December 15, 2009

a skip in my step

Moments before I headed out the door this morning, I announced to Eric It's my birthday! He looked at me, with a lot of thinking in his face... until I excitedly added work! He said he just thought I had gone crazy...
So, no.
Today is not my birthday... but it is coming... soon!
And the gals at work know... you gotta spread out the celebrating.
So off I went to work... with a skip in my step. Because birthdays are good. Yes... they are. Birthdays celebrate the uniqueness of an ordinary day... and as Elizabeth would say, they mark another trip around the sun (don't you just love that?!) And then there is the cake!
Birthdays are good.

lasagna & snowflakes

Sunday afternoon became a mess of panic-stricken hurrying to accomplish... something. In my determination, when the computer took time to catch up with itself, I took to cleaning and straightening... not wanting to waste a minute. When the ringing phone interrupted my go-go-going, I paused but then gave in to answering it... since through the magic of caller id I knew who was waiting on the other end. I certainly don't claim to be focused, and I eagerly welcomed distraction from a friend. And it was a call worth answering. An invitation? For dinner? Tonight? I could have said No, I really have so much I need to get done tonight... but I never did fit in a trip to the grocery store and my family was likely to have stale crackers and lunch meat for dinner... so I accepted. It turned out to be more than an invitation... it was also motivation to keep on working... but maybe more than that. Her phone call felt like a life-line in my afternoon... once the offer was made I knew that it was exactly what I needed. An invitation to relax... with friends who don't mind if you show up for dinner in your pajamas. And I suppose there is not much that a glass of wine and a dinner I did not have to cook won't fix. Add in a lesson on making paper snowflakes and a little singing & dancing (complete with jazz hands) in the kitchen and the crushing stress of my procrastination had all but vanished.
Friendship. Laughter. Lasagna. Corny music and jazz hands.
I will have to remember this recipe the next time I pile too much up on life's plate...

Unwrap a Tuesday with Emily at Chatting at the Sky...

December 14, 2009

decorations start with d

Last night I turned all the Christmas lights on... and all of the other lights off. And I just sat... while the room glowed with twinkling colors. It gave me that first-one-awake-on-Christmas morning feeling... when you peer around the corner and see that Santa has come. I love to have the house decorated for Christmas... and there have been years that I thought about not taking them down. Ahem. That is where gotta-be-down-on-Super-Bowl-Sunday deadline came in. Today... I am delighting in the decorations and I wanted to share...
The tree... laden with every memory ever made. From 1969 to 2009...
The little book nook...
Radio City newly inspired by Elf... and Jennifer Juniper.
And my son's favorite nativity. We love how it goes from this.... this.

Merry Christmas!

It is A to Z Monday at Jen's Unglazed... and I'm also linking up here...
Christmas Tour of Homes with The Nester

December 13, 2009

standing in

Sometimes I feel like an impostor in my own life. Me... but not. The outside might appear to be the girl bearing my heart... but on the inside, the heart of me feels covered in sticky goo. A pretender in my very own self. The truth of it is... this Advent season is not going the way I planned. The way I wanted it to. And certainly not the way that Jesus deserves it to go. Here I am... the whole mess of me, sitting in the cobwebs left over from Halloween (that truthfully, I have been saving since... March?) I stood in church this morning just begging for that beautiful pink candle to light up my heart and overcome me... but I think the molasses from last week's gingerbread has pretty well coated me over. Funny... a Mom knows best, right? Just the other night my Mom told me she was worried that I was doing to much. No! I am doing fine! Only the things I want to do and I am ahead of the game! Shopping all but done! cards done!
how a Mom knows.
Last year it all hit me on the second Sunday of Advent. So I made it to week three this year... but for the life of me, I can't figure out if that is good or bad. I suppose it just is. Regardless, here I am, the great celebrator of Advent... and I'm not.
Remember that PowerPoint I am doing for our Sunday School program? Somehow it just dawned on me that it is "due" Saturday. Yes. This Saturday. So guess what I was doing at 5:09 this morning? Yep. Learning how to make a PowerPoint. And Wednesday night? We have the Band Boosters coming for a budget meeting... and dinner. At least it is motivation to vacuum up the pine needles and Easter Dust bunnies. This weekend still has some life to it, and I am already wondering how I will even make it to the next.
Smiling bright. Every hair in place. Saying all the right things. An impostor. Like a shepherd standing in for a lost wise man... hoping that nobody will notice that he is without a crown. Hoping that the love in his overloaded heart will start to light up and blind them towards his flaws. Hoping... anyway.
Confession is good for the soul. Spitting it all out somehow makes way for the good stuff... like Jesus coming in with a warm soapy cloth and washing my heart of its stickiness... and giving me the patience to figure out Power Point. It leaves my heart a little lighter... and perhaps I will actually be able to enjoy those photos, instead of being overwhelmed by them. Because in them... I can see the story. And where I want to be. Curled up next to the sheep... gazing at the Shepherd.

