Monday, December 31, 2007

Goodbye 2007

Thanks to those still checking in here, despite how quiet it's been, and to those who wrote saying, "post already."


We had a lovely Christmas at home. The night before, while Brian and I shared that spousal tradition of wrapping together well into the night, we opened a package that was supposed to be this:


And instead we found this:

045463I freaked out at first. We hadn't purchased very much this year. Remember that Less is More post on toys? (I hope to list the final top toys this week!). But I didn't want Aidan to be disappointed, and wrongly assume Santa hadn't known what a great boy he had been all year.

So I wrapped the unwanted preschool toy anyway, and even if it didn't have the impact the planets would have, both guys loved it. And the store has refunded the now-unavailable planet system and told us to keep the play hospital set. 

Idea for next year: Someone told me they give three gifts, in honor of the wise men's three gifts to the Christ child. I also read about the idea of giving "something you want, something you need, something handmade, and something to read"--- we came pretty close to that without even intending to.

Santa brought both boys their wish of light sabers, as well as enamel mugs for their cocoa/tea (these seriously got the GREATEST reaction from both boys!), and they each received a book to add to our basket of winter/Christmas themed books.

51azfkgjf4l__bo2204203200_pisitbdp5  Aidan's book51z6ekd289l__bo2204203200_pisitbdp5

and Sean's


We received an impromptu visit this weekend from Mary Alice. Both boys were so sad to see her go this morning. Sean is still expecting her back any time now. Her visit led us to set up the bunk beds that were really the boys' big gift this Christmas. Sean did so well transitioning from his crib to the futon, but the move to Aidan's room has proved to be a little too exciting. We shall see. I found a red comforter for Sean during our crazy-full day in GJ on Friday. Still need to redo much of Aidan's room to make it both of theirs now. 

I love lists, and for years MA, Angie and I have exchanged "Best of" lists at the end of the year. My siblings and I started doing this as well. Movies, books, music, as well as best memories of the year, and goals for the new year. I'm going to need some time though to get any kind of perspective on 2007.

Is this how it feels to get older? To constantly want time to slow down? I remember desperately wanting it to speed up when I was 15. Now everything seems to go by so quickly...

Even this pregnancy is going by too quickly. I am not a big fan of pregnancy, in general. Just a big fan of the end result.  Some women revel in being pregnant, feeling their best. I have a couple good months between being sick daily and then getting uncomfortable at the end. Pregnancy at 38 definitely feels different than it did at 32. And still, I want time to slow down a bit, let me get ready, and let me revel, if not in the physical changes of pregnancy, at least in my participation---this last time---in the miracle of creating life.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas!


Christmas Eve

After many fun-filled, but overfilled days, I am thrilled to have nowhere we have to go for the next 48 hours. Alleluia!

Yesterday was our little nativity play at St. Francis. Nativity_play

Ben and his sister Sarah played Mary and Joseph, and their real little brother had the star role of Jesus. Aidan was one of the three wise men. Sean decided to opt out at the last minute.   We asked two high school girls to read Luke 2 as the kids took their places, with a little singing of We Three Kings and The Little Drummer Boy. The production had quite a "Charlie Brown" feel to it, as Annabelle put it, which was part of the charm. Definitely a big hit among the grandmothers, who make up 90% of our parish.



Three Kings


Two Sweet


Not to worry, Sean enjoyed plenty of attention. There is a sweet woman named Bobbie, who must be nearly 80, and who always brings something for the boys to every service. Here's Sean enjoying his Bobbie-treat: Sean_and_his_gift_from_miss_bobbie

Happy_sean_2 Finally, before I sign out for the next few days, I wanted to share a few links I meant to post here, based on questions I received or to be a resource for me next winter.

In case you've forgotten how to fold paper for six-sided snowflakes, go here.

Instructions on making very simple salt-dough ornaments are here.

I'm not a big fan of gingerbread houses. Love the look, hate the stale frosting and candy sitting around, tempting little boys daily. Here's a virtual one, and a felt one that I love. Hope we can make our own version of it next year...something I could see the boys adding to each year.

Finally, for the real die-hard Aidan fans out there, here is a little (well, maybe a little long at 2 minutes) video of Aidan singing Frosty the Snowman as only he and Jimmy Durante could.

