12/30/11

Hand-Made Christmas, Part 3 (Dr. Who)


As I mentioned in my last post – Hubby and I decided this year to make each other gifts this past Christmas. 

In addition to the wall hanging featured in that previous post; I also made a small plush Dr. Who for Hubby.  If you don’t know the Doctor, he’s kind of hard to explain.  A British television series that has spanned decades, and follows a fantastic and funny time traveler as he has adventures all over time and space.  Hubby’s favorite incarnation was the fourth doctor – played by the talented Tom Baker.  His version of the Doctor was quirky and fun and known for a ridiculously long scarf, among other things. 

I used a photo of the 4th doctor that I found on the internet as a rough inspiration and free handed the body (using doll face velour).  I also free handed the clothing and stitched up as much as I could on my machine.  I used a doll needle and embroidery thread to make the eyes and the little smirk.  All of the clothes are made from heavy duty felt, except for the vest which was made from a scrap of plaid wool from my stash. 

I didn’t have to buy anything to complete this project.  It took me the better part of three hours to cut out, assemble and sew the whole thing.  I’m very pleased with this, and am fondly calling it “Dr. Who felt art”.  Hubby keeps it atop his dresser next to the little ninja I made for him last year (long story there which I’ll save for another day).
Here he is without the little scarf...

and Tom Baker as the Doctor... my inspiration for this project!

Hand-Made Christmas, Part 2 (Wall Hanging)

My husband and I decided this year to make each other gifts.  We did it to save money, but also because there comes a point in life when you usually buy what you need when you need it, making Christmas shopping for one another kind of challenging.  There was a bit of pressure in deciding what to make, but in the end I was very pleased (both with what I gave and with what I received).

I received a necklace (he drilled a hole in an old Irish coin and attached it to a long chain).  In case you are wondering about the significance, my family first came to the US from Ireland long ago.  I should have taken a photo, but forgot so will have to do that soon.  He also made me some lovely soaps – melting down the ingredients, adding color and fragrance and putting the whole she-bang into adorable molds.  I love my gifts and really appreciate the time and effort put into making them.

In return I made him the wall hanging shown above (original inspiration for this project came from HERE, via my friend and co-worker Sarah).  To make my version of this wall hanging, I first painted the bottoms of my boys feet and carefully transferred their footprints onto heavy white paper (John Deere green for Little Guy and International Harvester Red for Baby Boy).  I cut out the footprints and attached them with craft glue to a “farm scene” I had assembled using bits of colored scrap book paper.  I cut out the wheels, cab and other details from construction paper and glued it all together.  I had an old oak frame that I painted with glossy black acrylic paint.  I wrote the boys’ names and ages in the wheel wells, and the year in the sun.

Total cost was under $5.  I did have to buy a little bottle of the black paint, and two sheets of scrapbook paper.  Everything else came from my stash of craft supplies.  I like this and it now hangs in our hallway.  When the boys are grown, we’ll still always be able to remember their sweet little feet whenever we see this hanging on our wall.

12/29/11

Hand-Made Christmas, Part 1 (Fire Hose)

Today I was looking through the photos of our boys this Christmas.  Surrounded by upended boxes and scraps of wrapping paper, my three year old is beaming over one toy or the other in every picture.  As is always the case, he got more than he needed – but oh was he happy!  The majority of his gifts were store-bought.  The one exception being a fire hose, which I made for him to go along with his new fireman suit (we LOVE fire trucks and firemen at our house).  I used scraps that I had on hand, so there was no cost.  It turned out to be one of his favorite toys of the day, so I definitely feel that it was worth the time spent to put it together.

I personally adore hand-made gifts.  My family has been exchanging them for years (for as long as I can remember really), and those little things made with love stand out as my favorites.  Did I love the store-bought dolls and other toys?  Of course.  But with the exception of my beloved Mandy and Jenny, I don’t have any of them now.  The hand-made items though…those are ones I kept.  They each hold a special place in my heart and always will.  I hope my children will always appreciate things made for them with love, and never close themselves off to the idea that price doesn’t have to have anything to do with value.

The fire hose is made from a long piece of heavy-duty black fabric (which in a prior life was part of a conveyer belt), a plastic drinking cup, lots of duct tape and some blue yarn.

Above is a picture of Little Guy in full-out fireman mode.  I found the hat at a garage sale for 50cents, the jacket on eBay for $5.00, and the boots at a children’s consignment store for $6.00.  I also bought a ‘fireman accessory pack’ at our local dollar store for $1.  It included pretend versions of: an axe, a walkie talkie, a badge, and a mini fire extinguisher.

He loves his fireman gear, but of course as soon as he’d put it all on – he asked where the fire hydrant was?  I told him we didn’t have one, so he promptly grinned at me and said, “You can make it for me Mom.”. 

Guess what’s on the craft agenda for this week?  haha  I guess, that at least for now, my Little Guy is just as big a fan of home-made gifts as I am.

Passing It Along...

Miss TopChelseaGirl over of How Soon is Now is a sweet gal.  She writes about the things she loves (vintage, home d├ęcor, movies, fashion and travel etc).  Her blog is always interesting and a joy to read.  She has recently received a “Liebster” award, and in turn has passed one along to me.  (see!  I told you she’s a sweet gal).

Apparently Liebster" is a German word meaning dear, sweet, kind, nice, good, beloved, lovely, kindly, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing, and welcome.

The Liebster is a way to show a little Blog Love to bloggers who currently have less than 200 followers and I'm definitely in this club.

