Monday, December 31, 2012

Dressed for Christmas

My mom made these two Christmas dresses for me when I was little. It was a little shocking to see them on the Princess and Sweetpea.

Fancy dresses, sparkly lights and excitement written all over the Princess' face (while Sweetpea just looks completely disoriented and is obviously just along for the strange ride.) It was a wonderful Christmas.

That is one wild-eyed kid!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Stockings are hung with care

It's been so long since I used my sewing machine I almost forgot to use it. I should sew more often. It's fun.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Saint Lucia

How do we make Advent and Christmas more meaningful in the midst of the presents and sugar? We tried something new this year. December 13 is the feast day of Saint Lucia, a holiday celebrated in Sweden (and elsewhere). St. Lucia was a 4th century girl martyred for her faith.

In Sweden, where my grandmother was from, the eldest daughter gets up early in the morning before dawn. Dressed in white with a red sash and a wreath with candles around her head, she delivers hot chocolate and saffron rolls to the still sleeping family members while singing the Saint Lucia song.

Since it was our first year, and our oldest is but five, we modified our celebration a bit. I had the supplies all prepared and, while away at work, the Princess worked with Mamo (my mom) to make her wreath. We pulled together a white outfit when I got home, complete with a red ribbon sash (thank goodness I bought that roll of cheap red ribbon for no good reason last year!). When Steve arrived home we turned off the lights and, by the twinkling lights of the tree, our very own Saint Lucia very carefully served her Daddy and little sister chocolate muffins and hot chocolate while the Saint Lucia song played. (We'll have to learn the song so that we can sing it next year ourselves!)

Over muffins and hot chocolate we talked about the feast. The crown of candles reminding us to be the light in the darkness. The offerings of food and drink reminding us to be generous and kind to those around us.

The feast is a simple and beautiful way to celebrate the coming of the Light to the World.

Link to a video of the Saint Lucia song. I tried to embed the video but it's not working, not sure if it's me, blogger, or YouTube...

If you're interested in more information check out my Christmas Pinterest board. I've pinned some websites with information, recipes, crafts, and ideas surrounding Saint Lucia.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Monday, December 10, 2012

Prioritizing in the Rush

Aaah, Christmas. Where expectations and pressure to keep up with everyone else having the perfect holiday is sure to bring someone to tears. After all, it's not a holiday until somebody cries. (We've had three years in a row where one of the girls has cried over the Christmas tree. And not because it was so beautiful.)

I love Christmas. I love the magic, the beautiful decorations, the excitement, the fun secrets and planning of surprises. I love the songs that bring me back to my childhood and adore hearing the songs in the girls' little voices as they sing along while playing with their Nativity sets.

I love that there are so many opportunities to talk about Jesus, love, giving, thankfulness, and generosity.

And then, on the other side, is the relentless pressure to buy, buy, buy. To show your love through stuff. And, of course, it's not a real Christmas unless you've made 12 dozen different types of cookies, thrown a themed party with vegetables displayed in the shape of a Christmas tree and personalized gift bags for all of your guests, shimmied on the perfect Christmas outfit - sparkly and slimming, and hand-crafted meaningful gifts for each person on your list. Naturally, you've already mailed the 100 handmade Christmas cards with a thoughtful, personal message written to each recipient inside. Those went out December 1st, right?

I'm trying to resist because it's really tempting to compare my efforts to those I see around me and find myself coming up short. But, the reality is that I can't do everything. We all make choices about what is important during the season and that's what we focus on. I'm better off defining my priorities than comparing my efforts to others'.

We don't do the Elf on a Shelf thing. I think it's cute and fun and can imagine how exciting it would be each morning for the Princess and Sweetpea, but I just don't want to add another expectation to the list.

I do the Advent Calendar because I want Christmas to be full of memories of doing things together. The calendar is my way of forcing myself to stop and do something with the girls each day (activity, read a book, a craft) when I can easily put it off because I have things I need to accomplish during the day or I don't have any ideas (or the supplies we need even if I do have an idea.) And, when we're doing something together I've also almost guaranteed that we'll have some type of interesting, perhaps even meaningful, conversation.

We don't get yearly pictures with Santa and we don't push the belief that Santa comes and leaves gifts under the tree. (Fewer gifts under the tree since we don't have to supply Santa ones too. Also a bonus!) We do however, talk about the fun magical story of Santa a lot. We read books and see movies about Santa and imagine how fun it would be if it were all true.

We (I!) do send out Christmas cards each year because I love to have that connection with friends. Sometimes I manage a letter, some years I don't. I used to make all the cards, now it's the standard pre-made photo card. I've managed to get them sent before Christmas each year (so far, they're not in the mail yet this year!). I don't want to portray perfection in the cards, I just want people to know that we're thinking about them and appreciate the connection we have with them.

I keep trying to focus in on the relationship opportunities of this holiday. That's the gift that will last forever.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Small Kindnesses

Every morning Steve brings me coffee in bed while I write. The smell of the coffee and the knowledge that I will be sipping it soon is what gets me upright and typing while the world still sleeps around me.