You'll need to turn off the Coldplay song in the background by clicking on the toolbar under Playlist in the right column, and please ignore the chaotic state of my office. Aidan's missing tooth adds a little lisp;-)

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Winter Snapshots


                The last snowfall, school party, the snowman and tree Aidan made, oatmeal bars, Sean, our tree.

Yesterday the boys met their buddies at Dave's Corner Market to sing carols to the regulars gathering there for coffee. They were all sitting on a bench outside, singing their hearts out to "Here Comes Santa Claus", when a guy pulled up in an old pick-up. He had suspenders, an impressive white beard, and an equally impressive belly. The boys turned silent, and then screamed, "Santa Claus!"  He walked up to them, saying, "I'm always watching, ya know, and I'm so impressed with how good y'all are." Then he gave them all a candy cane. The other moms and I just looked at each other---we couldn't have planned anything more perfect:-) Serendipity and a moment of kindness on his part to stop.

Lots of fun planned for today, but right now I should be getting a shepherd and a wise man dressed. Just wanted to share this recipe for Gingerbread Boys & Girls.

My friend Kris passed it to me a couple years ago. A great dipping-in-tea cookie if you leave them plain. Lots of fun for the kids to decorate. We just fill little baggies with frosting and cut a small corner for the kids to pipe the frosting themselves.

Gingerbread Boys and Girls

1 ½ cups dark molassesGingerbread_man_2_2

1 cup packed brown sugar

2/3 cup cold water

1/3 cup shortening

7 cups flour

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

2 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp ground allspice

1 tsp ground cloves

1 tsp ground cinnamon

Mix molasses through shortening.  Stir in the remaining ingredients. Cover with plastic wrap and chill two hours. I also divide the dough into two equal parts at this point and make half that day and freeze the remaining portion for another day.

Heat oven to 350. Roll dough ¼ inch thick on floured surface and use desired cookie cutters.  Bake until no indentation remains (approximately 10 to 12 minutes).


2 cups powdered sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1 to 2 tsp milk (I usually experiment here. You can always add more milk, so add slowly)

Stir ingredients together and top on cooled cookies.


Thursday, December 20, 2007



Ask and you shall receive.

Thank you so much to everyone who helped put together a goodie bag of warm mittens, hats, and gloves for children in the Republic of Georgia. Brian kindly boxed up all the backpacks and ziploc bags for me and they will make their way back to Georgia with Kathy in the new year.

People were so creative in their "extra goodies"---one bag contained superhero underoos.  Man, are those going to be a hit!  If things are at all similar to our adventure in the 90s (and sadly, things don't change much in the villages), even those ziploc bags will be treasured, and rewashed and reused for a long time. Someone sent us a box of them while we were in Russia, and we used those bags for two years. Now I feel guilty every time I throw one away.

Even though they are all in their 20's now (oy!), in my head, these are the kids who are about to receive these goodies. I so wish I had been able to coordinate something like this while I was in Selikhino.


I also wanted to say thanks for all the sweet feedback about my post on Aidan. I considered taking it down the next day, because I struggle with whether I'm violating his privacy in any way by writing publicly here. And then I think, this is my chance...because there's no way he's going to let me get away with it when he's 10. But I so appreciated the kind emails---definitely the most I've received on any one post. Aidan's had a tough week, and I'm especially grateful for friends who remind me that these are the days we'll laugh about in time to come.


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Six Days


Clementines (or Cuties as we call them) are a sure sign of Christmas to me.  Growing up our stockings always had an orange or tangerine filling the toe.

It doesn't seem possible that there are only six more days. In trading "to do" lists with Angie this week (which is much more fun than actually tackling the list), we talked about the discrepancy between what we want to do and what we want to have done. I wish I had keen insights I could record here that would help me be more selective next year. But I may be too sleep deprived to think that clearly...

I want to remember:

-the best things happen spontaneously, and often need to be kid-initiated. I was in full baking mode yesterday, for Brian's coworkers and a friend's party, when Aidan came to the kitchen table with scissors and two white pieces of paper, asking to make snowflakes. Somehow it wouldn't have been the same if that had been the note in today's advent stocking and I had made it happen.

As much as I love having our advent calendar hold ideas and activities rather than more candy or "stuff", I want to make it simpler next year. A gum drop would be just as exciting to find on some mornings.