The rules:

1. Thank the giver and link back to the blogger who gave it to you.
2. Reveal your top 5 picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.
3. Copy and paste the award on your blog.
4. Have faith that your followers will spread the love to other bloggers.
5. And most of all - have fun!
Less than 200 eh?  I’m so far below 200 its laughable.  I do believe I’ve had the same loyal 29 followers for over a year now.  I press on with the whole blogging thing because though I may not have a large audience… I do love the one that I have.  (you guys are awesome!!)
But I digress…I love reading a lot of different blogs, covering a wide variety of topics - but only some fit into this “less than 200 followers” category.  Please take a moment (or two or three) to visit these lovely ladies and while you’re there – tell them hello.  You won’t be sorry.
Oh, and a note to those I’m passing this award along to: If you aren’t a fan of awards and such, that is okay.  No pressure to pass this along, I promise.  Just know that you are appreciated and that you (and your blog) have made a difference to me.
Here are the blogs I’d like to honor with this Liebster award:

One of my British bloggy friends….Zoe is the sweetest.  She is so very clever and always makes me laugh.  She writes on a variety of topics that are close to her heart. 

Mindy is SuperMom.  She runs.  She bakes.  She takes care of her fantastic family.  She does it all with grace and passion.  The photos of all the yummy food she concocts will be worth a visit alone.  Keep a towel handy so you can wipe the drool off your keyboard.

She writes about her life on a ranch…about her family…about her hobbies.  Every time I go to her blog, I feel a sense of warmth.  The coziness of her home shines through every post.  She is the kind of homemaker I could only wish to be.

Another from far away across the “pond”, this gal can make anything, and then she sells it on Etsy.  Great pics of luscious creations and clever ideas.  If you are at all into crafts with class – visit this blog.

Funny, funny, funny….MA is not only a fellow blogger but also a dear friend in real life.  We met in a childrens’ lit class in college a million years ago and have been friends since – even though we now live far, far apart.  Read her blog about life as a pastor’s wife and mother of three, and you’ll laugh your socks off. 


So there you have it.... enjoy.

12/28/11

Memories of the "Little House"

There’s something about this time of year….this space between Christmas and New Years in particular, that always makes me think of my childhood.  Not just generic thoughts of childhood, but in particular listening to my Dad read me the first few Little House on the Prairie books.  He read them to me after I received the series for Christmas (the yellow paperback versions – oh how I loved them!).  The weather was cold and my Mom was working the evening shift as a nurse.  Dad was recovering from a minor surgery and needed something relaxing to do that would also keep an ornery daughter corralled.  I was old enough to read myself at that point, but hearing him bring the characters to life was really quite perfect. 

Those books offer a glimpse into many of Laura’s relationships throughout her life – not the least of which was that between her and her Pa.  My own “Pa” has a really deep voice, and did the stories justice in his animated reading of them.  The wind howled on the outside of our small farm house, but inside it was cozy – the fire burned and the adventures of long-ago prairie life danced through my head.

Those memories are sweet and comforting.  They warm my heart even when the temperature beyond our walls is frosty.

I am the mother of two small boys, and I adore them both more than life itself.  The only time I half wish for a little girl is when I think of those books which meant so much to me.  The boys can read them of course, but I somehow doubt they’ll get the full-on joy from that particular series that I did as a young girl.

It’s okay.  I may not have a daughter to share the “Little House” books with, but there is still a little girl that lives deep within me - and she will always enjoy re-reading and reliving the adventures of that particular pioneer family. 

Later tonight (once the boys are sound asleep in their snug little beds) I’ll open my favorite of the series - On the Banks of Plum Creek.  As I begin to read it (for what will seem like the hundredth time), I’ll revisit the characters as if they are old friends – which of course they are.  As I turn the pages, and become once again engrossed in the story; I’ll remember the first time I fell in love with it all those years ago. 

Those childhood memories (as well as many others where my Mom was doing the reading) are a mish mash of happiness, featuring lovely time spent with loved ones as we read by the roaring wood stove.   Maybe I won’t share the Little House series with my young sons, but I’ll find some books that we can share and which they’ll be able to enjoy just as much.  For though the stories may wind up being different – it is the memory of precious time spent with a parent that means the most. 
That’s something I can pass on, and pass it on – I will.

12/26/11

Appreciation

Last week the company I work for threw an “Employee Appreciation” event.  I don’t usually go to those things.  It’s not that I don’t like them.  I just tend to have other stuff going on and can’t make it.  This year I decided to make an appearance. 

The party had a carnival theme, and the first thing every associate had to do when they entered, was pick a little yellow duck out of a small wading pool.  Some of the ducks had numbers on the bottom which corresponded to door prizes on a nearby table.  In addition to those prizes, there were a few “grand prizes”:  A big TV, a Play Station III, and a Kindle Fire. 

I didn’t expect to win anything, but here is what was on the bottom of my duck…


I had no idea what a Kindle Fire even was, so when I got home I asked Hubby if we should give it to someone for Christmas?  He said I should wait and see if I liked it.  He was right.  I have been playing around with it a lot.  It is so much fun!!!  It’s like a junior version of the iPad.  I haven’t used it to read any books yet.  I have used it a lot for searching the web, and Little Guy uses it to read children’s books, to “play the piano” and a few other child friendly activities.

So, in case you are wondering… I won’t be giving it away for Christmas, and in future years I’ll definitely be going to those appreciation parties.

It feels good to be appreciated.


12/25/11

What it's All About

Luke 2 (The Birth of Jesus)

 1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register.
 4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
 8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
   and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
 15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
 16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

12/24/11

Christmas Traditions

For as long as I can remember, Christmas has been my favorite holiday.  I love the decorations, the lights, the happy smiles, the greeting cards, the last minute shopping, and most importantly the celebration of Christ’s birth.  Even as a little girl I found myself caught up in the beauty and magic that is this holiday season.  Over the years, those feelings have not diminished.  If anything, they flourish – especially now that we can share the Christmas magic with our little fellows.

