Monday, December 28, 2015

Christmas Recap

And just like that, the house is quiet.  All the hoopla, all the noise, all the dishes, all the chaos...Christmas of 2015 is now behind us.

 This morning I'm sitting on my couch, working my way through my 2nd cup of heavily caffeinated coffee.  I'm making lists...oh how I love a good list, of things I'd like to start and things I'd like to finish.

The garden needs to be planted this week and my body needs to be reacquainted with movement.  The house needs to be deep cleaned and the outside freezer gone through before shopping.

But the top of the list?

Some quiet time.

I had one night with my trio all home at the same time and now it's just the older two.  Brian is away at a basketball tournament...he can't play but is a great water boy and wanted to be there with his team.  His next X-ray is next week and maybe, just maybe, the cast will come off and physical therapy will start.

That's the hope.

Our little house on our little street was full to the brim, the food was plentiful and sleep was, as usual when there's fun stuff going on,  at a premium.  

We're all in a bit of post-holiday exhaustion.  It's worth it...but we're all yawning.

I wanted to be more intentional this Christmas...I wanted to sit back and really be a part of everything and not running around like a crazy person and I actually feel like I accomplished that.  I feel like time is racing forward and I wanted to experience the joy along with everyone else.

I got up very early every morning this whole Christmas season, made myself some coffee and spent some time reading...I spent time with Luke chapter 2 and with the stories of Esther and of Ruth...but also read my beloved Psalms.  

That calm time before the chaos helped me feel firmly planted this season...and because of that things just seemed to fall in to place throughout the day.

A calm mama is a much better mama.


I wanted things to be seamless...for all who enter this little house to feel like they were at home.  I wanted there to be a spirit about this space...a spirit of peace and calm.  

Giving older boys nerf guns for Christmas didn't add to that.


I kept to a system this year as far as the gifts we gave the boys...they each received something they needed, something they wanted, something fun and silly and something that would help them out a bit.  

It kept things a bit simpler and made me feel like everything under the tree was...and here's my word again, intentionally thought out.  

That guy that I like so much though?  He spoiled me.


When our boys were young, we always had them shop for each other and they are all good in the giving department.  It's not the's the thought and my oh my, they were hilarious this year.

They make me laugh.


 It was strange to not have our oldest home on Christmas Eve/Christmas morning, but as a musician his busiest seasons (and the best paying ones) are the big holidays.  He flew in just as we finished Christmas dinner and then we started all over again.

 That's all I wanted for Christmas...time with all three together.  I know that always won't be the case so I'm soaking up these times.  

I like them too much to not do whatever possible to fit in to their busy lives.

Sorry guys, you're stuck with me.


So now, I'm still enjoying the lights and the tree but I'm feeling the shift begin...the shift to a clean, uncluttered house.  Our tree, while still beautiful, is one step away from being a major fire hazard and my electric bill just came which tells me that it's time to unplug our brightly lit little house sooner rather than later.

Maybe tomorrow.

I'm craving fresh, healthy food too.  Oh my...I overdid on the cookies this year and I'm feeling it.  I'm thinking a big salad for lunch and something simple for supper...maybe even just a roast chicken with lots of veggies.

I'm now not even sure I'll even get dressed today...all the clean up can wait and so can the garden.

Sounds like a plan.


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Rain Came

Today the rain came to southern California which basically means that life as we know it came to a grinding halt. Boots and raincoats and umbrellas needed to be dug out, the cushions on the outside chairs needed to be brought in, the fire lit in the fireplace and the movies put in the dvd player.

And by the time all of that stuff happens the rain stops and the sun comes back out and we all pretend that we were totally nonchalant about the water falling from the sky.


It's been fun having the older kids back home and off of work...they're older now which means I can sleep when they're out half the night and I actually find it sweet when they fall asleep the moment they sit down to watch a movie.  I'm having trouble keeping track of who is where when and that lack of memory is keeping me a bit more sane.

Just keeping it real.


Last night I made a simple pasta with sausage and set the table for two.  Brian had a basketball game (to watch, he's still in a cast) and Alex was out somewhere.  As I was finishing cooking my girlfriend popped over...she and her husband were heading out to dinner but she came for a quick glass of wine while waiting for him.

Before I knew it there were 10 of us gathered around the table.  The pasta stretched and I brought out some leftover chicken marsala and more and more college boys kept walking in the front door.

 This can't plan this stuff.  It's not me...or that guy that I like so much.  It's the location of this little house, it's these boys of mine who just tell everyone 'my mom cooked, come over', it's God. I hear over and over from people who don't ever invite people over because their house is too small and I just laugh...I mean, somehow our 1.200 sq ft seems to hold quite the crowd.

