December 29, 2010

Christmas 2010

I entered this holiday season with something I have rarely known before in life.  A complete and total sense of indifference.  I have always been the leader of Christmas cheer and prided myself in bringing it to peopel who find it elusive.  Even the year I was sixteen and had no place to call home, I was warmed with the spirit of joy that surrounds the Christmas holidays.

Yet, I remember a day early in December, in a moment of sheer despair looking at my family and telling them flat out that there was nothing that felt happy or Christmas like to me so they would have to figure it all out themselves this time.

Still, I did all I've known to do for most of this year.  I kept moving forward.  Each day putting one foot in front of the next, going through the motions that have always filled our home and family with joy... hoping that eventually, it would take.

And still, all I could see was the long list of loss and the inevitable ache of spending the holidays without my family.  Not because of sickness, distance or circumstance.  But because it was their choice.  Several of my friends lost a parent this year and they would have given anything to have one more Christmas, hour or minute with them.  What I saw was my parents living minutes away and siblings who were choosing to keep their distance.  Truly the pain has been a crushing weight in my chest that makes it hard for me to breathe.

But the Lord is so good.  What He reminded me of, was that my life and heart and home are filled with all that really matters most.  I have Him, my wonderful Saviour.  I have a husband who could be the model for all husbands.  I have 7 children here in my arms everyday who love their family and love the Lord and live to grow more in His image every day.  I have the blessing of knowing that Jesus holds in His arms the child we can't.

So through this valley, I will continue to say "Holy, My God you are worthy of all my praise!"  And isn't that enough?  Even through the many tears we shed this holiday season, He gave us many moments of sheer delight and joy to remind us He is in control.  He loves us, His children.  He will use all of 2010 for His glory.  He will fill 2011 with His unspeakable JOY!
A little something the girls found.
Christmas Eve... a minute with my girls during Happy Hour before dressing for dinner
Seven beautiful blessings under my Christmas tree
There must be mistletoe somewhere
Kaitlin, Brianna and Emma always set the most beautiful tables.
Don't you just love the excitement of children on Christmas Eve?  It is so CONTAGIOUS!
A picture is worth a thousand words
After we tuck the kids in and dreams of sugar plums dance through their heads, Allen and I sit up for two hours putting ribbons and bows on packages as we listen to Christmas music on the Delilah show.
By one O'clock, I was worn out.
Elisabeth had no trouble getting into the spirit of package ripping!
While the big storm that was predicted missed us, we did enjoy snow showers throughout the morning.
These eyes have amazed me since the minute Emma was born.
Yes, it is snowing.  Yes, they are in their pajamas.  Yes, they are trying out their new training swords in the front yard. 
Brianna is an interesting mix of Allen and I.  She has been really wanting some software to help in her design work which Allen happily gave her for Christmas.  What you can't see is her other gift, which was a year subscription to her favorite magazine, Martha Stewart Living.
We have so many dolls around our house, that we never thought to get Elisabeth one.  She was so excited to find her very own Bitty Baby and outfits for her and dolly to match.  (Moms if you have not checked out eBay yet, you really must. This dress that goes for more than $45 in the American Girl catalog was a mere $8 with shipping included on eBay.  It looked brand new.)  
We were are delighted to have Uncle Frank join us.
What can make a man happier than carving a roast for Christmas dinner?
Aedan's favorite gift... his new Treasure Study Bible.  
After dinner Kaitlin played piano for us while we all digested.  
Emma practiced with her new calligraphy pens.
Uncle Frank taught the kids how to make balloon animals.  Mostly, I bet, so they would stop asking him to make them.
Nathaniel's successful dog.
Later in the evening we had friends in for sandwiches, cookies, egg nog and caroling.  
The men folk had to lead the way, as my voice is still a big squeaky croak.  Seriously wondering if I will ever sing again without hurting the ears of those around me.
Fortunately, what we lack in talent, we make up for in enthusiasm.
Some of the children played a few Christmas selections for us.
What I love about our kids is that I never hear what they want for Christmas or what they will get.  It is always about what they want to give to others.  They are always excited about their opportunity to give their gifts to each other and especially Pa and Mama.  They take such amazing care finding just the right gift and will spend an hour or more wrapping everything in what they consider the most beautiful way possible.  Each child gets a day to present their gifts and they do it with enthusiasm and flair.
Praising the Lord for the happiest and most successful Christmas season yet!

