Saturday, December 18, 2010

Cookie Decorating Day

Today was the day to decorate Christmas cookies, always a fun day. I cut out and bake the cookies some other day so when it's time for frosting we can focus on frosting! Everyone helps out, except Daddy. Daddy won't wield a knife himself, but he hovers around offering encouragement and criticism where needed (as he defines need, of course).
I think I could title this photo, "Focus."

Always lots of laughter and many sticky smiles for this annual family event!
I'm happy to say that for the first time, I was easily able to give up control of the cookie decorating and allow the kids to make whatever hideous color combinations they wanted to. I completely overlooked the uneven coverage and stray drips and blobs. This year, whatever they wanted to call a masterpiece was a masterpiece for me. Most of you will know that I'm pretty laid back about most things, but there are a few things I have trouble letting go of. In earlier years, cookie decorating was among those things; this year, meh. Let them have fun. So, you see, you can teach an old dog new tricks!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Blizzardo Diablo

Pretty to look at...
...Tiring to shovel.

Most snow I've ever seen in one place at one time!


little tree


little tree
by: e.e. cummings

little tree
little silent Christmas tree
you are so little
you are more like a flower
who found you in the green forest
and were you very sorry to come away?
see i will comfort you
because you smell so sweetly
i will kiss your cool bark
and hug you safe and tight
just as your mother would,
only don't be afraid
look the spangles
that sleep all the year in a dark box
dreaming of being taken out and allowed to shine,
the balls the chains red and gold the fluffy threads,
put up your little arms
and i'll give them all to you to hold
every finger shall have its ring
and there won't be a single place dark or unhappy
then when you're quite dressed
you'll stand in the window for everyone to see
and how they'll stare!
oh but you'll be very proud
and my little sister and i will take hands
and looking up at our beautiful tree
we'll dance and sing
"Noel Noel"


"little tree" was originally published in The Dial Vol. LXVIII, No. 1 (Jan. 1920). New York: The Dial Publishing Company, Inc.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

William's Birthday

This year, William had the audacity to turn 13 years old. We strictly forbid it, but he did it anyway.

And, then, being the indulgent parents we are, we threw a party to celebrate the day!

William invited all of the boys in his class which is not as daunting as it sounds since there are only six boys in the 7th grade. And we took them bowling. We didn't take ourselves too seriously and had a good time. Below, William is wearing the birthday hat one of his friends made for him. A bunch of goofballs in his class, but we love 'em!
After a couple of hours of bowling, we went back to our house for pizza, ice cream cake, presents, ping-pong, and video games.
So, a fun day for all.
But also a little sad and nostalgic for me. This giant teen-ager with a voice squeaking into puberty was the first little one to steal my heart. I can remember simply sitting and watching him sleep because he was such a miracle to me. And he still is, of course, just in a very different way! Still just as precious but a lot harder to snuggle!
William's birthday generally falls somewhere close to parent/teacher conferences at Liberty and (at least so far) this has been a tremendous opportunity for us to hear others tell us what a wonderful young man our son is becoming. We try to hide it while we're there, but we go home every time beaming with pride.
We're eager to see what the Lord has for him to do with his life and so thankful for him in our life.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Thomas the Tank Engine

Here's Sam in his Thomas costume.



He has kind of a love/hate relationship with any costume. He loves it until he has to wear it and then he hates it.



Happened at pre-school and, to a lesser degree, at the Reformation Celebration.


But for the moments he wore it, he was the cutest Thomas the Tank Engine ever!

Added on Friday morning: This morning, as Sam was working on yet another bead creation, he said, "Look, Mom, I'm a artist." Well, it's really cute when he says it. :)

Monday, November 8, 2010

Busy-ness as usual

Everyone now, "It's the most busy-est time of the year..." Okay, loses some of its charm, I guess. But is oh-so-appropriate for our life right now!

We were cruising along nicely through September and October, busy, but not too busy. We still had dinner together occasionally. We still sat down to watch a movie together occasionally. We still started the day with a resting heart-rate.

No more.

November has descended and with it, the rush. Quarter grades, parent/teacher conferences, birthdays, holidays, basketball season, doctor and dentist appointments (note to self: schedule those things in months other than November and December!), due dates, lesson plans, etc., plus the regular insanity of housework, homework, instrument lessons and daily meals.

I think I have this panic attack every November, but every November is cause for a fresh phase of panic!

If I sit back and think about it, though, with that eternal perspective we're supposed to have, it's all good. God is good and He has November and December well in hand, even if I don't!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Girls' Day Out

In honor of Johanna's birthday (which is Friday but Katie's schedule made it necessary to go today), Katie and I picked up Johanna from school at noon-ish and took her to lunch at Panera, then to the Mall of America for a shopping spree.After we shopped 'til we nearly dropped, we went to the American Girl store for late afternoon tea.

Johanna picked out this lovely young lady, named her Kirsten and proceeded to take good care of her while we partook of our tea.


