Sunday, December 31, 2006

The Last Day of 2006

- The entire family sleeping in past 9:30 am
- Eating a delicious German Pancake with powdered sugar and fresh lemon at Elmer's (and racing with John to find the words in the kids' menu Word Hunt)
- Finishing an excellent book, FREEFALL by one of my favorite authors, Kristin Heitzman
- Watching the kids catipulted into the pool by Daddy while I read the above mentioned book in the hot tub
- Accompanying our sandwhiches with individual bags of chips all picked out at the hotel vending machine
- Kids happily occupied with their Leapsters, Color Wonder, and the Disney Channel
- Lots and lots of "I love you's" among the family happy to hang together
- Watching episodes of my favorite tv show on my laptop, while John watches football

Yes, indeed, a great way to end the year........

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Birthday Date

Here's the picture I just snapped of John and Mikayla as they set off to Applebee's and Cold Stone Creamery on their birthday "date". Since most of Mikayla's celebration already occurred, John felt the need to do something to honor the actual day of her birth (even though that was yesterday) so he put together an adorable invitation requesting her to dress up so they could go on a date together. Of course, she ate it up.

Sorry that the pic's a little blurry - I'm doing some experimenting in trying to avoid the harsh lighting of flash - I think a new camera is on the docket for sometime this year......

Friday, December 29, 2006

Anticipating the Worst

I've done a couple of posts about anticipation - and how much I enjoy the positive anticipation of an upcoming activity - almost to the point of enjoying it more than the event itself. Because, of course, the event never matches the realms of our imagination or expectation, or if it does, it doesn't last.

However, due to a couple of situations I've either witnessed recently or read about in other people's blog's (a woman who's son was nearly killed in an auto accident, a woman our age battling a rare form of cancer) - It's had me pondering the other side of anticipation - the fear of what could happen. Is that the definition of fear or worry? I'm not sure, but I suppose it's the flip side of what I described in the above paragraph.

I know it's been a random question posed to most of us - "If you were going to die [or someone close to you], would you want to know ahead of time (so you could prepare) or not know?" I'm the "I DO NOT WANT TO KNOW" sort of person. I'm confident my mind would create so much more pain in preparation of the event that I would completely lose out on any of the positives I could create in knowing. I am, by nature, a worrier. I do not get depressed very easily but I have struggled (particularly in the past) with anxiety. I am skilled in creating scenarios in my mind of what-ifs that can get really bad..... However, I am actually quite good at dealing with emergencies. I have yet to have a major tragedy befall my family, but we've certainly had our share of near-tragedies. In each of them, as awful as they were, I felt like all I could do was rest in the Lord's hands - it was out of my control, I prayed, cried, begged and saw prayers answered "yes", and some not - and knew that God was in control.

And, therein lies, to me, the big difference - when I anticipate a tragedy, I don't and won't give it over to the Lord. My mind takes it, grabs hold, and works out every awful possibility to the fullest extent. For anyone who's ever been there - it's a debilitating feeling, and I can only guess the victory Satan must feel when we go down this road. Oh, the satisfaction he feels - us, crippling ourselves and rendering ourselves unable to even think straight.

Michele has an awesome quote from a courageous, wonderful author that she developed an email relationship with after reading one of her books. The woman had a resume of tragedy - numerous cancer battles, miscarriages, family sorrows, etc - and yet, her perspective was glorious - (if it weren't so late, I'd call Michele for the quote, but I'm hoping she'll read this and comment to provide it )- All's to say, is that this woman knew that God doesn't meet us in our worries of what could happen, he meets us where we are, in the present. In the present, this woman is now in the presence of the Lord, she passed away several years ago, but her story and words have stuck with me.

Some of my own inspiration in writing this is very benign. Upcoming is my least favorite season - little to look forward to in the next couple of months besides rain. And, this very attitude creates such a dread for me that it can actually cut into my holiday celebrations in worrying about how I'll worry about it! Stupid, huh? So, I'm writing this partly for my own sake - God will meet me day by day, in a deluge or rain, or in the brightness of summer sunshine, He'll be there. I need not worry or fret - tomorrow will take care of itself.......

"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself, each day has enough trouble of its own" Matthew 6:34

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

A Couple of Questions XLIX

I think I've been using the wrong Roman Numerals for my 40's.... oops.

