Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Christmas - the summary

What a week – the week of Christmas. Where could I possibly begin?

I set my table for Christmas Eve and my children disapproved.

“Mother. What are you doing?!”

“The table is set, Honey. I’m getting drinks. What would you like?”

“Gladys, take these plates back. Get the china. We only use china on Christmas.”

That was Andrew. My six-year-old disapproved of my Christmas table. My daily dishes are lovely. They are white with a green rim. They go into the dishwasher. We ate on Wedgewood on Christmas Eve. My mother thought that was just peachy. I’m such a rude daughter, after all – such a peasant.

Sometimes our lessons are a little too good.

Like the week before when Andrew was invited to go to the Gingerbread tea with my friend and her son, and down he came in a collared shirt and tie. Wow. I guess I should ask him on a date myself sometime. There he went. My husband stuffed some money in his pocket on the way out the door. Honestly, I was wondering if I should give him the keys to the car.

All Gladys wanted for Christmas was a very specific pair of pink clogs with candies on them that are no longer made and completely off-season. They had to be in her size. Fortunately, Santa pulled through. It’s just a guess, but I wonder if that didn’t cause just a little bit of stress. SOO glad that I wasn’t personally involved in THAT. (I’m crossing myself and taking a sip of port).

“Mom, is there another name for ‘yonder star’?”

“Yonder star?”

“You know . . . we three kings of orient are . . . . following yonder star.”

Right. Yonder star.

No one can tell what George actually wanted for Christmas. What he got was a trampoline from the Land of Misfit Toys. Mrs. Claus was talking to this really awesome elf and this came to that and George is the jumpingest kid on the planet. Yee haw.

My sister-in-law (we are married to brothers) and I went out for a movie while staying over at my MIL’s home. In case you are wondering, “Australia” is currently the longest film available at the theatre. (We all love each other, and we intend to take every step necessary to ensure that remains the case.)

While otherwise going about my business, my children were having a discussion of metaphysics and theology in the second row of my van. I wish I had a tape recorder. Honestly, I thought about getting on my cell phone. I thought about turning up my radio. My brain was hurting trying to keep up with their conversation. Please don’t ask me. Please don’t ask me. Please don’t ask me. Please please please don’t ask me.

“Mom! Gladys thinks that God is Light! She is sooooo wrong."

Those three year old girls - so sassy.

Enjoy your New Year’s celebration. My family will be enjoying a three-layer heart shaped cake with one layer carrot cake, two layers banana cake, frosted with cream cheese frosting except for the smallest banana cake layer, which has chocolate frosting. The entire thing is decorated with every last bit of canned colored frosting left in our house from 2008, Christmas sugar candy decorations and, of course, rainbow sprinkles.

As you can imagine, it is truly lovely, equally appetizing, and brimming with the stickiest sort of love.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Poem (Poe would cringe)

Once upon a midnight cheery, with my eyes bloodshot and bleary,
I considered my Christmas cards upon the cold and lonely floor.
While I pondered, glad but sighing, suddenly I heard some crying,
As if some one awake, lying there behind their bedroom door.
‘Tis the baby’ I muttered, ‘crying there behind the bedroom door -
Only this and nothing more.’

Ah, so quickly I remember we are now in crisp December,
And each separate family member, I must write into the family lore.
I dismissed this small distraction, but soon my body sprung to action,
My babe thus sought reaction, reaction there behind the door.
So quickly I leapt towards the noise, my feet sadly dismissed the toys,
The toys they spread across the floor.

And now the focused mind complies, and shows me those dear butterflies,
Those ones so sweetly, but not discreetly, flying across our dining floor.
Gladys’ friends ran through fleeting, enjoying this fine birthday meeting,
Cheering, laughing, giving greeting, welcomed through our humble door.
Together cake we were eating, and still dancing across the floor.
She is three, and not yet four.

In the Spring we took a drive, to keep our spirits fresh and live,
We constantly research and strive to show our children something more.
To Cincinnati we went looking, at each stop we were booking
Events and dinners, always cooking up a little something more.
A factory making Airstreams, adding fire to our big dreams,
Michigan to Indiana, we took our Toyota van
along Interstate 94.

