Friday, December 31, 2010

One Last Glance


 It's that time of year again.

I'm looking out into a night sky that spans an entire year. Scratch that, I'm looking out at two. One behind me, one before me. Here I sit, on the couch of my childhood, under my mom's tartan blanket, and I might as well be perched on a high-wire. I'm precisely suspended between reflections and dreams. It's amazing to me how with one tick of the clock, everything feels brand new, full of possibility, ripe with second chances.

I just returned from a trip down memory lane, via my archives. I laughed a sympathetic laugh for that girl, doing her dangdest to love the bleak month of January. (Here, here, here and here.) So help me Hannah, if I could do it last year, I can surely do it again.

And then I read my post from exactly one year ago, written from this very same sofa. I read it once, then I read it again, to Cory, because if there's any person on this earth who understands all that last year was, it is him. We walked it together, every step of the way.

My word was Intentional, and to a degree, it fit. I thought of my word over and over again as I spent my days carving out space for Siley, adding him to the mix. I believed last year and I believe tonight that things don't just happen because you'd like them to. Sometimes a whole lot of effort is required.

On the flip-side, I have seen from the (dis)comfort of the very front row that all of the good intentions in the world ammount to nothing when God has something different in mind.

365 days ago, I had no clue that all of our talk about contentment in the new year would mean that our income would be cut by 60% in the span of two months. I had no idea that our tiny kernal of a feeling about serving others would grow in the way that it has. And if you had told me, last year, that we would be selling our house? Well, I very well may have slapped you.

I read these words a few months ago and they washed me new with gleaming, crystalline truth:
Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” 14 How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. 15 What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” 16 Otherwise you are boasting about your own plans, and all such boasting is evil.
-James 4:13-16 NLT
I have no idea what 2011 might hold. It would be pointless to guess. I know that there are things on my mind, some silly and some grand. I do have some plans up my sleeve (more on that tomorrow) and I am charmed and exhilarated by the stretch of white lined up long and clean before me, begging for the touch of a brush. Do you ever think God is excited on New Year's eve? I think so. I think He's smiling down, rooting for us to trust. I think He's pumped to show us more of His plan for us, because He knows it's good.

We've got a fresh start on our hands, Baby. It's a brand new book, the spine unscarred, the pages smooth.

Let's rock 2011, wanna?

Thursday, December 30, 2010

My Anti-Resolutions

My New Year's Resolution is not to become a Mini Van Mama.

But we bought one anyway.

Hallelujah, I'm one of "them"! I'm a soccer mom! And my kids don't even play!

Hallelujah, there will be no more of this in my life!

Even better, for the very first time, our ride was made in the 21st century. Holla, boyee! It only took us 10 years to get with the program. We made the current decade by about...oh, 2 days.

You know you want one. Just admit it.

~

It is not my New Year's resolution to ring in the New Year looking like I went a couple rounds in a bar brawl.

It is also not my New Year's resolution to publicly post a particularly unattractive photo of myself for all the world to see.

But I'm rockin' a bruiser (courtesy of Hit Baby (it was an accident)) anyway. And I don't care who knows it.

Hello, wrinkles. Hello, post-head-cold nose. Hello, fivehead. I blame the wind and the cold and the kids and the sleep-deprivation and Cory's camera and an unfortunate glitch in my genetic code for you the whole lot of you. Love You Lots! (Remember when LOL meant Love You Lots?)

(Sweet Cheeks wore hers so much more fetchingly last month (courtesy of late-night ballet moves gone awry)...)

My name is Shannan.

I rock a mini van and a shiner at the very same time.

Fear me.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Ever-Changing Emotions of Sister Friend

Thilath just hitted me with the haaaaammerrrrrr!

I don't want to go bye bye.

I got da blues.

I'm a big, ol' grump.

That's what you get for making me take a nap. I wake up in a funk.

Plus, Thilath hitted me with the hammer.

I don't care that you're taking pictures of me.

I don't even notice you standing there.

Woe is me.

OK, fine. I'll look at you.

But I will. not. smile.

I'm displeased. I'm not to be messed with. Seriously.

But, a girl is allowed to change her mind, right?

I'm happy! I have a polka-dotted coat and a tackle box full of Polly Pockets!