December 28, 2010

Shopping Dates

You all know how much I hate shopping.  There for I do all my Christmas shopping online and usually long before Thanksgiving is ever on our minds.  Allen started a tradition with the kids a few years ago to make sure we get one on one time during what seems to be a crazy time of year, no matter how hard we try to keep it slow and serene.  Between Thanksgiving and Christmas we take each child one on one for dinner or lunch followed by shopping for their gifts for each other.

I love the way they so carefully draw up lists through out the year as they think of things their siblings need or would like.  I love to see their excitement as they hunt for just what they had in mind.  I love to see their thrill as they carry their bag home and tuck it under their bed (they all always hide their gifts under their beds).

They are their father's children and really enjoy the food part, too.  They get to pick anywhere they want to eat.

This year, because I was sick for so much of December and then we were so busy, we doubled up on some of their dates, which no one seemed to mind.  I was surprised that instead of his usual favorite, Samuel chose a Vietnamese restaurant.  Brianna was his double on this date.  I had to laugh when she dumped way too much hot sauce in her Pho and ate every bite because she refused to wimp out in front of her Pa.
Samuel was quite adventurous, trying dumplings, garden rolls and Pho.  I was surprised the one thing he didn't want was the shrimp and noodles, since that was the closest food to what he is used to eating.
You all know how I do with chopsticks.  
Not Sammy!  He ate his whole meal with chopsticks.
and kept us laughing the whole time.
Nathaniel and Aedan had a double date to Target and Chick-fil-A.  
You know we try to limit our sugar intake around here.  So usually if they get a milk shake, they all split one.
Since it was their date and all, they each got a peppermint milk shake this time, though.
I had fun playing with my camera settings, while waiting to see if they could actually drink an entire milk shake each.  Which they couldn't.
But they had fun trying.

How do you all find ways to have one on one time with your children in this crazy busy world we live in?

December 27, 2010

Smiles!

Our church has this long standing tradition of singing Happy Birthday to the honorees each Sunday evening.  The week of Elisabeth's birthday our friend Dean was also celebrating his birthday.  When Pa told Ellie to stand up so everyone could sing to her, she got down and ran over to Mr. B. and hopped into his arms.  The two of them looked liked long time friends.
While we have known Brother Dean since long before Ellie was born, she doesn't know him on a personal level.  He is just one of the many faces she sees on Sunday who Pa and Mama happen to stand around talking to.  Ellie is slow to warm up to people and will usually whimper if someone she doesn't know very well speaks to her.

After raising nine kids of his own, Dean is now a new grandfather as well.  She obviously sniffed him out as a safe bet.

December 26, 2010

Treats

I love the faith builders.  Those are the lovely Titus ladies in our church who teach us youngers all we need to know about important things like how to attract a husband, look twenty years younger than we are and most importantly how to make great things to eat.

Oh, can these ladies cook!  Often we are the recipients of the fruits of their labors such as Miss Dora's fudge and Miss Lorene's peanut brittle.  For those of you who will never have the honor and sheer delight of tasting that wonderful treat, I tell you her peanut brittle is the closest thing to heaven this earth will ever see.

The Sunday before Christmas both these ladies blessed us with a bag of their goodies.  Elisabeth intercepted both bags and held them for the entire service.  By virtue of where they came from, Ellie must have known there was something good inside.  Even though the bags were tied up with ribbon so she had no way of knowing what was inside, my girl carried them to the car and into the restaurant where we ate lunch.
Neither bag made it any further than that.  What is it they say?  "A minute on the lips, til January on the hips?"  or something like that!
Praising God for ladies who have perfected the art of hospitality in a gift bag!

December 25, 2010

Top Christmas Songs

In November, when the radio started playing Christmas music, Kaitlin and I were driving to Hagerstown (a two hour round trip) and listening to Christmas tunes and singing along.  We started to discuss how we liked this version better than that version.  Before you know it, we were back home and each had a list of our favorite Christmas songs.  She even made me a play list.  I told her I was going to put it on my blog, but somehow never got to it.