These past few weeks I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about ways that we can make the Christmas holiday special for our boys.  For me, this has a lot to do with traditions (both old and new).  Here are some traditions that we have at our house:

The Christmas Tree – We decorate ours the weekend after Thanksgiving.  We use colored lights and ornaments from years gone by (both hand-made and store-bought).  There is no real theme, and nothing “matches”.  Hubby and I both had amassed large amounts of ornaments before we met, and we’ve continued to collect them – so every year we put a different assortment on the branches of our tree.  We top it with a beautiful angel, which of course reminds us of the message given to the shepherds so long ago...

The Greeting Cards – I love, LOVE Christmas cards.  I love sending them.  I love receiving them.  I love hanging them around our living room on strings that I attach to the corners each Christmas.  I love reading the corny letters (and writing them as well).  I love seeing all the wonderful family pictures, and catching up with friends and family I don’t usually see.  The cards represent fellowship to me.  They are a real reminder of those we love, both near and far.  Now that we live in the age of Facebook, some might think the Christmas card is outdated.  I would disagree...

The Stockings – Hung by the fireplace with care (and a lot of heavy duty twine or else our stocking holders topple off the fireplace mantle), the stockings are filled with little bits of this and that.  Smallish gifts, candy canes, little books etc.  Each item reminds us that we should be thankful for all of our blessings – even the little ones…

The Magic – I love reading “Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus” every year.  I think it perfectly captures the magic of the season.  I love turning out all the lights (except for those on the tree) and sit on our sofa, snugly wrapped in a warm quilt – hot tea in hand.  I stare at the twinkling lights and imagine the Shepherds in the field and how they must have felt when the sky lit with a host of singing Angels…

The Presents – I love receiving presents as much as the next person, but nothing matches the way it feels to give a gift that comes from the heart.  Whether I spent hours searching the internet for the perfect gift on-line, or if I had an idea I could make myself – the result is always the same.  Any time I can give a gift that I think the recipient will love, my heart does a little dance… 

The Story – When I was growing up, before even one present could be opened – one of my parents would read aloud the Nativity Story (via Luke 2).  The story of Christ’s birth reminds us why we are exchanging gifts to begin with.  It offers us a time to reflect on all the blessings we have in our lives and gives us an opportunity to pause before bows and bags and wrapping paper start to fly…

The Memories – Every ornament on our tree reminds me of a person or a time which I hold dear.  Every holiday I spend with my family is a time when we can compare stories from holidays long past, and remember the loved ones who once celebrated with us…. 

I hope that we are able to convey the importance of each of these things to our boys.  I want them to cherish this time of year as much as I do, and pass to their own children that same love of this season, when we celebrate the birth of our Savior.

Merry Christmas to you and yours!!!

12/23/11

A Star is Born

Little Guy goes to a small pre-school/daycare that is run by one of the nicest (and most patient) ladies who ever lived.  She clearly loves teaching young children, and in turn the children she teaches love her.

This week they had their Christmas Program.  The group is small.  Little Guy is one of six children (two 2 year olds, three 3 year olds and one 4 year old).  They are a happy little band of friends, with only one girl among them.  The format of the program was very simple.  The children had learned several Christmas songs, and they were going to sing three.  Three of the boys were asked to pick the song they each wanted to sing, and then the group would sing the song selected.

First up was Isaac (Little Guy’s best friend).  When the teacher held the microphone in front of him, he leaned in and clearly said, “Up on a Housetop”.  He then went back to the row the others were standing in, and they all sang (with accompanying hand motions).  Next was Little Guy’s turn to choose a song.  He was supposed to lean in (as Isaac had done), state the name of his song and then fall back into formation to sing it with the others. 

That’s what he was supposed to do.

That’s not what he did.

Instead, he took the microphone from his teacher, announced he wanted to sing “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”, and promptly began to do so right into the microphone.  He loudly belted out the words, standing front and center.  Behind him stood his classmates, happily singing along as if they were Barry Manilow’s back-up singers.  Little Guy knows all the words to this song by heart, and sang three verses.  When he got to the end, he went right back into the third verse again – the other kids all still following his lead, sang along.  When he started to sing the final verse again, his teacher kindly took the microphone so the program could continue as originally planned. 

Even after the mike had been removed from his tiny grasp, he beamed with happiness.  Never has a boy been so excited, as was my Little Guy that night.  We are so proud of him, and hope he applies that energy and passion to other parts of his life.

The only downer of the whole night was when I discovered that I had misunderstood the direction for the evening’s “gift exchange”.  We were supposed to buy one small gift for each child.  I had thought we were buying just one small gift.  Needless to say, Hubby went shopping right after the program and LG’s classmates got their gift from him the next day.

Even with that one draw-back, it was a fabulous evening, and a wonderful example of the sheer joy that can come with raising a precocious toddler.

12/22/11

Cards and Letters and Stamps, Oh My!

Back in 1994 I spent Christmas ‘on my own’ for the very first time.  My tiny apartment (actually an ancient single-wide mobile home) was only a few miles from my parents’ little farmhouse, but felt like a world apart.  Everything that had always meant so much to me at Christmas time was back home with them.  I visited their house, and we exchanged gifts and did all the usual holiday stuff, but it was different not living there with them.  Back at my place I did put up a tree that year, but it was tiny and had very few ornaments.  I remember thinking that I’d be lucky to get any Christmas cards at all, since most people I knew would be unaware that I had moved out on my own.