December 11, 2009

at last!

After nine years, one week, and three days...this light switch (that one on the left)has a real job to do!

And Cam no longer has to practice in the dark...

Unfortunately... that light switch on the right? He's out of luck. He'll probably never have a job...

o little town

I'm not a city girl... I have enough hustle and bustle in my own home, never mind all around town! But I do have grand memories of spending festive days in New York City. The Macy's parade... walking endless blocks, stopping at the corner for a steamy pretzel... shopping (and my shoe getting stuck in an escalator)... and the very thing that draws me to the city... Radio City Music Hall and the Rockettes. And that is why... we chose the Christmas village we did. (I wasn't going to tell you this part... but we were given different village pieces for wedding gifts... and we traded them in!) We love our little town, nestled into the snow covered shelves that hold family photos and books for the better part of the year. Taking out each pieces is like reconnecting with old friends... and call me crazy, but I find myself chatting with them as they lay claim to their spot. The one thing that brings a touch of sadness about this little town of ours? I'm a bystander. I long to find a cozy nook in the book store and settle in for an hour... or six. Or eat a big bowl of spaghetti by candle light... out on the patio of the best (and only!) Italian restaurant in town.
I can almost hear the music floating through the air as these friends perform in front of the biggest Christmas tree in town... and I find myself lifting a hand to wave to the men who protect these people I hold dear.

The shopping here is first rate, and there must be a sale... because the shopping bags are overflowing. Those waving flags and rounds of evergreen call to me... and I wonder how long the wait is to see Santa.

These little girls are remind me of Madeleine... as they trek out on their annual field trip through the city. And I imagine that it won't be long before they find their way to a bakery for a cookie and a steaming mug of hot chocolate. Or maybe they will talk their teacher into stopping at the hot dog cart.

And while it would be impossible for me to travel to the city for a show... at least there is a little part of it right here... and another in my heart.

It won't be long... before Christmas Eve arrives, and the soft glow of candles will light up the windows of the church. If I listen closely... I can hear the carols dancing in the air... heralding the birth of a Savior.
If you are in the neighborhood... stop on by. The air is warm and the snow never melts. The city folk are smiling... and even in the midst of the hustle and bustle... there is peace.

December 09, 2009

the parade

The last time we went, we were pushing a strollers. Yes... it has been that long. Once upon a time, the Christmas parade downtown was an annual event for us... but as the kids get older, we seem to be busier. (And living another 20 minutes away doesn't make it any easier) And then there are the crowds... Eric doesn't much care for them. But this year... I really wanted to go. He is such a good man...and just to make me happy, he arranged his schedule so that it would work. I must have said thank you at least ten times... because I really wanted him to know that it meant a lot to me. Especially after we had to fight traffic to get into the downtown area. And especially when he didn't turn around and head for home once he argued over a parking space with the valet guy. We did find a spot to park... only a brisk walk, not too far away. And we even had a great place to stand (wish we had grabbed a couple chairs!)
The parade? Well, I said thank you again... when there was a ten minute lull in the action. But eventually it started moving again... and the entertainment grew increasingly more enjoyable. Sometimes it doesn't matter what the entertainment is... as long as you are together with the ones you love. And it is not necessarily the amount of candy you take home... the enjoyment is often in the scrambling, and the sharing. And the very best part of the night? Always... the smiling faces and the reflection of colored lights in dancing in their eyes...