‘Neath ohanami tree flowers, we savored each precious hour:
Petals fall as April showers and carpet our picnic floor.
Then they ride, the trails they like - he learns to ride a two-wheel bike -
Gladys frustrated on the trike – a game where they keep their own score.
We take summer trips to Cuyahoga and Kelley’s Island Shore.
Eleven miles and they want more.

The summer brought us more good times, traveling and making quick rhymes:
Those tricks for making our kids times enjoyable as we travel back and fore.
We went out to South Dakota, learning much of those Lakota
Before there was a Toyota. We heard stories of ancient lore.
Drew and Gladys caught two big fish, fulfilling one vacation wish.
I wish to have eaten four.

Alas, we camped and took a hike along desert routes the kids like,
Searching, seeking, and looking for those snakes along the desert floor.
Our awesome kids mind and behave while spelunking the deep Wind Cave.
In total darkness they are brave; the Ranger badge they now adore.
They wear it proudly on their shirts along with the other four:
Another at Mount Rushmore.

The Pig Roast came and we were guests. Aunt and Uncle brought out their best;
Welcomed us to a cozy nest, ‘tween New York and the Jersey Shore.
The family gathered for the Roast, a celebration we love most,
No holiday beyond a toast to a family we all adore.
Held but once and then tradition - a tradition forever more.
Always this and nothing more.

The Fall came and school hath started, in a bus Andrew departed;
A first grade course so well charted. We waved goodbye from our front door.
Sweet George toddles quickly walking. A few sweet words he is talking,
With his sister always stalking - quick to wrestle upon the floor.
I can’t keep up although I try, I blink an eye and they grow more.
Filled with love forever more.

Then Halloween comes right after, with the cackling of witch laughter,
The children run ever faster collecting treats from door to door.
A clown, fairy, and a Ranger, keep Uncle from unknown danger,
Neighbor’s houses ever stranger, ghosts now hang from their front door.
The children run down the sidewalk, a bag of treats but they want more.
Memories forever more.

For this year’s Thanksgiving feast, we forewent the trip out East,
At last but never least, we welcomed good friends through our humble door.
The rolls were baked with wine and cheer, those sweet children we hardly hear,
Though we are happy they are near. They play together on the floor.
The day too soon is over and leaves us still wanting more.
We bid farewell from our front door.

Thus the year was filled with treasure, no good way for us to measure,
The singing, swinging, sweet pleasure and love and laughter we adore.
As the kids grow the years are speeding, leaving parents always pleading
That our kids be never needing. To our dear children we implore,
‘It’s not a sin to play to win, but in love you can’t keep score.
Love each other ever more.’

The kids wake, ‘What is the matter?’- a rising pitch of cheerful chatter;
Still I hear the pitter patter of footie p.j.s on the floor.
Whatever happened to that crying behind their closed bedroom door?
Now my eyes sag and are seeming to wish for the pillow dreaming
Of kids faces always beaming from the joy ‘09 has in store.
Go forth with love ever more.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Operation Santa - The 36 hour miracle

This is my 'thank you' note to our fabulous organization . . .

How do I describe such an honor? In the first hours after I sent my original e-mail, the word ‘success’ already felt appropriate. By Saturday morning, only the word ‘miracle’ was left on my lips.


You may know the story. Service co-chair and I delivered to an adopt-a-family on Thursday morning. A neighbor approached us, with the humility only a person in love with her children could have possessed. We had told her that we didn’t think we could help much, but we would try. She left expecting nothing. My co-chair and I agreed to collect a few things from home, just a little something, by Saturday.


On my next errand, I ran into another PTA member. Still moved by the need, I quickly conveyed my story. In spite of my insistence that the timing was simply too short, she solicited my promise that I would write a PTA memo. I did.

From around 2pm on Thursday until my van backed out of the driveway Saturday morning, my phone rang off the hook, and my doorway barely closed before another minivan appeared bearing gifts. When one PTA mom departed, leaving entire wardrobes for both children and a huge bag of toys – all purchased new the few hours before, I nearly cried.