I like that.

We finally got our chance today to see the new Star Wars movie.  We had bought our tickets quite a while ago for the fancy theater...the one with the recliners and the waiters and at the last minute our middle born got called in to work, so his girlfriend Emily took his spot.

I love that theater for a splurge just feels so special to go there.  I ordered a banh mi, that guy guy that I like so much had a hummus plate and a (gasp) martini but in all honesty, it's the popcorn.  Oh, the popcorn.  They do a mix of hot chili pepper popcorn mixed with caramel corn and the combination of the spicy and sweet is SO good.


Oh...and Star Wars?  We all loved it!

Afterwards we picked up a car from the shop and once home I made a pan of stuffed peppers.  It's actually a bit of a make a marinara, you make a pot of arborio rice, you boil peppers until soft, you make a mixture of onions and garlic and ground beef and olives and pine nuts and parmesan cheese and then you combine it all together and bake it in a hot oven until it's all brown and bubbly.

And I'll tell you, the wine tastes all the more better since you've literally sweat (and maybe grumbled a little tiny bit) over a super hot stove making dinner after being gone all day.

But I gotta say...they sure did taste good.

We've worked our way through the Christmas movies but still have two left to see...White Christmas and A Christmas Carol.  I'm thinking tonight is the old Christmas Carol with George C Scott....we'll save White Christmas for later Christmas Eve night.

My neighbor brought over cookies and they are so good...milk chocolate with pretzel cookies and man oh man, I'm on a bender.  I can't. stop. eating. cookies.

I will tomorrow.  Maybe.

Monday, December 21, 2015

We're Ready To Roll

The gifts are all wrapped, the food shopping is (mostly) done, two cars have had oil changes, one has been smogged (that's a CA thing), registrations have been paid, the last official party has come and gone, we've strolled Balboa Island (our happy place) after burgers at The Crow Bar and now we're looking at each other like 'now what?'

Not really.  We're actually in this place of 'wow' and 'we made it'...and also in the place of waiting for the other shoe to drop.  I can't seem to stay awake past 8:30am and I'm up, wide eyed and raring to go, at 4:30am.  

I'm seriously jet lagged and I wasn't even on a jet.

My nieces and nephew came for an afternoon of cookie baking and by the end there was flour and sugar everywhere and lots of cookies were baked and sampled.  I'm pretty sure there isn't a better smell in a house than that warm cookie smell.

Or a better tasting one.


This Christmas has just fallen in place in an easy way and over the years I've let myself just cherish those that happen that way.  Once Matthew flies in on the night of Christmas Day then everything will be complete...but in the meantime, we're sitting pretty.  Tomorrow we're seeing Star Wars - I'm not a huge fan but I'm the mom with all boys and with that there are certain things I fake because I don't want to miss out on all the fun.

It's all worth it.

There was a Christmas a long time ago that sticks out to me.  My due date for my baby was Christmas Day but he had other plans and came in November.  That guy that I like so much was in full time ministry then and we were living pay check to pay check...and if we were lucky there were still a few dollars in our checking account a few days before the next check came.  

But usually there wasn't.

We had decided to not get a tree...we were going to be flying back to NorCal on Christmas Day so it wasn't on the list of necessary expenses.  Besides a new baby we had a sweet 3 year old and Christmas, for the first time in his little life, was becoming a big deal.  We didn't do Santa with our kids - only Jesus, but we did all the traditional Christmas things with them...and he was finally starting to see what the season was all about.

In our checking account was about $20, with a week to go until the next check would come.  A sweet family handed that guy that I like so much a small Christmas check and with it, we chose to buy a Christmas tree.  

Smart?  No.  But it was Christmas.

It wasn't the smartest way to spend the money, but we splurged all $25 of it on a tree anyway.  It was snowing, hard, and the store offered to deliver it to us rather that having us wait around with a newborn and a toddler.   

Matthew was so excited and so were we...the tree was to be delivered by 8:00pm and he was gong to be asleep when it came, but would wake up to a fully lit tree in the morning.

The blizzard came.  The tree did not.

The store called in the morning and apologized...they knew we lived in married student housing at CU Boulder and were checking to see if we would be home the next morning.  The manager of the store delivered it himself and on is way out handed me an envelope...inside was the money back from the tree.

I'm not sure he ever understood what that money meant to us back then and I wish there was a way to thank him...but so much time has passed (that newborn is now 22 and that toddler is 25) that I'm pretty sure we wouldn't find him.

But because of that, years ago, I began paying it forward.  Little things...unexpected things.  We don't have a lot but we have what we hope is other littles will always have a little something magical too.