I am immune to the threat of plastic hammers and Hit Babies!

Life is swell!

Can we go bye bye?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

What Happens When I Get A Breather

The big kids have up and flown the coop to No Parents Allowed weekend in Ohio.

We will follow in a couple of days, but until then, it's just me, myself, I, Cute Maintenance Boy and Silo.
Or, as I like to call him, Mr. Lego Hair.

I've gotta say, I never knew the freedom of parenting just one small child.

Well, I guess I technically did know the freedom at one time, but I don't recall it feeling very freedom-esque back then.

Cory's off work all week, to boot.

So, we've been lazing around, eating out, sleeping 'til 8, lazing around....

It's provided me with a unique opportunity to think about the state of my life and the Universe at large. It's the end-of-the-year ponderings, is what it is.

In short order, I've decided to:

- Repaint the living room

- Get rid of all of my excess junk

- Go thrifting for new junk

- Take down all of my Christmas decorations

- Leave my tree up until February

- Cut my hair

- Dye my hair

- Cry because I can no longer put my hair in a ponytail

- Call the whole thing off

- Rue the day I decided not to cut my hair (Wait, that was today...)

- Stop caring so much about clothes

- Buy a whole new wardrobe

- Embrace my wrinkles

- Invest in some Oil of Olay Triple Serum Revitalizing Brightening Miracle Cream

- Reduce my Santitas footprint in 2011

I'm every which way but loose.

I think I've read about this condition. It's called Midwinter Crisis.

True, it's not even January, but I like to get a jump on these kinds of things.

He Likes To Rock and Roll All Night and Part of Every Day

I believe I have mentioned Silas's mid-night ravers. Well, the good news is, they are down to a minimum these days. The bad news is, he's thrown us a curve-ball with early-afternoon parties so wild the cops knock on his door at least twice a day. Who knew there was a market for naptime escapades? He's nothing if not a risk-taker, and those parties up on the upper level are booming.

Very recently I went up to quell the crib acrobatics and found this:

Let me back up.

Ours is a Mommy Shirt household. It began with Calvin, it skipped straight over sleep-loving Ruby and now, it has landed square on Siley.

The idea was born years ago, by the light of the moon, when all other ideas had been exhausted. The ideas were exhausted, the Mommy was exhausted, the Daddy was exhausted. The child was not. He was nervous and edgy and waging war against sleep. In a moment of sheer inspiration, I shucked my shirt and handed it to Little C, telling him to smell it. "It smells just like Mommy!" He buried his nose in that shirt, rolled over and went to sleep. I emerged from our tunnel-of-doom stairwell in my unmentionables, with a smile on my face. Dude slept peacefully with a continual succession of Mommy shirts every single night for the next year. It was a miracle. I was certified Genius. (Although I still haven't received my certificate.)

Now, the torch has been passed to Siley, but for different reasons. We have been doing everything we can think of to help him along in the bonding process and sleeping with something that smells like Mama (or Daddy) seemed like a great idea.

He caught on right away and loved it.

He snuggled up with that shirt every night at bedtime.

But apparently, come naptime, he upped the ante.

Homeboy stripped himself clean and put that Mommy shirt ON.

He looked so guilty when I first walked in.

Then he looked so confused when I said "Mommy will be right back".

Then he looked downright perplexed when I returned with the camera.

Then he laughed.

Then I laughed.

Then I told him to lay down and go to sleep.

Then he cried.

Then he screamed at the injustice.

Then...he slept. In a Mommy shirt.

The end.


*Extra-grainy pics courtesy of a very dark nap-time room/rave. :)

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas Felt Different This Year - Epilogue

Christmas swept me up again. It's a tradition, and I think you know what I mean.

It would be such a waste to not just suck it all up, Hoover-style. I don't know of many other parties that have us buzzing for a solid month before the Big Event, year after year. But with the close of this day, Christmas whistles out my door, and usually, right about now, I'm feeling just a little blue. It makes me sad, the coming down. I've never understood it, but I remember feeling it even as a child.

This year, I'm content. And isn't it funny how clear that blue looks when you view it from a distance?

This year we did things differently.

We opened our gifts on the 24th. We waded around in the mess like always and our hearts burned bright for our family, more whole than last year.