Brianna's friend, Jo at Scraps from my work basket, reminded me of it when she had her favorite Christmas music up the other day.  At long last, I am doing it.  Maybe Sam had a good point the other day after all.  Of course, it took Kaitlin's good memory to hunt down the list we made so long ago.  Thank God for good daughters. 

There are so many tunes which are called Christmas songs but really have nothing to do with the holiday at all.  I find most of those rather annoying.  Even though, some of them are fun to sing.  So I really would have to break it down to two groups.  The group of songs that really honor the King of the holiday and the songs that are fun because they are the traditional Christmas songs my mom sang with us when we were growing up.  There is no other particular order... it was hard enough to narrow it down to begin with.
 O Holy Night-Josh Groban
I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day- Casting Crowns
Carol of the Bells-David Foster
Mary Did You Know?- Kenny Rogers and Wynonna Judd
Breath of Heaven-Amy Grant
Heirlooms-Amy Grant
Emmanuel-Amy Grant
While You Were Sleeping-Casting Crowns
The Messiah-London Philharmonic Orchestra
Who Could Imagine A King-Whitney Houston
Really fun, but not really Christmas songs

Home for the Holidays-Perry Como
White Christmas-Bing Crosby
Auld Lang Syne
The Christmas Song-Johnny Mathis
Hot Chocolate song (from Polar Express)
Believe
Winter Wonderland-Andrew Sisters
Let it Snow
Rockin- Around the Christmas Tree
It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas-Bing Crosby
We Need a Little Christmas
Sleigh Ride-Johnny Mathis
 Merry Christmas from Wachter World

December 24, 2010

Aedan's Little Bit of Advice

... he shared at breakfast, as he learned it from Winnie-the-Pooh

"Poetry and Hums aren't things which you get, they're things which get you. And all you can do is go where they can find you."

--inspired by A. A. Milne

December 23, 2010

Tagged For Christmas!

My daughter, Brianna, had this on her blog over at By the Way.  If you click on the link and can't get there, it is because her blog is private.  If you wish to have an invite to view her blog, leave a note in my comments and I will have her send it to you.

I can not remember the last time I did a tag and this one seemed like so much fun, I decided to join in.  Here it goes.  

1. What is your one favorite dish to see on the table at Christmas dinner?
It is hard for me to imagine Christmas without all the traditional Italian dishes but if I had to pick just one it would be fried smelt. 

2. Do you have a Nativity scene or a creche?
Ah, the white and gold jeweled nativity I gave Allen for our ceramic anniversary.

3. What is your favorite Christmas movie?
Love, love, love Christmas movies.  In fact, from Thanksgiving until New Year's Day Allen doesn't allow any movies that aren't related to Christmas... although, the relationship can be a bit lose.  We have an entire shelf in our video collection dedicated just to Christmas movies.

To narrow it down to one is difficult but if I must, I would say, "It's a Wonderful Life."  I have lots of fond memories of our early years together when that was the only Christmas video we owned.  We watched it every time we watched a video.

Back then, I worked mainly second shift but often second and third shift on weekends.  Allen went to college in the mornings and worked two jobs in the afternoons and weekends.  We rarely got to see each other.  Sometimes, Allen would cook us dinner at midnight when I got home and we would sit on the couch and eat and watch our video together.  I remember doing this by the light of the Christmas tree to the sound of Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed singing "Buffalo Girls" our first Christmas together in our little college apartment.

We were both so exhausted that often we would eat and then fall asleep curled up together on the couch.  I can not count how many times we woke up to Zuzu saying, "Teacher says, every time a bell rings an angel gets their wings."  We'd get up and flop back in bed for two or three hours of sleep before starting all over again.

One funny moment was when we had both fallen asleep and Allen was dreaming about something that caused him to swing out.  You know what I mean how you do that in your dream sometimes when you feel like you are falling?  All curled up on the couch together I took the hit and got a nice bruise for it.  I still tease him about how he beat me up! 

