Thursday, December 30, 2010

Into Year One...

I find the week between Christmas and New Years to be one focused on moving forward: Christmas decorations are collected and put away (not that that's happened here yet); resolutions are schemed; plans, big and small, are made for ringing in the year to be. In the past week, shelves have materialized in the basement closet (thank you, Jason and Brandon), two boxes and three bags of much-loved items have been dropped off to Goodwill to find new homes (again, thank you, Jason), and a second large cardboard box is beginning to fill with dated documents to shred. While it's been a week with few plans on the calendar, the days have felt full with these little tasks of moving forward and creating a space of less clutter and more simplicity for the coming year. But, no matter how important the task, one must abandon it every once in a while, go outside, and take a break to visit the now.

Today, we took a trip to the Indianapolis Art Museum so we could all get a little up-close-and-personal with this year of one we're embarking on with Nate. Jason is blessed with an employer who gives their workers this week off every year, so he was able to tag along on our art museum gardens trip for the first time. (His hand was in the first photo keeping Nate steady for those of you worrying about that balancing act). Ironically, even as we took some time to just be in the presence of one another and the art and environment around us, I looked at the pictures to find that we had documented ourselves moving on. Luckily, I turned around to find some things never change.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christmas Future

Before we close the door on the Christmas festivities of this year and move on to the projects and celebrations of the year to come, I wanted to note a few projects, recipes, and ideas that have me inspired for Christmas future. These things didn't fit into our holiday plans (or skill sets, in some cases) this year, but perhaps, a Christmas soon:

This Christmas tree garland made by Stephanie at 3191 Miles Apart is simple and sweet, and one I think Audrey could help me make once she masters scissors. It also doesn't hurt that it's lightweight and unbreakable, considering we're going to have little feet running circles around our trees for several years.

Another project that might take a year or two for us to develop the necessary small motor skills to accomplish is Geninne's Bird Ornament. I think Audrey would love having a few of these little guys perched in a future tree.

As we embark on each new year of "family life" together, with each new addition, adventure, or interest that we welcome, one thought (and one goal) seems to constantly call to me: simplify. I pray for simplicity, I meditate on it, I read books about it, and I seek ways incorporate it into our days so that the little things that matter so much don't get buried by the whirlwind of busy knocking on our door each morning. While this idea would take some work on the front-end, I love the simplicity it would afford us later. Amanda at Soule Mama posted instructions for making Fabric Gift Bags - bags that get used year after year for the gifts under your tree. I have a stash of gift wrap that was given to me for free several years ago. I'm still making my way through the stash. But, I love the idea of tossing gifts into cloth bags and tying the attached ribbons tight around them - no wrapping. No paper to clean up and recycle after, just fold the cloth bags up, store them, and pull them out the next year. Simple. Love it.

Of course, no holiday would be complete without food to fill the stomach and warm the soul. I found two recipes this year that I would love to try sometime. The first, Overnight Caramel Pecan Rolls, say they can be made in the bread machine. My vision goes a little like this: the bread machine does the work for me Christmas Eve, I tuck the raised doughy rolls into the fridge for a good night's sleep, then pop them in the oven Christmas morning to cook as the kids open their gifts. Right around the time they open their last presents, smells of cinnamon and caramel flood the kitchen signaling breakfast. It's almost like Santa brought them, himself.

The second, posted by Christina at Soul Aperture, is for cinnamon honey butter. It seems to me, if you're going to eat warm bread with a little something special on top, what better time than Christmas?

That's it for this year's future Christmas inspiration list. I made a similar list last year. And, while I completely forgot about the list until well into the Christmas season, we did manage to try out something on the list for our Christmas this year. So here's to hoping some of these ideas will be revisited next December, or sooner.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Mama-mades

A few mama-made gifts managed to make their way from the knitting needles and sewing machine to the tree skirt this year in time for Christmas. The first (knit balls) found their way on my knitting needles early this year, accompanying my summer rides in the passenger seat (Nate even tried to get in on the knitting action, playing with the stray yarn yet to be woven in). I used the "Baby's First Ball" pattern in Melanie Falick and Kristin Nicholas' Knitting for Baby. I made sets of three balls for the littlest ones on our Christmas list.

