Sunday, December 23, 2007

Yeah. Christmas Spirit!

Yesterday, the day after Ethan stayed home from school feeling low (capping the day off just before midnight with vomit on his pillow), the Christmas Spirit settled on our home. Our chaos in the living room ended. A beautiful moment at our house. The ceiling looks wonderful. All projects (until we start the next one) are complete. We put up the Christmas tree on Saturday morning. It was a fun time, and we were so ready for a little cheer.

We baked sugar cookies in the shapes of angels and gingerbread men and reindeer. I think some of them seem to taste a little like cardboard. My Christmas baking this year has all been quite jinxed. I have made Christmas nuts each Christmas for several years. This year they are still good, but just not the same. I think I didn't bake them quite long enough. Then I took on one of my favorites (and usually very easy), frosted pretzels. How can you mess those up? Well, I did. We finally scrapped the whole project. Again, I make those every year. They are simple and delicious. I overheated my almond bark. It carmelized. It was ugly. And I got grumpy. Not good. Then the sugar cookies...that is a new project for me. In the past it's been gingerbread men, but my kids usually abandon me and I end up decorating way too many little men. And I might add that decorating isn't my forte. And then to top it off, nobody really seems to like to eat them. They just like the idea of making them. So this year we tried sugar cookies. I like them better. But I don't know if I didn't refrigerate the dough long enough or what, but I had to add so much flour to be able to roll the dough out that the cookies lost some flavor. A lot of flavor. Tonight I was going to make chex mix, but John stopped me. I wonder why?

But back to the Spirit...the stockings are hung, Gertie has been making fast friends with Baby Jesus from the nativity sets, and she likes Jofes (or Joseph, as some of us with more developed language skills refer to him) too. John and I finished up some shopping this afternoon. I am so excited for the kids to see their gifts. I think in the interest of packing less, we're going to let them open several gifts in the morning before we hit the road. It will be Christmas Eve (morning). That's close enough, right? We never do that, but I've always wanted to have a Christmas at home, the kids waking up in their own beds to their own tree. Maybe this is my year...sort of.

We were planning on leaving on Saturday until we heard the weather wasn't looking too good, so we thought we'd bump it up to Friday, but then Ethan stayed home from school, so that wasn't going to work out. Today was so windy that we were concerned about blowing snow making icy patches on the interstate. Ever since we flipped our van that one year, we are a little skittish about driving in poor conditions like that. So we'll try again tomorrow. The weather is supposed to cooperate.

I think it's been a blessing, the delay. We've had a good time together. Ethan felt fine yesterday and today. We got to go to our own church this morning, and it was a very nice service. I love my church.

Oh, and John wrote our Christmas letter this year. That is a first. I'm going to work on stuffing envelopes in the car tomorrow. Unfortunately, it isn't a first that we mail our Christmas cards on the late side. Oh, well. That doesn't bug me all too much.

On a sad note, my Aunt Darlia passed away on Thursday. She was far too young. It was cancer. She had married my Uncle Joe the same year that John and I married, fifteen years ago. They made each other very happy and she had a lot of spunk. My heart aches about that.

And my step dad has to have open heart surgery on the 27th. It is fairly routine, so they aren't too concerned that the surgery is life threatening, but he's been through the ringer the last few years. And it's hard on my Mama too. I'll try to get up there to spend some time as he recuperates.

So, as it gets later and later, and I get more sentimental and more sentimental, I feel a heart overflowing with gratitude at the blessings in my life. I love my husband and children. I married into a great family. My sisters are my best friends. Jesus Christ came to Earth as a baby with a plan to save me (well, okay, you too). I am healthy. And so many things that happen to me every single day make me smile. I have joy. And I can't wait to see my little sister's baby's face.

So, Merry Christmas, all. This may be it for me, as I am about to enter the internet free zone for a stretch. God bless you.

Friday, December 21, 2007

oooooh, hideous

Did some of you say you thought my kids were cute? You should have seen them yesterday. They had these hideous faces that I just couldn't escape! (Except for Grace, she just can't seem to make herself all that hideous.)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Save Some Room

It is only one week until Christmas. I am feeling a little more in the spirit. We've made progress on our shopping, I got my package mailed off to my Dad and family...but I've still done no baking, and we have not one decoration up.

The big reason that we haven't decorated is that the living room is spread out about the house again due to the ceiling work. The beautiful good news is that it is going to be done on Friday. John and I painted yesterday and today in preparation for the crown molding to be installed this Friday.

Of course, we leave on Saturday morning for South Dakota to celebrate Christmas with John's mom, so there won't be much time to straighten things back up (but I'm certain I'll do it anyway because I am SO excited to see it all finished off and looking good).

