Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas Joy

17 years ago I was in a hospital in Valdosta, Georgia to give birth to The Princess. I woke up that morning in the early stages of labor. But my doctor and the hospital were 1 hour away and since this was the 3rd baby, I wasn't about to fiddle around until the contractions were 5 minutes apart. Grandparents had already arrived for the Christmas holidays since traveling across 3 states in my condition was out of the question. So we left the boys with the grandparents and headed to the big city. By the time we arrived at my doctor's office, The Princess changed her mind. She wasn't quite ready yet to make her appearance. Since she was full term and everything indicated that she could change her mind, we decided to encourage her along with a little help from the P drug. A few hours later she came into this world very bright eyed and with a head full of blonde hair. Our Christmas Joy. Long awaited, much anticipated.

17 years later, she's still a joy...and she's still living life on her own terms.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Working from home

Thanks to modern technology on a snowed in day in Iowa, I can still work from home. I'll miss getting dressed up and putting on makeup (currently in my jammies, sans Clinique). I'll miss the friendly banter around the office halls (but Yammer is a pretty close second to being there). I'll miss the food, oh the goodies! We have some dedicated bakers in our church that make sure the staff is kept fat and happy during the holiday season. I'll miss the whirl of activity associated with the last working day before Sunday. We have a saying around our place, "It's Monday, and Sunday's coming." On Fridays there are bulletins to fold and brochure racks to fill, table displays to arrange and all manner of preparing the building for what may happen between Friday and Sunday.

This weekend is one of those extra busy times around church. Some of our wonderful musicians are presenting a Big Band Christmas concert tonight and Saturday night. This year they are adding the vocal stylings of some of my good friends and can I say...dang good singers. Our church has a blended worship style. Brass line Sundays are some of my favorite. Maybe it's the rebellious Baptist Preacher's Kid in me but I like the kind of music in church that makes you want to break out into DANCE.

OK, tangent over.

But there are advantages to working from home (other than the aforementioned jammies and no make-up). I can really multi-task when I work at home. Two loads of laundry are already in production. Dinner is thawing out for preparation. A few dust bunnies have been vanquished and I can take a little nap and no one will know!

What I didn't realize is what all I miss in my little neighborhood while I'm at work. Since it is an official SNOW DAY, there are kids out playing in the snow. The ones with mean mothers are shoveling the driveway before they can play. Since we live on a cul-de-sac we are the last to get plowed out by the city trucks so it's painful to watch those kids efforts diminished with one giant sweep of the big trucks blades that leaves a 2 foot snow wake right at the entrance of your driveway. Kid are resilient however. They shovel it out of the way and proceed to make a snow fort in the accumulating piles along the street.

At some point mid-morning, I heard the distinguishable beep, beep, beep of a delivery truck backing up into what sounded like my driveway. Drawing on my best Gladys Kravitz impersonation(Bewitched TV show reference), I ran to the window to see what was happening. This is what I saw:And knowing that it's my hubbies favorite store, I said to myself "What has he gone and done?" This would certainly pass for Santa's Sleigh for my guy. But alas they were backing up into my neighbors drive and not mine where they proceeded to unload their goods.

I guess I'll have to drop by in a little while to see what they got. Just kidding. I think I'll go take a nap, this working from home is tiring!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas Open House, part 2

Christmas decorating is like buying presents used to be for me when my children were very young--I just can't seem to find a stopping place.
With the main level being sufficiently dressed for the holidays, I only needed to put on the snowmen collection in the lower level then I could sit back, relax and eat bon bons. I started collecting snowmen a few years ago when I lived in Texas. It didn't make much sense then while living in a region that rarely saw snow--I just thought they were cute. My friends thought I was a bit "off". Then we moved to Iowa where hand rolled snowmen can be seen adorning yards from Thanksgiving to Easter. One year, after a significant snowfall, my kids built a snowman on the deck that looked into the kitchen/breakfast area. They did it up right--it was about 4 1/2 foot tall and was complete with a face, scarf, and a hat. That thing startled me every time I walked into the kitchen. I was glad to see that Frosty melt away. So here's the snowmen collection (which I must say usually stays up until March because...we live in Iowa):

That's it... I was done.
But then I started thinking about College Boy returning home and I wanted to fix his room up. You know welcome him to a warm, comforting, clean place that didn't look like his 4 dude apartment. So I found this old reindeer collection and that sparked the "Recycled Masculine Lodge Theme" for his room. The tree is from his older brother's dorm days, the ornaments are from early days of marriage, the wicker love seat was rejected by The Princess because I picked it up from a neighbor's driveway (they were giving it away). I recovered one of the pillows with an old piece of Christmas fabric and displayed the reindeer collection on the bed and love seat. The book is one from the kid's collection and was one that gave College Boy one of his childhood nicknames. I'm sure he will be overwhelmed with nostalgia and give me a big hug and a kiss for all the trouble I've gone to in creating this themed room OR he will shove everything out of the way as he dumps his laptop, back pack, and dirty laundry in the room where he once hid out from the world (or just his parents). Maybe you will appreciate it:
"NOW I'm done!", I said to myself as well as announced it to all those around.