I borrowed my parents’ Christmas card list and sent the people on it a card.  I included a little holiday form letter, because I’ve always enjoyed those.  I splurged on postage and shipped them out.  I say ‘splurged’ because (if I remember correctly), I was barely clearing $800 a month, and after paying rent and other bills, was just scraping by.  I felt that sending a little Christmas cheer (and letting loved ones know where I was and what I’d been up to) was worth it.

After a few days, the reply Christmas cards started to show up in my mail box.  Cards from cousins, and aunts and uncles, from Grandparents, and family friends.  Each one brought with it a little bit of Christmas magic, and I displayed them around my living room proudly.  With every card I opened, and every letter I read – my shabby little trailer started to feel more like a home.  My home.  From then on I made an effort to always send Christmas cards when the holidays rolled around each year. 

That was long ago, and my card list has changed over the years.  As time has passed, many have moved on or passed away.  New friends and co-workers have been added.  Others have slipped away when cards came back ‘undeliverable’.  Every year the list is a little different than it was the year before. 

Regardless of the changes it may go through, when I glance through this list is like looking at a who’s who of my life, and it always makes me smile.

This year I reviewed my list (as I always do), and tried to decide if I should trim it down at all.  In the end I chose not to remove anyone (and in fact added a few).  I wrote a letter (technically it was a little comic strip chronicling the year for our family), signed cards and stuffed envelopes.  Just like in 1994, soon the reply letters/cards started to come in.

Cards from our immediate family came first, followed closely by those from dear friends, long ago classmates, relatives from all over, and former co-workers. 

It never fails.  Photos of children decked out in Santa hats make me laugh.  Newsletters filled with highlights from fun vacations and birth announcements warm my heart.  The best (by far) are any that include a personal message.  This year, a favorite came to me from my very first employer.  She runs an in-home daycare center, and I worked as her helper for a summer when I was 15 (over twenty years ago, for anyone keeping track).  With her Christmas card this year, she included a three page hand written letter.  It was full of news and memories and questions and reminded me fully of just how fun she is, and why she was on my list to begin with.  A sweet letter from such a wonderful lady, really made my day. 

Personal greeting like that one, remind me why I bother with Christmas cards to begin with.  Connecting (or reconnecting, as the case may be) with people from our lives who were (and still are) important to us…. That’s what it’s all about.  Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t require long letters.  I love every card or letter I get this time of year (emails and Facebook greetings are great too).  Any contact from special friends, past or present – is priceless to me.

You see, though the list has changed – one (very important) thing remains constant.  Each card, letter, holiday photo, and friendly greeting…they all bring with them a little bit of that Christmas magic that I love so much.

If you aren’t on my Christmas card list, let this be my greeting to you!  I hope you have a Merry Christmas and that the new year brings you and yours a time of health and happiness.
.

12/12/11

What is That Smell!?!?

When I got to my cubicle this morning, I was overwhelmed by a mysterious (and awful) odor… an odor so nasty I could barely think straight.  I couldn’t decide if something (perhaps a mouse) had crawled into the ceiling above my desk and perished… or if there had been some sort of pest spray used over the weekend, or something else?  I really had no idea.

Whatever it was, it was seemingly worse at my desk than anywhere else, and my eyes were watering with the severity of it.  I don’t consider myself all that sensitive to odors usually, but this one was so foul as to not be easily ignored.  I asked my co-workers if they had noticed the smell?  Some said they noticed it a little, but it became obvious that I was more bothered than anyone else.

I searched my desk drawers, looked in my overhead cabinet and asked the folks who sit nearby if they had any ideas as to the source of the stench.  Nobody did, so I sent a friendly email to the gal that works with our building maintenance people.  She assured me that someone would be by when he had a chance..  As I waited, I began to think that  the smell was actually getting worse.  After an hour I  began to wonder if maybe it was somehow coming FROM my computer monitor (that’s where it seemed the strongest).

I stood up, and looked behind the monitor.  There were some dust bunnies, a post-it-note and a coffee mug. 

A coffee mug which to my utter dismay, STILL held a good little bit of Friday's cappucino - now curdled and nasty!!  (I know – yuck!)

And just like that, I knew the origin of the jarring odor that had haunted me all morning.  I was glad to have solved my little mystery, but I was also quite humiliated.  After all, I’d made quite a ruckus trying to get to the bottom of the disgusting smell, when I’d been the cause of it all along.

Moral to this story?  Clean our your coffee cup every day before leaving the office… and don’t make a fuss over something that irritates you - until you are POSITIVE it’s not your fault to begin with.

12/11/11

Tessy & Tab

Last year my folks got Little Guy his very first magazine subscription for Christmas.  The magazine is called "Tessy & Tab" and it comes twice a month.  Each issue is printed on heavy paper that makes it more of a paperback booklet, than a traditional magazine. 

They each follow the adventures of a duck (Tessy) and her best friend Tab (a kangaroo).  Each story is written in simple text that will be perfect for early readers, and works very well for pre-readers (as our Little Guy is) as well.  At the end of every issue are a few pages that encourage reading comprehension.  Overall, the magazine is a big hit with LG.  When he gets a new one, he immediately has to read it through.  Many bedtime reading sessions include a stack of Tessy & Tab issues.

If you are looking for a children's magazine, I'd recommend this one.  For the record, I've not been asked to review this publication.  I just wanted to share how wonderful its been for us.

12/10/11

Christmas Stockings

We’re Boston Red Sox fans, and our family room is all decked out in Red Sox everything.  The family room is where our fireplace is, so when it was time to make Little Guy’s Christmas stocking three years ago, and when it was time to make Baby Boy’s for this year…the theme was easy to choose.  Both are made of heavy duty felt.  The designs on the front were cut from the same type of felt based on a free-hand sketch. 

