Monday, December 31, 2012

Day 31 - Self-portrait.

I've been dreading this post all month. I almost skipped out on it, but I couldn't leave the project unfinished on the last day. Instead, I settled for dramatic.

Kissing 2012 Goodbye

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Day 30 - Something that made you smile this year.

There were so many people and thoughful gestures and kid shinanigans that made me smile this year, but this is what instantly popped into my head when I read the Day 30 prompt.

This is the sign that our Sunday School class left for us on Dave's last day of chemo. It was an external expression of the relief I felt at being finished with that phase of the cancer process. Though he still felt sick and tired and we still had to wait for the follow-up PET scan, this was the day that I finally let out the breath I had been holding since March. It felt so appropriate to mark it with balloons.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Day 29 - Hot

Hot chocolate around a fire on the patio.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Day 28 - Cold

Taking the golf cart for a spin.

Day 27 - How you relax.

I relax in my big bath tub with a good book. The tub is the perfect depth with perfectly placed arm rests, the water heater fills it up, and my $6 pillow from Homegoods adds an extra element of comfort. I've considered adding a TV to the wall above, but nixed that idea because books are more relaxing. I might still add music, but right now I have to squeeze tub soaking into times when the kids are sleeping and I suffer from Mommy Shower Paranoia, so I'm not sure I would listen to the music yet anyway.

My Bathtub

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Day 26 - Mess

Dave often encourages behavior that leaves me, as the mother, torn between stopping it and throwing my hands up while letting the fun continue. This is one of those things - times 2.

He asked them, "How do the piggies eat?" They showed him without a moment's hesitation. This was before he showed them his most beloved Christmas movie of all time, so they did it without even having the Christmas Story reference. I was equally horrified and amused at their eating like pigs and that he showed them the movie.

They loved it, of course. The first night, I fielded 284 questions about bullies and licking frozen flag poles, but since then, they ask him to turn it on every time they go downstairs with him. He loves having someone to share it with, as I've only just started tolerating the movie. I hated it when I was little - because of the bully and the flagpole licking and the mean Santa.

It also led to a good conversation with Ella when she asked me, about the bully, "Why does God make bad people?" I explained as plainly as I could that God made us with free will and that we are all sinners - we all do bad things. Sin separates us from God, but God wants us to be with him, so he sent Jesus to die on the cross for us. Jesus paid his life for our sins so that, if we love Him and ask Him to live in our hearts, we can live in Heaven with God after we die. It's not the first time we've talked about this, but it is the first time she's asked me to explain God in terms of something she views as negative. I hope I didn't make a mess of it.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Day 25 - Lunchtime.

Because Christmas is about Jesus, we celebrate him on Christmas day with cake and gifts, as is proper for a birthday party.

It has four layers because we couldn't reach consesus
 on a flavor this year; thus, two cakes in one.

We don't actually have lunch on Christmas day because we have late breakfast and early supper, but we do usually eat birthday cake in the middle of the day.

Earlier this season, while we wrapped presents for our family, Ella asked me if we should leave a gift for baby Jesus. I ran with it.

Me: Hmm, I like the idea but how would it work?
Ella: We could just leave it by the manger set.
Me: We could. Do you think we've already given Jesus a present this year?
Ella: (head shaking, eyes questioning)
Me: Well, you know that the baby Jesus was born as God's gift to us so that he could grow up and die on the cross to save us from our sins, right?
Ella: (Nodding affirmation)
Me: And one of the things that Jesus teaches us is to take care of other people who need things, like the little girl we filled a shoebox for and the kids we bought stocking stuffers for? I think that by taking care of other people, we have already given Jesus a present.
Ella: (Thoughtful, then decisive) No, I don't think it works that way.

She has always been very literal. She wanted to leave an actual gift by the manger for the baby Jesus, just like the wise men did, and that's okay because the seed is planted. At the suggestion of her preschool teacher, we did create an ornament for our tree to give her something tangible that represents her gift to Jesus.

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’" - Matthew 25:40

Monday, December 24, 2012

Day 24 - Tradition.

