Thursday, December 31, 2009

Y2K, Remember?

Happy New Year! My husband and I were driving home from our adventure up North when I pointed out that it had been a decade sine Y2K. He gasped, OK so probably not a gasp because that seems a bit feminine, but he seemed a little struck.

Yep, ten years. Our reaction was the same, "That went fast." Time does that you know....goes fast.

Then I laughed, "Y2K, wow," anyone see the humor in it now? We were secretly hoping it would all come true and remarkably all our student loans would disappear. We had nothing to lose except out debt. We lived in a crappy apartment with few worldly possessions and no account of worth to be nervous about. We didn't even bother storing up one liter of water. When the clock struck midnight and nothing happened we laughed and cheered. Bummer about the student debt, but ten years later we are now debt free, but not because of a computer glitch.

And tonight we are celebrating the New Year with the same couple we were with those ten years ago. Only this time neither of us will stay up until midnight as we are now parents of children under the age of four.

Happy New Year faithful readers.

(Pst, I had some great comments from some of you in regards to my last post, so if you didn't get a chance to comment, please do. Or at least see what others said was their favorite from this past year.)

Monday, December 28, 2009

Top Ten Posts of 2009

I love the Year-in-Review that various networks and magazines run this time of year. I'm big on nostalgia. So, I decided to post my top ten blog posts: these are some of my favorite, not necessarily the posts that received the most comments...the ones that I liked.

I'm curious, do you have a favorite from my blog? Are any of the ones listed below memorable to you? I'd love to know.

Pathetic Tree-December
God-Sighting 5,792 and Counting-November
Photo Shoot From...-October
Clouds of Smoke-August
A Known Place-August
Of This I Have No Doubt-July
Top Ten Glacier Happenings-July
Homeschooling Conclusion: Choice-July (This whole series started really good conversation for people both on and off the blog. A few people even changed their minds on homeschooling vs. traditional schooling. Not just because of my blog, but I think it was part of a bigger conversation. It is always good to evaluate your choices and beliefs.)
Seasonal Living-June
Dutch Brothers: Oh So Cool-June

If you are curious about why I chose these, ask me. I'd love to let you know.

I hope you take time to reflect over this past year and to look with hope into the next. Thank you for all your comments over this past year and for taking time to read my thoughts. It is a huge compliment and encouragement to me as someone who enjoys writing.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

God-Sighting 8,949....

I see a lot of myself in my second son. Yes, he is his own person, but he mirrors me in a lot of ways. One of these is in his emotions and reactions. He is a bit fire and ice. He can be the most loving, gregarious, and warm child, but then if something doesn't go the way he thought it out, he falls apart. He gets mad, cries, and collapses to the floor. I can tell that even in his rage he regrets it, wants out, and wishes he wasn't totally losing it. How do I know this, I remember these feeling vividly. (Both of us have extremely good memories. We both never forget things. That can be good and bad.)

We also quickly feel remorse, want to change, and genuinely seek forgiveness. This works with forgiveness shown toward others. I see this with his relationship with his brother. His brother is slower to forgive, slower to show true remorse.

Even though my husband and I are often exhausted by his moods and emotions I informed my husband that this is really a good thing, "See, he will recognize his need for a Savior at a young age." I remember at age five coming to this realization.

Another perk of having this certain personality type is that we, my son and I, are extremely relational and love the idea that Jesus loves us and wants to be in relationship with us. What did this mean for me at a young age? It meant that at age five when I asked Jesus to forgive me and live in me, I was more that ready to start chatting his ear off. I remember my mom tucked me in bed, turned out the light, and left me alone...alone to tell Jesus all my thoughts, dreams, and desires. And I did. I remember having a very long conversations with him, and this conversation continued. (Continues even now.)

My favorite chore growing up was mowing the lawn. We had a large yard, and it took a full afternoon. The major plus was that I could talk to God, and no one but him could hear me. My mother would see me and thought I was talking to myself, but I wasn't. And I took time to listen too, although this is a practice I've grown more accustom, silence and listening.