The circle with the sox within did take quite a bit longer than the big “B”.  Four nights of my free time (translation: whatever time I have between when the boys go to sleep and I do) was spent working on this.  I’m pleased with how it turned out.  I wanted something that was similar to LG’s without being to matchy-matchy.  I’m pleased with the results.

Note: I did tweak the photo a bit (obviously) to remove the names of my boys.  The names are actually big block letters (same heavy duty felt) that I sewed on by hand.

12/9/11

{this moment} bah humbug edition

Inspired by SouleMama to share one moment...via a single photo - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember...










12/8/11

So, I heard you on the Radio....


Four years ago, Hubby and I went to our local mall’s Christmas kick-off celebration. They had a big tree-lighting, live music, hot chocolate, decorations everywhere and of course Santa Claus made an entrance.

It was a fun night filled with all the little things that make the holiday fun and memorable. As we were walking around the grounds, soaking up the sights and sounds of the celebration (while also attempting to keep warm against the winter chill), we were approached by a man with a microphone. He was from one of the local radio stations, and was doing on-the-spot interviews with folks that walked by.

My husband is a private fellow, and talking to a radio guy wasn’t his idea of a good time. I thought it might be fun though, so I slowed and let the man ask his question. It was a simple one, “What was your favorite Christmas gift?”

In that moment, images flashed through my brain – what to choose? The Little House on the Prairie book series? The cherished “My Friend Mandy” doll? Or “My Friend Jenny” the following year? No, in the end I chose this as my favorite Christmas gift memory:

I was ten, and remember being woken from a deep sleep late on Christmas Eve night. My Dad had been abruptly called in to work, and would not be at home during our normal celebration time (we usually opened our gifts on Christmas morning – after breakfast and a reading of the Nativity story), so they had roused me so that they could both watch me open my gifts. I, of course, did not object.

So, there I was – disheveled and still in my pajamas – opening presents a little before midnight. I probably received several gifts, but I remember two from that night as if they were yesterday. The first was a fuzzy stuffed raccoon. The second was my first ever record player!! (kids – if you don’t know what that is, ask your folks). It was simply wonderful. Looking at that turntable and the detached speakers made me so happy. This was exactly the present I had hoped for, and I couldn’t wait to try it out.


After giving the Radio guy a way shortened version of the above story, we went on our way, forgetting all about it. Until a few days later when co-workers started asking me if I was the Christy from the radio who got a record player? I got a chuckle out of it that year, and the next (when they re-played the same snippet), and again last year. Just yesterday I had someone ask me about it again, so evidently I’m once again in rotation on that local radio station. It’s silly, but fun too…because it reminds me of that memory and brings it back into focus every year.

Someday, I assume that radio station will ask some new people their question and my response will be retired from their play list. Even if I’m never stopped by another co-worker who heard me on their morning commute…. I’ll never forget. That memory has a lot more to it than the gift itself. It was a perfect example of how our little family functioned. We always made the best of every situation, and always did whatever we could – together as a family. That’s really the best part – the togetherness – the fact that my Mom and Dad wanted us to enjoy our holiday. That was the best gift they ever game me – time with them.

Merry Christmas Mom & Dad!! I love you!

The 12 Days of Christmas… Toddler Version

Below is my adaptation of the classic old Christmas song "The Twelve Days of Christmas" and I dedicate this silly version to my sweet Little Guy, who (along with his baby brother) makes our holiday season so much brighter!

On the first day of Christmas, my toddler gave to me…
A sweet Christmas memory

On the second day of Christmas, my toddler gave to me…
2 silly songs
And a sweet Christmas memory

On the third day of Christmas, my toddler gave to me…
3 bear hugs
2 silly songs
And a sweet Christmas memory

On the fourth day of Christmas, my toddler gave to me…
4 Mommy kisses
3 bear hugs
2 silly songs
And a sweet Christmas memory

On the fifth day of Christmas, my toddler gave to me…
5 tantrums thrown
4 Mommy kisses
3 bear hugs
2 silly songs
And a sweet Christmas memory

On the sixth day of Christmas, my toddler gave to me…
6 clothes-a-changing
5 tantrums thrown
4 Mommy kisses
3 bear hugs
2 silly songs
And a sweet Christmas memory

On the seventh day of Christmas, my toddler gave to me…
7 toys-a-breaking
6 clothes-a-changing
5 tantrums thrown
4 Mommy kisses
3 bear hugs
2 silly songs
And a sweet Christmas memory

On the eighth day of Christmas, my toddler gave to me…
8 laughs-a-shaking
7 toys-a-breaking
6 clothes-a-changing
5 tantrums thrown
4 Mommy kisses
3 bear hugs
2 silly songs
And a sweet Christmas memory

On the ninth day of Christmas, my toddler gave to me…
9 messes making
8 laughs-a-shaking
7 toys-a-breaking
6 clothes-a-changing
5 tantrums thrown
4 Mommy kisses
3 bear hugs
2 silly songs
And a sweet Christmas memory

On the tenth day of Christmas, my toddler gave to me…
10 minutes napping
9 messes making
8 laughs-a-shaking
7 toys-a-breaking
6 clothes-a-changing
5 tantrums thrown
4 Mommy kisses
3 bear hugs
2 silly songs
And a sweet Christmas memory

On the eleventh day of Christmas, my toddler gave to me…
11 questions asking
10 minutes napping
9 messes making
8 laughs-a-shaking
7 toys-a-breaking
6 clothes-a-changing
5 tantrums thrown
4 Mommy kisses
3 bear hugs
2 silly songs
And a sweet Christmas memory.