A_winter_favorite_2 -Every few years I go a bit overboard on the baking. Our kitchen currently holds containers of rum balls (yes, I'm channeling 1977 this year), seven-layer bars (there would be riots if my mom didn't make these every year), oatmeal bars, pretzel turtles (easy one the kids can do themselves), gingerbread cookies, and peppermint chocolate wafers (thanks for the recipe, Stephanie!).

I gave away little Chinese take-out boxes filled with these treats, and some of Laura's peanut brittle, to our local friends yesterday. Hopefully the rest will be gone by tomorrow. Next year I'm thinking the kid-oriented ones are enough. We all have enough sugar this time of year. Gingerbread and decorated sugar cookies next year---that's it.

Paper_ornament About 20 minutes before we had to leave for a friend's party last night, I decided to make paper ornaments for the families that would be there. Because it always helps to add a little edge to getting your family out the door, doesn't it? Yes, in case you didn't already know it, Brian is a saint.

Aidan helped make ours a week ago (last night I wasn't in a kid-help mode at all), and they really are the simplest thing---instructions can be found here. Loved putting my patterned paper to use, since I haven't touched it in months.

There are still 2/3 of our Christmas cards to write and address, and while all the packages have been mailed, still lots more wrapping. Aidan's school celebration on Friday, caroling with kid friends on Saturday, a rather-impromptu nativity play for church on Sunday. And then---ready or not, it's Christmas Eve.

But today I just want to breathe, gather our blankets and pillows in the living room and dive into our basket of winter books with the boys.


The Tradition Continues. Left to Right: Brian and his brother Pat, me and my sister Eileen, Aidan and Sean.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Spotlight on Aidan

Bimg_8395_2 Photos by Shawna Houllis

Is there anything more stereotypical than a mother who considers her child completely unique, with special gifts for which the world might not be ready?

I try to remind myself often that I am still learning who Aidan is, that he is still learning the same thing, still becoming himself, and will be, probably for as long as I will know him.

But I see myself and so much of my family in him, that I often forget all that.

So when Aidan came home from school yesterday, having lost his first tooth---literally lost it, despite his teacher giving him a tooth-shaped box on a necklace in which to keep it when it came out at lunch...well, I just understood. I spent many years with my "head in the clouds", contently indifferent to reality, and forgetting to pack my lunch. I don't think I was ever as artistic or as confident as Aidan, but my favorite childhood story involves my scribbling on a tiny piece of paper when I was 4 years old, and then reading from it to my father, turning it over and over numerous times as I told him the epic tale I'd just written.

Earlier this week, Aidan put on an impromptu puppet show for Sean and me. He pulled out the doorway theater Gramare gave him, but chose to use stuffed animals over puppets. It was a long saga between Winnie the Pooh and Tigger, but the best part was when an ominous snake appeared and greeted Winnie Pooh and his cousin Blue Bear with the line, "Hello, lunch!"

It took me a while to recognize it from a recent Frog & Toad story. But knowing the lines good enough to steal is a beginning, right?


Aidan is the kid who, while all the other preschoolers were marching up the aisle for their little diplomas, took a wrong turn and went in the opposite direction. Some parents looked over at me, smiling kindly, but with visible relief that he's not their kid. I got similar looks this summer when Aidan was happy to pick dandelions as his teammates ran past him with the soccer ball.

Then there are friends like Mary Alice who took me aside a year or two ago to say, "He told me a story with a beginning, a middle and an end. Seriously. He had plot!"

Aidan just sent her a ghost story he wrote at Halloween...because she expressed interest in developing it :-)

My favorite thing about Aidan is his kindness. It comes naturally to him. When I volunteer at his school, it is the thing that every adult---from the playground attendant to the computer teacher--comes up to share with me. He isn't a leader, but he isn't a follower either. There are two boys who follow his every step, but Aidan doesn't even seem to notice---he's too interested in wherever his imagination is taking him, and they seem to enjoy where it leads too.

Last Wednesday his teacher had the students complete little books in which every line began with "I play with my..." and they were to fill in the blank and illustrate it. It's amazing and a bit disheartening to see how early the need to fit in begins. The desire to "do it right" outweighs the desire to do your own thing. I asked a sweet girl named Alex, who had just written "I play with my cat," the name of her cat, only to hear that she didn't really have one, but she saw the girl sitting next to her write that. And then I saw five kids at one table where they had all written "ball" ---maybe because they knew how to spell it.