He sets it on the nightstand, says good morning, and kisses me on the forehead.

It is one of the nicest parts of my day.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Sparkling Bright

We hit Zoo Lights at the Oregon Zoo again this year. The forecast was for heavy rain all weekend but, since it was our only chance, and I convinced Steve that we are hardy folk, we went anyway. The rain held off (the heavy part anyway) and we only got a little damp. The crowds were light and the displays were great. It was a good way to start the countdown to Christmas, after we got out the Nativity sets on day 1, of course.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Advent Counting

I had plans to do another Advent calendar like last year. My plans were not well thought out at all. Add in that I finished Nano on the 29th leaving me 1 day to figure it out and I was not feeling so brilliant.

 Luckily Steve helped me out and we managed to pull it together. The girls will be counting down to Christmas again this year with a variety of crafts, activities, books and fun; some new, many re-used from last year, but when it's been packed away for 11 months it all seems new again.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Oh, so you think I should have a real post here?  Yeah, well I've got 4,000 more words to write and I'm using all of my brain power to come up with them... (hopefully less by now. check the counter on the right and you'll see where I'm currently stuck)

NaNo ends soon and then, with a little recovery time and a week straight of sleep I'll be back to normal. Or, since I won't get that week straight of sleep, I'll be semi coherent and that should be good enough, right?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Pheasant Explosion

We took a chilly Thanksgiving Day hike in the Columbia Gorge. The perfect way to work up an appetite. It was cold and damp, but the wind wasn't too hurricane-like and the sun even broke through the clouds for a bit. First time we've seen it in a week!

 We tromped through the leaf carpet and forded a couple of small impromptu streams and then scared a pheasant. It burst out of the ground cover right in front of us in a flurry of beating wings, which made me scream out loud; I'm not even going to lie, only afterward did I remember that there were small children with me who were probably traumatized by my screaming, not the interesting bird they never even noticed because of the crazy lady hyperventilating and scaring every other animal far far away for the remainder of our hike.

So goes my effort to NOT pass on my phobia to my children.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Living in the Matrix

This may look like a quiet time mess but don't be fooled. This is a well planned, carefully executed procedure and she WILL notice if you move even a single sheet of paper.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Sauvie Island

While we're well known for getting outside in the rain, when we get the opportunity for a dry hike we take it!

Off we went to the island where we tromped in the mud, watched some fishermen, and scared all of the birds for the multiple bird watching groups that arrived after us.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Missing November

So...I've been a little quiet around here, I know.  Remember last November? Remember that silly thing I did called NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month)?


Totally doing it again this year. It's better than last year. It's still crazy. I'm trying to put out a consistent 2000 words a day. I'm getting up at 6 every morning (except for the days I go into work, then it's 5:30.)

I'll be back later. Until then, enjoy the blog blurbs. Maybe they're more up your alley anyway...there's a lot to read out there.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Monday, November 12, 2012

Each to her own kind

In desperation I took my two wild animals to the zoo to commune with their own kind. It totally helped soothe the savage beasts.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Just Put A Bird On It

I asked my mom and dad to pick up some napkins for me. This is what they came back with. Either they're trying to help me work through my phobia OR they had a good laugh imagining my response.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

A Flock of...Exotic Birds

For weeks The Princess kept asking to be a puppy for Halloween. So boring, a puppy..."Are you sure you don't want to be something else" I asked. No, she was insistent on a puppy. Until 2 weeks before Halloween.

Enter the new request, a double request because she knew exactly what Sweetpea should be as well.  "Mommy, I want to be a parrot and Sweetpea will be a flamingo."

And that's how I, hater of birds, got roped into making TWO bird costumes.

Everyone laugh long and loud...that's what you get for thinking puppies are boring.

Current costume count: Squirrel, Parrot, Flamingo 

Bets on next year's costume choices will open January 1st, 2013.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Month 26

Dear Sweetpea,

I’ve been terrible about writing letters to you; on paper anyway. I’ve written hundreds in my head if only you could just reach in and find the words…

There are so many little things to capture about you, the ones that make you so heart-searingly, delightfully you. Your smile – it is big and bright and full of teeth that your aunt has dubbed “piranha teeth”, spaced out with little points. Your smile lights up your face and makes the entire room brighter. No one can maintain a straight face when you turn on your smile and, luckily for us, you smile all the time.

Your blanket and bear – they are a unit, a dirty unit that you love beyond anything else in the world. I try to sneak them into the washer and dryer every once in a while but you maintain a vigilant and protective watch over them. So, when I do manage to sneak them in, I’m lucky if you don’t notice until they’re in the dryer. Then we just have one cycle to cry through instead of two. Also, your blanket has a second job. You love to stuff a piece of your blanket in your ear; it’s comforting and relaxing for you. When you’re sitting quietly, upset about something, being comforted, and even when you are asleep I’ll catch you carefully worrying blanket through your fingers until you have just the right amount which is then stuffed into your ear. Head is cocked then, to keep the blanket in place, and every bit of you sinks down into the last missing degrees of relaxation.