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my toddler gave to me...
12 board games playing
11 questions asking
10 minutes napping
9 messes making
8 laughs-a-shaking
7 toys-a-breaking
6 clothes-a-changing
5 tantrums thrown
4 Mommy kisses
3 bear hugs
2 silly songs
And a sweet Christmas memory.




11/28/11

Baby Boy's Quilt

I’m a little behind schedule, but did finish Baby Boy’s quilt this week. This one is similar in style to the one I made for Little Guy before he was born (2008). My original intent was to have this new one done before Baby Boy was born this past summer, but reality smacked me around a bit, and that is why he’s only now getting it when he is four months old.

The inspiration for both quilts is one that was made for me when I was a baby by a dear family friend. It featured an arrangement of squares, each with a whimsical painted animal, and those squares were all bordered by a print fabric. I wanted to do something a little different for the backing on these, so both of the quilts I made are backed with vintage white chenille (think bedspreads from the 1960s). I know it's a little unorthadox, but it turned out pretty great.

For the animal paitings on both, I used Aunt Martha’s brand iron on transfers to affix the designs to white fabric squares. My Mom used Aunt Martha’s brand fabric paint to color them, and then I pieced the fronts. I quilted the pieced layer to the chenille backing (using my Brother sewing machine and a low loft batting). I embroidered a label for each quilt which details the full name, birth year and a special Bible verse for each. The Bible verses were selected by my Grandma (for Little Guy’s) and my Mom (for Baby Boy’s). The labels are sewn to the backs of both quilts.

Aunt Martha's Note... the quilt made for me in 1974, and the ones I made for my boys all share a few of the same animals. Clearly Aunt Martha knows not to mess with a successful design!
The end result is a nice little family memento in addition to being a cozy and warm quilt, perfect for cuddling or spreading over a toddler’s bed.

When I started taking pictures of Baby Boy with his quilt, Little Guy drug his out for pictures too…which is why both are shown below.
























 

11/7/11

Calgon, Take Me Away!!



no time to relax....

When I was pregnant with Little Guy, I remember hearing detailed stories from seasoned parents about things like: never-ending labor, sleepless nights, ear infections and potty training.

Although usually told under the guise of friendly advice, it seemed that sometimes the intent was more malevolent (think Mr. Burns from The Simpsons… “Excellent”). These types of stories usually started with, “Just wait until [enter bizarre previously unknown event here]”.

Examples:
“Just wait until your baby projectile vomits!” one Mom of four screeched (with glee?).
“Just wait until your toddler says something wildly inappropriate about the person in front of you in the checkout line!” chortled a kind faced grandmother. “Just wait until your baby refuses to sleep through the night for eighteen months!” said a tired mother of (oh wait a minute – that one was me long AFTER Little Guy was born).

You know what NOBODY told me? That I would never EVER have another private moment in my bathroom for the rest of my life. Okay, that “for the rest of my life” part may be an overstatement, but it certainly sums up how I’ve been feeling lately.

There was a time (not so long ago), when my bathroom (and the tub in particular) was my refuge. It offered me the comfort and solace that I needed if life was at all stressful. My idea of a relaxing way to unwind after a rough day? A long soak in a bubble bath with some Miles Davis or Billie Holiday playing in the background and a stack of Martha Stewart Living magazines stacked beside the tub.

The steam filled room (smelling of jasmine and vanilla) became my very own Fortress of Solitude – a place where I could rebound and recharge, before emerging a brand new woman.

Calgon, did indeed, ‘take me away’ from it all.

Sadly, this is no longer the case. All privacy went out the window as soon as Little Guy became mobile. He doesn’t for a minute understand that Mommy might want a bit of “alone time”. A door is made to be opened. If I am lucky enough to be in a bathroom with a functioning lock, he stands outside, relentlessly pounding on the door. “MOM, what are you doing NOW?!!” he yells over and over. Calgon doesn’t make bubble bath potent enough to make that a relaxing environment.

My dear hubby does offer to take the boys and give me time alone, but even that doesn’t work anymore. If I have a half hour to myself at home, I feel obligated to clean the house, empty the dishwasher, or put away laundry, etc. Laying in a bathtub (when unfinished household chores are lurking just beyond the bathroom wall) would be the opposite of relaxing, no matter how many magazines there are to flip through.

This past Saturday was rough. Little Guy is potty training, and we were having a battle of wills regarding that. In addition, Baby Boy was cranky with his first ear infection. I was behind with housework (typical these days), and just having a frustrating day all around. Hubby could tell things were rough, and so he took matters into his own hands. He hustled us all into the car, drove to a nearby bookstore which I love, handed me some cash and (with a genuine supportive smile) said, “I’m taking the boys to the toy store. We’ll be back in an hour.” You may be thinking that an hour isn’t much…but you’d be wrong. It was exactly the break I needed, and it allowed me to clear my head in the same way that those long bubble baths did years ago.

When my men returned, I was able to greet them with a big smile of my own, feeling refreshed and recharged (and with a few new books tucked under my arm). So maybe I won’t get any alone time in my bathroom for a decade or so… at least I’ve learned that Calgon isn’t the only thing that can take me away.

My message to expectant mothers everywhere:

“Just wait till your husband shows you how much he loves you by braving Toys R Us with a three year old and an infant, just so you can have an hour in a used book store”.

11/2/11

Cootie!!

When I was a little girl, I would visit my sweet Grandma and we would play games like Candy Land and Chutes and Ladders.  My favorite though, was always Cootie!  I don't think we ever actually played by the rules (rolling the dice to earn a chance to add parts to your Cootie bug), but we always had a lot of fun building our little creatures and giggling.

