Saturday, December 31, 2011

Farewell, 2011!

Update: Holly and the kids had a good trip and arrived safely in Wisconsin into the loving arms of their husband and daddy. We sold the extra fridge within 10 minutes of posting it on craigslist today. Mark and I are celebrating New Year's Eve by cleaning the carpets. Wheee!

And farewell to Holly, Arora and Ender.

The alarm went off at 3:30 am today...I don't think we'll still be awake at midnight tonight! We had Holly and the kiddos delivered to the airport right on time: 4:30 am for a 6:00 am flight to Madison, WI. They are SO ready to be reunited with David! And oh, is he missing them. Even though they missed Christmas together, they will be together for New Years and Arora's 4th birthday tomorrow.

Hahaha - we were back home from the airport at 5:30 am. Should we go back to bed? No, we were a little hungry, and...we wanted to reclaim our house! David and Holly were great house-sharers, but there's nothing like having your own place. I know they are anxious to be in their own home together again...and Mark and I were equally anxious to be empty nesters again, too! We puttered happily around the house for another hour or two, then we conked out and slept for a while this morning.

Now we've already listed the extra refrigerator on craigslist, and it looks like we have a buyer on the way within the hour. We'll rent a carpet cleaning machine this afternoon to clean the carpets, and it will be SO nice to just be the two of us at home together again. Ahhhhh....

I do want to say, though, that Mark and I agree that we are happy to share our home when family needs a place to land. In these uncertain economic times, it is such a blessing to be able to shelter loved ones when the need arises.

That said, we are kind of hoping that we will be living alone for 2012.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A few of the gifts I made

Here is a sampling of the gifts I made last week for Christmas.

 Several of the girls in cold-weather climates received ear warmers made from this tutorial. Here is Katie modeling hers. In addition to decorating them with bows, I also used ideas on this site for some darling flowers.
 Several of the kids (and "big kids") got customized fleece hats this year. I used Simplicity Pattern 9224 as the basis for this dragon hat for Joshua. (Eyes from here.)  (Unfortunately, this was one of the last photos we took before our camera died...again...on Christmas day. Ugh.) Apparently this Simplicity pattern is no longer sold in the stores, but it's one of my favorite fleece hat patterns. You can find used copies of the pattern online.

 A got a Kansas University Jayhawks hat (see the side view, below). This one was really fun to design and pull together. Again I used my old favorite, Simplicity 9224 as the basic hat to embellish.
 Go, Jayhawks!!
 Bryan is in optometry school, so he got a googly-eye-glasses hat. Also from Simplicity 9224.
 Audrey and Sam got monster hats. Again, these were really fun to design. I googled "monster hat" and "monster eyes" and got lots of ideas online. For these hats I used McCall's M5254 pattern as the basic hat. Gee, I guess I hang onto my patterns - this one is out of print, too! Again, you can find it online if you want it badly enough.
 Girly monster eyes, lips, teeth, hair bow.
 Macho monster with two rows of scary teeth.
 I made darling neck buddies for Sarah and Kat. Sorry, it's another crummy photo, just before the camera died. Here's what they look like on the pattern envelope.

Sarah got a blue fuzzy dog and Kat got a purple fuzzy cat. Man, was that fuzzy fabric fuzzy!  I was wearing black jeans and a black tee-shirt while I was sewing, and I was covered in purple and blue fuzz when I was finished. I used Simplicity pattern 5310 - just bought it last year and this one is still in print.
 I made temple softies for a couple of the grandkids. Katie reported that Olivia loved hers.
 You may remember that Arora and I made a temple softie back in September. The original idea came from here. It was fun to use leftover fabric from my first wedding dress (in 1974) for the bride's dress, and leftover fabric from Michelle's wedding dress for the temple.
 I also made several fleece beds for little stuffed animals. Here's Mimi (Sarah's daughter) enjoying her little bear-in-a-bed Christmas morning.
 Ender got a little stuffed carrot...
 ...with a green carrot bed.
 I made a rainbow skirt for Arora. Her favorite "color" is rainbow. She adores all things rainbow. (If you clicked on the temple softie link above, you probably noticed that she was wearing the same shirt back in September. She wears it several times a week...her favorite one...until Holly insists that it must go in the wash.)

I also made some country soup-in-a-jar and cowboy cookie-in-a-jar from recipes I found online. It was fun to think of preparing meals and goodies for my sweet family far away. And I made a ton of other fun gifts, too...but that's all the photos I have for now!

Monday, December 26, 2011

The scene of the crime

 Ender looks oh-so-innocent here. Nonchalantly pounding squares and triangles into his shape toy. But do you notice that truck in the background, under his high chair?


Just a little while later, I noticed the truck had rolled on into the living room. With Skipper's feet sticking out from under it!! At first I hoped for the best. Maybe Skipper was putting chains on the tires or something. After all, she came with a helmet and a skateboard. She's a pretty active little gal.

But alas, no. When the truck rolls, Skipper is dragged right along with the truck. She's in no shape to be fixing anything beneath it. I am sorry to report that we have a clear case of Barbie-cide here folks, right in the middle of my living room.

As for Mr. Innocent, well, he's no longer blithely pounding circles into the star hole. No sirree, that guilty party has gone to bed early.

The End(er)

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Star

On this Christmas Day, I am reflecting about not only that sweet innocent baby, but also...

...Mary, who consented to having her entire life changed by the miracle of his birth...
...Joseph, who shows me that having doubts is normal, even for individuals with heroic faith...
...the shepherds, reminding me that ordinary people can be witnesses of God's love and miracles...
...and especially today I am thinking about the wise men, who pursued their faith through extraordinary uncertainty, with only a distant star to guide them through unknown terrain...