Sometimes it's fun to give something they want...not just something they need.  Everyone deserves a little splurge now and then.


This morning we woke to a smell...a not so good smell which isn't all that uncommon in a houseful of boys.  But this smell was quickly identified as a (sorry about this) cat pee smell and it took quite a while to find where it was coming from and lo and behold (and totally ironic) it was found in the boys bathroom.

Welcome to our home.


% loads of laundry later...not just regular laundry but hot water, extra detergent, extra rinse laundry.


That guy that I lie so much is losing patience with our furry friends.  And I don't blame him.


This happened last year, too...I'm thinking our cats are a little mad about the tree or that things are a little out of the norm or that we're just too happy.   Not we 'are' happy but we 'were' happy before this happened because seriously, the smell is SO nasty.

Merry Christmas to us.  I think.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Tis The Season For Parties

I need to put this in of today, I am officially on vacation for two full weeks.  Leading up to this day I actually had a few moments where I wasn't sure I would make it with my sanity in tact, but I think I did.

Actually, I'm pretty sure I did.



Yesterday was my annual Christmas work party.  It was smaller than previous years and I look forward to it all year long...not only for me but as a way to celebrate all those that work so hard for me each and every day.

And also for the food.  Oh my...the food.  Brisket and turkey and ham and all the sides including this pineapple bread pudding thing that is the stuff dreams are made of...all of it is out of this world.

Have you ever noticed that food tastes so much better when someone else cooks it?

I have the most interesting, hard to explain job ever and I am so thankful for it.  It's challenging, different every single day, stressful, and extremely flexible...the fancy title I have basically means that I handle problems and diffuse situations and think fast on my feet all day long.

I like it.

But these ladies (and a few more that aren't pictured here) oh man.  They make me look good.  They're the ones in the field doing the hard stuff and they are a joy to work with.  Even when they're frustrated with me.


I had hoped for a quiet Friday.  My desk was piled high with paperwork that I wanted to power through and then one of my east coast programs had an issue which meant I was on the phone at dark o'thirty.  The good news is that by the time the sun (and my family) woke up, I had already put in a solid 3 1/2 hours of work.

But I had the yawns all day because of it.

But then I ran lots of errands and found myself off my regular path...a different Costco.  A different Trader Joe's.  A different TJMaxx.

And in each place I saw someone I knew, which is always fun but in all honesty, I couldn't get home fast enough because tonight...this Friday night of the beginning of our break, we were home.

Just us.  Home.


I cooked a NY strip roast...something that guy that I like so much would love for us to eat for Christmas dinner but there are just way too many of us and it's just a little too pricy, so I surprised him and made one just for us tonight.  I used Ina's (barefoot contessa) directions for cooking a prime rib and it was fast and easy and really good.  

Along side I made scalloped potatoes and a simple green salad, there was champagne and a then the good chocolates came out.


I am feeling so sluggish...having a broken arm has kept me from doing any type of working out for almost two months.  Even walking hurt and just faking it enough to work was all I could do.  I'm finally starting to feel like this silly thing is healing but threw me for a loop.

But the main thing I have missed are my daily hikes.  I'm feeling heavy and sluggish and we're eating so many delicious heavy meals and the cocktails...oh, the cocktails.

I'm so ready to get back on the healthy train..fresh air and water and vegetables and no more cookies.

Remind me I said that...ok?


The house was full tonight after all.  It was the two of us for supper and then the doors opened and in came the kids in waves, each of them devouring what was left of dinner.  We threw on a movie and while I had plans of finishing the last of the wrapping (just the boys are left...I'm way ahead of the game this year), we all just sat and relaxed.

Which is code for I fell asleep as soon as the opening credits were finished.  The house was warm and my belly was full and I was out for the count in approximately 3 minutes.

And now it's 2:00am and I'm wide awake.  Gotta work on this sleep schedule.


Tomorrow is a cookie baking day, a finish wrapping day, a day at home day.  That guy that I like so much and I, if the rain holds off, are going to take this pup of ours for a hike on the trail...but first there will be coffee and a fresh panettone for breakfast.

Because, really...we need more food.

Tis the season, right?

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Annual Huge Christmas Party

When we first moved to southern CA, after packing up everything we owned (in the pouring rain) and drove with two very young boys (both with the chicken pox, complete with fevers)...we arrived fresh faced and full of anticipation to what our new life here would be like.

Ok, totally not true.  We had 5 weeks notice of moving, we were leaving a life we loved and did I mention the two little boys with the chicken pox...on a road trip?

The dream of moving somewhere grand that we had dreamed about wasn't going quite how we had planned.  And then we pulled up to the little house we had bought (over the telephone, sight unseen...think life before the internet) and we sat outside with our itchy boys, stunned.

