Me: "Who has the best seat in the house, me or daddy?"

Adam: "Well, Daddy's is nice, but yours is best. Your's is squishier."

Monday, December 31, 2012

A Christmas Letter

 Dear Me in 2013,

I thought I would write to you to remind you, for future reference, how things went this Christmas.  Overall, I would have to say that despite the stress of it all, Christmas was nice, but I think you could incorporate a few ideas that would make life truly feel more the way it looks in the pictures.

First, please, woman PLEASE, do some shopping earlier in the year.  This whole shopping the week of Christmas was ridiculous.  And CHRISTMAS EVE???  Were you nuts?  Look, chica, no good can come of going out into that madness again.  Not ever.  That week is meant for family.  Don't forget it.

Also, beginning wrapping at midnight was not the swiftest move you have ever made.  This year, let's take Guy's advice and finally sew the Christmas cloth wrap into bags for faster wrapping, and start wrapping on the day the first gift comes into the house (note: teach Guy to use the sewing machine).

Not bad on the baking this year.  Kudos.  You really pulled off the gluten-free/dairy-free goodies for Tessa while still managing to bake a little for the rest of the fam.  The macaroons rocked.  Too bad those goodie bags for friends didn't make it out till after Christmas.  Good cover story, though, telling folks it was to help them gradually wean from the sugar.  All lies, but still.  Nice cammo.

And hey, thumbs up on the Christmas Cards; they turned out great.  Too bad half of them still haven't been mailed out.  Again, I would go with Guy's suggestion for next year of starting the card in August (note: teach Guy to draw and to do photoshop).

Mostly though, I think if I had anything that I really wanted you to remember for next year it would be; don't be such a crab next year.  It's a vicious cycle... late, rush, tired, crabby, late, rush... etc.  I know, things had to get done.  And they did.  It's just that I don't think that THAT was how you wanted your kids to remember you at Christmas.

I guess the nice thing is that with how fast the years seem to go by, it will be Christmas again in like, 25 minutes, so you will get another chance really soon.

Happy New Year, Me.  
I hear you have big plans for the coming year. 
Just make sure to create space for the really important things.


 The girls' ballet recital

"I am just thrilled to be here.  Really.  More tutus, please."


Just before going to buy new ballet shoes as gifts for them, 
I overheard a conversation indicating that they are "done" with ballet.  
Time for gymnastics, they say.  Sheesh.

 "This is how I help mommy bake.  I am the tester!"

 The last advent of the season... really my favorite 
part of all of our Christmas preparations.

 Kaylee enjoys the sumptuous spread of German goodies provided by Bishop and Kathy.

 Sleep in Heavenly Peace...

 Quick, they are holding still...take a picture!

 Christmas Eve snuggles

 It was a rough night at first.  Ethan's bike got stolen, everyone was fussy, and it was just not going the way we wanted it to.  Guy did a wonderful job of turning it all around, and we still managed to read our traditional stories; the Christmas story from the Bible, The Christmas Candle, The Redneck Night Before Christmas and the (regular) Night Before Christmas.

 Ever since our New Year in New York in 2009, 
Cannoli have become a Christmas Eve Staple.

 And of course... new jammies!

 Just before the sugar-plums finished dancing in wee little heads.  Santa's bells were still being heard at our house at 6am.  Kids got up at 8:30.  Poor, poor Santa(s).

 New Hats...

 The only thing he wanted.  
Santa scored with a sale and a coupon.  
That dude is a totally savvy shopper.

 Christmas Night....

 Guy shows his love in food.

All tuckered out from a happy Christmas.

Off to Santa Rosa

 "I'm bringin' sexy back..."

  Gorgeous Sonoma County in Winter

 We went to see our Sweet Joyce, who spoiled us completely rotten, put up with our chaos, noise, and clutter and all the while acted like we
were doing her some sort of favor! 
She is so dear to our hearts.  She has been a part of our lives since Guy and I were first married, which, by the way...
 was exactly 18 years ago yesterday.  We celebrated by finally, FINALLY getting our couples massage that I gifted to Guy 2 years ago upon completing his Masters (no pictures included.  No one needs to see that!)

Then to the Crocker Art Museum where we feasted
on the paintings of Norman Rockwell, 
the first painter I ever fell in love with as a very young girl.

 We ate at a Tibetan Restaurant that was just the perfect way to celebrate a spicy 18 years of marriage, and then even poked around a few shops and held hands for a while (Ethan is old enough to babysit!).

I have to take a moment here to say...
I love my husband.
He is such a good friend.  
He knows and loves every line on my face.  
He knows how to help me in the ways I need it most. 
I am so grateful that I spend my life with this good man.  
And I love looking toward what the future will bring with him at my side.


No, that is not our future home, 
but the coming year certainly has a "bump" in store.

Some people say God works in mysterious ways.
I say he works in mischievous ways.

Baby Holman Due June 2013, 
and all is well.

Monday, December 17, 2012

That Our Burdens May Be Light

How do you balance 
all that you do, and need to do, with all that you feel at this time of year?