Then I peek over Aidan's shoulder, where I see him intently copying a word from a book his teacher had read them earlier that week  (Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins), to create this:Img_2922

Of course the page I loved most was this one:Img_2924

I'm stealing an idea from Heather Melzer and setting up an online art gallery for Aidan. For the grandparents' viewing pleasure, for Aidan to get a kick out of, and for relief of some guilt because I recycle piles of his work each week.

These days Aidan wants to be a scientist  when he grows up, "who does all kinds of experiments, especially mixing things and experiments that make sour juice." But right now, he just woke up and wants to snuggle. My second favorite thing about my first born.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

In just three months...


Three months from today...supposedly.

It doesn't seem possible.

We still haven't chosen a name and you can add your suggestion here.

And in case you've ever wondered, today's New York Times Science section takes on the weighty question of Why Pregnant Women Don't Tip Over

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Winter Wonderland

Before he went to bed last night, Aidan said he was praying that when he woke up the world would be "dressed in white."  Is that a line from a Christmas carol or TV special?

Either way, he got his wish.


Brian and I watched "Into the Wild" last night, and snow started falling hard toward the end of it.  When it was over, I stepped into the quiet, dark white scene.


(Again, can't help wondering what that photo would have looked like with a real lens...)

Maybe it was having just seen that film, but it was eerie outside. Brian was bummed about having to leave early the next morning, knowing he'd miss Aidan's reaction.


Both boys were thrilled with the view outside this morning, and could barely eat breakfast before charging out there.

I decided to embrace being late for school, especially since I didn't think the 2 or 3 inches would still be here this afternoon.  Sean refused to wear his mittens at first, and then cried when his hands got cold after throwing many a snowball. Aidan ran to greet Carol, his adopted grandmother next door, who was already out shoveling her sidewalk.


Aidan also asked if he could take a carrot to school, with big plans to build his own Frosty during recess. He came home without his gloves or hat (no surprise there), and eager for a cup of hot tea.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Guess who...

has his long-awaited first loose tooth?


Good Times & Blurry Photos


51s6ag1qmnl__ss500_ Our boys' buddies, Alex & Joey, joined us in watching Mary Alice's "The Very First Noel" on Saturday night. Even if MA hadn't been involved in its production, it would be our favorite Christmas DVD. The nativity story, told with gentle humor and sweet animation. Just perfect.

A fun night with friends. Brian made dinner (yay!), using a recipe for Chicken Bruschetta I found on Becky Higgins' web site, where I also got the peppermint fudge recipe we had for dessert.

I teased my good friend Kathy that half my reason for inviting them over was to make myself clean the house. Not my favorite thing. I once asked my sister Erin whether, if given the option, she would choose having someone clean her house or cook for her. She said the cook, no question. I still can't quite comprehend that.

I've been debating between this or this as part of my birthday/Christmas gift from Brian (he's giving me a digital SLR, a dream come true). And looking at my point-n-shoots inability to focus indoors without the flash (see above and below), I can't wait!


(Edited to add: I just noticed Sean's wearing his Buzz costume on the couch, and by the time we took the tree photo that night, he's back into Superman's).

Saturday, December 8, 2007

No Comment; Blog World

A few people have pointed out the inability to post comments here. Of course, you can still post a name recommendation for Baby#3 here, and there is a link to my email in the upper left corner. I love input, and I'd love to see discussion.

But the 'no comment' option is a sanity saving measure for me. I might start checking obsessively to see if there were any comments, or worse, not have any and feel like a preteen waiting anxiously for the phone to ring.

I read somewhere that a blog without comments is not a blog. Okay. Then this isn't a blog. Whatever.

Typepad does give you a count of how many people visited your site each day. I'm averaging about 30, which is nothing in the 'blog world' but is amazing to me. Especially when so many of my friends are Internet-impaired;-)


Not sure how Typepad counts, but I imagine the number is less. Maybe they count every page viewed, so if you click to an old post, you're counted twice. Much cooler is the map provided by Google of where your readers are. It doesn't tell me much---one marker in Chicago might represent 1 person or 10. But it still feels good.

I've gotten a few emails from people I don't know, who either found their way here via a Google search and stayed to look around, or because I linked to their site from here, etc. I thought that might freak me out, because I am posting with family and friends in mind. But it hasn't. I know there is weird stuff out there on the net, just as there is any/everywhere. But I have found it to be a treasure-trove of ideas and inspiration, a great resource, and a confirmation that there are many like-minded people out there, especially moms---none of whom have all the answers but who are trying to do the best they can. I love those glimpses into "how do you do it?"---whether it be balancing roles or trying to be creative or just keeping up with laundry. Next week I'll post some of my favorite links.