December 08, 2009

cookie crumbs

We were watching a Christmas special on TV. About food... Christmas food at Disney. We oooed and ahhhed... and wished that we could somehow join in on the fun. We watched them make candy canes from pulled sugar, a six foot yule log and gingerbread houses from scratch... and even gingerbread men. That was when Cam piped up with I've never had a gingerbread man! I looked at him with a smidgen of disbelief... but then realized that he might be right. So I put it on the to-do list.
As he was leaving for school yesterday, I mentioned maybe mixing up some dough for us after school... and in return for those few words, there was a smile so wide... and a thumbs up as he headed out the door. I hoped that the visions of gingerbread men dancing in his head would leave room for a few math facts...
I did mix up the dough... having all of the ingredients on hand certainly helped my cause! But by the time the afternoon came, I was drained. Cam came home... and went right to his homework. I think he knew I was tired, because he never asked about making the cookies. I dragged myself to the kitchen to make dinner... and this little face popped out from around the corner. Need any help? I put him to work cleaning the cabinet fronts... and pushed myself a little more. When the chicken was simmering, I pulled out the flour and the rolling pin... and showed him how. He rolled and dusted with flour. He lined the cookie cutter up to get the most out of the sheet of thin dough... and we popped those guys into the oven. Cam was smiling the whole way. Pushing through just a little more, we mixed up a batch of royal icing... because if you are going to have your first gingerbread man, you need the whole experience...

I could see the excitement in his eyes as he readied himself for his first taste... and I hope he could see the love in mine. Do you like it? And his affirmative response came muffled with a full mouth of spicy cookie... and a few stray cookie crumbs.

Unwrap a Tuesday with Emily at Chatting at the Sky....

(wow... this is post #400! who would've thought i would ever have this much to say?!)

December 07, 2009

elf starts with e

This is my favorite Christmas movie...

It was the first Christmas movie we watched... as soon as we got home from Thanksgiving dinner. I laugh every time. Every time. Scouring the clearance tables at the book store, as I often do... I found a little self help book written by... Buddy Hobbs. Even if you are not an elf... he has some pretty good tips for Christmas...

Make gingerbread houses...

Shiny things are nice...

We all have different talents and each one of us in extraordinary in our own way...

There's room for everyone on the nice list...

New York City is a magical land with traffic lights, steam, scaffolding and the Empire State Building. (and Radio City Music Hall!)

There's always room for dessert!

Christmas spirit should never become a limited resource...

And something that you might not think about...
If you see gum on the street, leave it there. It is not free candy!

I missed A to Z Monday last week... but I squeezed my "F" is for family up there on the nice list! Skip on over to Jen's Unglazed for some more "E" fun!

December 03, 2009

staying ahead of the storm

The sky looks ominous this morning. That hazy yellowish hue is hovering with a heaviness to it. It makes me think that the sky might fall... in those big sloshing silver-dollar sized raindrops. I grabbed my umbrella... just in case. But the way the wind is blowing, opening it might just carry me off to Oz. Looking in the rear view mirror, I can see the storm in the distance... chasing me. And I press on just a little more. Trying to stay ahead of the storm.
How often do I play that game? Pushing myself just a little bit stay ahead. Of the stretched ends that might not be meeting. Or the argument that is simmering on the back burner. Or even those hurt feelings that have covered my heart... tucked away out of sight behind the storm shutters.
But I have learned... that the storm comes. It comes fiercely, and often leaves a mess that cannot be swept up under the carpet of our life.
Still... I press on. Grabbing tight to the One who steers me...eventually emerging into the Son.

December 02, 2009

dear eric...

I want you to know…

…that this made me laugh out loud.

I want you to know...
that I know my food doesn’t magically appear in the refrigerator.
And I realize it is not elves lending their hands when I fall behind.

And that I was really thankful for the simmering pot of spaghetti sauce on the stove.

I want you to know…
…that I know I am the lucky one.
Because you show me everyday that you are the better half of us.
And that I am thankful for the Dad you are…
and that we share a Savior.

I want you to know…
…that it touches me my heart when you say I am the best wife ever…
but that I know, in reality, you’d like your clothes ironed and put away once in a while.
(but I makes cupcakes… and really, isn’t that more important?)

I want you to know…
…that when you send me a message, it is my pleasure to listen…
because I love you.

Sorry they were out of your favorite kind...

keeping on...

The moon egged me on this morning... my legs so weary.
One foot in front of the other. Keep on moving. You can do it.
It didn't help that the air was warmer today.
And there was no breeze.
But we slogged on, my buddy & me... with a little less life in our steps that we are accustomed to.
We contemplated not taking the last loop...but in the end, decided to keep on.
And as we turned the corner... we were greeted by the heady scent of orange blossoms brought to us in a rush of air.
Thank you moon... for pushing me.
And thank you God... for the gift...