Because Christmas is about Jesus, we worship him in church on the eve of his birthday. Dave and I started this tradition together when we got married, and we continue it even though our kids are little and disruptive because one day, through our example, they will understand the quiet reverence that is befitting the birth of a baby whose name is "God with Us".

Candles, carols, and communion on Christmas Eve.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Day 23 - Joy is _________.

There is so much joy in my life. I try to remember to look for it everywhere and through everything. I try not to let the world steal it from me. Sometimes it's hard to find it, and sometimes it just pours out with no effort at all.

Joy is laughing with a man who has been making me laugh for almost 13 years. Even when there doesn't appear to be anything laugh-worthy, we can find something.

Taking our picture at the TSO concert.
Partly because we wanted one,
partly because we were laughing at all the people around us who were doing it first.
Joy is wrapping yourself burrito-style in a favorite blanket. Luke's blanket, randomly named Gigi, can cure a lot of ills and induces coma-like sleep when the situation is right. When he needs it, he doesn't care if it's 102 degrees outside, he's going to pile it on top and keep it there while sweat beads break out over the bridge of his nose.
Luke with Gigi blanket.
Joy is spending time with a friend when you are lonely. I know this to the bottom of my soul because a couple of good friends have repeatedly dragged me out of a lonely place over the last year during lunches or phone conversations where all I had to do was listen as they talked about life and kids and family with no expectation that I should do the same, but certainly with acceptance if I did. It's good to have friends with whom you can be quiet, but still walk away with your soul refreshed.

Sometimes Georgia allows Gypsy to sit close beside her when she needs a friend.
Joy is creating. Art, music, songs, words, software, appellate briefs, food, it doesn't matter what, but the act of bringing something into being is fullfilling. Ella and Luke already know it, and we have hundreds of variations of paintings and glued scraps of paper that are all Something to prove it.

Ella and Luke painting together.
Joy is a special treat to celebrate a special occasion, or, just because. This particular milkshake was a Last Day of Vacation treat.

Last Day of Vacation So Let's Do One More Random Thing Milkshake
Joy is playing. And, in this specific instance of play, joy is re-enacting a high school football game. Ella is the drum major, Luke is the football player, and Dave was playing the drums. I may have been singing Luke's version of the fight song, too. That's what usually happens when this breaks out.

Highschool Football Game in Luke's Bedroom
Joy is knowing that I am the child of a loving God who not only hears my prayers, random or angry or selfish or broken or happy or trivial as they may be, but who answers them.
Little children might understand this joy better than all of us.

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance." - James 1:2-3

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Day 22 - Decoration

Dave's Santa House

This little ceramic house belonged to Dave's mother. He remembers it from Christmas when he was a little boy. When he studies it now, I can see a whisper of the little boy who loved it so much then. It represents his mother and the traditions that made him love Christmas.

We acquired this house while cleaning out Nana's storage building over the summer. He had not seen it since he was 13, but he remembered the little tree with lights and he searched and searched until he found it. After his mom died, Nana carried on the Christmas traditions - gathering the family together to eat and celebrate. I know that he misses his mother during Christmas more than any other time, and I know that this first Christmas without Nana is hard.

Inside the house.

I'm glad we have this little house that reminds him of his boyhood and youthful anticipation and the love of his mother and grandmother.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Day 21 - Tree

I always let the kids help me decorate the Christmas tree. I'm not obsessive about the placement of ornaments, and quite frankly, I'm glad to have help with the chore. That's right, it's a chore. I love having the tree up and glowing; I hate the putting it up part, probably even more than the taking it down part.

We have a fake tree, so I do the assembly - and this year I even had help with that because they think it's fun - and put on the lights. Then I find all of the kid-safe ornaments and untangle them while they fight over sort them into piles. Then they put them on. Sometimes it's haphazard, sometimes they are all clumped together in one place, and last year they were sorted by color. I do not care as long as they get on the tree.

This was Luke's first year to really understand what was happening, and he fully embraced the decorating. This is his branch.

