Friday, December 27, 2013

our Christmas Eve tradition

One of the very best parts of Christmas at our house
happens on Christmas Eve.
We spend a quiet night IN, dressed in comfy clothes
 I love the thought that goes behind each creation.
 We draw names at Thanksgiving, then spend the month planning and creating our secret surprises.
 Each gift comes wrapped in love... that's my favorite part.
A brief recap: Mesquite made a lego clock for the morning boy. Rooney made Leeli a drawstring backpack for her ballet gear.  Rooney received a personal recording of Enrique playing and singing along on his ukelele.
 Mesquite received an organizer for her closet shelf, designed, built and painted by Leeli.
 Morning Boy spent many hours sewing and stuffing specially designed "bean burrito" bean bags to toss into the mouths on a tossing game he made for Enrique.
 Mr. Dub also spent long hours making a marble pinball table game for Yonder.
 Yonder created a beautiful DVD collection of 2013 highlights in pictures and videos for me--a real treasure.
Lucky, lucky Dub got a canvas carrier for hauling in firewood.
The gifts were thoughtful and fun.
After the exchange, we enjoyed pondering what a wonderful life we have as we watched the Christmas classic It's A Wonderful Life.
I cry like a baby EVERY time.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Our youngest daughter is a teenager

 This was a milestone birthday for Leeli.
Becoming a teenager means finally being allowed to see some of those PG-13 movies she's been waiting patiently to view.  
First on the list:  The Hunger Games
 She's old enough to hang with the older kids now. 
I'm grateful that she still loves stuffed animals 
and playing with her nine year old brother.
It's lucky 13!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

And she learned how to crochet a cute little vegetable

We've been BUSY here.
Like Santa's elves, we've been making, baking and decorating.
Whew!...  And it's almost Christmas.
But I've been negligent.
This little pea got her braces off.  Three days shy of a month ago.
Just in time to morph into the newest and sweetest teenager EVER.
She keeps reminding me that it's ALMOST her birthday!
And I keep remembering that she was my best Christmas present. Ever.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

it's like they've always been here

Sunday morning we woke up to a foot of snow.
It was beautiful.
Most churches cancelled their services.
Ours was just postponed.
Instead of 10:00 am, it was moved to 4:00 pm.
The kids groaned.
I was elated!
No one loves a quiet snow day at home more than me. But there had been a plan put into place for Sunday, and I would have felt sad if it had been canceled.
I reminded everyone that there would be plenty of time to clear the snow off the driveway and walks and time to play in it.  THEN we could make time in the afternoon to get dressed up and go to church.
You see, there's this family.
I love them.
They're young, and just had their sixth child.
When I met them, #6 was due any day. I felt a fast bond with a couple who had enough love in their hearts and home for six kids. 
(Six cute kids, ages 7, 6, 4, 2, 1 and newborn)
 They just showed up at church one day in early November, and we all wondered where they had moved from. Turns out they had just bought a house in a neighboring town, but this was their first trip to church.  Ever.
The husband had previously worked at a job in Boston, and while there, met someone who had a conversation with him about faith.  He's humble and there weren't many details shared, but basically someone at that job challenged him to take his family to a Mormon church as soon as he got settled.
He kept his promise.
They're usually among the first people sitting in the pews on Sunday morning, and have been there faithfully every week since.
This snowy Sunday was scheduled to be their baptism day.
I was grateful for the chance to get to church and witness such an inspiring service made even more beautiful by a blanket of snow.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

don't ask us to deck your halls.

The tree is up.
Such a simple statement.
By reading those four little words you might never understand the BIG chaos that was caused by a seemingly simple event. That's why I'm going to tell you. Don't you dare think that decking the halls is simple over HERE.
Have a seat.
First, the back-story.
My parents down-sized.
Their big Christmas tree needed a home.
(right: me.)
The tree also came with a large metal stand.  Mom and Dad were pretty sure the stand did not belong to the tree in the box, but they were both going home.  With me.
My people revolted (a little).
They made it clear that anything besides a REAL tree would be less than desirable.
Because we're young and energetic and willing to put forth the physical effort it takes to haul in the tree, the hand-me-down stayed in the box. The old stand was on stand-by.
We're young and energetic and willing; however, we have schedules that rarely afford us more than 20 minutes at a time in one place together.  Therefore, Mr. Dub stopped at the tree farm on the way home from work on Friday and paid for a tree.  We weren't sure when we were going to be able to pick it out and cut it down, but it was paid for.
Fast forward to the moment when we are hauling the tree through the front door and cannot find our own sturdy tree stand.  "That's okay!" someone yells from the hall--"We have that old tree stand that Mimi and Grampy gave us!"
And so it went.
We were so happy to get the tree UP, watered and strung with lights
(all while festive Christmas music was playing in the background)
that we immediately called for an all-hands-on-deck decorating party.
Homework stopped,
ornament boxes were distributed,
people came
and we made  it to almost 100% decorated status.
I probably should not have felt like the most surprised person on the planet when
the tree.fell.over.
Branches cracked. Water spilled.  Ornaments fell. Lights went out.
That's when the cacophony of the varied responses to stress and surprise became an unsavory stew of things that don't mix well...  Shock. Stress. Laughter. Anger. Tears.
Hey--an extra hearty Merry Christmas to you and yours if you never have a tree decorating experience like this.  In our house?  It's just a contingency in the big plan.
It became a humbling dust-yourselves-off-and-try-again experience that happened to time itself perfectly with the start of the Christmas Devotional Broadcast blaring from the other room.
We soaked in the spirit of the evening, climbed into the garage attic to find our trusty tree stand, stood it back up and wired it to the walls so it won't fall over again.
Then, while visions of sugar-plums danced in our heads, we snubbed the mess and tucked ourselves into our beds; feeling peace on earth and goodwill towards men.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Macy's Day Parade 2013: (LOTS of pictures) more than you ever needed to know

