Christmas

We had a truly wonderful Christmas, quiet, cozy and happy.

Decorating cookies on Christmas Eve

Lucy’s version of “decorating”

The layout before kids got to it
Lucy and the new chair she was very excited about (but it was from the dollar store, so it broke before the day was out).

David loves Christmas! (Temporarily Unclassified Information)

We got some wonderfully generous and unexpected gifts at the last minute from a Secret Santa, and should that person be a reader of my blog, I wish to thank them deeply for their kindness. There was a loud, quick banging on our door around 9ish Christmas eve that startled us a great deal, and once we figured out what was going on and we brought in the box, I was at first confused, because I thought we’d put together a respectable Christmas layout this year and wondered why we’d been chosen. But then we both read the note, which was clearly from a ward member and was so sweet and loving. We both felt so touched as we realized that it was not a gift of charity so much as one of heartfelt love and appreciation. It must have been the season, because we were both a little weepy over it. I’m sure I’ve overstepped my wifely confidentiality agreement by sharing that fact with you.

Looking over the past year, I am happy to say that I actually met some of my goals for this year, which generally just doesn’t happen. This was the year I really started my family history because of the Stake and Ward goals, and I was able to submit around 60 names for temple work. I finished this fun family tree for my in-laws with eight solid generations from my children:

We gave it to them framed, with poster copies for David’s brothers and sister. I felt really happy that I actually did what I set out to do. It’s pretty pathetic that keeping a promise to myself is so rare, but it is what it is.

It’s motivated me to timidly make more promises to myself for the coming year. I definitely want to continue the family history hour on Sundays, especially with the new fancy consolidated program coming out next month.

But, as for adding new things, the primary one is to build structure in my own life and in my home, because with that structure comes comfort and all of the other things we need to be doing, like exercise, diet (food planning), etc. I find that if just have the discipline to make and keep a dedicated time for something that needs doing, it just happens (like this family journal), and I don’t have to fret and worry about it. I’m trying to do that with more things, like family and individual scripture study and prayer. We’ve done a lot better with FHE this year but still have room for improvement.

So, in addition to structure I’m going to try to learn to be softspoken. There I’ve said it, it’s out there. May the force be with me.

My concrete goal for this year to see if we can’t try out a volunteer program Ben thought up. You can find out all about it on our progress blog:

http://suburbanharvest.blogspot.com/

The website is almost ready to go up, just waiting until we want to spend the money for hosting.

I’m excited about it because I think it will help Ben understand better how to organize his plans and ideas and manage a project (since he’s so convinced he’ll be a self-employed inventor like his Grandpa Wise and I’d like to help him succeed where Gpa did not do so well). It also really touches on things I care about and I believe it provides a needed service. We’ll have to see how it goes.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas!

Brooms Clean More Than Dirt!

I’m talking to my son in the living room. He is almost finished with an apple. I finish our conversation by saying he may play outside. He exclaims joyfully, drops the finished apple, and darts out the door. He did this, you see, because he was done with it. And that is where he was standing. Overwhelmed by the glorious prospect of playing in our amazing concrete yard, how could he possibly think to put it anywhere else?

Yes, I yelled him back and made him put it away after explaining again to him that he is a human being and slinging other accusatory rhetorical questions about barns, zoos, barbarians, etc.

So that is my eight-year-old. Among my children, I also have two other small people who strew random items about the house because it is actually still developmentally appropriate.

And that is why, just two hours after a very thorough (semi-annual) housecleaning, my bedroom alone will have on the floor: a kitchen strainer, an oven mitt, a hairbrush, a variety of toys, the ever-present scattering of legos, and most of my underwear (I have a low drawer).

Enter, the broom. No longer for dirt alone, the broom is now the universal symbol of “Mom is throwing away my stuff!” Now, I have hardwood (a.k.a. dirty and loud) floors, but my friend with carpet uses a garden rake for the same purpose. It goes as follows:

  1. Pick up my own stuff I want to keep (like underwear)
  2. Get the broom and loudly announce, “Ah, there is a lot of garbage on this floor, it’s time to sweep it up!”
  3. Kids come running to frantically salvage their treasures out of the dust bunnies, yelling accusingly, “MOM, that’s NOT trash!”
  4. And I, sweeping slowly, with the pleasant, blank look of a pod person, explain: “But honey, this stuff is on the floor, it must be garbage.”
  5. I give them just enough time to save their goods before scooping the appalling amount of sand, dust and unwanted toys into the dustpan and off to the trash.