Luke's branch of the Christmas tree.
He put all of his ornaments in a one-foot radius around this branch. If I were an obsessive tree decorator, we would have issues because he knows exactly where he put each ornament and, should one happen to be moved, he loses his head about it. We had approximately 10 minutes of hostage-crisis negotiations when Ella took his Pooh ornament to put on the little tree in her room. Pooh was returned safely to the branch with the rest of his crew in exchange for Cinderella's castle.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Day 20 - Weather

You'd best enjoy today's weather. The Mayan calendar tells me that the Zombie Apocalypse starts tomorrow.

We have mixed feelings about rain. Ella trends toward frustration and almost-anger about it. Luke just wants to play outside and recently answers my explanation that it's raining with, "Awe, man!" I'm fine with rain until we have days and days in a row of it and the worms are flooded out of their holes and squirming all over the pavement. Dave typically feels the same as Ella.

We are a family who needs sunlight and outside play (as does everyone), so I sometimes find myself reminding them all that it rains for a reason - because we need water to drink, and so do the deer and the birds and the plants. Things don't grow if they don't have water, just ask the plants on my front porch. Winter rain is less acceptable than summer rain because it's cold and gray and yuck. Summer rain is good for playing. A couple of times over the past summer, we were sequestered inside because it was too hot to play when along came a big, fat, sunshiney rain shower. Acting like they had never seen it rain before, Ella and Luke burst out of the house to dance and stomp in the downpour. I danced and stomped with them. There's just something happy about playing in the summer rain.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Day 19 - Something beginning with 's'

Ella's Fingerprint Snowmen, 2011
We have a lot of kid art in our house. A lot. They bring home things from school every day. They make things at home all the time. It's stacking up. Were I a hoarder, we would be buried alive under the kid art. Alas, I squished my hoarding tendencies during the Moving Years (i.e. college) because it's easier to move up and down three flights of stairs when you have less junk. Thus, I cannot keep all of the kid art.

I have a series of steps for stacking organizing it.

1. Each day I clean out their folders and put the art on the fridge in their designated artwork magnet clips. They like to see it and Luke likes to breathe life into his, chasing his sister with his letter B bumble bee or whatever. Sometimes Ella, nerd child that she is, needs to finish her work at home.

2. When the magnets start to fall off from the weight of it, I move the art to the shelf in the top of the hall closet where I keep their Keep Boxes.

3. When the pile on the top of the shelf starts to avalanche, I sort through it and throw away the things that I deem unworthy of saving and put the rest in the Keep Box.

4. Eventually, when the lid stops fitting on the Keep Box, I'll sort again and throw away more things unworthy of saving.

It has to be a process because it's hard for me to throw away their work. They are so proud of it, even Luke, who has so much help with his right now. He's so proud that he tells me, "I made a [insert letter of the week craft here]! Ms. Tristie help me!" (His teacher's name is Kristie. He can't say the "k" sound yet.) So, I drag it out in multiple steps, knowing that it's easier to throw away glued bits of paper and paint blots that are unicorns when some time has passed from the making of them.

In the end, I know I'll only keep the things that have their hand or footprints on them, or their very own handwriting. I'll keep the things that mark their development and remind me of their innocence.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Day 18 - Makes you feel merry.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra

Nothing makes me feel merrier during the holiday season than electric guitar mixed up with my Christmas carols. 

I've been a Trans-Siberian Orchestra fan for a long time, and, unsatisfied with the frequency that Birmingham's Christmas Station plays their music, I've owned their CDs (yes, people still use CDs) for a few years. Except for the occasional request from Ella to listen to Wizards of Winter in the middle of the summer, I limit myself to listening to them during the holiday season. Until this year, I had never seen them live and I've been really, really wanting to.

In an act of redemption for the Great Garbage Can Debacle of 2010, and also as an act of love, Dave gave me tickets for my birthday this year. It was amazing. Feeling the music vibrating through the soles of my feet and straight to the middle of my chest made me giddy with the love of it.