The last of the balls were finished up during Audrey's costume changes as she performed shows this December. This was my first experience with the felting process (each ball was felted after being knit in order to close up any holes between the knit stitches - felting involves washing the knit item in hot water, causing the wool to shrink together). All three sets were made using yarn from Debbie Stoller's Stitch Nation collection. Jason was as eager to try these out as Nate, mentioning that they would be perfect for teaching our little guy some indoor baseball skills with no fear of broken windows.

While perusing a Pottery Barn Kids catalog one night this November for inspiration, I decided that Audrey and my oldest nephew absolutely, without a doubt, must have pizzas to unwrap for Christmas. Felt pizzas. With toppings. Wrapped in actual pizza boxes (thank you Eric and Debbie for donating the perfect gift boxes!).

I made these pizzas up as I went, tracing a dinner plate to get the right size for the pizza, playing around with crust until I found a method that worked for me, and free handing the toppings. The toppings include pepperoni (which Audrey refers to as tomatoes since we don't typically order pepperoni on our pizza), green peppers, mushrooms, and little white ovals of mozzarella cheese. The pizza has been a hit. What I didn't anticipate was the extra mileage the toppings would get as they become featured in other dishes Audrey concocts in her play kitchen, most notably soups stirred in some new wooden pots that Santa dropped off.

I love so many things about mama-made gifts. I love the creative process that begins with my idea and transfers to my kids' as they come up with ways to use the toys that I hadn't imagined. I love that I can work on them at home (or even book club), still spending time with those I care about rather than at a store by myself. I get an extra boost of accomplishment when I finish a project and cross a name off of my "to shop for" list. And, working on a project always seems to spark ideas for future projects, getting me excited about the next season or celebration. Ideas are already brewing for next year. Soon, after tackling a few organizational projects, I might just have to start a journal - a gift journal to keep track of my ideas for 2011. Oh, and did I mention Santa tucked a sweet new knitting book under my tree this year? Yes, I foresee a 2011 full of mama-made.

Monday, December 27, 2010

A Few More Christmas Notes

I thought of a few more things about Christmas this year - those behaviors or words that become seasonal habits. They make us smile each time they occur and then are forgotten until the next time. Since this season is quickly passing on, and new habits will surely form and these will be long forgotten and outgrown by next year, I wanted to write a few down before they slip away.

The Audrey-isms of Christmas 2010:

Audrey's Christmas List (as dictated by her father):

1. Trumpet or something loud
2. Puzzles
3. Balls
4. A car (to replace a Santa car that was left on the floor and, ahem, stepped on)
5. Kitchen food, plates, and cups (for her play kitchen)
6. Pass to the zoo
7. New pajamas - fuzzy and purple
8. Crayons
9. More legos
10. Movies

(Santa did not bring a trumpet. This has been mentioned several times since Christmas).

While Audrey's favorite songs to listen to this season have been Frosty the Snowman and The Chipmunk Song, her favorite song to sing has been Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer. Her version goes a little like this:

"...then one froggy Christmas Eve, Santa came to say, 'Rudolph with your nose so bright, won't you guide my sleigh tonight?' Then how the reindeer loved him, as they shouted off with glee..."

She's also a big fan of the wise men, whom she refers to as the "present-ers". I'm hoping that next year she'll provide us with a few presents herself in the way of more Audrey-isms. Until then, we'll daydream about froggy Christmas Eves to come.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

For Posterity's Sake: Week in Review 101

It's time for our regularly scheduled Week in Review. However, holidays being what they are (most notably, time to make as few lists as possible while spending the hours with loved ones and as many cups of hot chocolate as you can handle) I have only one anecdote written down to share:

Sunday, while gathered at the table, Audrey told Jason, "You're the biggest daddy in the whole world because you can lift the couch all by yourself with mommy's help."

Just how does a super daddy and his sidekick couch-lifting mama and commentating children spend their holiday? Here's a short holiday recap, Christmas in Review 2010:

We decided to go simple and rustic with the tree this year - a lot of paper, a lot of clay, and one handmade star, because Audrey asked for one. We tied some twigs together in a star shape and added a little glitter for some extra sparkle when the lights were on.

We also found a way to use those acorns Audrey collected at the art museum. A dab of glue, a shake of glitter, and string of ribbon, and they felt right at home on our tree.

