the emergency room so my baby could be checked for appendicitis.  I had even thrown my glasses and contact case in my bag along with a phone charger just in case we had to stay overnight.

Six hours later we left with the diagnosis ear infection and a prescription for antibiotics.  Turns out her pain was, well, I don't want her to read this in high school and be horribly embarrassed, so let's just say it was a bellyache.  I won't mention the fact that I've never taken Lena to the emergency room, but this is the second time my youngest has gone in for...digestive-related issues.   Kid, you are the cutest, cuddliest package of trouble I have ever laid eyes on.  And you are totally eating kale and prunes every day for the rest of your childhood.  Mama doesn't think she can survive another trip to Cedars without running down the emergency room parking attendant who only sauntered over after I flagged him down, then shrugged and said, "Well, the lot is full.  Why?  Where are you going?  Huh.  I guess you'll have to park across the street."

I don't regret going, and she did have at least one wicked ear infection happening, so it's possible we would have wound up in the ER in the middle of the night anyway.  Poor baby.  Too much poking and prodding and that damn fever that would not go away even after she began antibiotics.  We had to keep her home through yesterday, too, and she ran that fever the whole time, even managing to peak over 104' on several occasions.  I know this isn't the most insightful or unusual thing I've ever written, but I hate, HATE, to see my baby sick.  Just a common childhood cold, a fever for a few days, a run-of-the-mill ear infection - I know.  And still I couldn't concentrate on anything else, always feeling out of sorts by the gnawing feeling that my family wasn't okay.  Maybe it's silly.  But last night after the girls were in bed and Jimmy went out to the office to work some more, I sat alone in the living room and worked on our Christmas letter, feeling that nagging off-kilter presence, until suddenly it disappeared.  It disappeared, and I thought, "Her fever broke!"  And darn-straight it had.  It was a physical relief to touch her skin and find it cool after four days of feeling like it just came out of the oven.

There must be nothing worse in the world than having a child be really, truly ill.

So.  She's better, now.  Back to preschool for her, and back to my mile-long Christmas to-do list for me.  Part of me is so frustrated to have lost the week this way, but for the most part, I'm just happy to see my girl happy, running her little Muppet run, and giggling at her big sister.  And oh, is she ever going to love having cauliflower and Brussels sprouts for dinner.  Welcome back to Christmastime, baby!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

hear this (Christmas edition)

So, I have more than enough Christmas music, as my husband will readily tell you, but I bought the She & Him Christmas album (A Very She & Him Christmas) a couple of weeks ago, and it's just so good that I wanted to share with you.  It was released last year, so this isn't exactly cutting edge news, but you love me anyway, right?

(I just going to assume that's true.)

My favorite track, The Christmas Waltz:

Lena's favorite track (which has me a little worried), Baby, It's Cold Outside:

And the song I usually dislike, but I actually like this version, Sleigh Ride:

Yeah, I know - the album is cute enough that I wanted to cut my bangs, too.  (Thankfully I still have photographic evidence of the last time that happened.)

Happy Wednesday!


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

it's December

a little ladybug came to say hello to Lena at the Christmas tree lot on Sunday

Oh, wow, December is here already, did you notice?  I know, how could you not notice.  December is here, and it feels like we're already in full-swing Christmas rush.  We spent our weekend putting up our tree and wrestling twinkle lights and baking gingerbread.  We've been ordering gifts and have already been to one Christmas party, I have Etsy orders to fill (yay!), and there is a box of Christmas cards on the shelf which need to be stuffed into envelopes, addressed, return-addressed, stamped, and sealed, but not until our Christmas letter has been written, printed, folded, and, know how it goes.

It's only the 4th, and maybe like you, I'm already feeling panicked over everything that needs to be done.  Of course I'm also, as usual, behind on email and photo editing.  And to top it off, I've got a little bit of a cold today as well as a temporary crown - a gift from the end-of-the-year leftover dental insurance gods - for the next two weeks, and Evie came home yesterday with just enough of a fever to stay home today with me and watch the same kids' Christmas movie for the fourteenth fifteenth and sixteenth times, all while peppering me with nonstop questions about anything and everything and anything again.

(About a week ago she began acting like a three-year-old all of a sudden, so here's how we've spent the last several days with her:

"Mommy, is it waining?"
Yes, baby, it's raining.
"Why it waining?"
It just is.  Sometimes it rains.
"Oh.  It no wook wike it waining."
Okay, okay, baby!  But it IS raining!
"Oh.  It waining?"
"Oh.  Why it waining, Mommy?"

 She's still cute, though, right?  And I haven't even locked her in a closet, yet!  I win Best Mommy of the Year!)

Christmas tree shopping/puddle jumping in her church shoes.  And yes, now she has a cold.  I GET IT.

But I love this season.  I love the music and the twinkle lights and even the Christmas movies.  I love hot chocolate and hot toddies and spoiling the girls with chocolate advent calendars.  Lena is just old enough now to begin understanding what the holiday is all about, and Evie is just old enough now to get excited about it all.  And my cold isn't so bad.  Just like it isn't so bad sitting here and writing this with a cuddly little girl next to me and our pretty Christmas tree all lit up in the corner.  Yes, it's hard to concentrate with her questions and her squirming and the noise of overly-festive cartoons

What was I saying?

It's like that.  It's like that, but I am determined to enjoy it.  I mean, I'm determined to chill out and relax a bit.  I mean, (deep breath), Hi.  Hello there.  Is it December already?  It is!  It's December already.  And guess what?  We have three whole weeks before Christmas.  And twinkle lights are so pretty.  And my baby is cuddly today.  And I think it's time for some hot chocolate.

Don't you agree?