This is the ultimate week of transition for me. Going from the cozy days of indulgence and "putting off of reality" to the desire to organize and plan everything possible for the year 2007. We traditionally do a mini get-away over New Years' - just our family in the hotel we have points with in Lake Oswego. John and I aren't really into the idea of leaving the kids behind for some sort of "party event" on New Years and that's a good thing as both our kids seem to get very attached to Mommy and Daddy following vacation times together. So, I'm glad it's something that's been established for us because I now count on it to know that I have those hours pent up in the hotel room to review, reflect, update, and plan. My new Daytimer has already been purchased, but has yet to be filled in.... this will be the weekend to get it done, and in the process, hopefully secure my perspective that January and February do have some bright spots and I can endure. So, in that vein, here are the "un-original" questions......

1. What are your weekend/New Years plans?

2. What are a few things you'd like to change, re-establish, or get on the band-wagon for in the year 2007?

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

A Few Things I Learned on Christmas

What a difference a year makes! Can't even begin to describe the 180 degree change from last year this Christmas was for us. Praise the Lord. It really was one of those years that you just felt like everything happened like you hoped for - well, most everything. Here are a few insights gathered over the last couple of days....

1. "Baked" french toast is just not a hit for our family. I think I've tried 3 different recipes and garnered 3 different sets of "yucks". Oh well, that's what cold cereal is for.

2. Just because a product is described as "Heeleys" on E-Bay, it doesn't necessarily mean that it's really that product - hmmm, that seller and I will be having a chat... (Heeleys, FYI, are the shoe that many boys are wearing with the wheel in the back)

3. The "Fur Real" baby white tiger does really appear to be "for real". John and I both found ourselves stroking it, feeding it, and letting it sit on our laps while it growled contentedly, hic-cupped, or snored.

4. Never again should I ever purchase another set of Legos or Mega-blocks for my son. He has never been in to them, and I doubt if he ever will be, no matter how much he tells us otherwise..... his cousin, on the other hand, could hardly restrain himself from breaking into his 1300 plus piece Star Wars lego set......

5. The simplest things can often be the best - for Brayden, football trading cards - particularly when combined with enthusiastic attention from Daddy, for Mikayla, the $7.99 twin baby dolls..... you never can figure!

6. It doesn't matter how you dress it up - whatever the main dish of a nice sit down dinner is, my children will not like it. If it's not pizza or chicken nuggets.... well, it's just not pretty.

7. My kids are inheriting my own post-Christmas let-down genes at a very early age. On Christmas Eve, as Brayden is struggling to fall asleep (which I'm laying down trying to assist in for Santa's sake) - he tells me he's "sad tomorrow's Christmas because it will be a whole year before it happens again". And today, Mikayla says, "It's not Christmas anymore, huh? - But, that's okay, there'll still be fun things we can do, right?" I guess, all this just means I must have done something right in helping to encourage a holiday they absolutely love.....

8. Despite our local paper's review, "Night at the Museum" is a GREAT movie - thoroughly enjoyed it.

9. A $27 Snowboard Plug-In video game (you stand on a psuedo snowboard and follow the course on tv) can be worth it's cost four times over in terms of entertainment on Christmas night. Mom, Dad, Travis, Michele, Michael, myself, John, (and just a few turns for the kids....) all had a blast. The truly surprising part of all this, is that I hold the top 3 scores of the game! I'm very proud of myself........

10. My kids have matured temendously in their thankfulness and lack of greed and patience (though I did catch Mikayla cheating a couple of times in trying to "rip before her turn"). This is a huge blessing to me as that has all seemed a bit out of control in years past.

Once again, a wonderful year - I hope you had many special memories and oportunities for "learning" too!

Monday, December 25, 2006


From our family to you and yours - we wish you the best of days in celebrating the birth of our savior!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

The Nativity Story

Today we took the family to see "The Nativity Story" at the theater (yes, lots of movie going these days - we'll go as many times this week as we usually do in a half a year....). I bought the tickets yesterday and as there were limited viewing times, I figured there would be plenty of space in the theater. Imagine my surprise when the place was filled up - a happy sight, especially when we found four good seats.

I was a little nervous bringing the kids and the opening scenes didn't do much to encourage me as it showed the carrying out of Herod's orders in eliminating the young boys of Bethlehem. However, don't let that discourage you from going.....

I had tears running down my face on numerous occassions. Perhaps it's my "media-filled" upbringing, but somehow seeing the story I've known and read all my life play out on a big screen was surreal, and yes, incredible.

The quiet relationship of Joseph and Mary, the encouragement Mary received from Elizabeth, the look in Mary's eye when Joseph revealed he believed her (after being visited by an angel in his dream) - and of course, the birth and all who were able to behold Him. It is most definitely a movie we will be purchasing and had the very effect I was hoping for in bringing perspective to our family during this most precious time of year.

