Tuesday, November 27, 2012

{From the Christmas Notebook}

Thanksgiving came early this year, didn't it? I keep feeling like I need to frantically rush into Christmas preparations, and then I remember that it's not even December yet.

We had a nice time with family this year, with "Thanksgiving A" spent with Jamie's family and "Thanksgiving B" (that would be Friday) spent with mine. The shadow puppet show was lots of fun, but I think my favorite part was seeing the kids ad-lib after the stories were done. They kept creeping behind the sheet, ready to captivate the audience with yet another adventure.

Thanksgiving B morphed into a ginormous sleepover which, although exhausting, was lots of fun, too. On Saturday morning Papa made steamers like crazy while Noni deftly whipped out the pankawaffleups and aebleskivers. (Those are real foods. Trust me.)

Now, although it is still November, I'm going to sneak into Christmas mode for a minute. And here's why: Last year I was in bed before midnight on Christmas Eve. Before. Midnight. Never, ever had I done that before (at least, not as an adult.)

So at the end of the Christmas season last year, I sat down and took a few notes. I wanted to remember what elements worked together to make the holiday special and not so rushed and frantic and last minute.

In case you have similar Christmas goals, I thought I'd share a few suggestions from my notebook:

1. Decorate the tree early. This year and last we got our tree the Sunday after Thanksgiving. It worked out beautifully to head into December with the tree already decorated. (This also paved the way for a peaceful beginning to the Jesse Tree advent which begins on November 29th.)

Last year after we cut down the tree we carved an "L" into the stump. This year the kids searched and searched . . . and they found last year's stump!

Now this year's "L" stump is ready for next year.

2. Pick a "due date" other than December 25. Set a goal to have gifts ready and wrapped by an earlier date. It's exhausting to wrap gifts on Christmas Eve and it always takes longer than anticipated. It's also nice to have the wrapping supplies put away rather than crammed in a closet at the last minute. (Not that I've ever done that before . . . .) If everything is ready by, say, December 20th, then you will be more rested for the big day.

3. Clean out the fridge a week in advance. It's helpful to have it all ready to stock with Christmas goodies. Think ahead to the week after Christmas, too, with meal planning. It's nice if you don't have to go grocery shopping on December 26th! Make an extra big pot of soup that can be frozen or stock up on a couple of Costco lasagnas to make post holiday meals easier.

4. Don't forget the stockings! Stocking stuffers always seem to sneak up on me. Last year I came up with a plan that worked really well. I tucked four shoe boxes under the bed, one for each child. I made a list of gift ideas to keep in my purse, and as I shopped throughout the month I added to the boxes. It was so helpful to have a visual of what I had and where I was lacking without needing to dig through an assortment of plastic bags mashed behind my high heels in the closet.

5. Begin the bedtime routines early. The longer nights make this easier, but aim to have dinner earlier during December so that the bedtime routines are peaceful and pleasant and not rushed. This is an ideal time to read books while drinking hot chocolate in front of the fire or to share advent traditions such as the Jesse Tree. Of course not every night will be seamless, but overall it's so worth it to aim for that atmosphere of peace.

Speaking of bedtime routines, I still have two more (not so) little heads to bless before they drift off into dreamland. So I'll leave you for now. In the mean time, may your homes be filled with peace, joy and hope as you ease your way into the Christmas season.

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

{Important Nothings}

Where shall I begin? Which of all my important nothings shall I tell you first?
(Jane Austen, in a letter to her sister, 1808)

So many important nothings to share. Really, they are nothing. But for amusement's sake I shall list them for you, chapter by (very brief) chapter. And maybe they'll be something after all.

Chapter 1: The Joke

Aidan made me laugh today. (Really, though, he makes me laugh every day.) So this morning it was this: Maizy was trying to peek through the blinds that cover the school room sliding door. Aidan looked outside to see if perhaps a cat or squirrel was teasing her by trespassing. He didn't see anything but the fog resting quietly on the tree tops. His assessment? "She must have been MIST-ified by the fog!" Silly boy.