I give you this background so that you'll understand why I was excited by my latest God-sighting.

My middle son walked up to me with a beaming smile, "Jesus likes me. He laughs at me. He plays hide and seek, and Candy Land with me."

"Yes, I know he does."

I know he does. The process of him becoming aware of God in his life has begun and this makes my heart sing.

Emmanuel: God With Us. Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Cook 4 Hire

Uninspired. Unmotivated. Underwhelmed. Not about Christmas, but about cooking. I calculated that I cook, on average, 1,075 meals a year. (I cook breakfast for my boys most morning: eggs, sausage, toast etc.) I’m not feeling it this month. I usually gear up for my big monthly shopping trip with a bit of vigor. I sit on the couch (with comfy hot drink in hand), spread my cookbooks out, gather up my coupons, lay out my paper, and vigorously plan. I figure on four major meals a week that I then base leftovers and lunches on. Maybe it is the holidays. Maybe Thanksgiving took it all out of me. Not sure, but this time around I was pooped out. I looked at my cookbooks and sighed, “I just can’t do it this month. I need a break.” (Someone suggested that I needed new cookbooks, but I’m pretty sure that is not the root of the problem.)

My solution... I downsized; I just planned five meals, made my grocery list and went small scale. It felt better. I was more at ease. I could actually take all three boys with me; we did all our shopping in under an hour. It all fit nicely in the van, and no one had to straddle milk or eggs on our drive home. Unpacking went pretty fast too. My short list that now hangs on my fridge seems attainable. Maybe I’m trying to simplify due to the craziness of the season?

However, I’m going to have to do this next week, and the week after, and.....that does not sound especially exciting. Now I regret not planning and pushing myself to do my huge, once-a-month grocery trip. I don’t want quality time with my boys to be driving, shopping, and hauling. I’d rather hear them playing in the other room while I spend my extra moments writing and escaping....quality time, right?

I have some newly acquired friends who seem to thrive under their motherly cooking duties. They derive great joy that exudes to all people when they stir and simmer in the kitchen. I just get it done. I like the results of my efforts. I love sitting and eating as a family. I’d rather eat in the relaxed atmosphere of my home than at a restaurant with boys who turn into monkeys and climb the furniture, chat with random people, and are always finished eating before we, the adults, have even begun our soup or salad. But the process of planning, cooking, and cleaning up is not life-giving to me.

I think my husband has it pretty good. (Not that I would trade places with him. I love that he goes off to work, and that I stay here.) However, I can’t help but be a bit jealous watching him come home each evening to sit down to a meal that he didn’t have to prepare. Isn’t that what is the most fun about eating out? Not having to plan it or clean it up? Order, eat, and walk away. I’d love, just for one month, to hire a cook or even a professional shopper. Actually, I’d like a domestic assistant this year for Christmas. I would have plenty for them to do: fold laundry (including the arduous job of matching socks), prepare all meals, clean the kitchen floor after each meal, disinfect the bathrooms, make all the beds, run daily and weekly errands....oh, and a nightly massage. Just for one month. I don’t think I’m asking too much. I’m just asking for another me, right? In your dreams honey.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Mentos and Coke

The package arrived from CSN stores, and I was as giddy as my kids. Luckily I made it a Christmas present! I was lazy though and didn't even wrap it. I let the brown box be good enough. My kids have 12 gifts (some are shared) under the tree. We open one a day until we leave for our trip to see the Grandparents.

I arranged for this gift to be opened on a Saturday when my husband could use it as a time-killing project. It worked.

They loved it. My oldest said, "This is the best Christmas present ever!"

The science kit came with a fake volcano they could paint before trying out various explosions. The bummer was that all the paint was dried up. That was sad. They would have loved that part and were eager to paint, paint brushes in hand. I loved that the kit came with goggles, test tubes, a test tube holder, and measuring cups. This made it seem more legit.

The kit also came with a book giving instructions on how to make three different types of volcanic eruptions.