By Friday afternoon, I required everyone who made a delivery to enter my home. My shock so great, I worried that no one could possibly believe the generosity. I wondered how I could possibly describe such a scene. My home overflowed with bags and boxes of last minute love. Around 5:30pm, I received another delivery. While so many others had expressed a desire to help, but could not, she said she would be back in one hour. From 6:30pm until 2am, we sorted, we assembled outfits, and we wrapped those items with the love and care with which they were given. So many times, we wished we had one more Christmas stocking, another gift bag, more tissue, a shirt to match that sweater, and in the next box exactly what we wished for appeared. I joked that I was going to wish for a million dollars, and we laughed together.

On Saturday morning, my co-chair and I worked hard to fit everything into our two minivans. My view out my back window blocked, we finally departed.


When the grandparents opened the door, the grandmother (the woman who had originally approached us) recognized us immediately. They did not know we were coming.

“Have you been requesting a miracle? Because, I think there is one in our vans for you.”

My co-chair quickly explained that our vans were filled with gifts for them. Of course, who could possibly believe that we were not kidding?

The grandfather quickly slipped on some shoes and came out to help us. The gifts in the back of my minivan alone surprised him beyond any possible expectation. When he approached my van, I handed him the stocking with the little girl’s name written in glitter glue. Truly, this was an inexpensive stocking with a slightly messy name (I did my best).

He smiled and said, “That’s my grandbaby’s name,” with a voice that melted my heart all over again. I felt his humility, not able to believe that this wasn’t just her name not the stocking, by some coincidence, but that it really was HER stocking.

We unloaded the van together and with the opening of each door, the shock of the additional gifts started all over again. Their living room was truly filled, and they allowed me to take a picture, which I will share as well. The grandfather insisted that we come in. He kept thanking us. He wanted to know the who, what, where, and how. We shared the stories – the email, the donations, the 4 year old who ran out to my minivan with his toy bus, my friend’s child who ran back up stairs to find more books. We saw pictures of the children and told him how beautiful they are, how good they must be, how loving their grandparents are: how honored we are to be standing there before him. They soaked it all in, and felt all the hugs one by one.

He admitted to having felt a little down this Christmas, laughing with misty eyes.

I also had written a note for the grandparent’s stocking. I wasn’t sure how much we would say, and I wanted them to receive all of your sentiments and all of your hugs. I will include that below as well.

On our final trip out to the van, I handed the grandfather two more bags of unwrapped clothing I had picked up on the way to our delivery.

“These were extra,” I said, “just in case.”

He shook his head laughing, “Just in case?! The very first gift you brought was extra. God bless you all.”

Thank you ALL for a Christmas I won’t forget either.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Holy Christmas!

I have to share this story. Of course, consider this also a bit of an apology of why I have not been blogging of late. If it is possible to be bludgeoned by the Spirit of Christmas, then I believe I am experiencing it now.

It's a good thing.

First, there were the cranes. We decorated a friends tree with nearly 1000 cranes. You can read about that here.

Then, everyone pulled together when Indy's mother died. The love was palpable.

I thought everything would wind down this week. My co-chair and I delivered 'adopt a family' gifts on Thursday morning. The need was so clear, and the families were so appreciative, and I was feeling rather relieved to be almost done with maybe a few too many obligations. I was making it through, everything was scheduled down to the minute, but it would all happen.


And then a woman approached us in the driveway of the 'adopt a family' home. She asked the simple question of how she might get on our list. She was so humble, so polite, just there asking the question, just in case. We said that the program was over for the year, but we took her name and address, just in case. She walked away disappointed, but understanding.

She had hardly disappeared when my co-chair and I gave each other that knowing look.

"Deliver Saturday?"


"Got anything at home?"

"I can grab a few things. We'll figure it out."

After some polite scolding by our venerable communications chair who miraculously ran into me at the local grocery store, I sent out the note below. My living room is FULL. I have received at least 15 phonecalls from people wanting to participate. I cannot leave my house without returning home to a full porch. I was explaining to our communications chair in the preschool hallway how wonderful she is for convincing me to send the note, and the person next to her said

"Oh, you're Emama? I was just heading to your house. Let me give it to you now."