This does several things for me:

  1. I don’t have to bend over and pick them up, ensuring that I don’t accidentally burn any unnecessary calories.
  2. I’m quickly able to discern the staggering amount of toys my kids have and don’t care about, thus persuading me to buy less for the landfills.
  3. It reminds my children that if it is on the floor, pod-mom thinks it’s garbage, so maybe they should put things where they go. (I just imagine this last one)
  4. When no one is home to claim junk, and I’m fed up with the floor situation, I sometimes just sweep it all into a pile in the corner, just to give the rest of the room that tidy, fresh, not-covered-in-garbage look.

So, that’s how I solve the floor chaos for just a brief moment in time. Although the savage broom doesn’t solve the apple situation–unless I use it as a paddle!

Brooms Clean More Than Dirt!

I’m talking to my son in the living room. He is almost finished with an apple. I finish our conversation by saying he may play outside. He exclaims joyfully, drops the finished apple, and darts out the door. He did this, you see, because he was done with it. And that is where he was standing. Overwhelmed by the glorious prospect of playing in our amazing concrete yard, how could he possibly think to put it anywhere else?

Yes, I yelled him back and made him put it away after explaining again to him that he is a human being and slinging other accusatory rhetorical questions about barns, zoos, barbarians, etc.

So that is my eight-year-old. Among my children, I also have two other small people who strew random items about the house because it is actually still developmentally appropriate.

And that is why, just two hours after a very thorough (semi-annual) housecleaning, my bedroom alone will have on the floor: a kitchen strainer, an oven mitt, a hairbrush, a variety of toys, the ever-present scattering of legos, and most of my underwear (I have a low drawer).

Enter, the broom. No longer for dirt alone, the broom is now the universal symbol of “Mom is throwing away my stuff!” Now, I have hardwood (a.k.a. dirty and loud) floors, but my friend with carpet uses a garden rake for the same purpose. It goes as follows:

  1. Pick up my own stuff I want to keep (like underwear)
  2. Get the broom and loudly announce, “Ah, there is a lot of garbage on this floor, it’s time to sweep it up!”
  3. Kids come running to frantically salvage their treasures out of the dust bunnies, yelling accusingly, “MOM, that’s NOT trash!”
  4. And I, sweeping slowly, with the pleasant, blank look of a pod person, explain: “But honey, this stuff is on the floor, it must be garbage.”
  5. I give them just enough time to save their goods before scooping the appalling amount of sand, dust and unwanted toys into the dustpan and off to the trash.

This does several things for me:

  1. I don’t have to bend over and pick them up, ensuring that I don’t accidentally burn any unnecessary calories.
  2. I’m quickly able to discern the staggering amount of toys my kids have and don’t care about, thus persuading me to buy less for the landfills.
  3. It reminds my children that if it is on the floor, pod-mom thinks it’s garbage, so maybe they should put things where they go. (I just imagine this last one)
  4. When no one is home to claim junk, and I’m fed up with the floor situation, I sometimes just sweep it all into a pile in the corner, just to give the rest of the room that tidy, fresh, not-covered-in-garbage look.

So, that’s how I solve the floor chaos for just a brief moment in time. Although the savage broom doesn’t solve the apple situation–unless I use it as a paddle!

Christmas is coming, and it’s not The Goose who’s getting fat!

By which I mean, of course, “The Goose,” which is my husband’s only term for our youngest child (I persist in calling her Lucia [Italian-style] since David rejected that name, but I assume since he has gone so off track with her nickname I can call her whatever I want). The Goose refuses to grow still and is simply burning more calories than ever zipping about the house. As for me, I’m actually skipping regular meals now to make up for chocolate eating–I’m hoping the calories will even out. Yay, Christmas!

It’s been a nice, relaxed week. I’ve just lowered my expectations of myself, and, lo and behold, I’m a much more accomplished person!

Ben is anxiously awaiting a bike from Santa, Sophie asked for a “Puppy grows and knows your name.” We’ve been planning menus and shopping a bit, but have succeeded in having a more modest Christmas overall that is heavy on the Christmas Spirit. Forgive me if I’ve mentioned this already, but David made me an MP3 CD containing every song from every Christmas CD we own, and it plays on our DVD player–that does much to spread the cheer. He is so useful! I forsee his obituary: “He was a very Useful man.”