On Christmas Day, we just gave.

No, that's not true.

Let me try again - On Christmas Day, we didn't tear paper from a box, but we received a storehouse of joy, a basket of contentment and a bunker of perspective.

We gave. And in giving, we got. It's a cliche, but cliches are born from truth.

We set that day aside, and I don't imagine us ever going back to the way things used to be.

All throughout the Day, and in the days since, my mind drifted to my friend, who lost so much just a few days ago. This girl is from hardy stock. She has probably always known that she is strong, but I think she's about to surprise even herself with just how strong. In the midst of tragedy, she is rejoicing. She's begging for a pure heart and a clear perspective. She sending me words that bring me to my knees.

She's too far away. I'm too far away. So I prayed.

I pray.

I thought of her while I hugged another.

This world, you know, it needs us to be in it. It needs us to get so close that we smell the smoke in her hair or the alcohol on his breath. The hurts may look different, but hurt is just one of the things that bind us together. Not one of us is immune. Not one of us could imagine when it might be our turn.

The hoopla was a prelude to our party, you'd better believe it. It was fun and relaxing and I wouldn't send it packing. But I've gotta tell you - I've never known the kind of Christmas that holds the creaky hand of a stranger and carries that feeling off into the night.

This year, my soul felt the worth.

So, there's nothing bluesy about me right now. I'm ready for the fresh start of the New Year. I'm excited for whatever comes next. I'm wearing my new slippers and my feet have never been warmer.

It's all so, so good.


*Thanks be to CMB for providing the pictures for this post.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Crescendo

Christmas is merry with this guy under our roof for the very first time.

He shook this family up, elbowed his way in, and I kiss that baby neck so many times a day and it always smells so sweet. How did I ever live without those eyes?


Christmas is merry with my big-boy-growing-bigger. He is officially two teeth down and it hurts my heart just a tiny pinch. He is claiming courage that we never knew he had and he told me at least five times tonight how much he loved my soup. How did I ever live without those eyes?


Christmas is merry with my girl who went on a date with me today to Panera Bread and Aldi. She stood on the front-end of the cart like I used to do when I was her age. She hung on for dear life. We sang Vacation Bible School songs in the dairy aisle and she called me "Her special love Mommy." How did I ever live without those eyes?

We are in from Christmas Eve service where my eyes filled twice. It is official - God has melted me this past year. There are no two ways about it - I am the girl who cries now over the smell of hay that conjures up a stable full of livestock and Glory. I'm the girl who cries over a word choice so inspired that it remains unchanged after all of these years. I'm that girl. The crier.

Our gifts are opened and now we prepare for the reason we came in the first place. My heart feels ripe.

In a few minutes, I will sit at the coffee table with the man with the beautiful blue eyes (I never really did live without those eyes) and slice up fruit and stir together casseroles while we watch some vintage Ally McBeal.

Then tomorrow, we will celebrate.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

December Light

This day already feels like a prelude to something very big.

I was right - today is so much better.

Yesterday was crabby and snappish and really quite unfortunate. It was the opposite of Christmas Vacation. My patience dangled as precariously as a trove of glass ornaments in the wake of a Wiley two-year old.

But today?

Well, I woke up to a sparkly clean house, thanks to an evening showing last night. I grumble my way through the prep-work for each blessed showing, but once it's over, I'm so happy that it forced me to tidy the heck up. One of these days I'm pretty sure we'll receive the very unexpected surprise of an offer, but until then? I'll take the clean. I'll take it.

I entered the above photo in P-Dub's Christmas Bokey contest. (Yes, it's supposed to be bokeh, but my fingers are hopped up on pineapple and Bagel Bites and Bokey seems kind of funny to me, after all. And yes, it's supposed to be Holiday Bokeh, but I default to Christmas.) Do you think she'll pick my book wreath picture?

She will if she knows what's good for her.

Oh dear. I just publicly threatened The Pioneer Woman.

That's something I would have expected yesterday.

(Regroup! Regroup!)

For the record, she will most certainly not choose my photo. She seems inclined toward twinkly light bokeh and color and heavy post-processing and photographers who are actually photographers, not a wife who slinks off with her husband's camera just to see how much damage she can do. Who am I to argue with Dubsie? That girl is the Bee's Knees. She can't even help it.