The scientist in my husband came out, and he started wanting bigger and better. After this day of science fun I had to replenish my stock of baking soda and vinegar. Oh, and he insisted I go to the store and by Mentos and a coke! The best explosion of all. Warning: do this outside and keep kids a distance away.

I should have realized my husband knew how to make explosions without the instructions, but the kit served its purpose as a catalyst for more volcano fun.

Next time I think I'd rather get a kit with hubby's input, so he could find one that he wouldn't be able to replicate on his own. I thought the pricing was right. ($14.00) My only complaint was the dried out paint.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Three More Great Book Finds

These three books have captivated my boys' imaginations.

I wanted to just do a simple post with the images of the books, but I was unable to copy their images from Amazon. Just trust me, they are good:

Peter Spier's Christmas! This is a wordless book. He has captivated the American Christmas with detailed pictures. Each time we look through we notice different views and perspectives. My favorite is of the family bundling up to go to a Christmas Eve Service, and the picture of the pile of trash after opening gifts.

Harry and Horsie
by Katie Van Camp and illustrated by Lincoln Agnew is brilliant for preschool boys. Doesn't the title say it all? Adventures to the moon, searching for Horsie, equipped with Harry's Super Duper Bubble Blooper. Oh, and Harry's dad happens to be Dave Letterman.

Lastly is Whoo! Whoo! Goes the Train by Anne Rockwell and colorization by Banessa van der Baan. My second loves finding the main character on each page. Don't all boys love trains at some point during their development?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Pathetic Tree

Pathetic. I tried to convince myself it wasn’t, but it was. It stood, slightly leaning, its limbs too weak to support our ornaments. I kept encouraging my son to push the ornaments up higher on each branch. Soon all our ornaments dangled at the center of the tree. If I squinted it looked like a skinny-headed alien with a fat bottom had invaded our holiday space.

My husband insisted we go back into the woods and find another. But the boys were happy because they weren’t in the woods, cold and crying---the root of our pathetic find. It was getting dark. So in haste I pointed and said, “Let’s get that one,” a decision my husband and I soon regretted. I humored myself by vainly persuading everyone that it didn’t really matter. I watched from a distance as the boys fingered their ornaments and discussed various memories. It was sweet. Surely I could look past the ugliness of our forest fir.

Then some visitors came over. They smiled politely as I told them I knew how bad our tree was. They even tried to tell me they thought it was fine. “No, it really is bad. Look at the star!”

They looked. The star was no longer vertical but horizontal. They laughed. I was anxious for Christmas, not for the gifts and family, but so I could throw out our tree.

My husband and our oldest trudged back into the woods behind our house and found another. It was beautiful and timely: the second they dragged it into the living room our tree-of-no-splendor collapsed on to the floor. Thankfully no ornaments were smashed in its wake.

I called my sister and said, “Well, we got our second tree.”

She oozed holiday cheer, “Oh, I totally want two trees this year.”

“Uh, no, we don’t have two trees. We threw out our first one. It was really bad.”

No, our act wasn’t practical. It wasn’t environmental. It wasn’t altruistic. It was totally an act of Christmas tree pride, and I’m OK with that. In fact, I’m more than OK. I’m great! It looks good. I think it is our best tree yet... a grand fir with plenty of branches, strong limbs, supportive top, and pleasing overall shape.

The Christmas tree is really the focal point of holiday decorating and cheer, and I’ve learned (in a short span of three days), that if you don’t have one you just won’t feel the Ho Ho Ho of Merry Christmas.

Can you see the limbs? See how they are too weak to hold anything up?

After this shot was taken the ornament was smashed and shattered......a kid-friendly Christmas.

Can you tell how pathetic it is from this position?

This is where it all started....cold, dark, crying kids etc.

I discovered my camera is no good for night shots. So, if that is what you want, stay away from a Kodak Easy Share.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

I Have a Little Dreidel

I have a little dreidel. I friend made it for me. I always place it somewhere in all my Christmas decor, somewhere near my menorah. Is this clashing and blending of seasonal cheer offensive? Hope not. This year my boys wanted to know what the dreidel was. So, I told them. Then I found a book at the library, and in the back was a song, recipe for potato latkes, and the correct rules for how to play.