Our oldest elf wanted to lend her hands to Christmas card production this year, so a few handfuls of cards made their way to mailboxes in time for Santa's big day.

Audrey wanted to include angels on the cards this year. She cut them out with a special hole punch before covering them with glitter (yes, it was a big year for glitter).

Our traditional Christmas Eve pancake dinner featured pancakes shaped like snowmen and pine trees. Nathan ate 5. The rest of us got 4 a piece. Next year, we'll make more. (Audrey selected the silverware. She was attempting to be festive by giving the adults children's forks with green and red handles).

We kept our cookie adventures simple on Christmas Eve with one batch of chocolate chip. Audrey thought our plate for Santa should also include one of Grammy's brownies and a carrot for Rudolph. She insisted we leave a note for Santa so he wouldn't think the carrot was for him and eat it by mistake.

Of course, there are other snapshots - those saved on our SD card and those saved only in our memories. Each child's reaction to their favorite gift, moments of play between young cousins, the youngest ones in our family contending with the likes of wrapping paper (or seeing snow) for the first time. All of these moments stacking up to build the story of a family, one Christmas at a time.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

To Nate, at One

Before you, I felt sorry for those born in December - their birthdays tossed in with Christmas celebrations, their presents all wrapped in red and green. But as you grow, unwrapping yourself to us a piece at a time, I realize that you could not have been born at any other time. You are like the Christmas tree, signaling that I am no ordinary creation, something special is about to happen here. Be patient. Wait. See. You beckon us with your light, warming us with the joy you naturally exude. We are captivated, caught up in your spirit, the spark of your laughter, the energy of your hands. It is our gift to watch you grow. Our ordinary days, our Decembers, and our lives are brighter simply because you joined us one winter day, not that long ago. Happy Birthday, baby.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Oh My, With Peppermint on Top

As a kid, I spent many December hours making candy with my family: caramels, buckeyes, chocolate pizzas, and peppermint bark. While my parents did most of the heavy lifting (constantly stirring the caramels and instructing us on what step came next) my sisters and I did our parts: wrapping the caramels, adding nuts to some, sprinkling toppings on, or whatever odd job we were assigned according to our skill level or age.

Today, some of those memories (and scents) came back as we brought Audrey into the kitchen for our own candy adventure. Last year, I took note of a recipe that sounded good, but that we had no time to squeeze into our baby-could-be-born-any-minute schedule. I was just reminded of the recipe this week, and four seemed like the perfect age to include Audrey into the peppermint-smashing, chocolate-dipping, finger-licking exercise of family candy making. The recipe was Three-Layer Peppermint Bark posted on the Orangette blog. I had seen this recipe referenced on more than one blog, so I expected it to be good, but oh my. You know how they say, you are what you eat? Well, there are days when I could be a chocolate truffle. This peppermint bark? It's part peppermint bark, part truffle. Part crisp white chocolate, part crunchy peppermint candy, and part chocolate ganache. And, um, slightly reminiscent of an Andes mint. We're big fans.

We decided to encore our peppermint bark with some chocolate covered pretzels, which Audrey doesn't want to stop eating. And, Jason found a way to take our candy making one step further. He crushed up some extra peppermint candies and put them in an empty spice container. He sprinkled a few of the chocolate-covered pretzels and saved the rest to pour into hot chocolate. I have a feeling it's going to be a sweet Christmas.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

For Posterity's Sake: Week in Review 100

Tucked under this roof is a little blond stuffed to the gills with holiday spirit. She begins each day with the same announcement, "Today is a decorating day." For her, the holidays are a month-long opportunity for creativity and whimsy and feasting on cookies. And, if she had her druthers, I imagine she would spend the month living in a life-sized gingerbread house (or at the least, turning ours into one). It's good to be four.

The much older brunette in the house has been known to get caught up in another type of holiday spirit - the kind that involves marking off the days on the calendar; counting the ones left by the amount of time spent waiting in lines, wrapping gifts, or driving in a car; and generally worrying about how to get everything done. You know, the grumpy kind.

