Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas Eve

As a child, my family spent Christmas Eve with my dad's side. My mom spent the morning finishing cooking a few things and putting together a platter of homemade Christmas candy, which she then loaded into our arms and sent us trotting out the back door, through the gate that connected our yards, and up to Nanny's house next door.
Why yes, her house is painted like an American flag. Nanny was born in Scotland, raised in England, and is the proudest American citizen I know.
Nanny is my great-aunt and she lived next to us with my great-uncle, whom we fondly called Ginkle, and her rascally youngest son, Winston, who lived to torment us kids. He's a lot of fun, though, and even gave me my very own record - Footloose.

Nanny's tiny house would soon be full of people. My Granny and Uncle Harold. My cousins and first-cousins-once-removed and my second cousins that were my playmates (henceforth they shall all just be called "cousins"). There wasn't a whole lot of expensive gifts or fancy foods, but it was always a lot of fun.

Since I got married and moved away, I haven't been back to Nanny's for Christmas Eve often, but we made a point to go this year. The kids of past years are grown up with kids of our own. My "cousin", Annie, has two kids that are close in age to mine. As soon as presents were opened and our two little girls discovered they had both gotten tiny dogs, they became instant best friends. Kylie and L came running to me at one point asking if they could *please* have a playdate. Even K and her "cousin" Jacob were having fun by the end of the afternoon.

Mr. at Home doesn't know this side of my family very well. He sat quietly most of the afternoon, until some of my "cousins" started talking bluegrass music. You see, Mr. at Home has a long-standing desire to learn to play the banjo and he soon found out that Anthony has two banjos. Before I knew what was going on, banjos and guitars had sprouted out of thin air along with picks and method books. There was much twanging and laughing and Mr. at Home had found some new friends. My "cousin" even insisted that we take one of his banjos back to NC with the stipulation that Mr. at Home must be able to play it before we bring it back sometime next year.It was a fantastic Christmas Eve for everyone.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Why I'm still not back in on-line land

On Friday, we made the long, but surprisingly pleasant, drive back to NC. The girls slept some, watched movies, and were generally quiet and calm. I crocheted a scarf for K's new doll and a hat for myself (finally! something to fit my big head!) and no one got sick.

On Saturday, we slept in, Mr. at Home pulled out his new (borrowed) banjo and practiced while the girls and I headed out to spend the gift cards that were burning a hole in their pockets. L picked out 2 new outfits for her big doll and a ferris wheel for her tiny dolls. K paid all of her money toward a new bike - a Mongoose BMX bike (in the shade known as "orchid" with BLACK TIRES, not those silly girly white ones) and she is already planning all kinds of tricks to perform. Two very enthusiastic girls send out their never-ending thanks to their Aunt Deborah and Uncle Phil and Aunt Shirley.

We picked up our cat from the boarder and she has been VERY happy to be back home. They took good care of her, but nothing's better than a whole house to run around and a new satiny comforter to stretch out on (thanks, Mom and Dad!).

Saturday night was spent at our friends' house playing RockBand and hanging out. They bought us a deep-fryer, which is awesome. I made them promise to come over for New Year's Eve to enjoy all things deep-fried.

Sunday morning, I woke up sick as all git-out with something mucousy that has settled into my head and chest. I dragged myself to church for a great service, but I picked up some medicine on the way home and have spent the rest of the day in bed. I'm so grateful that Mr. at Home has risen to the challenge of taking care of both the girls and me.

I'm also grateful that it's been 4 hours and I can take more medicine.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas 2008!

I hope that your day was as wonderful and blessed as mine! The girls slept in a bit and when they woke up, they had completely forgotten about stockings (aka buckets). We made a visit to the American Girl store last Saturday and that was their main present, so all we did this morning was stockings. I have to admit that I like it that way. They loved all the stuff they got and had time to enjoy all their little gifts without being too overwhelmed. Mr. at Home opened his gifts, which was dominated by a black wool coat that looks fabulous on him. *I* got a new camera - woohoo!! A new point and shoot and it's RED!

After stockings, the girls decorated a little birthday cake for Jesus, completely coating the thing with a thick layer of sprinkles. We sang and had birthday cake and sausage balls for breakfast - yummy!

We got dressed, Mom bustled around the kitchen with last minute cooking details, and then we loaded up 2 cars to head over to my grandmother's house. The family meets there every Christmas Day for a big buffet lunch and gift exchange. We stuffed ourselves silly on turkey, ham, Mom's dressing (using the family recipe), Aunt Shirley's baked beans, Grandmother's chocolate pudding cake, Aunt Kelly's brownie pie - really, there were too many to name.

The children bounced around anxiously waiting for the adults to finish eating, because they knew they couldn't open gifts until then. It's fun to watch the youngest generation do what we ourselves were doing not so many years ago. Nowadays we're comparing who has the most gray hair :-)

The adults had a "chinese" gift exchange where we drew numbers, picked gifts, and stole the best ones from each other. I stole a gift card, then an awesome bird feeder (which my mother stole from me, but then she got it stolen from her), then the gift card again. It, at least, won't take up too much room in the car on the way back. The bird feeder was really too big to carry home.