Your words – you talk constantly. I think your vocabulary is as good as the Princess’s was at your age you just use it 90% more often than she ever did. It just exploded out of you and it is so fun to understand what you are thinking about and what you want at the moment. (even if it’s a trip to Winco of all things!)

The other night we had to take you to the ER for tummy pain and a fever. There is nothing more pathetic than a little tiny person on a big, adult size gurney at the hospital. You were so, so brave. The entire time we were there you kept asking to “go home” but the only time you really cried was when Daddy left to take the Princess home. You had a variety of tests and they were scary and uncomfortable. But, though your chin trembled, you fought your fear as we talked about pictures of your tummy and got to see your heart beating (that heart that I first saw in my own ultrasound and cried in amazement over.)

Everyone, me included, was in awe of you that night. Except for your big sister, because she knows you, and the ways of the stoically brave, and that you’ve been watching her every movement from the very beginning. The Princess just climbed into the bed to give hugs and kisses and color with you, because sharing a room together in a variety of circumstances is what the two of you do. (which of course makes me start thinking about her leaving for school next year and separating the two of you and I’m a potential puddle of tears once again….)

Sweetpea, we love you beyond words, beyond time and reason, and any other method for measurement they come up with in the future. When you’re on my hip you hold my arm in a vice grip with your own. I can only disentangle you by force or when you decide you’re ready to disconnect. Someday soon I know you’ll choose to walk over being carried and the vice grip will change to a handclasp and then a handhold and then a happy wave as you run further and further in front of me. No matter what, though, you will always have the most unbreakable hold on my heart.

I love you,

Friday, October 26, 2012

It's the worst season of every four years

Election Season. It's almost over. Can I get a collective HALLELUJAH!!!?

This has been, for me, by far the most stressful election to date. Am I more aware (possibly, but probably not any more than usual), feel like I have more on the line (Yeah, I've got kids to think about now), shortened nerves (yes, I've got kids now)? 

Honestly, I've been pretty decided on who I'm voting for since I couldn't ignore the endless parade of politicians anymore. I'm not one of the undecided this year.

However, I've also made a real effort of listening (to the candidates, not so much the "analysis") and reading (as many transcripts available, and a purposefully varied set of sources) to understand where the other side is coming from. I don't disagree with everything, just like I don't agree with everything my candidate espouses. This is the infuriating beauty of the right to vote in this country.

What I've been alternately astounded, flummoxed, and horrified by is the absolute vitriol and hatred leveled at each side from the other.

And I'm not talking about the media - I expect it from them.

I'm talking about the posts on facebook to "friends" that make me cringe. The tweets that generalize, warp, and insult in 140 characters. That's what's sucking the energy out of me.

When did this become okay? When did we assume that everyone we know thinks the same way? When did an insult, a dart, a supposed joke about someone else's ethics, morals, and humanity become appropriate? When did we make it a matter of bravery just to have a differing opinion? 

Instead of telling me (in inflammatory language no less) why I'd be an idiot (or worse) for voting for the person you despise, give me a real reason to vote for your candidate. Maybe I'd be convinced and I'd certainly rather be voting for a positive reason rather than a negative one.

All that to say... Go Vote!

I have my opinions and I may not like the boxes you check on that ballot, but those differences are what have kept our country great and I'll support you, even if I don't like the result in the end.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Monday, October 22, 2012

Young Adult Dystopia

I love to read (obviously) and the genres I read are wide and varied. However, lately I've been reading a lot of Young Adult books. More YA than I read when I fit into the category's age range. Part of it is because they're quick reads, you can jump in and out of them without a lot of catch-up, which is great with all of the distractions swirling around me right now. But, I thought of two other reasons why I'm really loving almost every single one of the YA books I've read lately.

1. They're fun. (for the most part) Much of the really popular YA books are set in alternate realities or in dystopian futures. Dystopian, of course, doesn't promise to be fun but the adventures that happen really are. I like the action, the drama, and the imagination involved.

2. They are digging into the teenage girl's mind and providing a counterbalance to the idea that a girl's worth is in her looks and her clothes and her popularity. The characters I'm reading about are flawed, strong, intelligent, awkward, and slowly developing their confidence. You can't help but like them, root for them, and want to be them. Of course, since it's YA (and honestly, in pretty much every genre) there's usually a love interest. But that swoony boy is flawed too. He's honest and true. He sees more and wants more than the popular chick with the perfect figure and shiny hair. Hmm, what a novel idea for teen boys and girls (and adults, when we come right down to it)

Reading these books is a blissful escape from the reality of cooking dinner and doing laundry, but it's also been a walk down memory lane of my own teenage inner angst and drama. And, looking forward, it's making me think about the conversations I want to continually have with my daughters about inner value, bravery, confidence, and kindness.  Plus, I'll have a really great reading list for them (they're never going to get through it!)

Here are a few recommendations:

image via Goodreads
 I was lucky enough to hear the author speak in person.
She was delightful.

image via Goodreads
Here's my Goodreads review


image via Goodreads
Here's my review on Goodreads