But a funny thing has happened this year. The season will have to get along worrying for itself, it seems I'm all booked up. Right around the time the frenzied holiday worrying really kicks in, Nathan (as Jason so aptly put it) became fluent in walking, covering the distance of a room, making a u-turn and walking back, exploring behind the Christmas tree, and sneaking through the baby gate when his sister doesn't get it closed fast enough (followed by a mad dash for the stairs). In short, he's having the time of his life. At this same time, Audrey began putting on "shows" - shows that require audiences and frequent costume changes to include every outfit in her dress-up suitcase. With these new family endeavors (not to mention a little someone's birthday fast-approaching) demanding the focus of our attention (although, the costume changes in which Audrey insists I not look have carved out quite a niche for mama's knitting), December is beginning to feel like any other month - with the odd addition of a Christmas tree in our family room and lights and garland snaking their way up the banister. The worrying and slow-building stack of gifts to wrap and cards to write and address will have to wait. There's a little boy doing laps around the kitchen table and, one never knows when the next show will begin.

There are also these, the moments of the week:

On Monday, Audrey was playing with a doll who happened to be wearing an apron with pencil markings on it. She told me she had written on the doll's apron.

"Oh, what did you write?" I asked.

"I appreciate this girl and love her so much I gave her a hug and a kiss."

(It's hard to advise a child against performing graffiti when those are the messages she "writes").

Tuesday afternoon Audrey was winding the backdoor curtain into a rope and trying to swing on it while pretending it was the long hand of a clock.

"Audrey, please stop," I said. "That's going to break if you keep doing that and I made that curtain, so I'll be sad if it breaks."

She dropped the curtain and picked up a stray plastic bat, which she began beating against the floor.

"Audrey, stop. You're going to hurt the floor."

"Did you make the floor?"

That evening at dinner she told Jason she wanted to be a doctor, a mommy, and an artist. Jason told her that if she was an artist and a mommy, she could be like me.

"Mom could be an artist some day when she grows up," she said.

We have a rule in our house about screaming or uncontrollable crying. If someone needs to do it (read: Audrey), that's fine, but they need to go to their room or the basement so the rest of us can keep our hearing intact. Friday morning, Nate began crying loudly, which caused Emmy to begin howling, and lead Audrey to say to the both of them, "If you guys are going to keep doing that, you need to go to the basement."

That afternoon, while coloring, Audrey told me, "my crayon almost broke."

"Oh no."

"Why did you say 'oh no?'" she asked. "That's nothing to worry about."

Besides fine-tuning his walking abilities, Nathan has also been honing his vocal skills. My favorite new addition to our daily routines is the introduction of the "da-da" song. When he has a full tummy, has embarked on a successful exploring mission, or throws his hands up in a triumphant "touchdown" sign, Nate begins to sing a song made up of one word, "da-da." It's a simple song. It's a happy song. And, while Jason isn't always here when Nathan sings it, every evening when they hear the garage door go up, Nate and Emmy race to the door, vying for the spot closest to where Jason will walk in (meanwhile, Audrey runs to hide, informing me each time not to tell Jason where she is, beginning our first game of hide 'n seek for the evening). I understand this song and dance. Da-da is my happy song, too.

These being the moments that make up the songs and celebrations of our every day, I'm not going to worry about my list of things undone, the scattered and now-disheveled ornaments I keep tripping over, or fast-approaching immovable deadlines. These are nothing more than broken crayons, and we all know that's nothing to worry about.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Moments of Slow

Sometimes, I think back to the time I instinctively knew how to eat slow - a time before grade school and thirty minute lunch breaks, fifteen of which were spent in line. I remember summer and how I whittled away the time - time being the true gift of summer. Occasionally, I would tuck myself behind the two-story dollhouse made by my father. It sat in the corner of our living room, centered between the light of two windows (one near each corner of the perpendicular angle of the house). During the day, the sun marked time on our living room floor, sunbeams heating the carpet were I would curl myself around a book and a bowl of apples. Those were afternoons of time for slice upon slice and page turn after page turn, afternoons where no one rushed you to "get on with it" because, somewhere, a bell was about to chime.

Here we are, decades later, during the season of chiming bells. While there is much to do, this year I am attempting to not get swept up in too much sound and fury, to remember that instinct for slow. So we're taking our cue from the blanket of snow outside our backdoor and remembering that the land lying fallow serves the purpose to nourish, enrich, and prepare for the year to come.