Brayden (age 7) did great through the movie - and had many questions he wanted to talk to Daddy about throughout. Mikayla was appropriate, but chose to sleep through the movie (her snoring cracked us up). Though it's rated PG, the content is not something that would necessarily captivate a young viewer.

On a final thought, Brayden suggested how much he wished it was the "Riley Family" that would have been picked to have Baby Jesus. It was an interesting and comical conversation that ensued thereafter in realizing what it would be like to have Jesus as your baby brother. When Brayden realized he would NEVER win an arguement with this little guy.... I think he was content with the idea that Mary was Jesus' mommy and not me........

Saturday, December 23, 2006

A Couple of Questions XXXXVIII

These are really deep, get ready.....

1. What are your plans for Christmas Eve (day)?

2. What are your plans for Christmas?

Hope the "last minute" crowds aren't taking away your sanity..... I appreciated Colie's post about her experience at the post office, which really made me think that perhaps some of the best gifts we can give at Christmas are the unexpected acts of generosity towards strangers in helping them, letting them go first, etc...... Thanks Colie!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Sleddin' in a Winter Wonderland.....

All week long, the kids have been patiently waiting for the opportunity to take the sleds out. Thursday was the appointed day (nothing else planned, plus we'd have Michael around too). We knew there wasn't enough snow at the ampitheater to make it work there (where folks do their sledding in Sunriver), so either it had to miraculously snow again Wednesday night, or we'd be trekking up somewhere to a higher elevation to pave a sled route of our own.

What do you know, but we awoke to two more inches of snow (we are not taking these blessings for granted, let me tell you!). So, we got the ball rolling very fast to make it to the ampitheater here in Sunriver before too many other people arrived and the snow became less than ideal.

When we arrived, one other family was there, by the time we left, we were waiting in line for our runs. I have to pat myself on the back for the idea to get us there early (plus, it kept us from hearing the begging and pleading all day long). The kids had fun, but we did have a few incidents. Mikayla and I had a pretty good spill, but it turned out to be harmless, just worthy of some oohs and aahs of the crowd for that poor little girl being run over by her mommy (Mikayla was laughing....). Brayden and Ellie did a spill - and poor Ellie scraped her face on the straw bale lining the "run". Finally, Mommy (me) on a solo ride, did a true backwards somersault. I kind of wish it was taped - the sort of thing I'd freak if I saw my kids do, but when you are experiencing it, you just go with it. In the process I heard and felt that sickening thunk sound of my skull hitting the snow-ice - ick.... Fortunately, it sounded a lot worse than it felt, and didn't exasperate the issues I have with my neck. I avoided that little pink saucer for the rest of the duration, though.

Today (or in the morning as I'm posting at midnight...) we leave. I think it's been my favorite trip so far. What a blessing.

All 5 bundled up:
Little angels making angels....

And away they go!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Twas The Night Before Christmas... Mom Style

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the abode
Only one creature was stirring & she was cleaning the commode.
The children were finally sleeping, all snug in their beds,
while visions of Nintendo & Barbie flipped through their heads.

Yes, and dad was snoring in front of the TV,
with a half constructed bicycle propped on his knee.
So only the mom heard the reindeer hooves clatter,
which made her sigh, "Now what is the matter?"

With toilet bowl brush still clutched in her hand,
She descended the stairs, and saw the old man.
He was covered with ashes & soot, which fell with a shrug,
"Oh great," muttered the mom, "Now I have to clean the rug."

"Ho Ho Ho!" cried Santa, I'm glad you're awake."
"your gift was especially difficult to make."
"Thanks, Santa, but all I want is time alone."
"Exactly!" he chuckled, "So, I've made you a clone."

"A clone?" she muttered, "What good is that?"
"Run along, Santa, I've no time for chit chat."
Then out walked the clone - The mother's twin,
Same hair, same eyes, same double chin.

"She'll cook, she'll dust, she'll mop every mess.
You'll relax, take it easy, watch TV and rest.
"Fantastic!" the mom cheered. "My dream has come true!"
"I'll shop, I'll read, I'll sleep a night through!"

From the room above, the youngest did fret.
"Mommy?! Come quickly, I'm scared and I'm wet."
The clone replied, "I'm coming, sweetheart."
"Hey," the mom smiled, "She sure knows her part."

The clone changed the child and hummed her a tune,
as she bundled the small one in a blanket cocoon.
"You're the best mommy ever. I really love you."
The clone smiled and sighed, "And I love you too."