Meanwhile, thanks for checking in. And MA, I promise to mention you more often next week;-) 

Top Toy #5


(This photo must be from 2006---Aidan still had wavy hair. Where did it go?)

Lego's are a no-brainer. Everyone knows Lego's, but they really are as good as they ever were (unlike the old Fisher Price airport and car garage, which got make-overs that made them lame).

My only input would be to stay in the Duplo stage as long as possible. Basic building pieces, too large for little siblings to swallow. The next step up seems to be a step backward to me. Aidan has received several themed sets, where the parts still fit interchangeably, but seem to limit the imagination. He ends up wanting to make the picture on the box, instead of his own thing.

Duplo, and then when you do move up, go for the "creator" series, which steer clear of the whole licensed character sets.

Saturday morning


(Photo by Shawna Houllis, Angie's sister-in-law and an amazing photographer)

Turns out the little boy asking me to hold him had a little fever. He did well after a good nap, but still didn't eat any dinner. He just had his second breakfast so whatever it was, I think it is over...

All the Christmas boxes have been emptied and I still can't find two things. Makin' me a little crazy.

I have a long to-do list, so I think I'm going to write at least 3 posts;-)

Friday, December 7, 2007

Procrastination 101

I have two bathrooms to clean, a dining room table filled with boxes of Christmas decorations, and friends coming for dinner tonight.

So it seems like a good time to blog:-)


I'd like to blame all of my lack of productivity on this little santa, but most of you know me too well. He is, however, not making it any easier. He's on his second costume this morning, and, because I'm running around, has taken to grabbing my leg and asking me to hold him.

And who could refuse that?

Aidan had been asking for a Santa costume, and I couldn't resist when I saw a little one at Target after my last OB appointment. Sean had to get in on it too, of course, though he preferred having it on backward.

I'm obsessed with the song "Last Request" to it on the right side bar if the Xmas tunes aren't doing anything for you.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Top Toys 7 & 6


I don't really know what that monkey is doing, but something suspicious was definitely going on and brought out the conductor and his friends.


Toy #7 doesn't have the same longevity as the previous three, but it is a favorite. I can't imagine the boys will still be playing with trains when they are 8 years old, but for now, it gets daily use. A wooden train set, with lots of tracks, a few tunnels and bridges and magnetic trains. We have a few Thomas trains, but the tracks and tunnels are from Brio. We've heard their accessories last a lot longer.

When Aidan was 2 1/2, Santa brought him the Polar Express train set. It was the first thing he opened and then he seriously would not open one more present the rest of that day. 1323249_img

2004, when our dining room still had no furniture. I couldn't wait to fill it, and now I see this and long for all that open space!

#6:Kidkraft_train_table_2   A train table might seem like an unnecessary luxury, but it really is its own toy, full of possibilities. This image is in a file filled with similar ones for ideas back when Brian was planning on building one himself. Eventually we opted for the cheaper and faster route of just buying one. I only wish we had done it sooner. The table allows the kids to set up the tracks without then tripping over them or having to put it away each night.

A table does limit the number of accessories and elaborate set-ups that can fit---but, again, less is more, even when it comes to trains.

It serves as a base for Lego's and Lincoln Logs, and I love the ease it adds to toy clean up. When in doubt, put it on the train table.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

5 Things Making Me Happy (despite my grumpiness)

Ft_wrapping01_m_3Aidan was late for school today (major pet peeve), refused to wear the new jeans I got him (slims from Old Navy that, miraculously, don't fall down on him!), and Sean's potty training--or not. Enough said. Oh, and the financial realities of gift-giving. I'm a little bit grumpy today.

I love presents (and have been known to peek a bit). I love giving them, receiving them, even wrapping them. But I also love living within my means. Everyone has essentials for his or her peace of mind. Figuring out your own is one of the big jobs of life. Our two years in the Peace Corps taught me I can live without almost everything (except chocolate, q-tips, and Brian).

But for peace of mind I require even more.

My top three are probably

  1. silent time by myself

  2. the ability to connect with my far-away loved ones (letters, email, or a phone)

  3. a zero-balance Visa bill at the end of every month.