Ben and Sophie are happy to be done with school for the year. However, now, Sophie is totally sick. She planned on going to the zoo with her best friend Sydney on Saturday, but acted weird in the morning, crying over everything and saying she had a headache. She put herself to bed for a nap at 10 a.m.–very weird. Then she acted all fine, so I proceeded to tell them to pick her up, but while they were on their way over, she commenced throwing up. She has had weird sleeping patterns the past few nights, also. I stayed home with her during church today and her fever got up to 102.5. She’s also had a mild cough–random set of symptoms. She has enjoyed all the snuggling and coddling immensely. I might be fostering a future hypochondriac.

Noah needs a 3-year-old-sized hamster wheel. I checked Freecycle, but no go.

I had the greatest night last night, when my friend took me to “Joyful Foot Massage” for their $15 Reflexogy foot special. It was a 60 full minutes! It started with a full neck-to-hip massage (clothed) by some super-strong reflexology genius named Tom while I soaked my feet in hot herbal tea in a darkened room with soft music and animated photographs of waterfalls on the walls. Then I put my feet up in a recliner while Tom kneaded my shoulders, neck and face into rubbery oblivion. Then, we got to the feet part (“foot” apparently includes everything below the knee), which was probably wonderful also but I fell asleep for most of that. I left there a different woman.

I decided that I will give up every treat and non-necessary expense for the rest of my life to go back there on a regular basis. Reflexology is amazing.

Then late last night I started worrying about Tom, and wondering if my $5 tip was all he got out of the deal, and knowing he didn’t speak English so I couldn’t ask him. I assumed that he was probably illegal, as he is a clearly very talented 40ish man but couldn’t possibly be making much even if they did supplement the tip. So, now I still want to go back, but when we’re in the money I want to get the $150 for 11 visits so each visit is just over $13, then I will only go when I have at least $10 for Tom’s tip. Darn the wonderfully effective Story of Stuff for breaking down my happily compartmentalized consumerism.

So, I guess it is really $25. Email me if you want me to take you some Tues or Thurs night. It. Is. Amazing.

Merry Christmas & Joy to the World!

The Cure for the Limbo Blues: Love, Music and Revelation

Today we had our Christmas program. Our ward has a lot of holiday travel, so we do it early each December. It was a truly wonderful thing, which wasn’t necessarily unexpected, but in the past several weeks I was too much in a grumpy cloud for it to reach me.

Still, I went through the motions of all the practices. In each practice I dreaded one particular song. It starts out from the view of a shepherd who sees the star, hears the angels and witnesses the Christ child while he was still a boy. In a later verse the Shepherd says,

But life goes on, years beyond one brief night of my youth.
Time clouds my vision of truth.
And though I stumble, and fall,
I can hear someone call,
“Do not despair,
Your star is still there.”

Now, I’ve been having a hard time not seeing my path as clearly as I’d like. I’ve been really even questioning if there was a plan for us some days. As a result, I had the annoying and inappropriate habit of always falling apart into complete despair exactly at time we sang, “Do not despair, your star is still there.” On one occassion I had to excuse myself to the women’s room to commence a big baby breakdown: “I don’t see the star!”

As mentioned before, I’m guilty of thinking that just because I don’t know or understand the plan for my life, that there isn’t one.

On Wednesday I was at the church practicing for a small group number to start off the program. The Bishop was there and, in a pathetically resigned, “what-the-heck” way, I decided to ask him for a blessing, which he willingly did. It was remarkable how different I felt afterward. Basically I was reminded there was a plan, and received a great deal of understanding of why things are going the way they are. Not a lot of understanding of where they were going, but some direction at least. But beyond the words, I just left feeling fine about the state of things for the first time in a long time, even though they seem so uncertain still.

Just to know there was a plan, I could be okay not knowing really what it was.

So I spent the remainder of the week practicing Christmas songs, doing our mom’s group Christmas music class, enjoying the group cookie exchange and giving away cookie plates to my VTees, visiting with friends, motherly nursing a bad case of poison oak on Ben, reading with Sophie, laughing at and with Noah, making Lucy giggle with kisses and generally feeling pretty good. And nothing really changed in my life, just a reminder that I’m on the Lord’s radar. God’s love is powerful stuff.

I have a lot of friends in limbo right now–financial, employment, relationship and fertility issues. One sweet friend of mine in a housing/financial limbo gave me this article, and if you are in any kind of limbo right now, I highly recommend it:

Our Unexpected Journey Toward the Promised Land

So I sat down in church today and thought for the first time that hey, all this practice has been for a Christmas program, maybe this would be a good time to get the Spirit of Christmas. In the meeting, President Bradford shared a quote that I instantly adopted as my life creed, a quote from President David O. McKay,

“Man’s basic needs are love, music and revelation.”