I've always loved loud music, and I find that I turn to the loudest of music when my heart and mind need scrubbing. Somehow the drums and the guitars help me process the chaos and ugliness that gets caught up there so that I can let it go. I think that's why I love TSO so much. It's loud enough to chase away the end-of-year soul mold while also celebrating a season that I find refreshing.

You can keep your Jingle Bell Rock, just give me O Come All Ye Faithful on the the electric guitar.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Day 17 - On the floor.

There are lots of things on our floors at any given time of the day. We can't seem to not have things on the floor. Sometimes it makes me batty and I start to kick the things (mostly the 10 pairs of little shoes that never seem to make it past the threshhold of the front door), but most of the time I just let it go knowing that eventually it will get picked up. Sometimes I do the picking up (when I get to the kicking point) and sometimes the mess magically disappears without me even having to request it. That's what I like best, when they come along behind themselves and put things away just because it's nice to be able to find what we need - and they both do this fairly often. Except for shoes, of course.

The best things that get on our floors are our very own selves. We play and play in the floor - games, puzzles, Barbies, trains, cars, ball, Mommy Mule, Goody-Hog, and most recently, Don't Wake the Daddy Bear. Dave started it (thus, the Daddy Bear) but we all play. Ella is Sister Bear, Luke is Baby Bear, and I am Mommy Bear. Basically, we pretend to be asleep and wake each other up by sneaking up and yelling or patting. It's loud and rowdy, and you might get an actual slap upside the head when Luke gets caught up in the moment, but they love it and they are terribly cute when they fall out on the floor and pretend to snore. Even Georgia plays with us; we call her the Doggy Bear.

Daddy Bear and Baby Bear Sleeping.
Not really, but aren't they convincing?
 Luke is the best pretend sleeper I've ever seen.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Day 16 - Something you made.

After marinating on it for a year and a half, I finally painted this to hang above our fireplace. It has some imperfections, but so does its creator. I love it anyway.

Ropers, established 2004.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Day 15 - Outdoors

This pile of blanket sits right outside our front door all winter to accomodate our cat, Gypsy. Buried under it is the two-holed, carpet-covered cat tower I bought when we made the cats permanent outside residents two years ago. Gypsy has always occupied the bottom level. I assume Jewel used the top hole when it was really cold, but I mostly saw her lying on top of it.

Over the summer, we tried to relocate it to the back porch, but Gypsy was having none of it. She ignored it all summer, preferring to sleep in the flower pot on the front porch instead. Apparently, she is a front porch cat. It makes sense; that's where we come and go the most and she likes to be with us. When it started getting cold this year, I decided to bring the cat tower back to the front porch because I was worried about her and I couldn't get her to go in it on the back porch. I put it right back where it was before and put a clean towel in her hole. That wasn't enough. So I added one of those pocket hand warmers that stays warm for 10 hours and some Kitten Cookies (she is nuts for Kitten Cookies) to coax her in. That did the trick. Since then, she either lies on top or hides in her hole.

She usually greets me at the door in the mornings to beg for breakfast when I let the dog out to potty,  but one morning this week, I didn't see her at all. It had gotten cold enough to frost, so I suspected she just hadn't come out of her warm hidey-hole yet. That's nothing short of a miracle since Georgia's 70 lb. Lab self barrels off the porch like she's been shot out of a cannon and knocks into the cat tower every time, sending Gypsy running out to see what the heck just happened. Maybe Georgia was more subdued by the cold this particular morning, too, because when I bent down to peek inside, Gypsy poked her little head out to squint and purr at me.
I regularly have to squelch the guilt of making her live outside, even though I know she can't live in the house because of Ella's allergies, and even though I'm so over the whole litter box situation I'll probably never have another indoor cat. But still, she has sweet gypsy eyes and she greets us so enthusiastically and she even loves the dog now that Jewel E. is gone.  Winter is the hardest because we aren't outside as much, but we try to love on her as we come and go, and I do let her come in the house to make a round through all the rooms occasionally. I think she might still be looking for Jewel because she never stays inside very long - just tours the house and goes out again.