This morning John and I went to Grace's orchestra concert. I felt foolish as I teared up watching her play her cello. She is just so different than I was at that age. She likes her own things and follows her own interests. And one of them is music. It is bewildering to me, but I'm so proud of her. She really enjoys it.

Ethan just walked in the door from school quite upset about an incident that occurred yesterday during math. He presented me with a letter he wrote that reads like this:

"Dear Mom and Dad,
I got in trouble for spraying another student. It is true. I did it. I'm sorry, I saw a spray bottle with water in it. We played with it and it got out of hand. If I went back in time I would have left it alone and done my math. I'm dissapointed to."

Ethan is in a more independent math with three other kids, so they are unsupervised most of the time. I think they usually do very well, but not today. Now he's been told he'll have to
return to his own class after he gets his math lesson assigned.

We gave him a thorough talking-to and John is preparing to give him a viscous snuggy.

These are some of our Christmas pictures this year. I love these kids so much. I told Ethan that on the way home from his piano lesson last night. I told him, "I love you so much that my heart feels like it's going to explode sometimes." He told me, "Save some room for Jesus and the rest of our family."

So I guess I will.

You ought to save some room too. Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 10, 2007

A Bit of This, A Bit of That

We had a fun Sunday with the church Christmas program. Grace was in the orchestra and it was tremendous. I loved every second of it. I am amazed at how much I enjoy orchestras and band concerts now. As a young person, and even as a young(er) adult I didn't particularly care for them. I was never in band or orchestra and didn't appreciate that type of music, particularly. Now, every time I see a parade or concert, I just eat it up. It makes me wonder if I'd like the opera or more symphony orchestra programs. I may need to check them out.

Anyway, back to Sunday. Ethan had a solo to sing, and he did a fine job. We were proud parents. Gertie remained quiet (enough) for us, as well as those around us, to enjoy the program.

Then we came home and got to see the Patriots beat the Steelers. We had a quiet afternoon, including, once again, naps for Gertie and I. I feel like I do a little too much sleeping, but it feels so good.

John pulled out the old Strat-O-Matic Football game and worked with Ethan all afternoon to create all the missing pieces. (He complained about it later, but I didn't believe he hated it even for a second.) He loves that game, and up until Playstation entered the picture, he would play himself every once in a while. Quite the challenge.

This is our busy night with Ethan going to piano, Grace to gymnastics and then Ethan to wrestling. There isn't time for a family meal together anywhere in there. I hate that. But John was talking about making stir fry. I love that.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

for grandparents' eyes only

This is a cute little video I took of Gertie the other day. We look at her often thinking she's our last baby, and we're so glad we did this again.

Okay. Maybe a bit long for those parties not involved in conceiving this child, but enjoy it for as long as you see fit.

I thought all you grandparents may enjoy seeing this essay Grace wrote for English and Social Studies. I liked it.

Grace Berke




Why I am an American Patriot

“Give me liberty or give me death”, quotes American Patriot Patrick Henry. I definitely consider myself an American patriot, not because I’m a New England fan (football), but because I love my country and would die for it. There’s just one problem: they don’t let eleven year-olds into the Army. So I’ve resorted to helping those who have joined.

In the first grade, we wrote letters to soldiers in Iraq, and in second grade, another classmate and I got our letters back. That letter touched me in ways I cannot explain. From then on, I’ve had a soft spot for soldiers and their families. A few years back, our church started watching kids at the National Guard while their parents supported each other, as they were going through hard times. I loved it when my mom said we could go. It was fun and I loved knowing that I was helping. It meant a lot to me, even though I was young.

In World War II, women were more common in the Army, not to fight necessarily, but as nurses. People started rationing rubber and other substances, and grew “victory gardens” so more canned products could go overseas to the soldiers. In the Revolutionary War, many patriotic merchants stopped selling tea altogether to support the war.

A Patriot has many qualities. They are responsible, respectful, mentally strong, and bold people that are quick to think and do the best that they can to help and support our country, and our world, and they’ve done a pretty good job too. I mean, if Thomas Jefferson wouldn’t have taken the time to write the Declaration of Independence, what would have happened? If Abe Lincoln would’ve just ignored the injustice of slavery, what would our world look like today? If Franklin Delano Roosevelt wouldn’t have sent us to Germany, or hadn’t helped with the Depression, what would it be like? Patriots are people who try to improve life for the people of their country. Without all these people, just think what life might be like for you and me.