A few ways we've incorporated a bit of slow into our week:

Spending a snowed in morning trying out a new recipe - this week, the Buckwheat Crepes from Lisa Barnes' Cooking for Baby. Nathan thought these were fantastic with blackberry jam. Audrey was not so sold, but had I filled them with strawberries and whipped cream, I imagine the outcome would be different. I couldn't help but be taken back to summers and sleepovers of my youth, when after spending the night in sleeping bags in her outdoor clubhouse, my friend Lauren would whip up a batch of crepes (always from memory) that we stuffed with strawberries and whipped cream. Each time she served them with a side of cheesy scrambled eggs that she cooked in the microwave. Some foods, no matter how many times you eat them (or how young the chef) always feel special.

Changing up the routine. This December, when we run across a "slow" day with nowhere to be and a short to-do list, I move bath time to the afternoon and toss both babes in for some extended water play (I figure this is the one time of year I can do this without worrying that Audrey is going to run outside and cover herself in garden dirt as soon as we're finished). This serves several purposes. The kids, who normally have separate bath times, think it's a special treat. Since I'm not worried about making an eight 'o clock bedtime, they can play as long as they want. In the evening, when Jason is home, we have the gift of some extra family time, which is perfect for those nights we have a little decorating or game-playing or seasonal merry-making to do that shouldn't be rushed. And, for a few minutes, as splashing water and laughter fill the air, it feels just a bit like the days of summer.

Taking a few minutes to enjoy the best small pleasures of the season. Even at times when I should be wrapping gifts or baking cookies or shoveling the drive. There are always five minutes for a cup of hot chocolate. Besides, my kids don't care what the gifts are wrapped in, and one day, I won't remember, either.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

When You Take a Box to Dinner...

Some actions are ordinary: you go shopping on a Monday; you select a gift and ask the store clerk if he can put it in a box; you wrap yourself in the coats or scarves of the season and go out for dinner, box in hand. You go about the daily routine of nourishing: feeding your body with food, your soul with company, your mind with shared ideas. You partake in the gifts of the ordinary day.

But some actions are not ordinary: you go shopping on a Monday, yet-to-be-seen ultrasound picture secured in an envelope in your purse; you pick out two gender-specific articles of clothing, hand them with the envelope to the store clerk (along with a small wad of cash), and ask if he would mind putting the outfit that corresponds with the ultrasound results in a box while you leave the store; you wrap yourself in the coats or scarves of the season and (with your spouse) take a box out to dinner. Before you've deliberated for even five minutes about when you should open the box (you've been known to hold out until dessert or at least until the pause between appetizer and main course), you pull off the ribbon and peer inside before any food has arrived. You go about the daily routine of nourishing yourself: feeding your body (and the body of a little one in the making) with food, your soul with thoughts of the company to come, your mind with shared ideas of dreams that have yet to be. You nourish your heart (and smile when you break open your fortune cookie to reveal the Chinese word for "family" printed on one side). You partake in the extraordinary gifts of an ordinary day. It's a boy!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

For Posterity's Sake: Week in Review 99

This little space has been quiet for a few days. As much as it tends to feed me: as a holding space for the things I want to remember; as a connection point; and a place to ground myself in the facts of the day, this is December. December walks a bit differently than the other months of the year. It moves as a force of weather and spirit and anticipation. It covers, like snow, making these thirty-one days unrecognizable from the other 334 of the year. No matter how much one loves the season, sometimes it covers you. I'm trying to stay on top of the snow (and the season) this month by changing my perspective. I'm finding that sometimes the best way to make the season brighter (read: less stressful) is to change the way you wear the season. (You know, try that mix-matched pair of gloves on your feet.) It's not that we're doing much less this year, we're just trying a new approach. I'm attempting to make several of our gifts (mostly for the little loves in our lives). Most of these projects come out of hiding after the kids have gone to bed, created piece by piece while snuggled under blankets within the Christmas tree's glow, watching holiday movies. The majority of the gifts I'm not making have been purchased online, again while snuggled under a blanket on the couch or at the table with a cup of hot chocolate. Decorating has also been tackled piece by piece, making ornaments a few at a time, assembling the tree one week and the decorations for the staircase banister the next. I've taken help where I can and when it makes the most sense. Help's most frequent form is Audrey. So far, she's been enlisted to make Christmas tree decorations, cookie dough for a cookie exchange, and elements to go on the Christmas cards. I've spread those few precious hours of weekly free time around. The blog has taken a bit of a backseat some days as I focus on family and the events ahead, with my goal being to enjoy the season and the littlest moments that matter most. Moments like these:

Hide n' seek continues to play a frequent role in our house. As I began writing this post, Nate was playing peek-a-boo with me by darting out from behind the kitchen chair next to me, laughing at my surprised expression, then ducking for cover before repeating his performance. (This makes for very slow, but sweet, writing).