Brian and I are blessed with a large extended family---16 nieces and nephews (and growing!). And in all honesty, there are no gift expectations within our family. You can do what works for you. Some give to each child, or just to their godchildren, or just one gift to the whole family. So the pressure I feel is self-induced, but it is hard to switch once you start a tradition. We used to give to each child, now we are trying to do the one gift per family thing.

I do enough whining in *real* life so I came here to lift myself up and think of the little things making me smile these days.

5 Random Joys:1649p_2

  1. Dreyers Peppermint Ice Cream. Last year our grocery store had a huge poster and display for it, but it never arrived. Yesterday I saw it sitting on a shelf without any fanfare, just waiting for me:-)

  2. Remember how cool it felt being the first kid to have Atari? Or the first person in your high school with a pair of Jordache jeans? Or the only one at work with an iphone? Yeah, neither do I. But Mary Alice has given me my 15 minutes of coolness by lending me the DVD of "Into the Wild" (which isn't even out on DVD yet).

  3. "Life" on ABC Wednesdays. I rarely watch TV, but I've missed having a weekly show to lookLife_240_2  forward to, since "West Wing" ended. This isn't WW, no fast dialogue or keen political observations. But it does have Damian Lewis, (Band of Brothers" and BBC's"The Forsyte Saga"), which might be enough. It's basically a quirky detective show, but I'm likin' it.

  4. Little connections. That Erin has "See the World" as her cell ringer. That Lori from Camp Creek emailed and she not only knows "Young at Heart" but loves it. That my parents were already fans of Damian Lewis and told me about The Forsyte Saga (which I plan to netflix). That I was able to tell Angie the good news that Amazon ships to China for only $5. That after 2+weeks of phone tag, Kris caught me at home today (and shared the possible secret to potty training---"ditch the pull-ups").

  5. Saturday we received a hospital bill for surgery I had over a year ago, totaling $18,000. Of course it came on a Saturday when you can't get anyone on the phone, of course right after we had just seen "Sicko" highlighting how even people with insurance go into bankruptcy over medical bills. See above about my inability to handle debt. Even knowing it was a mistake and that it would all get worked out on Monday, I felt on edge all weekend. Shockingly, this letter is not one of my 5 random joys.

But it is one of those things I want to remember when Brian enters my Danger Zone by rearranging my laundry room or attempting to talk to me while I'm chopping vegetables. You know, really mean things like that. I want to remind myself of this: he completely handles all medical bills. That line makes me tear up all by itself. Next to our three children and his companionship for life, it is the best gift he has ever given me. When TN strikes, I'm unable to talk on the phone, and Brian naturally has to take over talking to doctors and insurance companies, etc.

The_three_keating_men But even when I'm my non-stop talking self again, he makes the phone calls, writes the letters, gets the documentation. You see, even if it is their mistake, it becomes your job to prove it to them. And in the past 10+ years of this, there is always a mistake. And six different people you have to talk to before you get the person who can clear it all up. He remains calm, he patiently repeats all the info for the 100th time, he somehow keeps his sense of humor. I watched him do all that last night on the phone and I'm just in awe. Seriously---it's right up there with watching him hold our son for the first time;-) 

Monday, December 3, 2007

New Traditions


Four years? That seems impossible. I still look completely blank when others mention a street name in town.  Only when I see Aidan, a little two year old in that first photo, do I realize we've been here a while.

The Light Parade has become an annual tradition, and gets better every year, in a very small town, low expectations kind of way. We meet friends at a local place that offers a pizza & salad bar. Pizza by the slice in all kinds of combos, including honey chicken and Buffalo. Very yummy and an easy place to take kids. We had a "kids" table this year, while adults got to actually enjoy a beer (except me--oy!) and conversation. One of many moments when we can't help thinking that our lives were about to get much easier...but baby here we come!


My mom sent a stocking full of Christmas themed socks when Sean was a babe. Last year I saw Kelli Crowe create an advent calendar using socks and loved the idea of putting those cute socks to use again. Aidan helped number the clothespins with little stickers. The idea is that I drop a little note in the next day's sock each night, and the boys rush to it to learn what awaits them that day. We're talking little things...cocoa with all the fixings that night, or bringing cookies to their favorite neighbor Carol. Or simply two little candy canes when I don't have my act together (hopefully that won't mean 20+ days of candy canes!).

