Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Happy St. Stephen's Day

...also known as "Collapse in a Heap Day".  The snow is finally hitting us-- it's snowing and blowing hard, and we're staying put. I'm sitting here with a largish cup of tea and an Amish cinnamon roll that surely contains enough sugar to put a reindeer into a diabetic coma.  Good time to edit Christmas photos and put up a few before my Mom calls me and threatens to cut me out of her will (ha!) (as if she would do that to her favorite child, *snicker*) because I don't share these handsome boys enough.

...ahhh and aren't they handsome?

...dashing... debonair... with crooked ties...

...they slay me!


And we even got one all together, dressed up and sort of smiling.  (Excuse the blur... we'll call it "soft focus".  When you hand off the camera, you never know what you're going to get.)

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Oh... Christmas Tree

We finally got around to putting up our Christmas tree.  We've been so busy we weren't even sure when we'd fit it in.  I admit that I suggested skipping it, but... no way.

We have fun traditions around this that include music, food, and Mommy feeding Daddy bites of sausage and crackers while he tries to figure out why half the light-string is dead.

The more kids involved, the more fun, in my opinion.

Andrew was a little hesitant, at first.

But he watched Evan doggedly decorating the same two branches and then he just had to join in.

He mostly stayed close to the table and inhaled slices of sausage (yeah, you don't even want to know what his diaper was like this morning), but then he demonstrated his enthusiasm by kissing a snowman.

We all agreed that this might be among our strangest-looking tree yet, but I think that's getting to be a tradition as well.  When the trees come from our own yard with no grooming whatsoever, what you get is... what you get.  I don't think we would know what to do with a "perfect" tree.

But when the 7-year old is exclaiming repeatedly about how beauuuuuutiful our Christmas tree is, perfection hardly matters.

And speaking of "perfection":  I do not redistribute the ornaments after the kids go to bed.  However they put them on is how they stay.  They get moved around over and over everyday anyway!  Nathan and I just couldn't stop chuckling over Evan's "favorite branch" decorating style.

 There is just no way I'm changing that.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Adventy Things

I asked Nathan recently if this Advent is shorter than usual.  'Cause it sure feels like it.  How can there be less than two weeks left until Christmas already?  I seem to recall that Advent usually is long and slow and takes a long time.  Right?  Isn't that how it used to be?  What happened?  Some kind of Advent conspiracy?

Today our Advent calendar marks 12 days left.  How can that be?

Jonah and I spent an afternoon making this calendar.  I've seen pocket-style Advent calendars before, but they always involve candy in each pocket.  I'm really not into candy-any-more-than-absolutely-necessary and "every day in Advent" is NOT absolutely necessary.  So I've never gone for it.  But then Jonah and I saw one in the store recently that had a snowman theme and used a little wooden candy-cane shape as a marker in each pocket.

***Attention:  We interrupt this crafty Advent narrative to deal with a mess of broken glass, mashed potatoes and water.  Please excuse any delay.

***Crisis averted.  Now back to regularly scheduled programming.

Okay... so... um... Advent calendar, candy, pockets.... oh yes.

So.  We saw this cool Advent calendar which Jonah wanted to purchase that instant, but I don't go for snowmen (brr) and promised we'd make something similar. So we did!  I used canvas, felt, and paint that I had on hand and this is what we came up with.  Nathan cut a little wooden cross to use as a marker and Jonah painted it.

Et voila! Counting the days until Christmas in style.

I have plans to make and send out a few Christmas cards this year, but it's so far not materialized.  I guess it's just more fun to sew and make cookies.

Speaking of making cookies.  I was doing so a few days ago in preparation for some visitors that were coming for the afternoon.  I used the hand mixer to cream the butter and sugar, and then gave the beaters to my two little elves for licking.  I had cleaned most of the mixture off the beater that went to Andrew, and he's no dummy,  lemme tell ya.  I ran to grab the camera to get a picture of my sweet helpers licking their beaters together and when I got back I found them embroiled in a tug-of-war over Evan's (more well-endowed) beater.  Andrew doesn't let go of anything, e v e r, and Evan tried valiantly to defend his portion.

So I put down the camera --no picture of adorable beater-licking--, broke up the battle, and tried to ignore Andrew's head-banging tantrum while I finished the dough.

Somehow, however, what with all Evan's passive tolerance, Andrew eventually obtained both beaters AND the wooden spoon, on the floor in sumptuous victory while his brother just looked on.  I think Evan knew that he's taller and could simply help himself to the bowl of dough.

Pretty sure Andrew's sugar-high and sugar-encrusted hairdo lasted all day.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Tea Time with Little People

Tea just begs to be shared.

Sometimes I love this, like when I have a good friend visiting.  Other times, by myself with my kids, I admit that I feel that it's a bit of a drag.

Coffee drinkers don't have this conundrum.  They make coffee and don't have to share it with any little munchkins.  "It'll stunt your growth." is all it takes to quell that possibility.

Sometimes I'm jealous of coffee drinkers.