4. If you and your family could spend this Christmas in another country, where would you go?
Italy, hands down.  For one thing, that is where most of our Christmas traditions come from.  For another, the Italians know how to celebrate.  Christmas starts on Christmas Eve and continues until the Epiphany on January 6th.

Here, Christmas is all about the shopping before hand and then Christmas is over once the gifts are opened on Christmas Day.  It is sad to prepare for a month for such a wonderful holiday and then that's it. 
 
5. Does your grandmother usually knit you something for Christmas, or does she give you something different -- say, a Wii?
Sadly, my grandmothers are both long gone.  They always really put effort into Christmas gifts.  They both knew how to sew, quilt and knit, as all women of their generation did.  However, I never saw them knit one single thing.  I think that once you could buy things in stores they didn't see the point in putting time into making it anymore.  As immigrants, it was a sign of being financially secure if you could buy store made things.

Anyway, my Grandmother Kathleen usually gave more practical gifts like underwear, socks and sleeping bags.  Other kids at school would complain about these things, but I always liked getting new under things.  I used my crayola crayon sleeping back until I was practically grown.  I wonder what ever happened to that, anyway.  She also threw in a Barbie doll and clothes for her every year. Which is kind of funny, because I never liked playing with Barbie dolls.  I guess that every girl at that time was supposed to like Barbie dolls so she figured I must.  I never told her I didn't like them because I didn't want to hurt her feelings or seem ungrateful.  She worked very hard to provide for her family and the many relatives who she was always helping out.


My dad's mom, Gram, usually gave things like purses, jewelry, makeup and clothes.  Again, I always liked the things she gave us.  My Aunt, who was a lot younger than my dad, lived with her and helped Gram do most of her shopping. She would pick out really luxurious things that my parents would never have bought for us.  I loved the angora sweater she gave me one year. 

6. Have you ever gone out of the house wearing a reindeer headband? What about a Santa hat?
  Don't think so. 

7.  Do you usually make or buy your Christmas gifts?
Both.  It depends on who and what and when.  The year Allen and I got married, I had no extra money for anything.  I quit smoking around Thanksgiving that year as a wedding promise to Allen.  Between that and the wedding preparations and family angst I was anxious all the time and needed something to occupy my hands.  I took up crocheting.  Everyone we knew got a scarf that year.  Everyone liked them so much that when they wore them out other people started asking me to make scarves for them.  Being we had so many military connections there were scarves literally all over the world... even to remote places like Diego Garcia, where a wool scarf is completely unnecessary. 

8. When do you set up your Christmas decorations?
The day after Thanksgiving.  When I was a kid, we set the tree up on Thanksgiving Day, while the turkey roasted.  We carried that into our marriage.  We always had so many people around on Thanksgiving it was great having the extra hands.  I think it was the year Emma Rose was born and had colic so bad that Allen decided to move the tree to the day after Thanksgiving.  The kids have been known to set up their family room tree in October or November, though.


Typically, the outdoor lights go up the weekend after Thanksgiving.  However, last year, I was in Italy for two weeks before Thanksgiving.  The kids convinced Allen it would be nice for  me to come home to the house all lit up.  Which was a fun surprise.


This November was unusually warm.  We were in the front yard one Saturday and Allen said this is when we should hang the lights not when it is cold and we need to wear gloves.  That was all it took for the kids to get in the attic and put the lights up.  I didn't think they would light them.  But they did, a number of weekends before Thanksgiving.

9. What kind of activities does your church usually have at Christmas?
We usually have a cantata for the community.  Some years we have done caroling.  I like that our Pastor themes the messages for the month of December around Christmas.  Our church has this tradition of putting out a basket for Christmas cards.  Everyone puts their Christmas letters, party invites and Christmas cards in the basket.  The young ladies sort them and hand them out to all the church members.  It is a simple thing but something that I always look forward to as a sign that Christmas is on its way.

10. Did you ever believe in Santa Claus as a child?
My parents did the Santa deal but I don't think anyone but my older brother ever believed it.  Once Frank knew it wasn't true he made sure we knew, too.  We didn't let on to our folks, though.  It would spoil all their fun.