And as we sang and I listened to the narrative, I really felt wonderful. And because of this little reminder of the Lord’s love this week, given through revelation, in a week filled with music, I was able to sing “Do not despair, your star is still there.” –and really believe it.

Something to do instead of read a post from me

You may have noticed that I am late in posting and that I’m playing around with my blog skin. I did that yesterday in place of actually posting, then realized I had to go practice for the Christmas choir program and had used up all my time doing non important things relating to blog skins, meanwhile pretending it was Sabbath-worthy since it relates (ever-so-indirectly) to family history and my family journal.

Last week was ok, somewhat lame, but also we had a wonderful time at the Huntington Gardens on Thursday–an overcast, cool, green day. I’ll post pics later in the week.

Our family is just in a funk, I guess. Lame, unblog-worthy issues, mainly. Not for public consumption. Although, I said something to Ben today as we were driving somewhere, and as it came out of my mouth, I wondered if it was a divine message to myself (through myself). Ben was complaining that we were going the wrong way because I was taking a different route he was unfamiliar with. I grumpily said to him:

“Just because you don’t know where you’re going does not mean you aren’t going the right way.”

I hope that’s true.

So, instead of reading about the details of my week, watch this short video instead, and have your kids watch it (8+ probably). It’s a helpful remedy for the holiday gimmee-gimees, and goes along with my previous post on consumption (thanks Cousin Lisa for the link!)


http://www.storyofstuff.com/

The fashion stuff and “planned obsolesence” segment is particularly interesting. It really leaves you not wanting to be a sucker.

My friend from the Netherlands is very surprised that sustainability and concern for the environment is a politicized issue in the US. She said that in Europe, taking care of the environment was a given as necessary thing and not appropriated by one political party. Well, I guess that’s one blessing of being an avowed Independent!

Valerie

The Week in Review

Very tired this week, staying up too late pursuing my own interests. The one time I can use for such luxuries is the time I normally spend sleeping.

Rather uneventful week. David was working in NorCal Wed and Thurs, my mom got into town Wednesday, we went to Griffith Observatory again Wednesday (always amazing) and then to the Noah’s ark exhibit at the Skirball for the Thursday Free day (advanced tickets required even for Free Thursdays, I highly recommend this place!)

The Skirball also had a new exhibit outside the children’s place showing grains of rice representing people in various categories. Just a pile of rice on a paper with a label, and then another one. I want to come up with vivid, literary imagery to explain to you how interesting it was and how it made me feel, but my sleep-deprived fog is finding that part of my brain inaccessible. Instead, some plagiarism:

Now in a month-long engagement, Of All the People in All the World will feature more than fifteen tons of rice-900 million grains total-equaling the population of the Americas-organized to bring local, national, and global statistics to life. Artists from the innovative British theater company Stan’s Cafe will carefully weigh and pile the staple food to quantify a variety of facts, from the serious and sobering to the lighthearted. Each grain of rice represents one individual. From the few women ever elected to the U.S. Senate to the multitudes who eat at McDonald’s daily to the Southland residents who walk to work, the statistics portrayed will create an evolving landscape of rice, as the artists dismantle old piles and measure out new ones, often in response to the artists’ interactions with visitors.Shocking, playful, dismal, and hopeful in turn, Of All the People in All the World will inspire viewers to celebrate how everyone counts in our ever-expanding global society. (From http://www.skirball.org/)

It was indeed amusing, surprising and depressing all at the same time. I was most depressed by the enormous pile of people who watched the 2006 finale of American Idol. Not because I have any personal beef with that show, but it just seemed to say something about something else. Not sure what those somethings were, though.

Friday we started Christmas music class, which was fun, and I just loved the long-missed rain we got that day. We also went to Souplantation with my sweet Doris.

That day, Doris got me going with a wild hair to write another website, so I obsessed on it until 1 am both Friday and Saturday while Mom and David watched Lord of the Rings I and II. I’ll debut it when it’s ready–I love a project!

Sunday was busy with church, ward choir, a small vocal group rehearsal for Enrichment, Stake Choir rehearsal, then the Christmas Devotional concert. I wish I sang so much more often, but my voice isn’t used to it and I’m out of practice. I can’t wait until I can go back and study music more and get some real skills!

Rereading this I realized I said this was a rather uneventful week, but in hindsight, apparently not.

Kids are doing great — loud and chaotic — cute and wonderful…

…In this post do I sound like I am rambling as I drift off to sleep? It feels like that to me.
G’night.