The dream was sinking even faster.

That first year here wasn't easy.  That guy that I like so much threw himself into a new career and in order to support us, worked a 2nd job.  I threw myself into raising boys and trying to not hate it here so much...and I was failing miserably because I really did hate it so much.

I wanted to go home.

The problem was...I didn't know where 'home' was anymore.  The life we had in the other places we had lived wasn't the same life we had before we moved.  This new life wasn't what I had thought either...the friendships were slow to come, the house never made the natural jump to becoming a true home and the dream of having another baby remained just a dream.

Life was...hard.  And a bit sad, too.

That first Christmas we threw a dinner for the university choir.  The previous director (who was much loved) used to host a dinner and so we felt we should, too.  I cooked and cooked and cooked...a roast with all the sides, a turkey with all the sides, a ham with all the sides.  Pies for dessert.  Pies!

The students came.  Many were appreciative.  Most commented on how things used to be.  I overheard one say it was boring.

It was...gulp, a nightmare.

Time moved on.  That guy that I like so much began to settle in and the hours became not quite as long and became just the normal crazy that church workers follow.  That baby that I longed for grew inside me.  Friendships began to develop, slowly, and we began to settle in.  The little house still felt like a house.

Never before had we not felt at 'home' somewhere for so long.

One night over dinner, friends presented us with an idea...this idea to travel Europe with our kids, to see things in a new light, to experience old and weathered and history.  To not just visit, but to become a part of the culture and the places most just read about in books.

We saved our pennies, that guy that I like so much taught an overload, we didn't spend any money on the house or on anything really.  And then during our 3rd year here, we packed up three little boys, each with their own carry on suitcases, a case of diapers to get us started and off we went into the wild blue yonder.

Those months traveling in places where no English was spoken, where we spent all our time without an ounce of technology,  changed us.  We spent long nights talking while our boys slept...drinking (really super incredible) chianti while playing cribbage (without a board...too heavy to carry) and dreaming of living the way the europeans lived.  To work hard but know when to quit.  To throw open our doors and spend hours around a big table in a little house, to make ourselves a 'garden'.

On that trip, we began to see how people in other places lived.  That it wasn't about the size of house you lived in or the newness of your car or of the amount of hours you threw into your work.  We met (and talked) to so many new people...we were a spectacle in that we were this young family with three young boys and so striking up conversations wasn't hard.

Our eyes began to open.

I started to realize that I was so entrenched in what our dream was supposed to look like that I failed to see what God was laying out, nice and neat, right in front of me.

It was all right there.  

Our 'home' was us.  Whatever walls were surrounding long as it was our little family and we were all together, well, that was home.  It has absolutely nothing to do with the building itself.
(best white elephant gift ever - along with a candy bar!)

Once back in the US of A, we began to settle in to our new normal.  The little house on our little street?  We began to make it ours...we started to make it resemble a house we had stayed in while traveling.  A little paint.  A little elbow grease.  A lot of nights with chianti and no television and cribbage.

There were still dreams...some that have happened and some that never would be.  More money in the bank didn't happen.  Incredible opportunities to travel did.  Friendships grew.  Another baby did not.  

Suddenly, we were home.

How is it that something so simple, so beautiful...was right in front of us and we didn't even see it?

Over the years that little Christmas party grew into a party that represents us.  There's an overflowing amount of Italian food and heaters in the garden and wall to wall people.  That guy that I like so much and I switch into party mode and we move rather seamlessly together, just like we do in our every day.  We've got a pretty good routine down at this point in our marriage.

But most of all, we work really hard so that we are guests at our own parties.  Sometimes it works smoothly, sometimes it's a bit more work...but more often than not it all falls into place.

But it's more than that for me.  It's a calling...a real, live, actual ministry.  I'm not directing a choir.  I'm not preaching or playing the piano.

I'm throwing open the doors to a little house with a big table and sharing what I do  And stories. 

There are always stories.


I still wonder at things.  Why did it take so long to settle in?  Why didn't Europe come sooner?  Why weren't there more babies?  Why aren't some of my family relationships stronger?

But those whys are more like thoughts now rather than questions because a sort of peace comes with believing what I believe.  That God has already written my story.  Some of those whys have been answered; some won't be while I walk on this earth.

So this party where we 'pack the house' is so much bigger than my house ever will be.  There is laughter and joy.  There is screaming and yelling and the noise level is in the deafening stage.  We throw open the windows and they sing...beautiful carols and all my neighbors pour out of their houses to listen.

It's beautiful.  

And so, another one is written in the books.  The food was plentiful and so was the spirit.  

This is our home.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...