But then...  I'm raising up a generation of people who enjoy the finer things in life.  Tea, brewed just right, with fresh cream... nothing compares.  Whether in a tea mug or a sippy cup, it's just the right thing.  

So I rebrew my tea leaves for them.  No caffeine for them that way, right?  Organic orange pekoe with a few cacao nibs sprinkled in is our favorite lately.  But maybe tomorrow we'll mix in some herbal chai.

And we have tea together, and it helps everything, especially if we're fussy.

It's the little things...

They say, "small entertainment for small minds" and perhaps that's true of children, though their little brains are growing so fast and hardly seem "small".

Is my mind small because I enjoy this just as much as he does?

I, for one, am so thankful that God made mothers so easily amused.

I love to delight in these silly antics and it's a good thing...

...hilarity sure breaks up the monotony.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgivings Past

I've been reluctant to write about this.  I don't quite know what to say, or how to say it.  Words are not enough.

But I should at least say why I've been quiet here, and I have some thoughts to share, perhaps for my own benefit of recording them.

Nathan's sweet mother went to her heavenly home this past Sunday.  It was peaceful, and she is released from the terrible suffering she has been through.  But we miss her, as happy as we are for her, and I'm sure we'll only come to miss her more and more as time goes by.  And we hurt for the rest of the family who is missing her, too.

There's been so much bustle and stress with her care-- less for us than for those who live near her, but Nathan was there for several days last week, and was with her when she passed from death to life.  And now... now it feels like we should pause, or something.  Wait a little.  But life is here, and we are living it, and it pulls us to the daily things.  We try to focus on the comfort of the eternal perspective of this (which I can't be thankful for enough), but in my selfishness, I think a lot about the temporal.

So here it is, the day before Thanksgiving.  We do have plans for some dear friends to come and spend the day with us over a somewhat simplified Thanksgiving dinner.  I somehow feel like we shouldn't do it.  But we do have much to be thankful for, and in this life we need the reminders.

I have so many things to do, not only to get ready for tomorrow, but to prepare to drive to Minnesota for the funeral early next week.  Nathan has been so busy working on the funeral arrangements, and has two sermons to write for church services this week.

Instead of working steadily at my list, I found myself sitting on the kitchen floor with a largish cup of tea, thinking about Thanksgivings past.

For maybe the last five (six?) years --I can't even recall exactly how many-- we've spend Thanksgiving with Nathan's mom and dad.  Two, three, four years ago today we were filled with anticipation of their visit-- cleaning, cooking, waiting, Jonah asking "When, when, when?"  With our distance from family, it was always such a treat to actually get to spend a holiday with family.  We loved having them here, talking and talking and laughing and playing. Some other mutual friends (the same who are coming tomorrow) and their children always joined us for a big happy houseful.   Nathan's mom would help me cook the big dinner-- she'd give input on the turkey, mix stuffing, peel pounds of potatoes.  Oh, the piles of dishes she cheerfully washed.  And the whole time we'd be talking about anything and everything.  If no one else was around, our conversations quickly went very deep.  Those conversations were the highlight of my relationship with her-- her wisdom and insight seemed boundless to me.

Even two years ago, when she was mysteriously having so much trouble walking and standing, she sat on a chair and peeled potatoes into a pot on the floor.  She lamented her inability to stand at the sink and wash dishes and said she felt so useless.  She could hold the baby (Evan) for me, but only sitting, and of course, he wanted to be walked.  She didn't really mind his crying, though.  She couldn't tolerate idleness and only wanted to be helpful.    I told her to just keep visiting with me.  I was so happy just for the company. She played games with Jonah and sang songs to Evan. She had a fall while she was here that time, and they went home a day early so she could heal up at home and I tried to choke down the sickening feeling that she'd never come again.

Last year she couldn't make the trip so we went there.  I made lots of food ahead of time and cooked the dinner there, which we enjoyed with Nathan's parents and his brother's family.  It was fun, a little stressful with a one-month old baby, and a little sad to me, too.  She couldn't hold Andrew, but she smooched his little cheeks and sat near him and sang to him.  My babies won't have these memories, but I will, and I'll tell them.

And this year.  This year, I'm reluctantly preparing a quick Thanksgiving dinner without her, trying to prayerfully pull up all the thankfulness in me, and getting ready to go bid her goodbye until we meet again in heaven.

It's kind of a sad time. But a happy-sad time.  See?  Words just don't work.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Middle Man

He's pretty good at being a brother.

If a little brother asks...

...he'll even share his oatmeal.

He knows how to be a little striped-jammie comrade-at-arms...

...and how to be a fellow warrior.

With his own unique sense of style.

Thursday, November 1, 2012


I think something bit me today.

Something crafty.

It's been a long time since I've felt even remotely creative.  Perhaps it's a signal of a (hopefully soon) return of energy after weeks and weeks of first-trimester fog (uh, yeah, it's been that long. I guess I did kinda procrastinate telling you all here...).  Maybe I'll start to feel human again soon.  Maybe.  But for now, I was glad of a little inspiration today.