Sunday, Audrey was playing hide 'n seek with us. It was Jason's turn to hide. He had covered himself with couch cushions, accidentally leaving one knee exposed. Rather than "finding" him, when she ran across his bare knee, Audrey laughed and covered it with a pillow.

Wednesday morning I was making breakfast. Audrey asked if she could help. "Yes, but right now I'm doing the mama part." I said.
"What's the Audrey part?" she asked.

That afternoon, while en route to the library, she asked me playfully what color my eyes are.
"I don't know. Are they pink?" I asked.
"You're getting close."

Later, she asked if I would be her Mamaw when she was older. I explained that I would be her kids' Mamaw.
"You know what I'm going to name my kids?" she asked.
"No. What are you naming them?"
"If God gives me two kids, I'm naming them Harriet and Treelee."

Jason recently introduced Audrey to a song about Christmas cookies. She asked to hear it Wednesday night. The song explains how a man's wife makes and decorates Christmas cookies each year that he can't resist. Audrey sang along with the lyrics, "Sometimes she waits till I'm asleep and puts those little sprinkly things on top."
"She's kinda sneaky," she said.

Thursday morning, we arrived at Audrey's preschool to find her classroom door still closed. We were hanging up her backpack and removing her hat as it opened. Audrey took off running toward the door.
"Wait a minute," I said. She ran back so I could grab her coat, gave me a hug and kiss and sprinted for the door.
"Have a fun day!" she said tossing her hand back in the air toward me, as the other parents (lined up against the wall with their kids still attached to their legs) laughed.

Thursday afternoon she looked up from a nativity coloring book her class had made at school. "Mom, whose the dad? I don't remember. Moses?"

Friday morning, while attempting to leave the neighborhood for a meeting, we slid on some ice and the car slipped sideways.
"Wee!" Audrey said. "That was like skating or sledding!" (Luckily, the roads in our neighborhood always seem to be in the worse shape snow-removal-wise and the rest of our drive was rather uneventful).

When playing hide 'n seek, we use one little tool to help the seeker find a really good hider. If the seeker yells "Marco," the hider has to respond, "Polo." On Friday, Jason discovered that if he looks at Nate and says, "Marco," Nate will respond with a nonsensical two-syllable word.

Today, the snow has been falling steadily. We've all enjoyed the comfort of a warm house in different ways: Jason relaxing in front of a football game, me working on projects here and there, Audrey rearranging the Christmas tree again, and Nate attempting to taste the snow by putting his tongue against the kitchen window. This is a time of small moments, simple gestures, and the little things that make us cozy - all adding up to one big bright season.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Some Christmas Clay

Last year, we made salt dough ornaments. After giving some away as gift tags on our presents and losing others to play (Audrey likes to run around the house, clanging ornaments together), a small sampling have survived for this year's tree. After running across this post, we decided to try our hand at clay this season.

We used Fimo Air clay (it dries overnight, no baking) and a few tools: a rolling pin, wooden skewer (to poke holes for ribbon), cookie cutters, a bowl of water, and a butter knife that Audrey insisted on using to chop up her clay.

And, of course, our hands.

A project like this always highlights each participant's individual creativity. I made a wreath and star before segueing into another clay project (more on that later). Audrey was a fervent believer in the decorative abilities of the wooden skewer (the snowflake below with all the poke marks is hers) and then turned her attention to more abstract designs. Jason used his imagination and no cookie cutters to make a couple characters he thought Audrey might like for the tree (the snowman and Santa - referred to as the Santa gnome on an occasion or two - pictured at the bottom are his).

Sadly, Santa gnome didn't last long on the tree. He was a little too beloved and broke early as Audrey tried to take a lap around the house with him. The snowman has been moved to a higher branch for safer keeping (his ribbon is threaded through the top buttonhole, for those wondering).

Six messy hands, one fun evening, and a trayful of creative characters to add to the tree. Christmas is coming together.