THE NOTE I sent Thursday around 2pm was as follows . . . .

Operation Santa Claus

I have a Holiday request . . .

THE NEED: We are looking for new or used (whatever you have handy) things for a 3yr old girl and 2yr old boy.

clothes - boy 2T and larger, girls 3T and larger (clothes, coats, hats, pj's, whatever)

toys, books, etc, for the same ages.

DROP OFF: If you have anything, please drop these items off at

1) my house

2) Pioneer preschool AM to my co-chair

3) Pioneer preschool PM to me

4) Call my cell and I'll pick them up.


My co-chair and I dropped off the giving tree gifts this morning to two families. Honestly, I can't tell you how heart warming it is to see how appreciated these gifts are to the families. I can't thank you enough. The families were truly overwhelmed with the quantity of gifts, and truly appreciative. I know it may be difficult to feel how important this event is when you are dropping off a gift and never see those families receive the gifts. It IS important. You all have really made a difference in the lives of these families.

As we were leaving one of the homes, a neighbor approached us in the driveway. She very politely inquired about how she might participate in the program (as a recipient). After a brief exchange, we requested her name and address. I explained that since we were just finishing up the program for this year, I wasn't sure that we would be able to help her out. I encouraged her to not have any expectation.

She was very understanding.

After she walked away, we agreed that she would be put on the list for a Saturday delivery. I am considering it a Christmas gift to all of us to be able to 'play Santa' for this family. We only have 36 hours really. But, look around your house. Maybe there is a feather boa in the bottom of the toy box that hasn't been loved in a long time and could use a new home. Maybe there is a little board book that your children have outgrown, or even a few extra matchbox cars. Ask your kids if there is something that they would like to give away to make more room for Santa's treasures.

If you have a moment to find something, please know that it will make a difference.

And, the first person who responds to this note who would like to come drop them off, will have the opportunity to join us Saturday morning. (I need to pass on some of this love.)

Thanks again,

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Preparing for our Lord

Christmas means many things to many people. We bake cookies. We gather gifts. This year, we even enjoyed a "Norman Rockwell" Christmas in front of a roaring fire at an 1850's Tavern. We even sang jingle bells on a horse drawn wagon. Okay, the cookies are still in the form of a bag of flour, but Christmas magic is in the air, and certainly we can expect the "Mary Poppins" effect to kick in any minute.

In the meantime, Gladys and I cleaned the refrigerator. I am not sure why no one sings songs about cleaning the house prior to the arrival of Christmas guests. Or, perhaps they do, and I have been too busy to listen.

Feeling rather jolly, I was amusing myself marvelling at the high tech features of my refrigerator, sure that, at any moment, some science experiment worth blogging about would present itself.

This particularly impressive gauge allows you to control the precise temperature of your refrigerator. You have the choice between "cold" and "colder." I can imagine the sarcastic engineers enjoying designing this particular gauge.
"So, you want me to make this dial? Really? So, we can say, 'what do you want, folks, its a refrigerator for heaven's sake, do you want it cold, or colder?'"
Someone with a degree did that.

Of course, this particular high-tech feature has been the subject of amusement for many, the secret light switch. I see here that someone decided that the confusion had finally gone to far, and they went ahead and labelled it for us otherwise befuddled consumers. I am SO glad they told me, I would have never guessed that it was a light switch.
And, of course, my very favorite feature of my refrigerator are these lovely shelves. It is difficult to read (I'm not a photographer) but it does say "spillproof."

I know, it probably means that once something is spilled, it won't go dribbling down onto your shoes and your pickles on the shelf below. But, if you had seen this shelf before I scrubbed it, the word "spillproof" would NOT have come to mind.
Ah, here is dear Gladys again, cleaning our very high-tech refrigerator. Not having found any so-called science experiments in my refrigerator (and feeling a little proud, mind you) I thought that this blog post may be just as dry as you are expecting. We would finish this chore and merely be a gnats hair closer to welcoming Jesus on his birthday.

And then I found this.