December 01, 2009

the village people

You know how when you clean out your closet and half-way through it looks worse than when you started? It kind of looks that way around here.

Okay... more than kind of.
I am really hoping that by the weekend our home will look like a winter wonderland.
Or at least as close to it as you can get way down here in sunny Florida.
But here is the news flash...

The village people are out of their boxes and are having a party in the town square. Before they head to their respective neighborhoods. Later... much later. I figure they will party all night. And most of tomorrow. But that's okay...

...because when all is said and done... even they can find their way to the manger.

November 29, 2009

readying my heart

It is no secret that I love Advent. I really love Advent. It helps me to let Christmas sink into my soul and to really celebrate the season, instead of rushing on through... checking off a million items on that dreaded to-do list... somehow missing what Christmas is all about in a flurry of check marks.
Last weekend our Sunday School took a field trip to a little farm... to play with the animals, to prepare for our Christmas program, to pose for pictures. My job was to take those pictures... and I took tons of them. I was kneeling in the dirt, I was standing on an unsteady rough stool, I was in the midst of the shepherds and animals at the manger. Taking picture after picture. I was hoping to get some great shots... really great ones. The sun was shining and the air was beautiful... and the whole morning exhausted me!
Later... going through the pictures, the reality of where I was struck me... and the tears started. In the moment, I was running and doing my job, but never once did I stop and revel in where I was. At the manger. In the midst of the shepherds and the animals. Sitting in the straw marvelling at the arrival of a newborn king. In the company of angels.
To look at the pictures... you would not guess that I was not in the moment. I think I am quite accomplished at that... putting on a good face and stumbling through, with no one the wiser. But it is not how I really want to live. I want to be present in the midst of it all. I don't want to miss a thing... and most certainly not the arrival of the King.
Today we light the first candle of Advent... and I am planning to sit down as a family and read a bit. And share our love for Christmas. The reason for Christmas. Of course, the best laid plans don't always fall into place... but if I don't plan for it I know that there is no chance of this time being set aside. So I plan... and I pray... and I sit my heart down in the straw and wait... for the best gift Christmas brings.

November 28, 2009

in preparation

As the hustle and bustle of Christmas sneaks in, I realize I should be taking advantage of this time to rest... but Advent is beginning and I want to be ready.
With my wreath.
With my candles.
With my heart.
So I have my Christmas songs playing, and my fireplace(the dvd variety!)burning. And as I haul in a few decorations from the garage, it is starting to feel festive. My nativity has made its way from the curio cabinet, where it sits all year, to its place of honor on the piano... and my book shelves are now heavy with the stories of Christmas.
At least one room looks pretty. The rest of it looks like the seasons threw up. Fall leaves and jack-o-lantern pumpkin pillows mixed in with snowmen and gingerbread men... it will all get sorted and put away... in good time. Right now? No... I am playing nurse. To the boy who got his big toe stabbed with a needle. All the way through. In one side and out the other.
But amidst the piles of festivities, I sit ready. To enjoy it all. To make the most out of December... and the joy that hides behind that hustle and bustle.

November 27, 2009

i want you to know...

Today... I needed to bake a few more sweets.
Need? Well... yes! A peppermint swirl cake(with peppermint hot fudge)for dinner at a friend's house and red velvet cupcakes for another friend's birthday tomorrow.
So the extent of my Black Friday shopping included a 9am trip to Publix.
So what was it I wanted you to know?
As I was reaching for the peppermint extract, I saw three rows of almond extract...
... and I did not pick one up! I actually laughed when I saw the boxes all lined up! This time, I knew for certain that I did not need any more almond extract!
But I am nervous... about the new instinct not to buy it.
I only have two bottle left! I'm bound to be out the next time I need it...

November 26, 2009

happy thanksgiving

The congo squares are in the oven... and the parade will start in just over an hour. While those things speak Thanksgiving to my heart... there is more.
There is always more... and that is something to be thankful for in itself. God gives and gives... and all I have to do is receive. Sometimes it just stops me in my tracks. I deserve none of this... and yet, here I am in the midst of a beautiful life. My cup of blessings is overflowing... and I wonder why me?
Wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving, with your cup overflowing with the things that really matter...