Chapter 2: The Book

About this time every year, I have the desire to read Little Women. Sometimes I read the whole thing, and other times I hit a few chapters, just to get the flavor. It's like visiting with an old friend. Do you have a book you enjoy revisiting? Speaking of books, I recently discovered a new website, What Should I Read Next? Just enter the name of a favorite book or author and it generates a list of similar titles that you might enjoy. Snazzy, huh?

Chapter 3: The Wood

My children have grown accustomed to my embarrassing detours. Recently, my Wednesday afternoon detour involves wood. You see, for the first time in many years we have a wood-burning fireplace. This means that it's nice to have wood. It's even nicer to have free wood. (I'm fond of a bargain.) Well. Just down the road from our church is a business that has a huge bin out front marked, "Free Wood." So every Wednesday, as we pass from Hockinson back into the 'Couv after piano and biology, I veer ever so slightly to the right. The children hop out and load up the broken two-by-fours and a few fence pieces and voila! We have ourselves a wood pile. We're so classy that way.  

Chapter 4: The Drama

Jamie and I just finished season two of Downton Abbey. Are you as in love as I am? So now we wait. In the mean time we're enjoying Call the Midwife and Bleak House. And when I say "we" I mean that my dear husband is kind enough to let me choose. And I almost always choose a British drama. Why wouldn't I?

Chapter 5: The Pancakes

Lately I've been picking up canned pumpkin whenever I go to Trader Joe's. One of my favorite ways to use it is in pancakes. So yummy! This morning I added a twist: shredded apple and pumpkin. Oh, my. Happy, happy tastebuds. Drizzled in maple syrup. Happy, happy. I also found a recipe for pumpkin snickerdoodles. Doesn't that sound fun? Maybe I'll try them this weekend.

Chapter 6: The Decor

I am very s.l.o.w. when it comes to decorating. Some of that is because I'm a very indecisive person. I think. Well, maybe not. No, I think I am. It also has something to do with the fact that I don't really know what I'm doing. Pinterest has been helpful in that department. If I can get an idea of something, I can run with it. But I can't make it up out of thin air. Currently I've been playing around with the space above my kitchen cabinets. The walls really need some color, but for now I'm playing around with the decor. I'm thinking I'll add something to the black coffee pot on the left. Maybe something branchy or leafy. Any suggestions? 

Chapter 7: The Show

Next week is Thanksgiving. Which means that next week we get to put on our annual shadow puppet show. The kids and I have put it on for my family for several years now, and it's become quite a fun tradition. The show is performed behind a white sheet which has one of Jamie's studio lights projected onto it. We've made several cardboard figures to represent different characters in whichever story we happen to be telling. So far the "stories" have included the poems "Over the River and Through the Woods," and "First Thanksgiving of All." We rotate through or repeat them every year, and it's always a lot of fun (with much giggling). Can't wait to do it again. 


Thus concludes this week's record of Important Nothings. May you delight in the variety of both the "nothings" and "somethings" that come your way. For there is joy to be found in it all.

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Friday, November 2, 2012

{Within Our Reach}

The Mist and All
Dixie Willson

I like the fall,
The mist and all.
I like the night owl's
Lonely call --
And wailing sound
Of wind around.

I like the gray
November day,
And bare, dead boughs
That coldly sway
Against my pane.
I like the rain.

I like to sit
And laugh at it --
And tend
My cozy fire a bit.
I like the fall --
The mist and all.

This month I'm purposing to give thanks. We're off to a rocky start (going on day eleven with at least one person sick) but I'm finding there's still so much for which I'm grateful:

Creativity . . .

Humor . . .

Flexible education . . .

Art . . .

Visitors . . . (chuga-rum!)

And always, always, for him . . .

For every day of November I plan to share an aspect of my gratitude on my facebook wall. Many are joining me. Would you do the same, either here, there . . . or anywhere?

Because gratitude paves the way for joy.

The gloom of the world is but a shadow; behind it, yet within our reach, is joy. Take joy.
Fra Giovanni

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