The mom frowned and said, "Sorry, Santa, no deal.
That's my child's LOVE she is going to steal."
Smiling wisely, Santa said: "To me it is clear,
Only one loving mother is needed here."

The mom kissed her child and tucked her in bed.
"Thank You, Santa, for clearing my head.
Sometimes I forget, it won't be very long,
before they'll be too old for my cradle and song."

The clock on the mantle began to chime.
Santa whispered to the clone, "It works every time."
With the clone by his side, Santa said: "Goodnight.
Merry Christmas, dear Mom, you'll be all right."

Sometimes we need reminding of what life is all about.
Especially at times when the Holiday season shouts,
and all we do is clean, bake, and procure.
You get the picture -- I'm sure.

So stop for a moment and hug that little one so dear,
whether he/she is 2 or 22, or even older this year.
For they are the gift that God gave us from Heaven above,
and what a special gift to be treasured, with endless LOVE!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

I Highly Recommend....

It's no secret I've been reading a lot of books lately. I've been a bit pickier than Michele, though, insisting that my books fall into the Christmas category. It's just too cozy and romantic to sidestep at this time of year, plus, it leaves all of those other books that Michele can't wait for me to read for after the New Year when I REALLY need an escape into an alternate reality provided by good literature.

As I result, I've experienced Christmas celebrated in: Savannah, NYC, the Ozarks, Colorado, Montana, Seattle, the Olympic Rain Forest, Malibu......and many many other places. I think I like the snow locations best - no surprise there!

Today I began a book out in the hot tub that I ordered online. It's called @ HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS by Meredith Efken and as soon as I opened it, I regretted not grabbing something else. But, I was up early, it was 7am, and there was no way I was going to crawl out of the tub and disrupt the sleeping folks of the house to find something else. I was stuck with this book and it's crazy writing style consisting entirely of email communications among a group of primarily STAY AT HOME MOMS (SAHM's). I was put off from the beginning by the first woman (and her email) and her ultra high-conservative, judmental attitude that epitomizes what many people think of Christian stay-at-home, homeschooling mothers. Then, as I read further (nothing else to do, don't you feel SO SORRY for me.....) I realized that the other characters feel about her like I do and then realized the book is hilarious - mostly because I can put real life names to many of the characters from my own life. I haven't laughed out loud to a book this many times in a while......

I haven't finished it yet, but I wanted to put the recommendation out there for anyone interested in finding something light and fun to read for the holidays. Jodi, been thinking a lot about you on this one - would love to laugh about a few parts with you.......

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Sunriver in Pictures

I thought I'd try to do a recap of the last couple of days in pictures. It has been practically perfect, minus the stomache flu that hit hard for me on Sunday (at least it didn't involve throwing up)..... Such self control required to make myself avoid all of the amazing indulgent food here to let it pass!

One of the more hillarious moments of our trip - amidst our annual gift exhange, this was given to Michael and Michele from the Whites - I think it can all be said that we are so proud of my sis and her family for making lemonade out of lemons with their life, and as most of you have received her Christmas letter, things look like they are looking up for the future. However, we still like to have fun laughing at the whole trailer thing (with their joint laughing permission) - and this present was a indeed a hit and has been the running joke all week.....

At Sage Springs Spa:
blurry on purpose - ignore Chele and I, just a look at the hot tub they have there
the serenity room - and Michele in her HAPPY PLACE (she finished the book she began in the hot tub just seconds before her name was called for her massage)
the kids painting their plastic dogs
both dogs - absolutely exhausted

On Tuesday, Brayden and John set for the mountain for Brayden to have his first ever experience snowboarding. He'd voiced a lot of interest, so we tried to do things right by getting him started with a lesson...
On the skilift...
According to John, Brayden really made a huge effort - and ended up surprising him with his talent and application of what he'd learned. Brayden doesn't really show a lot of passion in specific activities, so it's really cool to know he totally embraced this. Too bad it happens to be one of the most expensive sports you could pursue.....

One very proud daddy!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Here's a Good One!

This came from the Advent devotionals I've been reading. I thought it was fascinating to find out more about this favorite Christmas carol......

Joy to the World

But the angel said to them "Do not be afraid, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people." (Luke 2:10)

When at this time of year, we think of Christmas carols, one of the most popular often comes to mind: Joy to the World!

The history of hymns, carols, and choruses has always fascinated me. As I was preparing to write this, I looked up some facts about this carol. It is interesting to note that "Joy to the World," written by Isaac Watts (1647-1748) is a paraphrase of a part of Old Testament scripture, the last part of Psalm 98:4

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth; make a loud noise and rejoice and sing praise. Let the floods clap their hands; let the hills be joyful together before the Lord; for He cometh to judge the earth; with righteousness shall He judge the world, and the people with equity.