She's my sweet, little, outdoor, Gypsy-cat.


Friday, December 14, 2012

Day 14 - Something green

I guess I'm a fairly green-minded person. I believe it is our responsibility to take care of the Earth and, frankly, wastefulness really bothers me. Also, I'm cheap. Because of these things, I firmly believe in Reduce-Reuse-Recycle. I'm not entirely green and I'm not entirely cheap, because I will pay for convenience, but I try to offset that in other ways. It's why we reused the old windows when we added on to the house. It's why we give away or donate furniture, dishes, toys, clothes, etc. when we purge and the reason I love a sack full of hand-me-downs or yard sale finds. It's why we don't regularly use paper plates and why we recycle.

Homemade Laundry Detergent  a-Cookin'

One of the greenest things I do, aside from the large recycling center in my car port, is make my own laundry detergent. I have used liquid detergent for a long time because I really hate it when the powder doesn't dissolve in the washer. Also, I really hated paying $9-$15 for the large bottle of detergent, knowing it's mostly water. (I buy large quantities of most things. It's cheaper that way.) When I realized that Pinterest could teach me how to make laundry detergent at home, and that I could make about 20 gallons for the price of a large bottle of Tide, well that's when I joined Pinterest.

My detergent is actually green in color because I use the green bars of Dove soap. I like the smell and I know that everyone in my house can bathe with it and not break out in itchy rashes. It isn't a very strong scent in terms of laundry detergent, but that's okay becuase I usually bought unscented detergent anyway (re: itchy rashes). I store it in gallon jugs, which I usually have in my recycling bins.

It works just as well as the store bought kind (or better, maybe), it smells like I like it, and it's very cheap.
And, now you know one more reason why my husband calls me a hippie.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Day 13 - Lights


This is what my drive home looks like when Daylight Savings Time ends. Most people probably hate their commutes, but I really don't. There are times when it's very inconvenient, mainly at 5 a.m. when the alarm goes off and if I stay late at work and feel rushed to get home, but the actual drive doesn't bother me.

In the mornings, it's the calm after the whirlwind of getting the kids out of the house and my time to drink coffee and laugh at inappropriate things on the Ace and TJ Show. In the evenings, it's when I listen to whatever strikes my fancy and catch up with Dave before the evening chaos starts.  I generally appreciate the commute.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Day 12 - Hat

We love a good hat.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Day 11 - Sweet

Red Velvet Birthday Cake

This was my first birthday cake of the year. Jan made it for me Friday. I also had a plate of birthday churros when my work friend took me to lunch yesterday, and Rebecca surprised me with a salted caramel frosted chocolate cupcake yesterday afternon. I think there will be one more cake this week, and then on to Christmas candy goodness. It's no wonder that I'm usualy ready to eat nothing but salad once January gets here.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Day 10 - Under

This is how I find Ella when I wake her up in the mornings. She has always loved to bury herself under the blankets. That little pink bear face belongs to Emily, the bear she built in Gatlinburg. Emily has an official title and a very important job: Bumble Bee Snapper. She protects Ella from the bumble bees that buzz her while she's sleeping.

Ella's Nest

My child has an irrational fear of bees. She also has a history of vivid, anxiety producing dreams about things getting in her bed with her. The latest is bumble bees. One night last week, she woke me up telling me, "The bumble bee buzzing sounds just distract-es me while I'm sweeping." I made her use the bathroom, because a full bladder makes the dreams even worse, and tucked her back into the bed with Emily. I told her that Emily likes to snap bumble bees and she would protect her until morning. The next morning when I asked if any more bees bothered her, she said, "No, Emily just ate them all." Now she gets tucked in beside Ella with her own special blanket every night.

You can't see her, but on the side next to the wall, the baby Maggie Beth is sleeping. She also has her own blankets to sleep in under the big blanket. Getting the three of them situated for bed every night is no quick task.

Then morning comes and we start the process of getting them out of bed. Unless it's the weekend, they don't like to get up. It's quite a process. This is the intermediate step: wallowing on the rug with Sniffy, the pink, shiny blanket (who also gets tucked into bed with her).