So we played! The boys loved it. Now we've played it every night in a row for the last week. We played it with skittles, but in the book it seems we should play with pennies. My oldest thought that was a grand idea since he's saving up for a new transformer toy.

The book is by Maxie Baum and illustrated by Julie Paschkis.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Meat Stick Haiku-Christmas Flavor

Christmas Flavor

Red compacted meat
Yummy taste on a cracker
Arg, constipation

Monday, December 7, 2009

Christmas Book Picks


I like reading Christmas books to my boys during the month of December, helps get us all in the mood. I have a few of my own, but it isn't like I need a full arsenal, and that is why I love can get as many books as you want and not pay a dime! Of course, I do, since I always have a fine. It is the one fine I like paying---seems like a worthy cause. I hope they put my funds toward buying more books vs. a staff Christmas party.

The bummer in my search, is that all the Jesus themed stories I found were major disappointments. They were too poetic or metaphorical. Most were deep thoughts by adults that didn't translate to kids. But I don't want to slam those books, so I'm not going to expose their titles. I'm finding that my personal telling of the nativity is pretty good and the chapters in the boys' Bibles are perfect for their preschool minds.

So, here are some good picks of the secular persuasion:

This one is fun because you sing it as you read it, and my boys love that. Plus I do too. I also loved that they kept the traditional verses instead of trying to be modern or clever; instead the publishing company let the pictures be original, detailed, and unique.

I just discovered the series: My First Little House Books. Love them! I'm planning on placing a hold on the whole series! But for December I highly recommend the following:

Last, it is my favorite seasonal read for kids:

We actually own this one and it is quite cozy. I get drawn in to the Spirit of Christmas even when I read it in September.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Cliff Climbing

But why would they just sit on the beach and watch the waves? Why would they think climbing up the paved path was any fun? Why wouldn't they explore and climb. Scale to the highest heights. They are boys......

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Parenting: A Steep Learning Curve

As I drove my son to his first day of preschool I felt the sudden nudge, from within, to remind him, “When you have to go potty, don’t go outside. You need to tell the teacher and use the bathroom.”

These are conversations I could have never anticipated prior to having children. Being a mom has been the most intense learning curve of my life...and I love it. I love growing, learning, and becoming a better person--at least I hope that is what is happening. My sons are the best life-coaches I have ever hired.

I have learned that my wants, desire, and hopes don’t always come true. I’m learning to embrace the scorpions, snakes, and tarantulas. I’m accepting that antlers are a decorating option. I must become familiar with the ways of Optimus Prime and Megatron. I must immerse myself in the language of Star Wars so that the Force will be with us.

I’m learning that I love to be outnumbered. My mother-in-law promised me that I would discover the special bond between mother and son--hard to describe, but real and true. And I get three of these unique and special connections complete with WWF each night on the living room carpet. I’m usually on the bottom of the pile.

I have three little men who adore me. My oldest is always letting me know how beautiful I am, as he strokes my hair and places his hands on my cheeks. My middle is consistently finding me beautiful flowers, and my youngest....well, his looks melt the soul.

I’m already laying plans to scare off the adolescent girls: these boys are mine! My oldest niece is in the 7th grade. I’m getting scared. She is so boy crazy. She reads every look and action from boys in her class as confirmation of their undying love and affection. Great. My boys are doomed. My only hope is that they will find other passions to distract them as they navigate the teenage years.

But for now, I’m loving where we are at. Our kids like us. We are cool. Today my husband and I both visited and volunteered in our four-year-old's preschool class. He loved it, and so did we. Someday he may not, and that is OK. We will take each stage as it comes and enjoy it for what it brings....even if it brings silly girls who giggle too much.

Maybe the antlers will scare them off.

This was first published in The Newberg Graphic.