"Although it was originally a song of rejoicing for Jehovah's protection of His chosen people and the anticipation of the time when he would be the God of the whole earth, this psalm was intended by Watts to be a New Testament expression of praise. It exalts the salvation that began when God became incarnate as the Babe of Bethlehem who was destined to remove the curse of Adam's fall." (Kenneth W. Osbeck)

What better thing this season than to rejoice and shout for joy that our Savior has come to save us! Express gratitude for our Savior's birth with these words!

Joy to the world! the Lord is come! Let earth receive her King;
Let ev'ry heart prepare Him room, and heav'n and nature sing.

Joy to the earth the Savior reigns. Let men their songs employ,
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains repeat the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow, far as the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace, and makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness and wonders of His love.

~ Jennifer Blackburn
Coon Rapids, Minnesota, USA

Saturday, December 16, 2006


Despite a hot tub that reached 114 degrees (yes, a bit of a shock to the 10 degree weather) and Stephie and I both sporting band-aids for some pretty deep cuts to our hands (the knives are sharp and we are ding-dongs....), life is SO GOOD! Yes, I know, happiness is fleeting, satsifaction can't be found in books, lots of food, hot tubs, and snowy landscapes, but it sure makes a vacation merry. (As well as the wonderful company of this group.....) I feel very blessed right now.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Holiday Humor

Can't tell you how many laughs this site has provided tonite..... Thanks to a friend of a friend of a friend's website for turning us on to this idea - Hope it brings laughter to you as well.....

Just In Time

We're leaving for Sunriver this afternoon. As I think I've mentioned before, every year, Michele and I obsess over the weather sights, hoping and pleading for a snow-friendly forecast. We try not to let it become so important that we lose sight of the gift of the vacation itself, but somehow, leaving this town to go to rain up in the mountains just kind of puts a damper on your spirits. Based on the forecasts, today was our only chance, the rest of the week looks pretty dry.....

So, this morning I woke up at 6 and the first thing I did was check out the camera at the Public Works Dept. in Sunriver. Praise God, a couple of inches have blanketed the ground....just for our arrival. It seriously makes me want to cry, it is so special to us! I even woke Brayden up momentarily just for him to see, and he was delighted. Thank you God, I know it's not significant on the big prayer chart, but it means a ton to us!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Mikayla the Kitten

Another year at pre-school, another Christmas pageant production. This was our easiest costume assignment yet, a kitten. That, we could do with minimal effort (in comparison to the squirrel and cow of years past). Mikayla did wonderful, watching her do the hand motions of "Away in the Manger" was priceless. Once again, it is just so amazing to watch her vs. Brayden.... she just sits there with a smile on her face, happy to do whatever she's supposed to - and Brayden, well, even at age 7, he was hard to control just sitting beside us on the pew (such a squirmy guy.....). I love the differences, though -

Our little kitten:
Mikayla and her fan club:

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

A Couple of Questions XXXXVII

Sorry about the lame postings. I'm trying to prepare for Sunriver this week and have been living off of a to-do list. Good news is, I've gotten a lot done. Bad news is, my body is very tired...... well worth the sacrifices though!

1. Have you ever won anything of value?

2. What pop-culture person would you most like to interview/hang out with for a day? (Jodi's blog inspired that)

Try not to get blown away today..... I was listening to the wind gusts in the bedroom, I have a feeling our reindeer lawn ornaments did not survive the night.....

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Advent Devotionals

I've been looking for a site that has daily Christmas devotionals and stumbled across this one. So far, I've really enjoyed it. Thought I'd let you know.....

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Brayden, We're Done with YOUR Project Now....

Forgive any typing errors, my middle finger is burnt from the glue gun.....

So, last week Brayden came home home with an assignment to create a Tree House to look like a scene from SUNSET AT THE SABERTOOTH - a Magic Tree House book. My first thought was annoyance, why do they have to give him a big project in the peak of busy Christmas time and when every last nerve is frazzled among the entire family? (Even Curious George isn't cutting it to make good moods happen in the mornings for these weary children). My second thought was, how on Earth is a 2nd grader like Brayden supposed to create a treehouse on his own......? But, we've all been there, and it's only the beginning of the projects to come, so we chose to just buck up and get it down today as it is due on Thursday.