So I guess I am an American patriot because I love my country and support those who do whatever they feel they can to make a difference, until someday I will have the opportunity to make a difference myself.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Cold Days

This morning I left the house in my pajamas, my coat, hat, mittens and boots. I needed to drive the kids to school. It is about 15 degrees outside. When I pull up to Ethan's school, I see all these little children bundled up, racing all over the playground. I am pondering what happens to us as we grow older (and maybe I should only speak for myself) that we become so hindered by the extreme cold or extreme heat? I can remember being a child and not caring if the water was ice cold, I couldn't wait to splash around in it. Now I dip a toe to determine if it's satisfactory for my entire body. And even then, I don't really love it unless it's an extremely hot day. And here is a mass of children just playing tag and sliding down slides as if it were the middle of summer. They don't care about the cold. I think there is something to be learned here.

And, on a different note, Ethan came home from wrestling last night having been awarded the wrestler of the week. He was so excited--is so excited. This morning he was telling me how he doesn't think anyone at school will get it. I guess he's the only wrestler in his class. I think they'll be happy for him just because he's happy, but he says they won't understand how hard he's worked for the last 5 (really it's only been 4) years. Do you think he's focused on a little glory for himself? I am still working on this with Ethan, but I'm proud of how hard he works at it.

We had a child care spending account this year through John's paycheck. We planned ahead because I knew I was going to work those three months full time. Anyway, I overestimated the amount I should have put in, and we now have about a hundred and fifty dollars left to spend. Now we are making arrangements to take Gertie to the sitter so we don't "waste our money". I just think it's interesting that we have created reasons to take her (and really there are things that need accomplishing. I am going to help John with his sabbatical project a bit, and this allows us to work together on it before I fall asleep in mid sentence after the kids go to bed.) I am not sure I'm getting this out right, but I sort of think either option is sort of a waste. It's like when I'm feeling full at dinner and there is still food on my plate, I stuff it in because I don't want to "waste" it. Is that really better? I don't think so. But, I guess I'll just get to spend some time with my husband, pretending like it's a date--and maybe we can squeeze one of those in there too.

The phone just rang, Grace forgot her cello book for her lesson. I'm still in my pajamas. Do I fully dress before I head out this time? I think so...

Monday, December 3, 2007

Let it Snow!

Well, it's awfully cold here in Minnesota these days. We had a couple inches of snow on Saturday and then an inch of ice on top of that. Ethan told me on the way to school today that he can skate on top of the snow. "Dad didn't believe me until I showed him."

This is Ethan at breakfast. Usually a couple frozen waffles and an egg, fried over hard with a broken yolk.

And here is my Gracie. She got contacts last week, and I'm guessing she's clocked upwards of 3 hours putting them in and taking them out. And by that, I don't mean she's messing with them all the time; I mean it takes her many, many, many tries to get them in or out. She is pleased to have them, though, and she's persistent. I know she'll get better. We go back tomorrow for a check on how they're working out. Maybe they'll have some tips for her.

I am not a primper. Unfortunately, I don't primp my girls nearly enough, either. Grace survived her young childhood fairly intact, but I know I could have done better. I know there were many summer days when I just didn't even comb her hair. I just don't like doing it. Not for myself and not for my kids either. This morning I took this picture of Gertie trying to capture her morning rat's nest.

I feel like I've never seen anything like the hair that she wakes up with. It adds a good 6 inches to the diameter of her head space. My sister Julie says she remembers Grace's hair being like this. I must have erased that from my memory, along with all other bits of unpleasant parenting experiences. Anyway, this morning I gave Gertie a bath and had the time to fix her up a little. This means that I combed her hair. I started to think about it, and I hate to admit (but I feel like public confession is good for accountability) that I haven't EVER done that before. It isn't as bad as it sounds (I hope) because she's got this curly hair, so it doesn't look like it needs it so much. Well, needless to say, it was a bit on the ratty side, but she sat still and seemed to enjoy the whole thing. She's just begging for a little primping. I promise to try to work it in a little more often. Here is the end result:

Well, I can't seem to get in the Christmas mood so far this year. I knew that this last weekend would have been the best weekend to decorate, but I just didn't want to do it yet. Really, I don't feel like doing it at all. Seasonal decorating always feels more like work to me than fun. I know the kids love to get the boxes out and dig out their favorites, and I do feel badly that I'm not too excited to do it. Maybe we'll have to get it done this weekend and that will put me in the mood I'm looking for. I don't think I am Scroogy about Christmas in general; I do love Christmas. It's just that so far I don't feel like baking or buying gifts or getting cards out.

Okay. That does sound Scroogy. I'll work on that. I don't feel like that's like me.