Which sounds like my life.

Oh, may I be a wise woman, trusting in Your light, no matter how distant it may seem to me at times. Let me follow that Bethlehem star even when I cannot clearly see my way, trusting that faint sweet gleam to lead me safely Home.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve thoughts

It has been days since I have posted...

...days filled to the BRIM with time in Santa's workshop. Fleece hats, ear warmers. flash cards in drawstring bags, soup-in-a-jar, cookies-in-a-jar, photo books for the grandchildren, stuffed animals, ping-pong ball shooters (Mark made those), temple softies, softie beds for little stuffed critters, 72-hour-kit blankets...I've lost track.

A week ago, I thought I'd have all the projects wrapped up in a day or so. Ha! Since getting out of school for winter vacation eight days ago, I have been giving every available moment to making gifts. A couple of mornings I was up at 5:00 am. I stayed up till midnight a time or two.

We barely made it to the post office in time for mailing gifts to distant family. I was tickled to hear that the packages made it to Kansas and Virginia today. I hope that every one of my children and grandchildren will be opening up gifts that I made for them tomorrow morning. (Except for Polly and her family -- they are waiting until we get to deliver our gifts to them in person after the new year.)

More than once during the week, loving friends and family have suggested to me that it's too much to make a gift for every one in the family. Or that I ought to have started back in July. More than once, I wished I were finished so I could go outdoors and enjoy the beautiful December weather. More than once, I longed for quiet to time to write, to think, to read a book for fun.

But while it's true that I became a manic grandma this week, and while I am undoubtedly grateful this evening to be able to (finally!) sit quietly next to our little tree, gifts wrapped, sewing machine put away, spending a few minutes thinking and writing before Mark and I read the Christmas story together, I have to say that I don't think I would go back and undo any of the hours I spent making gifts for my family. At least not this year. Mark thinks we should just give family gifts in the future, and maybe he's right (I'm not convinced yet), but for this year, I needed to immerse myself completely in pouring out my love for my family through my sewing machine needle, my overflowing stash of fabrics, some new recipes, some simple photo books for the children. Many of the gifts I made are soft and warm. I hope they feel like hugs to faraway family.

I don't want the Christmas season to be consumed with pressures about gift-giving, even if they are all mostly homemade. But when my family is so far away, I do believe that the gifts help strengthen ties between us. Mark and I have 9 children and 20 grandchildren. A few of them live nearby, but most are far away: Kansas, New Jersey, Utah, Texas, Wisconsin, Ohio, Nevada... I love my family, and I miss them. It was fun to make gifts for all of them this last week, even though doing so consumed every moment I had to give, and even though it meant that I didn't do other things I love, such as writing on my blog.

For years I was a bit grinchy every December. I whined about Christmas being too commercial, too much trouble, all I wanted was a peaceful season that didn't demand so much of me. I'm not so grinchy anymore, but I'm still trying to find a kind of balance in the season, a way to be engaged in joyful gift-giving while still reflecting on Christ's gifts.

It hasn't been all sew-sew-sew all week. Wednesday night I went out with a few of the young women at church to deliver gift baskets to some families in the ward. I spent several hours one day on an unexpected service opportunity. Mark and I helped Holly load her moving van on Tuesday, and yesterday I drove her to Vancouver so she could have her van shipped to Wisconsin.

And this morning I took a break from making gifts to help with the cleaning crew at church. I was the first one to show up, so I snagged my favorite job, vacuuming around the pews in the chapel. It was a tender feeling to think that I was vacuuming the Lord's house on Christmas Eve.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Freezing Fog

We had a freezing fog Saturday morning. It was magical!

Fat Albert added a frosted spider web garland to his Christmas repertoire.
(But this is nothing compared to what Dorothy captured the other day.)

Sword in green and gold.
I love the way the fog-frost outlines the leaves.
You can see it even better if you click on the photo.

Holly emphasizing the prickle-points with fog ice.

Classy, sleek, elegant camelia bush.

Arbor vitae hedge going for the flocked look

Cherry trees with ice blossoms

Grassy weeds going all high-class elegant for the occasion

The stately redwood tree had some fog frost on the outer branches...

...and even more underneath!

Frosted rose leaves

Icy tangle of split leaf maple branches

Happy Winter!

Monday, December 12, 2011

While visions of blog posts dance in my head...

...sigh. I have had so many ideas for blog posts in the last week. I have even taken photos! And not a single spare moment to post anything.

I'm still here! And hoping to have a few more minutes to be back on the blog this week. Along with telling you more about why things have been so busy.

Happy Monday, world. I'm here on Laurel Lane, hanging on to the same spinning planet. It never seems to slow down, does it?

Friday, December 2, 2011

It's beginning to look...

...a lot little bit like Christmas!

 Arora "stretches" to place the star on top

Ender supervises

We pulled out the 4' fake tree this evening and spent some fun holiday moments. The kids were excited to have a tree, and didn't seem to mind that it was just a tabletop version. This holiday season will be more complicated with David and Holly moving to Wisconsin,* so we decided to keep the decorations simple for now.

*Yes, I said Wisconsin. David was hired yesterday by Epic, a company near Madison. They make computer systems for large hospitals. He will be a liaison on project installations. He is flying to Madison on Sunday morning, to begin work on Monday. Holly and the kids will stay here with us for a little while longer, while David secures housing for the family. We are thrilled for David to be working again...and trying not to think about how much we will miss this precious family. It has been sweet to share our home with them the past four months...