Did you notice the "we" suggestion? - Yes, indeed, certainly a family project here. Mommy (and Brayden) helped create the landscape, while Daddy (and Brayden) constructed the tree house. And, OF COURSE, the entire idea was Brayden's..... no creativity imput from Mom and Dad......

Throw in some hot glue gun burns, hours passing by, a kid that can't stick with the project and Sydney who has to be directly underneath our feet and needless to say, the nerves are even more frazzled. But, the good news is - it's done - and I will personally be carrying it in to the teacher tomorrow.

Well Done Daddy, er, I mean Brayden!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Ruthie B's Tea

Another annual tradition....tea time for the "ladies". I think the "ladies" actually did better last year, between two broken china pieces, spilled milk, and Ellie drinking from the ranch dip container, they didn't exactly win any points in etiquette. However, it was a special time nonetheless and this time my mom got to join the mix too. And, the food is so incredible - the turkey sandwhich on hazlenut bread with orange marmalade on one side and cream cheese on the other, the scone with mounds of devonshire cream and jam, the vanilla tea with cream and raw sugar cubes...... ahhhhhh, DELICIOUS!!!! Yes, I'd be licking the plate too if I was three......

Friday, December 08, 2006

What I Learned from Making Toffee

Attempt #1: Once the temperature exceeds 200 degrees, occasional or frequent stirring is an understatement – if you stop, even for a second, the batch will be ruined. On to……

Attempt #2: Even if you purchase the higher price tool (because it was all they had left), and it was brand new, that does not guarantee a candy thermometer is accurate (Target and I will be having a talk….) Perhaps that explains the burning on the previous attempt, oh well, on to…..

Attempt #3: When a recipe calls for a candy to reach hard-crack stage then puts 300 degrees in paranthesis, there is a difference…. Hard crack is a degree or two higher, hmmmm…. Wish I’d paid more attention to that detail. Still have more butter and brown sugar so on to…..

Attempt #4: If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again, and you can find success….. However, I don’t really like the taste of this stuff anyway compared to the amazing stuff my mother-in-law makes which just happens to have arrived in the mail today…..I think I’ll go back to the Saltine toffee……

Attempt #5: Saltine toffee is good stuff, especially if done right, which, I managed to do on my first attempt (I was just warming up….) – and as long as you stand at the stove stirring brown sugar and butter, you don’t have to start cleaning up!

Yesterday, marked my 10th year making goodies for the folks that John has worked with. From Riles Audio to Rosen, and finally, Tyson Steele – it’s been my crazy tradition to try to present his co-workers with homemade treats. I remember the year I was pregnant with Brayden being up half the night doing it all. I’ve gotten a bit more organized since then (and don’t have the crazy pregnant insomnia).

A couple of other things I’ve learned, fudge is out – not enough folks like that, and don’t even make an effort at gingerbread or molasses cookies, I may like it, but not the guys. Also, stick to the bar cookies, a 9x13 pan is much easier to cut up than dozens of cookies carefully placed on a pan. I still do the sugar cookies complete with frosting and sprinkles, but forget the cut-outs, rolling them in ball shapes (like you do for Snickerdoodles) is as good as it gets these days.

Finally, one more lesson learned….. if you have a golden retriever giving you lots of attention in the kitchen while baking, it’s not just because she loves you….. she’s plotting. While changing to go to the grocery store, fully intending to take her with me as I didn’t dare leave her in the house with all of the ingredients around, I ran to the kitchen wondering if I shouldn’t make sure something wasn’t happening. Sure enough, there was Sydney chowing on the unfrosted sugar cookies. My best attempt at counting the imprints on the wax paper leaves me guessing she put down about 29 of them……(at least they were small). Needless to say, Sydney spent the rest of the day and early evening outside without an ounce of sympathy from me…

Thursday, December 07, 2006

More Holiday Humor

I found this and thought it was funny - Jodi, of course, no offense intended on the vegetarian barb =) ..... Almost to Friday, everyone!

Subject: The Office Party
FROM: Pat Lewis, Human Resources Director
TO: Everyone
RE: Christmas Party
DATE: December 1

I'm happy to inform you that the company Christmas Party will take place on December 23, starting at noon in the banquet room at Luigi's Open Pit Barbecue. No-host bar, but plenty of eggnog! We'll have a small band playing traditional carols...feel free to sing along. And don't Be surprised if our CEO shows up dressed as Santa Claus!