I don't know why Christmas is such an emotional time for me.  I have spent the better part of the last two days holding back tears; and not very successfully, I might add.  It is for us, as with most families, utterly busy now.  We have yet to put the studio back together from the sale, and only just managed to get the tree and the lights up last night.  I think if it hadn't been for the prospect of hosting our first advent here tonight, we might still have an undecorated tree under our drippy eve on the side of the house where it has been all week.  

Tessa is struggling under a weight.  She has cried almost every day about her hamster dying.  "I wish Nibbles would just die again up in heaven so that he could come back to me." she said so poignantly.  This, in tandem with her belly pain has led to us sitting together for long, sad spells; her weeping, me consoling.  I know how to help a mama in labor, but this has been much different.  Her pain and sadness have no happy ending waiting.  I hear myself saying, "I am so sorry, sweetheart," again and again.

Adam is struggling as well.  Our Toby dog began having accidents in the house over the last week or so.  Last night he suddenly began falling down and staggering, unable to stay on his feet.  I called the sweet folks who gave him to us to ask advice, only to learn that his sister died just last week with the exact same symptoms.  When I got off the phone, I told Adam.  He is already heart broken.  Toby is really his dog.  
How do you lose your first dog?

I guess I am struggling a little, too.  Yesterday we went to our church Christmas party.  It was a lovely breakfast and service project where we decorated tiny table-top trees and delivered them to a nearby nursing home.  Though I was in charge of the caroling, I dragged my feet.  I knew what awaited us there.   We walked what I would call "a hall of last and forgotten souls".  We sang to the residents as we came and went from their rooms.  Most of them were women, alone in a tiny space with a few scant possessions.  One rocked a baby doll in her arms and lovingly gazed into it's face with a sweet smile, as though the baby smiled back.  One met my gaze and instantly her eyes filled with tears.  Another stared intensely into my eyes, but only met my smile with a blank and utterly vacant and yet penetrating stare.  Perhaps the hardest was Edna, a lovely and proper lady, her hair in meticulous order, her outfit impeccable right down to her pearl necklace and matching earrings.  Her room was an encapsulation of what I imagine her house might have been;  orderly photos, dainty curios,  and carefully placed books and silk flower arrangements.  We sang to her, and tears rushed into her eyes, followed immeadiatly by my own.  
"I'm sorry," she blushed, "I just get like this these days."

"Me too!" I sincerely replied.  I felt like her in that moment - for what ever both our reasons were for our tears, I felt so connected to her.  She could be me; I could be her.  I wanted to scoop her up and take her out of there.  It seems a tragic way to spend the end of a rich lifetime on earth. 

Today in church we talked about what gives us the strength to get through our trials.  We talked about the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and the understanding that not one of us is alone in our grief and heartache.  We are understood by One who has endured all manner of pain and sorrow.  A sister leaned over to me and whispered, "That's what get's me through my trials - just realizing that I am not the first person that has ever felt this way."  

I know what she means.  

Tonight we hosted our first Advent.  It is a family tradition in many cultures that we have been invited to share these past few years with Kathy and Bishop.  We lit candles and spread out goodies, and I read Christmas stories about charity and love and sharing of our blessings with those in need.  Again, I wept and could barely get through the sweet passages and scriptures.  

In one story, a man waits all day for a promised visit from the Lord.  Throughout that day he is visited by many a stranger in need.  He warms, feeds and fills their needs one by one, with an ever watchful eye on the window so as not to miss the Lord when he passed by.  When night comes, he is sad that the Lord had never come, when one by one each stranger he had faithfully administered to appeared before him and said, "Have you not seen me?"

  "For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. 

Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."                                           ~Matthew 25

Our burden is never ours to carry alone. 
He is there.
We can reach out to our Savior as we touch the lives and fill the needs of others.
As we lighten the burdens of others, our burdens will be made light.

May the weight that we each carry feel lighter 
in the knowlege of His Love for us,
 is my prayer for you this Christmas week.

God bless.


 Tessa-loo waits to her turn to put the star on the tree.  
Her turn won't come again till she's nearly 12.

  Up, Up and on.


 The goodies, cocoa, and herb tea...

 The Slaughters...

 and the Jensens.

 A very rare sighting indeed... three teenagers singing carrols.

 In keeping with Kathy's tradition of singing 
Silent Night in German at the end of the night, 
Guy taught it to us in Finnish.
Crazy hard.
We had to bribe Ethan to join us.  He said he would only come if there was beef jerky.  So I made sure there was.  But that wasn't his only reward for coming... he snagged baby Ryan from Kathy and settled his fussing.  He told me later that if he comes next week, Kathy promises beef jerky and all the Ryan-time Ethan wants.  

Good deal for us all!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Good Tears

Cool art by my cool kids.

My sale is over 
(a tiny chorus of angles in my head sing "ahhhhhhhh!")

It was great.  
Thank you all who came to support us.  
There were some splendiferous moments.  I loved it when we would have a rush of folks come.  Christmas music played softly and cheerful voices filled the room as happy friends found treasures to take home to loved ones.  I thrill in the idea of something I made being wrapped and placed under the tree for someone I may never get to know.  