When we got home, Johanna tried on her new outfit. She is quite the fashionista!
So, we're home now and ready to put our feet up. We had a pretty wonderful time, though, just us girls!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Reformation Celebration 2010

Last night we had our fourth annual Reformation Celebration at Mission OPC. A fun night, as always.

We started with food. Can't go far wrong with that! Add some authentic Reformation food and it's perfect.


I know there was something about a Diet of Worms in that history book. Boy, they ate some crazy stuff back then.


I read the story of Katherine Luther to an enthralled audience. (I think Johanna was actually sitting on Sam at one point to keep him still.)



And we had some gorgeous music from these two lovely grad students from the U.


We ended with some games, including the famous "Pin the 95 Theses to the Church Door!" Sam won this year.


Really, we just wanted an excuse to sugar up the kids and trick-or-treat is out because it falls on Sunday night this year. So, the kids were well and truly sugared by the end of the night!


Amazingly enough, both Sam and Micah had about ten bites of apple apiece before gorging themselves on candy!

So, another fun night of celebration and a good way to commemorate the start of the Reformation so many years ago!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Keepin' It Real

This is our kitchen in its natural state: groceries waiting to be taken downstairs, garbage waiting to be taken outside, every available surface covered in school papers, empty pretzel bags, half-empty cups (or half-full cups depending on whether or not I'm feeling optimistic that day), broken art projects, spare Lego parts, etc. And this is what it looks like when company's coming:
When I was little, I famously incurred my mother's wrath by noticing the family effort to clean the house and then asking, "Who's coming?" And now my kids ask the same thing, only with more just cause than I had for asking.

It's true. I confess. I clean more vociferously when company is coming than when it's "just us chickens."

Contrary to popular belief, though, I do clean in between times, too. I do!

It's just more fun when I know that someone will actually see and appreciate my efforts, rather than running in the front door, tracking mud on the carpet, dropping backpacks around the living room, shoving into the kitchen, strewing snack projects all over the kitchen floor and table, seeming only to appreciate my efforts in so far as it makes more room for them to make a new mess! (Sometimes a run-on sentence is more satisfying.)

After all, making the mess is where all the fun is.

Don't worry. I do put my built-in cleaning crew to use quite a lot. I had children so that someday I wouldn't be needed when it's time to clean up.

I'll go and put my feet up and watch me some Lawrence Welk.

In the meantime, I live in the already/not yet world of training my crew to put me out of a job.

And I do that by "keepin' it real."

Sunday, October 24, 2010

My Girl

Friday, October 22, 2010

Friday Favorites


These are my three favoritest boys in the world.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Gooseberry Falls


On our way home on Wednesday, we also stopped to see Gooseberry Falls. It is probably more spectacular in the spring but was still very pretty.


We considered this trip a sort of scouting trip for our family camping excursion next summer. We are now armed with at least a little bit of knowledge about where we'd like to stay and where we'd like to go.


Forewarned is forearmed, or something like that.


(But not four-armed. That would be creepy.)


It was nice to visit these places and know that next summer when I'm not hobbling from a grueling 6-mile hike, we will be back to enjoy the views.


(John is talking about taking the two older boys hiking up Eagle Mountain, but Johanna, Sam and I will find a quiet little beach and hang out there for the day!)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Up North

Thanks to the help of a bunch of people, John and I were able to spend Tuesday and Wednesday up north.
We had beautiful weather for both days.
Tuesday, we hiked into the Boundary Waters and climbed up Eagle Mountain, the highest point in Minnesota.


Above, the view from the heights of Eagle Mountain.

Wednesday we celebrated John's birthday with a leisurely drive along the lakeshore. We stopped at the Split Rock Lighthouse (the view above is from the lighthouse). We also stopped at a quilt shop, Gooseberry Falls, and Betty's Pies.

When we got home, we retrieved kids from their host families and went out for a birthday dinner to Red Lobster.
A wonderful two days, all told. And I'm still enjoying the aching muscles from our hike up Eagle Mountain - six-miles round trip and up-hill all the way!

Friday, October 8, 2010

A Crafty Fellow

Now that poor Sam has been abandoned by all of his older siblings for most of every weekday, he has had to turn to other sources for his entertainment. Of course, his first choice is TV, movies and video games. But, occasionally, his mean 'ol mom puts a moratorium on the screens and forces him to do something else. One of his favorite activities has been these tiny neon beads.

The kit comes with four templates and a gajillion little beads. Sam spends a long time, often in silence, sometimes explaining some video game to his half-listening mother, putting these beads onto the little spikes. When all are in place, mom goes and irons the whole thing so that the beads melt together and we get shapes like...

...this!
Sam enjoys the work and is proud of the product. I like the quiet and the fact that he's not ruining brain cells in front of a screen. Happiness reigns. And all for the cost of a bead kit! It's no substitute for siblings, but it'll do.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Monday, October 4, 2010

October


I am happy to say that the older I get the more I appreciate poetry. Poetry, apparently, takes more wisdom, perception, or perhaps an openness that I simply didn't possess when I was 16 or even 25. And even now, in my wise old age, I still don't sit down and read volumes of poetry for fun. But certain sights and experiences sometimes make me wonder what the poets have had to say about it. And, almost always, the month of October makes me feel particularly poetic. Here are some gems I found when I looked up October poetry:


"Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns." - George Eliot


"Bittersweet October. The mellow, messy, leaf-kicking, perfect pause between the opposing miseries of summer and winter."