FROM: Pat Lewis, Human Resources Director
DATE: December 2
RE: Christmas Party

In no way was yesterday's memo intended to exclude our Jewish employees. We recognize that Hanukkah is an important holiday which often coincides with Christmas, though unfortunately not this year. However, from now on we're calling it our "Holiday Party." The same policy applies to employees who are celebrating Kwanzaa at this time.

Happy now?

FROM: Pat Lewis, Human Resources Director
DATE: December 3
RE: Holiday Party

Regarding the note I received from a member of Alcoholics Anonymous requesting a non-drinking table ... you didn't sign your name. I'm happy to accommodate this request, but if I put a sign on a table that reads "AA Only" you wouldn't be anonymous anymore. How am I supposed to handle this? Somebody?

FROM: Pat Lewis, Human Resources Director
DATE: December 7
RE: Holiday Party

What a diverse company we are! I had no idea that December 2 begins the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which forbids eating, drinking and sex during daylight hours. There goes the party! Seriously, we can appreciate how a luncheon this time of year does not accommodate our Muslim employees' beliefs. Perhaps Luigi's can hold off on serving your meal until the end of the party - the days are so short this time of year - or else package everything for take-home in little foil swans. Will that work?

Meanwhile, I've arranged for members of Overeaters Anonymous to sit farthest from the dessert buffet and pregnant women will get the table closest to the restrooms. Did I miss anything?

FROM: Pat Lewis, Human Resources Director
DATE: December 8
RE: Holiday Party

So December 22 marks the Winter Solstice...what do you expect me to do, a tap-dance on your heads? Fire regulations at Luigi's prohibit the burning of sage by our "earth-based Goddess-worshipping" employees, but we'll try to accommodate your shamanic drumming circle during the band's breaks. Okay???

FROM: Pat Lewis, Human Resources Director
Date: December 9
RE: Holiday Party

People, people, nothing sinister was intended by having our CEO dress up like Santa Claus! Even if the anagram of "Santa" does happen to be "Satan," there is no evil connotation to our own "little man in a red suit." It's a tradition, folks, like sugar shock at Halloween or family feuds over the Thanksgiving turkey or broken hearts on Valentine's Day. Could we lighten up?

FROM: Pat Lewis, Human Resources Director
DATE: December 10
RE: Holiday Party

Vegetarians!?!?!? I've had it with you people!!! We're going to keep this party at Luigi's Open Pit Barbecue whether you like it or not, so you can sit quietly at the table furthest from the "grill of death," as you so quaintly put it, and you'll get your freaking salad bar, including hydroponic tomatoes. But you know, they have feelings too. Tomatoes scream when you slice them. I've heard them scream. I'm hearing them scream right now!

FROM: Teri Bishops, Acting Human Resources Director
DATE: December 14
RE: Pat Lewis and Holiday Party

I'm sure I speak for all of us in wishing Pat Lewis a speedy recovery from her stress-related illness and I'll continue to forward Your cards to her at the sanatorium.

In the meantime, management has decided to cancel our Holiday Party and give everyone the afternoon of the 23rd off with full pay.

We hope that this change does not offend anyone.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Miracle on 34th Street

So, I watched "Miracle on 34th Street" (the new version) for the up-teenth time today and actually discovered something new. It never dawned on me that the department store that hires Kris Kringle is none other than Kohls. This may not be a big deal to someone who doesn't live here, but for me, who frequents this store regularly and due to the amazing deals on their seasonal toys, made a killing, it makes the idea extra special. Of course, there was no "Kris Kringle" in our Kohls.... bummer to that one, but then again, I'd probably never be able to pull my children away from a Santa that special as they are both at an age of clearly adoring his presense.

At one point, Heather suggested asking if there's something that you know will always make you shed a tear (I think she was referring to a commercial or show of some sort). Well, this movie, when it gets to the point of the owner of Kohls announcing that "he believes in Santa" and encourages everyone else to too..... and then "Joy to the World" begins playing as scenes of New York City demonstrating their belief/support of Santa Claus is shown...... oh, yes, the tears are always there. I know Michele understands, she cries everytime too. I LOVE THAT MOVIE!!!! So, that's what I did today, wrapped some more, and cried to my favorite movie.

As a little sidenote, I had my little buddy, Jackson, over to bond with me during part of the movie - he's the littlest guy in the threesome of kids in the Polar Express pics..... and the son of the third couple shown. His mom, Amy, is the gal that went through the accident with us 3 years ago and she still suffers the painful effects. Today was her worst day ever in terms of hurting (hence Jackson hanging with me), and tonite she is in the hospital having just had a CT scan and being given the best pain relieving drugs they have (this is the first time she's ever had to go to the hospital for the pain). Blessedly, the CT scan appears normal, so hopefully, this pain will subside for her and she'll wake up tomorrow a new person. Thought I'd throw that out there as a prayer request.......