November 24, 2009

finding blessings

It will come as no surprise… to me, or anyone else… that real life can bog a Mom down. We give every ounce of our very beings to our to-do lists. Husband. Kids. House. Work. Life. And sometimes it leaves you standing at the open freezer door with nary a dinner idea in sight. Until, of course, you hear your Mom’s voice in your head telling you that you are letting all the cold out and wasting electricity...
It’s been that kind of week. Racing through to the weekend only to discover that the plans I had made have simply worn me out. And now it is Tuesday… and reflecting on the week, I am wondering if there is a moment worthy of unwrapping at all.
It makes me stop… and really think. Past the exhaustion. Past the worry. Past all that makes up my to-do list… and look into my heart. And there… I seem to find all of the blessings, that without Tuesday, might have been left in the field to wither.
Digging around in the bushel of my life, I smile…
At the silly hats Laura tried on at Target… and her exclamation over the one with a real peacock feather.
At the spontaneous outburst of the Scooby Doo song… sung in duet by my son & I.
At the blanket that still has the grass stuck to it… and holds the memory of Eric & I laying out in the backyard at 4am in search of shooting stars.
At my oh-so-close-to-thirteen boy flopping down across my lap and snuggling in.
At the conversation my daughter and I shared over soup & a sandwich.
And at the way he drew me away from the freezer door and took me in his arms.
It is time to harvest these blessings… and hold them close.
They are gifts from above.
From His heart to mine.
And not only worthy, but necessary to unwrap.

November 23, 2009

gingerbread starts with g

**updated with new pictures!**

Gingerbread is a long standing tradition in our family.
Gingerbread cookies, dressed in royal icing overalls and aprons...
but most especially gingerbread houses.

Somewhere in that ever-creative mind of hers, my Mom dreamed up a gingerbread house design, and went to work. She sold them at craft fairs... and by word of mouth. They were as delicious as they were beautiful. Some years there were 300... and other years many less. Some years they sold... and I remember one year when they didn't. Boxes were piled high by the door... to be donated somewhere. Thinking back, I can only imagine a fraction of the pain in her heart, as I am sure we could have used the money from the sales... or even just for the supplies. But she gave them away... and never let on her disappointment. And every fall, the Big Bertha mixer would be fired up once again... and the scent of cloves and ginger and molasses filled the house.
I do remember a summer... when the mixing started early. For just one house. My Mom entered the Good Housekeeping gingerbread house contest. It was a mansion. Two stories. A veranda with a gazebo and delicately piped railings. A Pez chimney... and royal icing fir trees. It was... beyond spectacular. And we all just knew that this house would adorn the front cover of the magazine. Somehow... we were wrong. And when the issue was delivered to our house we were astonished. The winning house may have been deserving... to their eyes, not ours... but it was the second place house that boggled our minds. It was a roughly made version of the Old Lady Who Lived in a Shoe. And I knew that not even rose-colored glasses would make it appear more lovely than the mansion that my Mom had built with hope and anticipation.

Making the gingerbread houses became a family affair. When we were too little to place the candies just so, we sorted them. Buckets upon buckets of Necco Wafer "shingles" were sorted piece by piece. And we could only eat one if it was broken. We did graduate to placing the candy on the house... and that is one of my favorite memories. Mom would squirt out the royal icing and my job was to come along behind and place and space the M&M's just so. I was used to doing things quickly to please my Mom... and so I did my best to be fast and accurate. It became a racing game... which made us both laugh. And to this day is we start a task together she will say No Racing! But I can't ever seem to help myself.
As the years went on... my Gramma took over the shingle sorting job... and my sister & I helped more and more with the decorating. All sorts of jobs... snowing at the base of the house... planting gumdrop flowers and candy canes... even playing Mother Nature and snowing on the roof. Beautiful memories... every one.
Florida's humidity is too much for gingerbread houses... and the special order cookie cutter no longer punches out villages of houses. But on the morning of Christmas Eve... my Mom will make gingerbread houses with her grandkids. It won't matter where the M&M's get placed... or if the snow covers the entire roof. It won't even matter if one of the kids licks their fingers before they touch the candy. It is just a tradition... carrying on in a new sort of way. And it makes my heart smile.

It is A to Z Monday at Jen's... I wonder what she has cooked up over there.