Monday, December 6, 2010

It's Beginning to Feel A Lot Like...

This weekend played precursor for the season: cold outside, but warm inside. A flurry of white so dense the only colors are those you make or string from the treetops. The weather, and your breath, hanging in the air. The glow and warmth of everyday utilities seen (even by the littlest among us) for the luxuries they are. A splash of red to light up the season (these roses a surprise addition to my list when I sent Jason for a grocery run). And, learning again and again that laughter, lights, and even snow are all made brighter when shared with someone else.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

For Posterity's Sake: Week in Review 98

This weekend has been a bit about catching up, and (for the most part) staying in. Our week looked a bit more like a snow flurry: work meetings with new adventures on the horizon; busy nights; a little boy trying out his walking legs and fighting off a virus that left his eyes matted shut more mornings than not; two adults popping throat lozenges as if they were the peppermint candy of the season; one active girl who began each day by announcing that it was a "decorating day;" and one mama who has officially opened her Christmas gift sweatshop (employees: 1). It's one of those weeks that found me welcoming the weekend's first big snow and its tendency to draw everyone inside and underneath piles of blankets or the glow of the Christmas tree. And, welcoming a moment to reflect with a cup of hot cider and the moments of the week past:

On Sunday, I overheard Audrey tell Jason, "Daddy, I think I'm the greatest girl in the world. Because I'm so special."

Then, she came up to me. "Mom, I'm the greatest girl in the whole world."
"I've thought that for a while," I said.
"I still am," Audrey said.

During lunch, Audrey informed us that there are eleven little people living in her stomach (named the Donners) who get scared when she drinks juice and it falls down her stomach. They have a workshop where they make noodles, but they won't go into the room where they store their finished noodles because they are afraid of getting sauce on themselves. Apparently, when she dances, they dance. When she hangs upside down, they hang upside down.

On Monday, when I surprised her, she said, "You freak-ed me out!"

That night at dinner she took a drink of milk, followed by a dramatic pause. "Oh my! I hear the people in my stomach screaming." (We've had several reports since Sunday on how the people in her stomach are faring.)

Tuesday, she asked me to tell her a story about a banana bird going to visit his Mamaw and Papaw. "Okay, where does his Mamaw and Papaw live?

Wednesday, she said, "Mom, you're so smart because you know how to make things. You're so smart because you know how to make a scarf. And I'm smart anyways."

Audrey and Jason were playing hide 'n seek Saturday. It was Jason's turn to hide. He managed to squeeze between the couch and the wall. Audrey spent several minutes hunting, unsuccessfully. Meanwhile, Nate, crawling around the end table next to the couch, moved the window curtains to find his Dad hiding behind them. Shocked by the unexpected find, Nate began to laugh, so long and so loud that his sister finally had to come see what the big deal was.

We did manage to leave the house Saturday night to make a little excursion to see Santa and Mrs. Claus. I was relaying college football scores to Jason on the drive home. "Darn," he said, in response to some news about his alma mater.
"What'd you say, Dad?" Audrey asked. "I thought I heard you say something I'm not supposed to say."

I love waking up to the first big snow of the season and the sense of "hush" it creates across the neighborhood in those early moments before boots meet feet and sleds cut grooves through the smooth surface below. We needed just a bit of hush this weekend, just a bit of the magic of white lights reflected on whiter snow, and even a bit of a little blue sled carving its way through the backyard and the falling flakes. Just a bit.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Christmas in the Making

We've begun to trim the tree, a few ornaments at a time. With a little guy determined to walk before Christmas and a climber-extraordinaire eager to get her hands on anything we place in the tree's branches, we've decided to go simple with the ornaments this year. Think paper. Paper and other extremely light objects that won't shatter or knock anyone out on their way back to earth.

We got the idea for these ornaments from a picture in Pottery Barn Kids. Then, I found this craft tutorial, which taught us how to fold the paper. Several folds (and playful designs by the ornament artist) later, and we had a handful of ornaments to hang.


A few notes: Ours came undone in several places and had to be retaped a bit. We used cardstock and double-stick tape to make the ornaments. I think they would have stayed a bit better with some paper that wasn't quite so stiff or some stronger tape. To fix ours, I'm just going to use a bit more tape tucked over the tops of the folds.