And I remembered that sunny, summer day when a sweet husband made mint juleps for his wife. And, that wife being of a frugal sort, decided to save the mix. However, those mint juleps were just so yummie and delicious that she must have been enjoying them so much that she forgot how to spell.
Mrs. Claus will savor that hot toddy on Christmas Eve.
And, now my friends, I am ready for the Lord.

Monday, December 15, 2008

A Tangled Web of Friends

I wrote last night, ever so briefly, about Indy losing her mother. I fell onto my pillow reflecting upon the other half of the story.

Indy heard about her loss at 2am on Sunday morning. Her family gathered together to share the news, support each other.

As of Sunday morning, Mike had mentioned this tragic loss to one or two friends. At 1pm, I received the call.

“Is it true?”

I didn’t know. Mike’s friend told his wife, who saw Indy’s friend S in church. S called A who called C to confirm the news. C called me at home. I called Indy. Within 20 minutes, I sent an e-mail to another half-dozen friends who forwarded it on to those within Indy’s inner circle. Before dinnertime on Sunday, I received such an outpouring of love in my inbox that Indy now has meals scheduled well into next week. Another friend offered to babysit my kids, so I can help with both hands. Indy reported a phonecall from Iowa. The news made onto the blog, onto Facebook. Everyone knows.

Cookies will be made, flowers ordered, cards sent, gifts arranged, love offered.

In the halls of preschool, another friend offered to bring cookies for the preschool party in her place. The Pastor already knew; mutual thank yous were exchanged for supporting our friend.

“Is there anything else we can do?”

My van will be honored to transport friends to be with her for the Visitation. In the preschool parking lot, we counted the rsvp’s, and determined that my 8-passenger minivan may not be big enough for this event. Laughter rang out in the rain. Yes, our biggest problem is transporting all the LOVE.

This tangled web of friends . . . we all know, we all care.

Consider it done.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Just a note . . .

The real life friends in this blogging world are pulling together for Indy this week. She is such a great friend that I should be flooded with eloquence, but I'm not.

She lost her mother Saturday night.

Say a little prayer and leave her a hug here.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


I looked at my calendar today and I thought about Ted. Of all the people with whom I shared my high school experience, I probably think of Ted more often than most. I doubt Ted thinks much about me.

He may not remember my name.

In the past month, I have been very “helpful” within my community. I organized a group to help with Habitat for Humanity. I made a pillow and wrote a poem for a friend fighting cancer. I am co-chairing a giving tree program. I helped to organize and execute a group of 15 or so women to make Christmas tree ornaments for a charity. I hosted a cub scout meeting. I hosted another family for Thanksgiving. My family shopped and cooked a meal for 50 folks we otherwise would have never met (one man even took our picture). I presided over a homeowners’ meeting. I attended a PTA Council meeting and spoke on behalf of my son’s school. I even attended a Board of Education meeting.

That was just November.

For every event or opportunity that I have the pleasure of promoting, I feel there are at least ten that fall to the sidelines. We all say ‘no.’ I try to say ‘no’ with no guilt, no apology, and very little explanation.

I remind myself of Ted.

When Ted and I were 15 years old, we worked together at a church camp. I cannot say we were good friends, but we had known each other since early elementary school. He passed every test he felt like passing. Naturally smart, he ran with a streak of menace about him. I knew him for too long to buy into the ‘tough guy’ routine, but we simply were not in the same circles, really. I saw him in a few ‘gifted’ classes and at church.

His mother was the original “church lady.” If something happened in our church, her name was on it.

Ted liked medieval weapons. You know, throwing stars, brass knuckles, num chucks and the like. He had taken num chucks to his father’s car a few days earlier. I heard his parents had him arrested, although I never confirmed that rumor. He was always frighteningly clever. That day, he was angry.

We were in charge of small children. This was a church day camp. The oldest person present was 21 years old (a week or so later that responsible 21 year old would be purposely dousing me with lighter fluid, but that is another story). Ted stormed off into the parking lot.

I walked after him. It went something like this.


“What do you want?!”

“Ted, what’s going on?”

“I’m p$%ssed. Go away!”

Silence, save for his fist hitting his car.

“That D*mn B!T**ch!”


“My @#$ mother.”