- Carol Bishop Hipps; In a Southern Garden


"O suns and skies and clouds of June,
And flowers of June together,
Ye cannot rival for one hourOctober's bright blue weather."

"I know the year is dying,
Soon the summer will be dead.
I can trace it in the flying
Of the black crows overhead;
I can hear it in the rustle
Of the dead leaves as I pass,
And the south wind's plaintive sighing
Through the dry and withered grass.
Ah, 'tis then I love to wander,
Wander idly and alone,
Listening to the solemn music
Of sweet nature's undertone;
Wrapt in thoughts I cannot utter,
Dreams my tongue cannot express,
Dreams that match the autumn's sadness
In their longing tenderness."

- Mortimer Crane Brown, Autumn Dreams


"When gentians roll their fingers tight
To save them for the morning,
And chestnuts fall from satin burrs
Without a sound of warning;
When on the ground red apples lie
In piles like jewels shining,
And redder still on old stone walls
Are leaves of woodbine twining;
When all the lovely wayside things
Their white-winged seeds are sowing,
And in the fields still green and fair,
Late aftermaths are growing;
When springs run low, and on the brooks,
In idle golden freighting,
Bright leaves sink noiseless in the hush
Of woods, for winter waiting;
When comrades seek sweet country haunts,
By twos and twos together,
And count like misers, hour by hour,
October's bright blue weather."

- Helen Hunt Jackson, October's Bright Blue Weather

And that's not even including Robert Frost and other great ones!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Pretty Good Food

A week or so ago I caught an episode of Nigella Lawson's show on the Food Network. She was making these darling little cupcakes and they looked so easy, so yummy, and so pretty that I found the recipe on-line and hunkered down to wait for just the right occasion to serve them. That occasion came today when we hosted our Mother/Daughter book club here at home.

The cake part is vanilla and the icing is Royal Icing so it's beautifully smooth and glossy as well as being decadently sweet. I bought the little flowers at Michael's in the Wilton aisle. There were not quite enough flowers to top all twelve of the cupcakes, so I topped the extras with candy pumpkins from John's stash in his office; not quite as pretty but equally yummy.

The cake part was, I confess, a little bit dry, although the flavor was quite good. I made them on Friday, though, so I wonder if they would have been a bit moister if eaten on the same day. Still, I'll keep the recipe; they're worth a second try!

The taste and the appearance elicited many appreciative "oohs" and "aaahs" from our guests.

Here's the link: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/nigella-lawson/cupcakes-recipe2/index.html so you can try them yourself!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Monday, September 27, 2010

Tomato/To-mah-to

However you pronounce it, we've got plenty!

I confess that I am hoping this is the end of the crop.

I am amazed at how many tomatoes we're still getting even when September temperatures have been so cool.






We're thinking of calling Mulder and Scully to check out this one. These are undoubtedly alien markings, some sort of communication between Martians and their human conspirators, showing the path to the mother ship. Do I watch too much TV?




Now the question on all of these tomatoes is...what do I do with them? Any recommendations or requests?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Friday Favorite


Years ago, when I was in middle school, I, like many others, found Victoria magazine and fell in love. I was more than a little disappointed some years later when the magazine was discontinued. I was equally elated a few months ago to find that Victoria has made a come-back!

I can get lost in its pages, full of wildly romantic photos, not to mention wildly expensive products. It's not a catalog, though, it's a mini-holiday to beauty and elegance.


It feeds my love of

Candlelight


Silver


Roses


Sunlight filtered through lush green leaves



Teacups and lace


Quaint English villages


Misty moors


The blue-green Lake District

Adirondack mornings

Tartan anything

And much more.

Completely impractical, I know. I can in no way justify the purchase of such frivolity except that a little dose of beauty every once in a while is good for the soul. And that is why I chose it as my Friday Favorite.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Fall TV Line-up

As fall gets into full swing here, TVLand wakes from its summer of reruns and makes another go at capturing and keeping viewers. I find that as I get older, I have less and less patience for TV or even movies - maybe the internet is ruining my ability to sustain a story line in my head for more than 3.5 seconds - so if a show is going to grab my attention it has to offer something I'm really going to like - something that keeps me coming back for more.

At the moment, those shows are:


Psych - John and I discovered this show this summer and it is hilarious!






Chuck - who wouldn't love a computer geek turned international spy?


Castle - Rick Castle is a mystery writer who shadows a police detective. He has corny humor and literary elan, a perfect combination.

Covert Affairs - this isn't a "can't miss" for me but quite enjoyable when I do catch it.


19 Kids and Counting - Johanna and I love to watch this show and marvel at this family and think, "What if *we* had 19 kids." (I try to shield her from the harsh reality of what *our* house would be like with that many kids!)
So, what are you watching?