Speaking of sparkly lights, Silas is fully enamored.

Many, many, many, many, many times a day he points to the tree and says, "De. pitty. lights." Then he points to the overhead fixture and says, "De. pitty. lights." Then he looks around the room very quickly, searching for something with remotely reflective qualities and says, "De. pitty. lights."

We finalized his adoption last Friday and I was worried that he would pitch a full-on fit right there in front of the Honorable So-And-So. We finalized with the same judge 5 years ago and Calvin, as if on cue, reached up and stroked my cheek and said "Mama! Mama!" in the softest, cutest voice you could ever hope to hear.

I had visions of Silas arching his back and screaming "Nononononononono!"

Silly mama.

I held him on my hip while he looked around the room and pointed. "De. pitty. lights....De. pitty. lights...De. pitty. lights." He reached out and grabbed the little wiry microphone at one point and Honorable So-And-So laughed. Then, at the very end, my boy announced to the roomful of waywards and misguideds, the boreds and the happies, the stenographer and the bailiff, the buttoned-up attorneys in bad shoes, "I hungy".

So we took him to lunch.

I'm noticing this week - this month - that December's light has an allure all its own. I had never noticed before. It's not glowy, like September's. It's not showy, like June's.

It's blurry and blue-tinged. A whisper of beauty with just enough time to race out to play before packing it up and heading home. These days are so short and so cold, but I'm toasted up with the truth of the season this year, and the knowledge that the season has no end, after all.

Right now, I type to the song of my two oldest littles playing one room over. They received a pardon from traditional room-bound Quiet Time, and they show their gratitude through the cooperative stacking of blocks. Ruby sings nonsense and Calvin says things like, "Isn't this an exhausting day?" They are hard at work, building something out of nothing, wielding plastic guys named Travis and polyester-tressed gals named Alice, Lauren and Shoshy.

They, along with their little brother, are some of the brightest parts of me. They inspire me to try harder and try less. They inspire me to eaves-drop like no body's business.

They are my Pitty Lights.

So, happy eve-of-the-eve, my friends. Your encouragement and humor and head-scratching interest in my little life has amped up my world. I am ever-honored that you come back here and read my scratches. It is humbling and illuminating, and as it gets more difficult to keep up with all of you, please promise me that you know for sure that I appreciate you to the gauzy December moon and back.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Orange Garland

This orange garland is the best thing since sliced fruit.

And it's so easy.

And colorful.

And festive.

And beauty full.

I found a big bag of seedless oranges for $2.50.

I sliced the ends off, then sliced them into 1/4 inch slices. You want to do your best to keep the widths consistent, so they bake evenly.

After slicing, place them on a dishtowel, which helps to blot off excess juice.

I would advise against placing them on a white towel, unless you are hankering for an orange/white tie-dyed effect. Who knew OJ stains??

When they're all sliced up, lay them on a metal baking sheet and put them in the oven, on its lowest setting. (Mine was 175 degrees.)*

Here's where the...discrepancy comes in.

The guide I worked from stated that it would take "about four hours" to dry them out.

I think mine took 7 and a half hours, causing me much consternation and angst.

The trick is to make sure that they dry entirely, so they don't get moldy.

When I removed mine, the bottom pan was over-cooked and too brown looking. I shed a tear and tossed that batch.

The top pan was lovely.

They still seemed kind of soft - a little like the texture of a gummy candy. They were pliable, but not at all juicy.

After they were completely cooled, I put them in a pile and forgot about them for the next few days.

Then I remembered them again and took a wooden shishkabob skewer to them, poking two holes in each one (see photo). Try to space the holes evenly.

I then threaded my lovely $0.10 seam binding tape through them, making sure, in typical OCD fashion, that the "ribbon" was smooth all the way through.

After that, I strung them up.

(The original idea in the book was to just poke a single hole and hang each one as a Christmas tree ornament, which would also be pretty.)

The book says that they will "retain their delicious citrus fragrance", but that is a lie.

However, they smell quite lovely while they are cooking and they look gorgeous when they catch the light.

And they are cheap. Especially if you conveniently forget to factor in the EIGHT hours that your oven is on.