“She seems alright. I mean, she does a lot of stuff for the church . . . ”

“OH, YEAH, that’s right. She does a LOT of stuff for the stupid church. Yeah, she doesn’t give a CR#*P. She does a lot for the church to make HERSELF feel good and important, f*%g high and mighty, she doesn’t care about ANYONE else. F&%* B%&*%ch.”

More silence.

“So, fine, Ted. You are SO SMART. You can run circles around anyone in our school and you’re going to throw all that away, just because she’s stupid?!! That makes sense. You are WAY smarter than that, Ted. You can do anything you want if you don’t screw it up.”

He stopped hitting the car.

We walked back in silence, and never said another word about it.

I heard your message, Ted. I wonder if your mother ever knew how much her 'tough guy' missed her.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Happy Birthday, George!

Thanks for being your sweet little you, big man.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Birthday Contraption

Yes, my friends, it worked. This is the wreckage. I will have to do some forensic work here as the chaos of the moment did not allow pictures. Daddy came home early. Heads spun. String tangled. Children clamored to pull the trigger . . . . Daddy was definitely surprised.
Exhibit A - Wreckage

Exhibit A (above) shows the sequins fabric, D-ring with painters tape and one of the dowel rods. I happened to have the sequins fabric left over from an Elvis party. (A prepared mother should always keeps some on hand).

Exhibit B - Trigger rings
I cut twelve lengths of blue ribbon (12 inches each). I made a loop at one end and attached that end to a ring. Each open end of ribbon was tacked to the floor in front of a opening between the spindles in my loft's railing. (Shh! Don't tell Mom. Oh, I am the mom). The ring end of the ribbon could then dangle down towards the family room.

Exibit B - Coiled sequins fabric.

I measured the fabric strips very carefully on the floor by running my scissors up them in three inch increments, plus or minus a few inches. Meanwhile, Gladys helped by jumping up and down on the fabric cheerfully screaming "Mommy, why are you cutting my dance floor? Why are you cutting my dance floor?!"

I then very carefully rolled each strip into a coil (toilet paper style). The end of the strip was attached to the floor with a tack on top of each blue ribbon.

Then the ribbon was pulled back around the coiled fabric, suspending the fabric above the family room below. I slid each of the rings onto the dowel rod.
I taped string to the end of each dowel rod. The strings were then laced to the opposite walls of the loft (attached a D-ring to the wall). The extra string was left to hang downstairs as the triggers for the children to pull.

While Andrew and Gladys created "Happy Birthday" posters for their father downstairs, I attached two additional D-rings to the ceiling above the loft.

Exhibit C - Banner Attachments (D-rings near ceiling)

The posters were taped one on top of the other as a verticle banner. Then the corners of the top poster were attached to strings laced through the D-ring as show above. The other end of those same strings were attached to a larger ring, which was then laced through the dowel rods. The left side was attached to the left rod and the right to the right rod so the banner would fall down in the center. Since the rod was on the floor of the loft, the distance from the larger ring on the end of the string to the D-ring on the ceiling was the perfect length needed for the banner to drop down into the family room. The large rings would get caught at the D-rings and stop the banner from falling any further. (It worked perfectly).

Exhibit D: Sequins strips

Exhibit E - More Sequins strips

So, the banner fell first in the center. Then, one by one, the strips of sequins were released as the kids pulled the dowel rod. It gave the presentation a nice delay-action that brought Vegas right here to the midwest.
Truly, it should be on Youtube. Maybe next time.
Not everyone gets that kind of action on a Monday evening. Yeah, that's right, you're jealous I can tell . . . do try to control your excitement.

Monday, December 1, 2008


What can you make with . . .

poster board
two dowel rods
a good handful of 1” rings
crochet thread
three ‘D’ rings
painters tape
several yards of sequins fabric cut into 3” strips
one nut case mom

Well, if I’m lucky, a pull-action contraption that will automatically make streamers and a “Happy Birthday” poster magically fall from the loft into our family room obstructing my husband’s view of Monday night football. All of this, with a simple pull of a string.

That is Andrew’s dream. He has been talking about it for a week.

If you will excuse me, I have work to do. I have less than an hour.

Wish me luck.