I've been feeling like every day is exactly the same as the day before.  We've been cooped up in the house with all the yucky weather we've had lately and the days are getting monotonous.  I've had a lot of back pain that is really keeping me down, so that doesn't help.  But today, I politely told my back to "shut it", strapped the baby on in his carrier, and we headed out into the wind and sun for an expedition.  (I'm paying for it now, for sure, but oh well.)  We had a great time collecting leaves and pine cones and other bits and planning what we would do with them.  Andrew had fun trying to shed as many articles of clothing as he could and throw them on the ground as we walked along.  "Haha!" I'm sure he chuckles to himself, "Got those wretched mittens off!"

We returned, tired and chilled, with a fun assortment of natural treasures.

We had lunch, put the baby to bed, and set to work.

The results lifted our spirits considerably.

(And why is one piece of window trim not painted, you ask?  Hm.  How strange.)

I was even inspired to do a few other little fall decorations.

The pumpkins and squash that Jonah grew in the garden this year...

The bittersweet I found growing high in the staghorn sumac in the farm field across the road....

I just love the crazy curls of bittersweet vines.

Jonah was so excited about pinecones.  They were tightly closed when we found them, but I've been noticing them opening up big and wide all afternoon in the warmth of the house.

It's so nice to have a few pretty spots in my house right now.  Considering that within 10 minutes of breakfast every day the house looks like this:

...pretty spots are essential to me.

We clean up, and we clean up, and we clean up, but it's like bailing the ocean, let me tell ya.

And because I chose to do fun projects today instead of cleanupcleanupcleanup, it's quite a bit worse.

It seems like every day, I get to pick:  Tasks Essential to Staying Alive, or Something Fun and Different.

I usually have no choice but Tasks Essential to Staying Alive.  But some days, I decide we'll do without and get to something fun.

On his way home from Minnesota, Nathan bought me a 15 pound box of fresh cranberries in Warrens, WI, evidently the Cranberry Capital of the World.  And oh, cranberries are fun!  I've been doing all kinds of yummy things with them.  A couple days ago, Evan helped me make and can a big batch of my "famous" spicy cranberry sauce.

I add all sorts of yummy things --most notably jalapeno peppers-- and it's always delicious, if maybe a little different every year for lack of an official recipe.

And I forgot to take a photo of the end product, but I can tell you that it is a gorgeous color.  Now I won't have to make it at Thanksgiving, and I have extra jars for gifts.

Oh, I told Jonah I was NOT going to carve his pumpkin for him.  Then I amended that to "I will not GUT your pumpkin" and I did the actual carving after he designed the face, because I just couldn't bring myself to turn him loose with a sharp knife.  Maybe next year...

He did a good job scooping out the innards and cleaning everything up, and he ended up with a cute "jackety lantern" as he calls it.  We don't celebrate Halloween, but I just can't deny him the essential childhood pleasure.

So.  This post is to prove that I'm not a complete bump on a log, but I'm pretty close to it.  Is it spring yet?

Friday, October 26, 2012

Andrew is One!

Since Nathan and Jonah got home at supper time, we opted to have Andrew's birthday cake right after supper, by ourselves instead of waiting to have a party with friends.  I find myself torn between my preference to celebrate "on the day" and my fear of loneliness.  I think I'm getting better about enjoying celebrations with just our little family, without feeling like we have to share it with loved ones in order for it to be special.

So he got his cake, and was fascinated by it...

...but he sure didn't get the whole "blow out the candle thing", so he grabbed it.

Owie... poor baby.

After that, there was not getting that kid to maul the cake.  That cake bit him!  He wasn't about to touch it again!  He's no dummy.  He wouldn't even let us put some icing on his tongue.

...but when confronted with a slice...

...well, that's a different thing altogether.

He even had enough to share with Daddy.

I love how babies are so excited to look at their cards.  It's just all new and exciting to them!  They don't know enough to be wanting to "get on to the presents".

Tearing pretty paper is all part of the gleeful experience!

Soft new jammies with puppies on them are exciting, too!

Am I supposed to gush and wax poetic all about the great "vintage" puppy pull-toy I found for him?  Isn't that the trend these days?

Hm.  Well, I actually just pulled it out of a random bag of toys I've had around "for a rainy day".  And it doesn't have batteries or make loud noises, while still being quite interactive, so I'm satisfied.

He was delighted.  Evan couldn't understand why such a fantastic thing wouldn't be for him, since he's bigger, after all.  I saw Evan pulling it around and talking to it very sweetly when he finally got his hands on the coveted new toy.

So Andrew is a whole year old now.  That baby who made us wait and wait for his arrival, and has continued to insist on his own terms for everything ever since.

Oh, and not to overshadow Andrew's milestone (which I've been happily celebrating with him all day), but there's just one more thing...

Yeah, that shirt looks just a little big for him, doesn't it?  Well... he'll grow into it sooner than you might think.