Hallelujah.


*I think it would also work to use a dehydrator, although you would want to keep a close eye on them and make sure that they didn't dry out too much.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Today Broke My Heart Then Mended it Right Back Up

I had big plans today.

I went to bed early last night with a big, bad attitude.

I was weak and weary, as my Mama would say.

My small peeps conspired against me for 13 hours straight and by the end of it all, I pictured myself like some kind of a frazzled caricature of myself - zany hair, eyeballs spinning in their sockets, zig-zags and curly-cues radiating off my body in flourescent ink.

It was bad.

But I knew today would be brighter, because company was due. Not just any kind of company, but the kind of company that promises to arrive in a flannel nightgown just to make me happy.

We pinky-promised that we wouldn't even shower.

We pinky-promised that deodorant was acceptable, and even advisable.

In the past, I have served said company a packaged granola bar and two versions of tough-bean soup. But on this day, the meal would turn out right, I was sure of it.

And if not, well, I had already set the bar pretty low, so I knew she wouldn't mind.

And then, the snow swept through her part of the state. The ice accumulated.

Mother Nature shant be trusted.

Our visit was a no-go.

I was so depressed, I showered.

Then Plan B arose from the ashes.

My sister-in-law rescued me and we spent the entire day at her house, along with EIGHT small children. Before long, my two other SILs arrived, along with my BIL, who wrestled the boys and played hide-and-seek while us girls sat at the table, just because we could.

Tonight Calvin asked, "What were you talking about in the kitchen? Cooking and magazines?"

If it's true that children view the broad female population through Mommy lenses, my kids see every lady in the land with a spatula in one hand and a magazine in the other. There are worse things, I suppose.

Tonight, I am plum worn out again from two very long days with three very nap-opposed children. But today, my misery sure did love its company.

And as for Flannel Flo? We've scheduled a rain date.

Monday, December 20, 2010

So, It's Come To This

Ruby has grown fond of strapping a Sponge Bob watch to her ankle.


She then hikes up her britches...


And she plays like that for the rest of the ever-loving day.


I am concerned for a variety of reasons.

1) She is clearly on house arrest and doesn't even know it.
2) I have no idea where the Sponge Bob watch came from in the first place.
3) She may have heisted it?
4) Or maybe she just drove the getaway car? (Watches have always been more of Calvin's
thang and she is totally a better driver.)
5) Regardless, it would explain the guilty conscience as manifested by subconscious,
self-imposed house arrest.
6) Don't even get me started on the hiking up of the jeans.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Six On Sunday - Things I Would Do If I Had An Entire Day To Myself

But first, six disclaimers:
1. I love my kids.
2. But it is 20 degrees outside and has been for quite some time.
3. We're all a little cooped up.
4. And did I mention that the pink car was on the fritz for 3 days last week?
5. I did not leave the house for nearly 72 hours, save a pre-school run in a borrowed Honda Element.
6. I also dislocated my knee last week, which is neither here nor there, but it has caused me some minor sleep disturbances, further exacerbating my cooped-up-ness and general fatigue.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


1. I would sleep in until 10:00.


http://www.gableshomepage.com/files/imagecache/spotlight-8-col/images/image/ChoppedChknCobb_C309-web.jpg
2. I would have creamy tomato soup (no croutons) and chopped chicken cobb salad for lunch at Panera. I would probably splurge on an iced green tea.


http://www.showbiz411.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/The-Fighter-Movie-Poster-280x420.jpg
3. I would catch the 2:00 showing of The Fighter whilst drinking a fountain Coke.


http://www.bfca.org/images/movie_posters/2010/how_do_you_know.jpg
4. I would follow that with the 4:30 showing of How Do You Know whilst drinking the bottle of water that I just happened to have in my purse.


5. I would meet my honey for dinner at Mazatlan, but only if he was alone.
I would dress much warmer.


6. I would finish this book in bed with the electric blanket cranked up and a cup of tea on the side table.



I would most definitely go upstairs and kiss my sleeping babies' forheads, smiling wistfully over how magnificently precious they are asleep and on the heels of a day to myself, but this isn't Seven on Sunday, now, is it?


PS - Is it just me, or do I sound really thirsty?