"I'm up!" she insists. I disagree.
Eventually, she does get dressed, usually while I'm loading up the car to leave.

And, that picture of her on the rug with Sniffy threw me into a time warp because it reminded me of this picture.
3 month-old Ella hiding from the morning light.

That's her, buried under Sniffy (pre-naming) when she was still sleeping in the co-sleeper beside my bed. She pulled the blankets over her head when I turned on the light to wake her up. She's much bigger now, but some things never change.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Day 9 - Out + About

On the way to Sunday School.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Day 8 - Someone you love.


And Him.
More than words.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Day 7 - Stars

Japanese Red Maple leaves on ivy.

Littlefoot: Have you ever seen the Great Valley?
Littlefoot's Mother: No.
Littlefoot: Well, how do you know it's really there?
Littlefoot's Mother: Some things you see with your eyes, others you see with your heart.
Littlefoot: I don't understand, Mother.
Littlefoot's Mother: You will, my son. You will.
Japanese Red Maple leaves always remind me of the tree stars in The Land Before Time. These tree stars fell from the Japanese Red Maple at the entrance to my office building. That tree brings me a ridiculous amount of joy. It hangs over the walkway like an arch and I love to watch it change with the seasons. Right now it's red and the leaves are falling so it looks like God threw confetti all over the sidewalk.

P.S. It's been a really long time since I've watched The Land Before Time but I can still hear Littlefoot's mother's gentle voice in my head.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Day 6 - Where you live.

My Street, Early on a  Fall Morning
This is the street we live on. I love the view of it when I turn into our neighborhood. The sun rises at the end of it. It's the prettiest in the late Spring when the flowers are blooming and the world is green again.

I grew up in this neighborhood. We moved here when my dad and Jan got married in 1986. My sister and I used to spend weekends playing with my cousins in this neighborhood. Our sometimes-babysitter lived up the street. I spent several summers babysitting the little girls who lived behind us. My dad and his siblings grew up in this neighborhood, too. A lot of the people who lived here then still live here now.

It's in walking distance to the park, the elementary school, high school football field, and really, to everything in downtown Montevallo. Before we could drive, Rebecca and I used to walk or ride our bikes to the library or Subway or Serendipity (to spend my gift certificates on books!). We could walk to church now if we could get our show on the road early enough. Strolling around the neighborhood on a summer evening is like a mini-social hour. You can't do it if you are in a hurry because you have to stop and talk to everyone. Kids still play outside here. The neighbors keep up with each other and help when help is needed. I love our neighborhood.

Dave and I moved back here to start our family in 2006. Ella and Luke spend lots of their weekends playing with cousins because my cousins also moved back here. We live within a mile of both sets of my parents, two sets of cousins, and one of my aunts and uncles. I love that my kids are experiencing some of the things I did as a kid. I hope that we get to stay here so that the house they came home to from the hospital is the house they come home to for the holidays when they are grown.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Day 5 - Looking up

I struggled with this one. I couldn't decide if I should interpret it literally or figuratively. I couldn't get pictures of the literal things that came to mind and I didn't want to write about some of the figurative things. That left me flipping through the pictures on my phone for inspiration, and I found this.
Me and Luke
It's a horrible picture. It was dark and I was using the reverse camera on my iPhone in an attempt to capture Luke's expression when Mickey Mouse skated out at Disney on Ice. This is it. He was shockingly stoic. I really expected a big reaction, but this is all there was. He basically stayed in this position, with this expression on his face for the entire first half of the show. He was completely engrossed.