Then on THURSDAY College Boy called to say that College girlfriend would be coming home with him ON FRIDAY for the weekend. Well, I couldn't have a guest in the guest room without some kind of Christmas decor. So, I pulled out another Princess reject and decorated this little white tree with gold, silver and multi-colored miniature balls. I KNOW she will appreciate it because she's a girl and notices those little touches and... well, you know, I am College Boy's MOM.

Well friends, now I am done. That completes the tour but I wanted to give you a look at my front porch as you leave. Thanks for stopping by again. Take care and drive safe.

And because this is Iowa, that is not Department 56 snow strategically scattered about. It's real, it's getting deeper by the hour, and it tomorrow it will need to be shoveled.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas Open House

Welcome friends. It's a frigid evening here in Iowa but the last of the recent ice storm has cleared from the streets and sidewalks and is ready for a new snowfall. A fire is going in the fireplace and the subtle scent of evergreen is in the air. A pot of hot mulled cider is brewing on the stove. Come on in and join me my friends.

Most of the pictures I'll post were taken without flash to create that evening glow effect (it also masks the dust that may or may not be visible in the flash of light).In the entryway, the banister is wrapped with greenery & lights. Brass ornaments purchased years ago in Georgia, are hung along the greenery. Our family tree is in the front room. I love the smell of fresh trees but haven't had one since we moved from Georgia 15 years ago. Our ornaments are a collection from over the years. Every year each family member gets a new one to hang on the tree. It's a very nostalgic event as the ornaments are hung year after year. Here are some of my favorites:

After Christmas I hope to purchase another artificial tree for the family room that I can decorate with a theme each year. For now, I decorate the mantle with greenery, lights and my Willow Tree nativity. Some gold ribbon and star shaped boxes softens the scene and gives it a little glow.

This is the first year to decorate this table. This summer I was convinced that I needed a bigger table when I found a good deal on this one. It pulls out to a big square for entertaining. I've pulled it out to entertain a couple of times but it's a two person job even with a butterfly leaf. Most of the time it stays this size. Any time of year I like simple tablescapes that can be picked up quickly to accommodate a school project or family Scrabble challenge. Same goes for the island decorations. The large, flat granite surface is an ideal place for cookie baking, a buffet table or gathering spot for friends. In real life it catches the mail, the grocery bags and anything else that needs to be dumped when you come in the garage door.

Thanks for stopping by. There's more to see so check back soon.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Pity Party

Be warned, you are about t0 enter the whine zone.

I'm usually a positive, upbeat person but there are occasions that deserve a good whine. My husband is out of town for business and this afternoon it started raining/freezing rain on top of the packed snow that had accumulated on our driveway. After running a few errands after work, I arrive home to find that I am all alone as The Princess has gone to a local coffee shop to study with friends. "Don't worry", she says when I call to warn her about the road conditions, "I'm not driving." Yes that alleviates ALL my concerns to know that she's riding with her sweet but equally inexperienced driving friend. So I must shovel/scrape the dark...and in the cold. Are you feeling sorry for me yet? Yeah, I know--it's a hard-knock life.

The wind kept blowing my hood off (the coat is really cute but the hood is more ornamental than practical) so my hair got wet. This combined with the over abundance of product that my hair needs to look decent when I'm days away from a cut and color and this was the result:

So I'm wet and cold and home alone then I realize that it's trash night. So once again I have to shuffle down the driveway to put out the trash can then one more trip for the recycle bin. There's no rule that says it has to go out the night before pick-up but when I weighed the choices, I figured putting it out tonight while I was already wet and cold(and annoyed) was better than tomorrow morning when I'd have to get out of my warm bed and run out in my jammies and coat.
I know, I really don't have anything to complain about. There are people in this world with no driveways, or shovels, or Redken products. I should buck up and count my blessings. Build a bridge and get over it. I think I'll just go do what any mature woman in my situation would do:
I'm going to dry my hair, put on my sweats, make some macaroni & cheese (I might even eat it right out of the pan)...because I am home alone and there's no body to tell me I can't.

That's all. I'm done. Thanks for listening.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

What's in a Name?

I've been watching football. I wouldn't call myself a fan or claim to be all that knowledgeable about the game but I watch because my husband loves it. I watch with him because his love language is something akin to quality time but he calls it "proximity". He likes having me around--in the same room-- whenever he's doing whatever he's doing. This is sometimes difficult for me because I can think of a dozen productive things I could be doing. So when I'm trying to speak his language, I sit and watch football with him. I was more of a football fan when my oldest played in high school or this past fall when my daughter was on the sidelines cheering her high school team. I get into the game when I have a connection with the school or when I know the the players names and numbers.

There's this kid who plays for the Texas Longhorns. I love his name-- Colt McCoy. Now that's a football kind of name. I wanted to know more about him and for the sake of accuracy in blogging, I Googled him. Turns out, that as a redshirt freshman in 2006, Colt McCoy was the starting quarterback for the 2006 Longhorn team. That year he threw his 27th touchdown pass which was enough to break the UT school record for most touchdowns ever thrown by a quarterback in a single season. Colt McCoy was named College Football News Big 12 Player of the Year in 2006 and was named the quarterback to their "All Freshman Team". Wow, what a way to start your college career!