Speaking of room in the car, we're pretty well packed and ready for an early departure tomorrow. It's been a good trip with lots of friends, family, and food. I must admit, however, that I'm ready to go home and sleep all weekend. May your weekend be as restful.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Word of the Day: Correlation

This morning I gave the girls a meaningful vocabulary lesson with the statement, "There is a direct correlation between your behavior right now and the number of tokens I will feel inclined to buy for you at Chuck E. Cheese's."

After I explained the definition of "correlation", the snotty comments and complaints vanished as K asked timidly, "Have I lost any tokens already?" They were far better behaved than I have ever seen them in a store.

Just goes to show that learning opportunities are everywhere.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas Vacation

As you know, I'm on vacation. VACATION. Why that means that I have more to do than any other time of year, I don't know. I've actually even been too busy to blog. Sure I've started a bunch of posts, but I can't get a sufficient chunk of time set aside to actually finish one.

I'm popping in now to mention that I have a plate of Christmas goodies, a cup of chai tea, and a movie to watch with Mr. at Home. If I don't get another chance to stop in, Merry Christmas and I promise to finish those posts and put up pictures soon!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Going to school

We're down here in Texas, visiting the grandparents who both work at the local elementary. K loves coming to visit Grandma and Grandad, but she also loves that she gets to visit the school. The past couple of times we've been out here, K has gotten to spend the day in a classrooms of teacher friends Grandma works with.

Last night she was so excited that she couldn't sleep because today she was going to be a student at a REAL school! She had her "standardized dress" clothes all ready and this morning she got dressed and headed out with Grandma and Grandad to REAL school. She spent the day in the 4th grade classroom of an experienced (old), energetic (still teaching so she must be energetic), enthusiastic (slightly eccentric, but very fun) teacher. K took a math benchmark test, which she supposedly scored very well on (pretty good for a 3rd grader), and was given a part in the class production of High School Musical II. K *loved* everything about her day.

Tonight, I put together a teacher Christmas gift to thank her for letting K come into her room and experience REAL school. Tomorrow morning, I'm going to go get a visitor badge at the local elementary and watch my daughter perform in her first ever school play. It's so exciting.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

I hate mud

Yesterday it started raining. And it hasn't stopped. After a whole evening, night, and day of constant, sometimes heavy, rain, the ground is a wee bit wet. Think huge mudflat. Because after all, we live in the middle of a construction zone and everything around us is in some state of being torn up and rebuilt. We live in a townhouse community and our mailbox is 2 buildings down. Right smack dab in the middle of 3 buildings that are in various stages of construction and none of those stages include landscaping or sidewalks. (You can see where this is going, can't you?)

It's been a messy pain to get to the mailboxes, but I've put up with it knowing that it's only temporary. Today I knew it would be worse, yet I decided to brave the elements and go get the mail anyway. I went prepared with my big umbrella and my tall rainboots because I'd seen the mud and muck that I would have to navigate to get to my mailbox. I get down there and decide that there's just no good way to get to the mailbox. The mailbox is several steps back from the road and the construction guys in their infinite wisdom have put up a little fence around it so we have to walk even *further* to get to the mailboxes.

I take one step and its not too bad. Another step and things are still going well. Right foot ahead for step #3 and suddenly I've sunk down into the mud up to my knee.


Did I mention that these mailboxes are in the middle of 3 buildings that are under construction? There are at least 3 dozen workers swarming around yet not one notices my plight. At least they couldn't laugh at me, but there wasn't anyone to help me either. I put the umbrella down, found some ground firm enough to support me, and managed to pull my leg out *with* the boot still on. As I was hauling myself up on the concrete platform where the mailboxes were mounted, a worker came hurrying over in concern. Sorry, too late.

There I was dripping mud and thanking my lucky stars that my phone and keys had survived. I finally got the mailbox open and...

It was empty.

Of course it was. The mail lady was obviously smarter than I was.

I made it back to the street without any further incidents, but I was mad. MAD. I remembered that I had just seen the construction supervisor at another house doing a walkthrough or something. I marched down the street, mud and all, thinking of *exactly* what I wanted to tell that man and it wasn't what you would call ladylike. I rang the doorbell and the prospective neighbor answered, staring in shock and horror at my mud covered clothes. When the supervisor came to the door, his eyes got huge. "You have GOT to give us access to our mailboxes," was all I said.

He almost fell over himself apologizing and assuring me that would call the guys *immediately* and the concrete will be poured the minute it stops raining. Yep. Showing up on the doorstep covered in mud makes a far bigger impact than just asking for something to be done. After all that plus 10 minutes of standing in the cold washing my boots and pants at the outdoor faucet, all I gotta say is my neighbors and the mail lady had better be thankful.