A few summers ago I came across the same version of Cootie we'd played with when I was little (circa 1949).  It was at a garage sale, and probably cost more than the brand new version would have been at Wal Mart.  I didn't care.  Seeing that yellow and red box just made my heart happy.  Memories of happy afternoons with my Grandma came rushing back, and I knew I had to have it. 

Our Little Guy has just gotten to a point where he too, enjoys board games.  We play Candy Land, Memory, Elefun, Hi-Ho Cherry-O, and of course Cootie!  Cootie (called "the ladybug game" by Little Guy) has quickly become his favorite too.  We don't follow the rules either (and if you've ever played games with a toddler, you know why), but we do take turns and have a lot of fun building our little Cootie bugs.

Grandma would be so proud! 

11/1/11

Halloween 2011

Monday marked both the end of October (can you believe how quickly that month passed?) and Halloween. It's not my all-time favorite holiday, but it can be fun, and it certainly was this year.

We dressed the boys up as a cowboy and cow, respectively. Our Cowboy enjoyed his costume. Our little Baby Bovine...not so much.



And imagine my surprise when Little Guy received a surprise package in the mail from our friend Miss Zoe of Pennyblossoms (you are really spoiling us over here, by the way). An adorable little lunch box filled with all sorts of yummy candy and treats that we don't see here in the USA. Thank you Miss Zoe! You are such a sweetheart, and you made our Little Guy very happy! 



We took the boys through our neighborhood for 'trick-or-treat' time, and then also went to an event at the local mall. The below pic is of Hubby and Little Guy as we were getting ready to leave. Note that the cowboy hat is not on the cowboy's head.

10/30/11

Autumn Art

Here's a little project that Little Guy and I worked on this week. We both had fun, and his artwork now hangs on our front door to welcome any visitors who might come our way.
We used his hand prints to make leaves, and LOTS of glue, but it was worth the mess to see how much he enjoyed himself.


10/20/11

We Love Firefighters!!

Fireman Sam is a wonderful children's
series from Wales.  Little Guy Loves it.
At the moment, we are living and breathing all things related to fighting fires. We play with toy fire trucks. We color pictures of fire trucks. We pretend to be firefighters. When we have TV time, we watch Fireman Sam episodes on NetFlix. When we are in the car, we make siren noises. At night we read bedtime stories about firemen. You get the idea.

Last weekend we went to our local Fire Station’s open house/pancake breakfast (lucky timing indeed). As you might expect, Little Guy had a ball! He loved meeting the firemen, sliding down the pole, sitting in the fire trucks, playing in the bouncy house they provided and just walking around the station. Truthfully we all had a pretty good time.

Daddy helping Little Guy slide down the
fire station pole.
Baby Boy wearing his brother's fire helmet
When we got home, we decided to make a fire station for his trucks. We started with a cardboard box (a heavy duty box once used for fruit), covered it in bits and pieces of red scrapbook paper (which I drew “bricks” on). Little Guy helped me arrange assorted paper to make walls, a roof and a big yellow “X” for his rescue helicopter to land on. The resulting “Fire Station” holds most all of his trucks, and has already offered a lot of fun play time.

LG with his cardboard fire station.
 
And in action


10/18/11

Homework: "H" is for hat

Little Guy started attending a new daycare/pre-school when I returned to work.  In addition to getting lots of play time with his friends, they practice letters and numbers, have story time, and do crafts.  Little Guy loves it, and looks forward to going every day. 

His teacher asked that we practice printing letters for fifteen to twenty minutes a day.  We practice writing and also coloring (as that is something he needs to work on).  At first he didn't act all that thrilled to be doing this stuff at home, but now he's really enjoying it.  I'm going to start posting a few of our projects every week, so that we can better track his progress.

Below are some pictures from the past week.  We did at least one project every night last week, but I didn't always take pics.  Here are a few of the things we worked on.

For this project, I drew a big "H" and then cut out letters from
magazines.  I piled the misc letters on the table, and LG picked
out all the H's to glue onto the big one.
  
It's kind of hard to see here...but this was a coloring
page of a Hen.  He colored it (you can see why we're practicing
our coloring), and then he glued on 'feathers'.

He loves to use glue!


10/15/11

A Sweet Gift from Afar

The picture is of Baby Boy and his new softie heffalump, which was a lovely and sweet gift from Miss Zoe of Pennyblossoms.  It was promptly named "Wilson" by our three year old.  I'm not sure why he chose that name, but it works.  Baby Boy already likes to touch the silky soft Wilson, and Little Guy even picks him up for a hug now and then.  I have a feeling he'll be a favorite with our boys. 

So, a great big American "Thank You" goes out to Miss Zoe.  I promise you will soon be getting a little something in the mail from us as well.  Thank you for your thoughtfulness and for always knowing just what to say and always saying it with a kind heart.  Though we may never meet in person - I feel that you are a dear friend.

Thank you Miss Zoe!!!


10/14/11

No Time for THAT!

It’s been a while since I really wrote anything of substance for this little blog of mine. I hate excuses, but here are mine: I was pregnant. Then I was even more pregnant (and mildly miserable). Then I gave birth to a lovely little boy (our second). Then I was on maternity leave and for some reason I could not focus on writing much more than a post card. Then Little Guy had his CT scan, and his surgery and Baby Boy was too adorable to ever put down, etc… and then my leave was over.

After I returned to work, it felt like every waking “free” moment should be spent with Hubby and the boys (working Mama guilt sometimes overwhelms yours truly).

So anyway, things like writing and sewing and reading have taken a back seat of late to the crazy little every day stuff that makes my life so vivid and rewarding (and frankly, worth writing about in the first place).