Thanksgiving Day began early.  Before 4:00 am.
By that time, I was helping Dub get loaded up with folding chairs and blankets.  He was meeting my brother Aaron in the hotel lobby at 4:15 so they could walk a few blocks to sixth avenue, and stake out our parade viewing spot.  Just after 4:30 am he texted me a picture and said it was pretty quiet on the street:
Meanwhile, I was getting ready to wake the next shift.  The sun was coming up, and the young adult/teenage crew were sent out to hold down more cement by 6:30.
The rest of us walked to 6th and 50th by 7:30 am.
By then, the chairs were six deep and the crowds were thickening.
Since the general public can get no where near Herald Square, we picked the next best spot in my opinion, directly across from Radio City Music Hall.  It was a beautiful backdrop for a parade.
It was a C-O-L-D morning, let me tell you, and there were still more than two solid hours of waiting to be done.
Thank goodness for family, cousins and good friends.
We took turns sitting, standing and snuggling on laps while the crowd kept pushing in.  4:30 am was a brutal reporting time for Aaron and Dub, but we had prime real estate and we were grateful.

The streets livened up with parade officials and policemen as the 9:00 am step off time drew closer.  
Aaron could see south Central Park with his binoculars.
He kept us apprised of what was approaching.
We might have whispered and giggled among ourselves a few times... we hoped no one thought he looked like a terrorist
First signs of the official parade approached our vantage point just before 10:00 am.  We were so excited we could hardly stand it!
Happy Thanksgiving!
The festivities were finally in full swing.
We learned some interesting things about the parade by talking to many of the participants as they passed by.
In order to be eligible to participate in the parade in any way, you either have to be an employee of Macy's or be sponsored by an employee of Macy's, or receive a special invitation.
Some of us got a kick out of seeing Jimmy Fallon on the Sesame Street float.
There was one especially enthusiastic fan of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid balloon in our ranks.
He got the latest book for his birthday in October, and has read all of the others almost a dozen times each.  Truly a fan.
I laughed out loud when Richard Simmons came riding by on the giant turtle, flexing his legs over his shoulders and looking just as enthusiastic as I remember him from the late 1970s.
There were literally thousands of clowns marching.
Being in the front row meant a lot of face time with some of the clowns who enjoyed crowd participation.
There was a parade entry that caught most of us by surprise. Much to Mr. Dub's delight, the entire cast of Duck Dynasty was there.
Definitely a top ten moment was the celebrity-to-fan connection made between Si and Dub. I think they're soul mates.
There was so much palpable joy--don't believe for a moment that Disney has cornered the market on making dreams come true.
My friend Joy used to be in the Marine Corps band.  I cheered extra loud when they went by.
We were all happy and having fun, but I'm pretty sure the smiles on our faces just froze on after a certain point.  It never did warm up.
Most of us lost the feeling in our fingers and toes, but no one was willing to bail on the excitement. The kids got especially excited with the celebrity sightings.  Sometimes yelling their names and sometimes calling things like "Hey Jesse!"
Spiderman was one of my personal favorites.
As I turned my head to watch him float away, I looked down the line and saw my sister-in-law being interviewed by Katy Tur of the NBC Nightly News.
Then she was talking to the terrorist my brother Aaron, and I heard her tell the camera man "let's get some kids."
Guess who's face showed up on the Thanksgiving edition of NBC Nightly News across the nation?
I'm telling you--the day just kept getting better.
My personal favorite moment came shortly after that, when the UMass Marching Band showed up.
I might have shed a tear of joy to see my son march by.
He couldn't wave or say hi while playing "God Bless America," but if you look at that face, you'll see where his eye is looking.
I'll never forget it.