Monday, December 8, 2008

And the countdown begins

This weekend we're packing up and heading to Texas. A long drive, a long trip, and lots of details to be taken care of before we leave. I need a list so I can get it all organized.

1. Fix the car and fix it right. Please. For the third time, the check engine light is on and the dealership loaner is sitting in my driveway while the techs try valiantly to discover what in the heck is wrong. They get one thing fixed and a new error pops up.

2. Get the car inspected. The inspection has been out for 2 months, but they can't inspect it until the check engine light is off.

3. Renew my driver's license. Signing the paperwork for the loaner made me notice that I have to renew the thing this year and my birthday falls in the middle of the Texas trip. And I thought I just needed to change my address.

4. Finish a little more of my Christmas list. There are a few things that I have to get done here.

5. Clean house. My house is an absolute wreck and it's going to take a couple of days to get all the laundry and housework done.

6. Arrange for cat-sitting. We're going to be gone for 2 weeks. Should I get someone to come in a few times? What if she gets lonely? Do the boarding thing so she doesn't take out her anger by peeing on something (everything)?

7. Send out those Christmas cards that are sitting on the floor of the loft doing...nothing.

Lots more stuff needs to go on that list, but those are the big ones. No need to discuss the emails that I need to send, the schooling we must finish, the packing and organizing and cooking and parenting and the outing Thursday night and the field trip Friday morning. Thankfully, there's only 2 scheduled things for the calendar and the rest is open to get all the other things crammed in.

I'm off to bed to rest up. I'm going to need it!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

A Day of Cold Christmas Fun

Today was a busy one. It's our last full weekend here before we head west and it feels like we're trying to cram in as much holiday fun as possible. A slumber party, a Christmas party, a parade, a festival, and a cajun cookout. I'm worn out and we're not done yet.

This morning, Mr. at Home picked up K from basketball Skills Day while I took L to an elementary school Christmas parade where she rode on a float in the freezing cold with her dance studio. Dad and Sis got to the parade in time to watch the whole thing with K simmering in jealousy that *she* wanted to be in the parade.

In the afternoon, I took the girls to a local Christmas festival where they rode rides, bounced and slid on large inflatables, and watched dancers. The cold was getting worse and thankfully, we made it back to the car before the rain started. But it was a fun day and we got some great pictures.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A chance to give and get

A fabulous blogger, MckMama, has organized a raffle at her blog raising money for three amazing organizations all close to my heart - String of Pearls, No Hands But Ours, and The Elison Project. For a tiny donation to the cause using the ChipIn function on her blog, you are entered in the raffle to win a HUGE amazing complete ginormous fancy camera package. It comes with everything a serious or budding fashion consious photographer could possibly want. A chance to win something cool and the opportunity to help out *3* great causes!! How can you beat that?

Click the graphic above, go read all about the raffle, and donate, people!

Monday, December 1, 2008

We did the coolest thing today

This afternoon we went to the Operation Christmas Child distribution center where they receive all the boxes, check the contents, then load them into cargo containers to be shipped all over the world. Today was Family Day where they did tours showing kids exactly how a box moves from packing to being opened by a child.

We arrived at the warehouse with 10 packed boxes that we'd collected from friends and our Sunday Bible Study. We took 2 of them and colored pictures and filled out info sheets and stuck them inside the boxes while the morning chaplain explained the significance of a shoebox. He shared how each box is prayed over and told stories of the impact a single box has had. One box was filled by a couple who included their contact info and received by a young girl in one of the "-stan" countries. She wrote them a letter to say thank you and mentioned that her real wish was for a family, since she was an orphan. The couple was childless and went overseas and adopted that little girl. They shared their story and inspired many other families to adopt children from that country. All because of one box. Another box went to a girl in Belarus who's father was inspired to quit drinking and become a Christian. A whole family changed by one box.

The next stop was a relay race where the volunteers told the kids what kind of stuff couldn't be put in a box. No chocolate, no liquids, no mirrors, no snakes, no pokemon, no money, no toys with camoflage or war associations to name the big ones. Some of it has spiritual significance and some of it could put the child in danger.

We saw the forklift loading the cargo containers, we saw the stations where the volunteers go through each and every box, pulling out anything that shouldn't be in there and replacing it with something similar that fits the rules. They put on a Kenyan-style church service for the kids and even let them have the experience of opening a shoebox of their own filled with information about the organization.

Did you know that they pass out all the boxes and do a countdown to open the boxes so that everyone opens theirs at the same time?

Did you know that some shoeboxes are delivered by camel?

Did you know that each distribution center has a Shoebox Hospital where boxes are repaired if their lid has cracked or they've gotten crushed?

We were very impressed with the whole place. The people were great, the tour was well-organized and tailored to the needs of active children, and it was wonderful to see just how much difference one small shoebox can make in the life of a child, a family, a city, a country, a world.