I’m really sorry that I haven’t made more of an effort with blogging these last few weeks/months …. not sorry for you (I know you probably have better things to do than read my silly ramblings), but sorry for me. Sorry because even though my bits of this and that are often silly and disjointed, writing helps me clear the fog from my brain. It soothes me in a way that a bubble bath can soothe after a crazy stressful day. When the world seems out of control around me, writing down my thoughts brings the spinning, surging, stampeding whirlwind that is life… into crisp focus. The rush of it all slows down (though maybe for only a few minutes) and I can see clearly. The stuff that does not matter begins to recede and I’m left with some moments of calm.

And frankly, I can use all the calm I can get right now…so stay tuned. More posts to come.

 


“Live life fully while you’re here. Experience everything. Take care of yourself and your friends. Have fun, be crazy, be weird. Go out and screw up! You’re going to anyway, so you might as well enjoy the process. Take the opportunity to learn from your mistakes: find the cause of your problem and eliminate it. Don’t try to be perfect, just be an excellent example of being human.”

-Tony Robbins

10/13/11

Sharpened Pencils

“Don’t you love New York in the fall? It makes me wanna buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address.” – Tom Hanks as Joe Fox in “You’ve Got Mail”

 Well, first of all I adore that film – it’s the perfect romantic comedy in my opinion…but I digress.

The reason this old movie quote came to mind, is that (although I’ve never been to New York) I too, LOVE Fall. I love the changing colors, the crisp air and the simple beauty that this season vividly boasts.

I love wearing sweaters and boots. I love hearing football games on the radio (though honestly I am not a football fan). I love curling up under a fluffy quilt with my sweetie while we watch the baseball playoffs.

I love the color orange. I love picking out Halloween costumes for the little ones, and baking cookies shaped like giant pumpkins. I love hayrides, S’mores and steaming apple cider in big ceramic mugs. I love bonfires and ghost stories under a harvest moon.

The wonder and beauty of Autumn is fleeting, and soon the leaves will fall. Trees will be left bare in readiness for the harsh Winter to come. The breezes will change from crisp to brutal, and all those cute sweaters will be hidden under parkas and heavy scarves.

Winter isn’t here yet though. For now, the world is alight with color and the air is cool and full of promise.

If I knew where you lived, I’d send you a bouquet of sharpened pencils… of course being who I am – I’d wait till the school supplies went on clearance and I could buy them at half price. The sentiment though, would still be there.

Wishing you and yours a lovely Autumn.

Little Guy: BIG News!!

We received great news last week! The mass removed from behind Little Guy’s ear turned out to be only a “skin cyst”. Though not a wonderful thing for him to have had, it was not something which will require further treatment or something which should ever return. We are thrilled beyond words, and so very thankful for such a positive outcome!!






10/12/11

And Minnie Moore!

When I was a very little girl, my family knew a sweet older lady. I think her name might have been Mary Moore, but for some reason I always thought her name was Minnie. The reason that is important for the purpose of this little story, is that in my neck of the woods it is not uncommon to hear the following at the conclusion of the traditional happy birthday song*:

“And MANY MORE!”


This of course is a wish for the birthday person to live a long and happy life, full of many more birthdays in the future.

But when I was little, I just thought it meant that Miss Minnie Moore got to have a lot more birthdays than anyone else did. I was jealous of that sweet older lady, imagining days of cake and presents with no end in sight.

I say all that, to say this (to my baby brother, for today is his birthday)…

Happy Birthday to YOU, and MINNIE MOORE!!!!!!!

I love you David! You make me so proud to be your big sister.

*You know the song I’m talking about….but I did not want to have to pay royalties for this blog post, which is why I’m not sharing the whole song here. You understand.

10/5/11

Maternity Leave Comes to an End...

After twelve weeks of snuggling and cuddling, my maternity leave has come to an end. Though parts of my leave were stressful (Little Guy’s CT scan and surgery & a death in the family), most of my time off was really wonderful.

Baby Boy and I were able to bond and spend a lot of quality time together. Nuzzling his chubby little cheeks became a favorite pastime. When I had ‘free’ time (translation: the baby was sleeping), I read books and watched old TV shows on NetFlix. Little Guy continued to go to daycare, as we knew pulling him out for three months would only make going back that much harder. He also started going to a pre-school, which he loves. It’s truly amazing to see how much he’s learning. He is like a hyper little sponge, soaking up new information every day at warp speed.

I went back to the office on Monday, officially ending my time off. Though it wasn’t fun to drop the boys off at their respective caregivers that morning; it was easier than I’d anticipated. Certainly, it was easier than when I dropped Little Guy off that first time three years ago. (Oh the tears! You’d have thought I was never going to see him again.)

I think the biggest reason for the difference is that I’ve been down this road before. I now know that my baby won’t stop loving me, and won’t choose his babysitter over time with Mommy and Daddy. I know that at the end of the day, he’ll be just as excited to see me as I will be to see him.

Baby Boy is now going to the same babysitter we used for Little Guy for the past few years. She’s a great lady whom we trust completely to care for our sweetie pie. Little Guy’s preschool is only a few minutes away, and his new teacher is also a wonderful lady who clearly loves what she does, and the children love her in return. Knowing that my little ones are in loving and capable hands makes a really big difference in my overall attitude toward returning to work.

Part of me would love to stay at home someday, but that is not an option for us at the moment. I can't complain. I am very blessed, and very thankful:

  • That my little fellows are safe, happy, and thriving - learning new things and making new friends.


  • That I have a great job to return to….a job that challenges me and keeps me on my toes.

  • That I had the opportunity to stay home for these wonderful weeks, so that I could spend precious time with the baby.

  • That I’m married to a marvelous man who supports me and is always there for me, no matter what.

    Life is very good, and I am very blessed…with home…with family…with work.

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