I was tickled the day after the sale to see three of the jewelry sets and one silk scarf I had made on ladies at church.  One lady came this year who had come the first year and was delighted when she found the sibling to a pot that she had bought last year.
One woman found a masculine dish to give to her husband for him to put his ring in when he showers.  Grandmas counted out Sleeping Potion packets for each grandchild to mix up on Christmas Eve.  
A sweet lady saw a scarf and simply said, "that's mine" in a way that made me feel like I had reunited her with a long lost friend.  

Some of my other favorite moments:
When my kids each sold a painting.  
They were purchased to be hung in baby nurseries
 and newly renovated bathrooms.  I am so happy that these talented children
 are being encouraged in their creativity.

Each of the talented ladies that shared their wares in the sale.  They all worked so hard, and in quiet moments when no one was around, I would handle each of the items they had made and imagine the long hours that it took to carefully craft them.  
I am inspired.
Being with Robin.  
She spent hours helping set up and brought lunch for all of our kids and hung out with me for many hours each day of the sale.  I have such a sweet pocket of gratitude in my heart for this great lady and friend.  

A moment that came when a couple came to browse, a couple who commissioned me to do a painting some time ago.  I thought about showing them the progress on the painting, but then thought perhaps it might be a bad idea.  It is of their two sons taken from the last photo of the two of them together before their one son was killed in Iraq.  I showed the hubby first and he smiled wide.  "Come see this!" he called to his wife.  She came not knowing what she would be looking at.  As soon as her eyes registered her little boy, they filled with tears, and her voice cracked.  I suddenly regretted my choice to show them.  I had not thought that it would bring tears.  I looked to the husband's face to find her tears now reflected in his eyes.  
I apologized.

No, she said, she was so glad.  "Good tears", she called them, to a nod of agreement from her husband.  I told her that I felt I hadn't quite gotten that sparkle of mischief in his eyes.   Later I received a sweet email from that mom with photos of her son; close-ups of his eyes, and a message of gratitude about how much it meant to her to see that painting of her boy.  I know I will be able to get that sparkle now.

I have often wondered what God wants me to do with my art.  I am still not sure.  I follow whims.  I made random things.  I paint.  I hope someday that I can really divine what it is that I need to be doing, if indeed I am not doing it already, but in the mean-time, 
I am grateful for 
good tears.

Thank you Ruth, Steph, Kathy, Pat, Amanda, and Robin, artisans extraordinaire!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

You Can Keep Your Partridge

On the first day
of Christmas, December gave to me
a crazy-busy Studio sale.
On the second day of Christmas, December gave to me
a toddler with an infection and a crack in the radiador.
On the third day of Christmas, December gave to me
one screaming headache, a crabby healing toddler and a failed batch of gluten-free cookies.
On the fourth day of Christmas, December gave to me
three doctors appointments, a painfull van repair bill, Tessa's tummy trouble
and another day of he-e-ead-ache.
On the fifth day of Christmas, December gave to me
one oral surgery (Tessa), one belly ex-ray (Tessa), 13 bloodtests (6 of them, Tessa),
 falling down rain gutters and
one dead Ha-a-am-ster.
(yes, you guessed it, Tessa's)
Bring it on, December.
(just kidding.  don't.  I can't take it anymore.)
And for those of you who need clarity, nobody is dying (well except for Nibbles, may he rest in hamster peace), but Tessa's tummy has been a real mess and getting worse, so we are having more tests run.  She also had surgery on her mouth to release a band of skin that was making her top teeth have a large gap between them.  I thought it would be a little deal, but the longer they worked on her the freakier the giant hole in her mouth began to look (if you wanna know what I am talking about, go google image search "frenectomy".  I recomend doing it on an empty stomache).
 The other kids have just had various check-ups that I stupidly scheduled all on the same day trying to get them over with.  A toddler in a 10 foot square room for 3 appointments?  BAD idea.
The van is now working, but we are informed the transmission is on it's last limping leg.  The raingutters are hopeless.  Don't visit us until the weather clears unless you want a shower.
Jonah had a nasty infection that responded very well to natural remedies, thank heaven, since the doctor is closed on the weekend and the ER co-pay is killer.  At the pediatrician's we were told the infection is fine but she feels he may need surgery for another problem she noticed.  I have decided to wait to get worked-up about it until after we see a specialist.
Nibbles sadly suffered from a child who forgot to refill his waterbottle.  She is devastated.  She said,
"Today is a wrong day!"
and later she told me,
"It's like there are cubbies in my head and they have stuff in them that makes me remember all the days with him.  I can look in the cubbies and even see the day I got him.  I don't think I will ever be happy again."

Rough, rough few days.

Upon my finishing the above fuss-fest, a certain toddler held his finger up to me.
"Poop!" he exclaimed.
"Backpack..." he said
and spun around to show me the giant poo-streak smeared up his bare back.
It's his third poop-soup diaper this evening. 
I went out to get a clean dipe out of the drier, only to find them still in the washer.

Oh, and it looks like the ants have decided to come in out of the rain,
and settle all cozy-like in the garage recycling bin.
Can't wait for tomorrow.