I've been seeing lots of different ideas---using boxes ala Ali Edwards (who also includes a PDF from Shannon Arnold of idea to put in the socks ), or even little origami shoes at Blue Yonder, a site I've only recently discovered and am still exploring (and stealing from). Lots of inspiration from Jessica Sprague, who also suggested including a line of scripture each day. A nice, non-overwhelming way to introduce the story. Another blog new to me, Uncommon Grace links to several variations, but I'm stealing her idea of "a little elf who travels from stocking to stocking day by day as a visual aid to the passing of the days."

Mainly, I just like the way it celebrates the season, instead of all the emphasis (and pressure) on one big day.


My mom tells a story about she and her brother Walter saved their dimes to buy a plastic nativity set from the local drug store when they were little. While growing up, we were always allowed to set up the nativity scene under the tree, and then rearrange it and set it up again, and again, even though it was a beautiful Fontanini-like set. While we were in Russia, my mother-in-law made us an all-white ceramic set that is lovely, but not very child-friendly. She actually sent the kids a Fisher Price Little People set this year, but I had already ordered the one above. I love that it is made of wood, very child-friendly, but still invokes some reverence. Part of what we loved about playing with my mother's set under the tree was that it clearly wasn't a toy.

Blognote: Please email me if the playlist is slowing down your loading of the site, or just plain annoying. I love sharing new (to me) song discoveries, but I can change it to not play automatically. Thanks!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Advent Time

070792o_2 Yesterday a good friend made the following comment: "I'm not a fan of this time of year." And she didn't mean the sudden cold weather that descended on our little town last week.

I have more help than most (thanks to Bri, I've never had to hang a string of lights yet), but the to-do list is still intimidating. So much I want to do, so many memories I want to create, and at the same time, I mostly just want to snuggle with a good book next to Brian, with my yellow-blue blanket and a hot cup of tea.

I don't remember who sent me the link to Camp Creek Blog, but thank you. I love her take on holiday resolutions. Seriously funny.    (Five points to anyone who just read that and thought "oxymoron")

Even more, I am inspired by her effort to keep the focus on her sons: "they are so easy to please. they just want to eat ice cream in the living room while watching christmas cartoon specials, me to haul myself outside and play with them in the snow, messy craft projects, freedom to decorate the tree however they want ... giving up on the other stuff makes a better holiday for all of us!"

I'll be rereading that throughout the next four weeks to gain perspective. I get overwhelmed, but I always love this time of year. It was easily the happiest time of year in our household growing up. I suspect both my parents have some Dickensian Christmas memories, and they went above and beyond to make the holiday special for all of us. (I'm the one in braids below, in case it isn't obvous.)


Nostalgia plays a large role in most of my holiday favorites:

Listening to the carols my parents played: Crosby, Sinatra, Cole, Ives...and of course The Muppets with John Denver! Maria gave this CD to Aidan a couple years ago, and it immediately took me back toYoungatheartmoviead 256 Myrtle.

  Watching holiday classics like "It's a Wonderful Life" and "Young at Heart." Okay, maybe you never heard of that last one, but every O'Malley girl has. It may be a cheesy musical soap-opera, but after analyzing it for 30+ years, it takes on a Chekhovian depth. And it is the perfect background while wrapping presents late at night.

I don't care if it's a cliche, "It's a Wonderful Life" is my favorite movie---and was, even in high school, where I tormented loyal friends by quoting this scene of the movie ad nauseum. "...JustItsawonderfullifeboardmeetng_5 remember this, Mr. Potter, that this rabble you're talking about...they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community..."

I so enjoy Mary and George's love story, that I am always caught offguard at how dark it gets. And then he finds Zu Zu's petals and the world is made whole again.

These are my Christmas memories: Mom's seven-layer bars, my brother File0483Kevin's punch. New pjs on Christmas Eve. Midnight mass. A vaguely familiar guy in a red suit and fake beard. Restaging the nativity scene under our tree for endless hours. Clementines at the bottom of our stockings. A younger brother or sister (whomever was in 1st grade that year) reciting the second chapter of Luke:

While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

I'll try to come back this weekend and add new favorites, because that's the beauty of traditions. You keep some and you create new ones. The Advent wreath at the start of this post is one of our favorites, lit nightly at dinner. Though of course I can't photograph like that, and looking at this photo from 2006's Christmas Eve (note: we're toasting with Kev's punch!), I get the feeling we might need new candles this year.


Post a Comment

I love hearing from you!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...