"Colt" is his nickname (or so I read) but I can't help but imagine that there weren't some early premonitions on his parents mind as they gave him a name like that. Did his dad bring a football to the hospital to place in the kid's crib? I bet he played Pee Wee football and his mom didn't say things like "be careful" and "don't get hurt". As a little boy, did he wear a longhorn t shirt and dream of playing for University of Texas? Oh wait, that could apply to many little boys in the longhorn state. So what set him apart? Talent? Determination? Destiny? Whatever it might have been, to be so successful he's had to keep his purpose and goal before him. No distractions, no ambivalence. He's living up to his name.

There was another baby boy, a name and a purpose determined before his birth:

"This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son,
and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus."

Talk about living up to a name--Immanuel, God with us.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

You Snooze, You Lose

When our family is all together, my mom likes to make a big country breakfast. Biscuits, sausage gravy, real bacon, eggs or egg casserole, and something sweet that varies from gathering to gathering is a sample menu. Its been a favorite event for everyone in our family but especially the men folk. This year, our Thanksgivng gathering was small and some physical challenges dictated that my mom's menu and presentation needed to be scaled down. It was still good and far more elaborate than my typical poptart and cold cereal offerings. One of my children who isn't much of a breakfast person anyway chose to sleep in that morning and missed the delicious feast. While the rest of us were filled and fueled far into the afternoon, this child was "starving" before the next feeding. With all compassion and sincerity of heart I responded to their despair with, "You snooze, you lose".

After perusing all the Black Friday sale ads, I determined that there wasn't any bargain worth getting up at 3:00 AM. So I slept in. Later I saw the GPS unit we were looking at purchasing was $97 at Walmart if you were there at 5:00 AM. I'm sure they were sold out at 5:05 AM. I shrugged my shoulders and declared to myself, "You snooze, you lose".

After a week of listening to the new Casting Crowns Christmas CD, I finally "got" the words to "While You Were Sleeping" by Mark Hall:
Oh little town of Bethlehem
Looks like another silent night
Above your deep and dreamless sleep
A giant star light up the sky
And while you're lying in the dark
There shines an everylasting light
For th King has left His throne
And is sleeping in a manger tonight, tonight
O Bethlehem, what you have missed while you were sleeping
For God became a man
And stepped into your world today
Oh Bethlehem, you will go down in history
As a city with no room for its King
While you were sleeping, while you were sleeping

United States of America
Looks like another silent night
As we're sung to sleep by philosophies
That save the trees and kill the children
And while we're lying in the dark
There's a shout heard 'cross the eastern sky
For the Bridegroom has returned
And has carried Hid bride away in the night
America, what will we miss while we are sleeping
Will Jesus come again
And leave us slumbering where we lay
America, will we go down in history
As a nation with no room for its King
Will we be sleeping
Will we be sleeping
United States of America
Looks like another silent night

You snooze, you lose.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A Walk to Remember

Our recent trip south for the Thanksgiving holidays included a side trip. The Princess wanted to take an official college visit to my alma mater- The University of Arkansas. This thrilled her father and I and elevated her among her older siblings to the status of "the favored one". My husband graduated from another school in the same state but it's one of those places that even if you didn't officially "go" to school there--you are still a fan. The youngest of children in the state are dressed in red and are taught to "call the hogs" which has nothing to do with pig farming.

It was a beautiful day on The Hill as our entertaining student guide showed us through the campus complex. Maybe it was just me but it seemed that the buildings had gotten further apart and the inclines steeper than I remembered them being. It was fun tracing steps to some familiar places and seeing them new through my daughter's eyes. She showed a respectable amount of interest in the tour, loved the made to order pasta bar in the dining hall (that has definately changed since my days there), and made a significant dent in our bank account at the campus bookstore stocking up on hog wear (which also has nothing to do with Harleys). If the pasta bar, new red wardrobe, and campus cute boy count wasn't enough, her dad tried to seal the deal with tickets to the annual day after Thanksgiving football game against LSU. They tailgated with the cheerleaders, sat in the rain and called the hogs on to victory.
I braved the Black Friday crowds which were not as scary as the prospect of out of state tuition and sending my baby 432 miles from home.

Monday, December 1, 2008

A Thanksgiving Mishap

Our family gathering this year was quite the grown up affair. The "kids" in our family range between the ages of 16-26. We are past high chairs, bibs and nap times. The kids have graduated from being entertained by grandma's collection of little golden books to thier ipods and laptop computers. Conversations included catching up about their high school activities, college courses, the job market and pending wedding plans. No one had to be tended to, watched over, or put in time out. It was all so serene that our defenses were down. We calmly put the finishing touches on the the final dinner preparations and were called to gather for the blessing to begin.

We forgot there was a "baby" in the group- one that did need watching - a curious, black cocker spaniel mix named Nelson. Nelson was hungry and resourceful. And tall enough to reach the dessert table...

This was the scene of the crime:

And this was the culprit:

We had a good laugh, rescued what was left of the pumpkin pie...and put Nelson in time out.