11. Which of the Gospels gives your favorite account of the Christmas story?
 I like them both.  How can you go wrong.  They each give a different perspective.  Luke is very stirring, though.  I like the language.

12. Have you ever acted in a Christmas pageant?
 Singing is one of my passions.  As young as I can remember I was in the choir at our church.  We didn't have a children's choir all the time so I sang in the adult choir with my mom.  I remember singing a duet with her one Christmas Eve.  It was "Do You Hear What I Hear?".  Standing in the choir loft, overlooking the congregation, by the candlelight and the sound of the pipe organ ringing out was such a memorable moment that I still get goose bumps when I think about it.


Some years we did have  kids choir, too.  And then I would take part in whatever they were doing.  One year, I remember they did a pageant in the traditional sense.  My sister wanted to be more than a generic angel or shepherd so when they were short on boys to play Joseph, she got the part.

As the oldest, I was designated to read the Christmas Story as it was acted out.  

In 2000 our choir director needed someone to do a one line part in our church's Christmas cantata.  Most people would insulted at such a small part, but I loved it.  I can not act and hate the idea of trying so this was perfect for me to say I helped out without having to act.  I played a grandmother and Allen played her husband as the main character.  It was fun trying out different ways to make our hair white.  That was my favorite of all our church's Christmas cantatas.  The music was beautiful and almost every member took part in it so it was really a fun group effort.


13. Do you buy Christmas presents for your pets?
Not really.  But I do remember getting a can of tuna for our cat once and wrapping it and putting in a little stocking.  Only somewhere before Christmas we ran out of cat food.  I unwrapped it and gave it to her for dinner.

14. What is your favorite Christmas tradition?
There are so many that I couldn't imagine not having on Christmas!  Singing at the piano, reading Christmas stories by the light of the tree, dressing up for a fancy Christmas Eve dinner, new pajamas on Christmas Eve, writing and getting Christmas cards, the great foods, baking, delivering gift baskets to the neighbors, the cantata...


15.  Did you do anything Christmas-y today?
We started the day by getting up early and curling up on the couch in our pajamas for breakfast and a viewing of "It's a Wonderful Life."  Then we finished the Christmas letters and party invites and finally put them in the mail.  We also baked cookies and made preparations for Christmas Eve and Christmas dinner.  I finished up the afternoon by helping my boys wrap their gifts.     

Anyone, who would like to join in and take part in this super fun tag is welcomed.  Let me know if you post so I can stop by and take a look.

Merry Christmas,


CP

December 22, 2010

Me and My Girl

Yesterday was Allen's annual Christmas shopping date with the children. He has been doing this since Kaitlin was a toddler. They always look forward to it and lunch at Outback Steakhouse together when they are finished.  This is the only day every year that I am home alone.  I usually use the day to get some Christmas preparations squared away, complete a project, catch up on correspondence, visit with a girl friend or spend some special time with the baby who stays behind.

Elisabeth is on the edge.  Too old to want to stay behind when everyone else is going out, but too young to skip her nap.  (Especially since her cold is still hanging on.)  She went out for the morning shopping and then met me at my hair dressing appointment to spend the afternoon with me.

Since we were out already and it was 1:30 we decided to stop for a bite of lunch.  We chose Ruby Tuesday because we LOVE their salad bar.  (Thinking about it now makes me think, hmmm that would be a good lunch.  What is it that makes their salad bar so good?)  Typically if I eat out with just one of the kids we would go to Starbucks or Chick-fil-A so it was a lot of fun just sitting and chit chatting with my girl for an hour and a half over some salad and a dish of guacamole.

Of course, I had to take a picture.  (Aunt Dawn, we are loving the plaid skirt and velor jacket you brought!)
A half blink.
And the cheesy Ellie smile.
Don't know... but I like it anyway.
Then she said she was going to take my picture.  She took one and I sneezed or blinked or something.  I said, "You better take another, that's awful!"  So she did.  

Then she said, "That's awful, I better take another one."  And here it is.
And then she said, "Take my picture with your glasses."  So I did.
And then she said, "Can I take one more?"  So she did.  But it wasn't  a very flattering picture.
But it was a very special time, just me and my girl.