Monday, December 04, 2006

A Couple of Questions XXXXVI

What are a couple of things that have filled your heart with joy?

Things That Have Filled My Heart with Joy

I've really been trying to savor the "moments" lately. I am a person who considers Christmas an entire season and not just a day, in fact I've had many recurring nightmares to find myself suddenly awake on Christmas day having done nothing to prepare, anticipate, or celebrate its arrival. So, in an effort to prove it's just a bad dream, I work really hard at savoring the journey that begins after Halloween and ends at the beginning of January. In light of that, here are a few things that have made me stop and smile, and filled my heart with warm fuzzies (and occassionally my eyes with tears) over the last week or so....

1. After three frustrating attempts last week, finally getting a mid-day nap
2. My first peppermint mocha from Starbucks of the season
3. Hearing my son say one day last week, "Today, Mommy, I'm going to try to be really good" - (this makes me want to cry right now as today has been a bit of the opposite, he's currently writing an apology letter to me in his room as instructed by the phone call from Daddy - Mondays are hard....)
4. The sunshine last Friday
5. The smell of my Christmas trees
6. The fact that my kids love the pizza from WinCo foods and especially requested it after getting the tree (what a cheap - and I agree, yummy pizza)
7. The first listenings of: Point of Grace's "Let There Be Light", Amy Grant's "O Little Town", Newsong's "Sing Noel" - these songs literally give me chills....
8. The date with my daughter at the above mentioned "Starbucks"
9. The looks in the kids' eyes watching Santa board the train
10. Watching ELF and SANTA CLAUSE 2 while wrapping Christmas presents

Sunday, December 03, 2006

The Polar Express

Get set for a picture heavy post.....

This weekend was the final realization of an event in the works since last March for our family. Way back last spring, I received a brochure from the Hood River Dinner Train. In it, they described their different offerings and the description of their version of "The Polar Express" especially caught my eye. Could their be a better way than that to celebrate my daughter's upcoming 5th birthday? I got on the phone, called the close network of families that we refer to as our "Bible Study group" and asked if they'd be willing to come along with us - us paying the way for their daughters as Mikayla's "party activity"..... They all said YES and even all agreed to stay at the Hood River Comfort Suites to extend the festivities of the excitement even more.

It's been a long time waiting, but we finally hit December 2nd to board the "Polar Express" It was a wonderful time. The ambience of the train itself was a little lacking, I will say, but the kids' overwhelming excitement simply being on it made up for that fact quickly. Particularly as Santa came down the aisles - all of them, even the older boys were so enthusiastic - it was very precious. Did I mention it was below freezing and there was snow all around? Yes, very beautiful, and downtown Hood River was glorious. Brayden even asked, "Can we make coming to Hood River an annual Riley tradition?" Boy, does that kid know already the right lingo to use to get Mom to do what he wants.....

The only other downside is the therapy costs that the Whites will have to fork out for the "up close and personal" experience Stephie had to have with Santa. No, Santa did nothing out of the ordinary, but sadly, Stephie hasn't outgrown the 3 year old fear that children that age tend to have of Santa (or any other figure in costume). You should see her in Red Robin when the "Red Robin" visits the table - forehead beaded with sweat, pale face - pretty scary. Perhaps that's the real reason we can't get her to come to Disneyland with us..... Thanks for being so brave for all of us, Stephie - it wouldn't have been the same without you.

Overall, a wonderful weekend - that as Mikayla said, "was even more fun than she ever thought it would be..." Now, on with the pics......

Mikayla blowing out her candles in her ice cream cone at the Hood River Dairy Queen prior to the train's departure
This is the adult crew that came with us on the dinner train - notice Mom and Chele, both their honeys were gone with work related commitments - fortunately, Michael joined us later at the hotel - as Dad is in San Diego - he had to pass!

Here are the kiddos all clad in their favorite holiday jammies - just like in the book:

Here are some pics of the kids with Santa - he was so great - we traveled to a beautifully lit "North Pole" that the kids viewed through the window of the train - and he then borded the train, traveling down the aisles to sit with each child, listen to their requests and pose for pictures, and finally, give them a special "bell" - just like the book suggested....

Outside of Santa, the sights from the train, and the intercom reading of "The Polar Express" we were entertained with cocoa, molasses cookies, singing Christmas carols with jolly teenage elf choir, and finally, Travis pretending to be "Baby Annabelle"