He loved it so much that he is still talking about it a month later. He still pretends to skate on our hardwood floors and he walks around saying, "Tick-tock, tick-tock," pretending to be the crocodile from Peter Pan (which was his favorite part). During his second blessing at supper the other night (he usually says three or four), he said, "Thank you Jesus, Mickey Mouse state (skate)..." and some other things we've done recently. He just started saying real prayers (meaning, not the kid ones we teach them in order to establish the habit) and he's obviously following my model of thanking God for the things we did each day. Putting him to bed at night has become an excellent prayer time for me because he insists that I pray continuously until he falls asleep. He likes to hear his day in review but he usually falls asleep when I get to the parts that are my prayers for him. That's okay, I just keep praying out loud until I'm finished.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Day 4 - Black + White

I chose the black and white words of my Bible for day four. 'Tis the season to remember that I celebrate more than the winter solstice and fictional characters in December; I also celebrate the birth of my Savior.

I've written about Christmas before, so if you've been reading here for a while, you already know how I love this season.

If you have never read the story from the Bible, or it confuses you because it's written across two books, I'll link you to it in sequential order. Watch for their humanity as you read it. They weren't just Bible characters, they were actual people living in an actual world.

An Angel Visits Joseph (Matthew 1:18-25)
The Birth (Luke 2: 1-20)
Visit from the Wise Men (Matthew 2:1-12)

As for this year's update on the more secular side of the holiday, Ella has been continuously interrogating me about Santa - when he comes, if he fills the stockings, what he will bring, etc. I have continuously responded with "Hmmm" and "What do you think?" She has a lot of ideas. I'm treading carefully. I see this as our first real experience of reconciling what the world tells her with what our family believes. There will be so many more complicated topics than Santa, so we might as well start practicing now. 

Monday, December 03, 2012

Day 3 - Something you held.

It's been a while, but this is something I held.  
Sweet Georgia Brown

Eight years ago, she looked like this.

It's hard to remember her at this size.
I held her all the way home from the breeder's house. She was nervous and shaking, she even peed on my leg, and it seemed like the longest ride ever. That was before I knew what I know now - about how many Labs need rescuing from shelters and about long car rides. She was my kid before I had skin kids, and though our pack order changed when Ella was born, I still love her like she's my kid. When she's hurt, I worry. When she drops her ball on my foot over and over again in her version of "Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom!", I'm annoyed. When she cuddles up to me and snorts, I cuddle her back. When I forget to check her water bowl and she lets me know it's dry, I feel so guilty. When she looks at me with soulful eyes, my heart breaks just a little for what I know is in her future.

Though we've entertained the idea of adding another dog to the family in the past, we realized early that she is a one-dog dog and respected that. She has such a submissive personality that living with another dog would be too stressful for her, but that submissiveness makes her perfect for little kids. There won't be another dog in our house until she's gone.

She's a good dog; she's my dog, and I held her when she was a baby.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Day 2 - Peace

I've found that peace comes in different forms and means different things to different people. Peace of mind, a peaceful spirit, peaceful surroundings, world peace, psychedelic 1970's peace - you get the idea.

For today's photo, I opted for the kind of peace I like to enjoy on a Sunday evening.

Yep, a clean laundry room. It means that not only is the laundry clean, but it's also folded and put away. We don't acheive this every week, but when we do, one little compartment in my mind is peaceful. It's like my soul sighs with relief that one thing is finished. I don't have to worry about making sure anyone has enough white t-shirts or underwear of if the leotard is clean on Wednesday. And, we don't have to rob the clothes basket all week for things that aren't in our dressers. Because let's face it, if the clothes don't get put away by Sunday evening, it's probably not going to happen until the next weekend. And that just makes me feel even more overwhelmed when the next weekend gets here.

So, peace is when the laundry is all done - even if it only lasts until the next bath.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Day 1 - 8 o'clock

Our Saturday morning 8 o'clock usually looks like this. Today, we happened to be at Breakfast with Santa, but usually it's my kitchen table that's in wreckage by the 8 o'clock hour. The monkeys get up with the sun, no matter what time they went to bed the night before, so we've usually had plenty of mess by 8 a.m.

This year, they both went willingly to sit with Santa for a picture. Ella was motivated by telling him her Christmas list, which she has prioritized by order of importance.

Ella's Christmas List
1. Barbie House
2. Barbie Car
3. Soap
4. Gum
5. Tattoos

Luke was just excited about the pancakes.