Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Merry Christmas

**Breakfast with Santa. Drummer looks nonplussed.**

**Who is this guy, mom?**

It's true that the holidays can be a little crazy. There is a lot of baking, wrapping, shopping, mailing, caroling, writing, and decorating to be done. And by the number of articles I see about reducing holiday stress, this is a pervasive issue.

I'm not immune to December getting crazy, though I think I reduce my stress by reducing expectations for myself. i.e., I am not the mom delivering plates of 10 varieties of homemade cookies (though I will decline to say how many of those received that I have eaten!)

**Cookies that I did not make, but have enjoyed tremendously. c/o my MIL.**

But any time I start to get stressed, I make myself think about the Christmas's of just a few short years ago.

**I had my eye on an a semi pricey advent calendar, but wanted to save money. I found this DIY on Oh Happy Day and am pleased as punch with the result. Hopefully next year I'll actually put things in them.**

I've always been a Christmas junkie and so the medical student/resident years were especially hard during the month of December. I wanted so much to bathe in the holiday spirit--to sit by the twinkle lights, go see the nutcracker, and drink hot chocolate at home by the tree. Working the hours I was, that just wasn't going to happen. I would dream of a Christmas Future where I would get to indulge all of my Christmas fantasies.

**Our mantle came with a plug right in the middle. Hooray for more twinkle lights!**

In order to quiet the longing for a month of Holiday Immersion, I'd bring my ipod shuffle to work. Clipped inside my coat where no one could see, I'd put one earbud in, tucked under my long hair. The Christmas carols played on a loop while I walked around the hospital; writing orders, checking on patients (I hit pause!), and answering pages. It helped--my own tiny connection to the holiday season.

**Hark! Drummer spies a train at a gorgeous exhibit we visit every year.**

Now that I'm living that Christmas Future, I feel like I'm duty bound to enjoy it doubly for all the years I couldn't. But I also remember with fondness my small efforts to make the holidays work within the season of life that I was. Because as much as I adore all the parties and gift exchanges, I know that's not what it's really about. For me, it's about the birth of our Savior, back in the meridian of time. And the magic of that was as present with me in my scrubs and clogs, in the four white walls of a hospital, as it is now in my cozy home with carols blasting.

**My connection to Christmas.**

My Christmas wish for you is the same whether you are having an ipod-shuffle-in-your-ear kind of Christmas or a month of Christmas Immersion: That at least some corner of it be Merry and Bright.

Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Top 5 Friday

I'm not calling this Top 5 Friday because I intend to make this a recurring thing (though you never know!), but I do just so happen to have five things to share with you before the weekend. Hopefully when things slow down after Christmas, I'll have more time to actually sit and write. In the meantime:

1)This is a little video I put together that will help you see how much my little man lives up to his nickname. His nickname was serendipitous. Cause how could I have known a year ago just how much of his Dad's percussion gene he had inherited?

2)Green Shake Recipe.


We've become enamored of green shakes lately. They taste so delicious and it's one of the only way to get Tiny to eat lettuce of any sort. My fabulous sister gave me her recipe to try, and it's a hit with all members of the househould. I attribute this in large part to the fact that it tastes like a pina colada. Type 'green shake' into pinterest, and you'll get lots of ideas, but here's what we've been drinking:
2-3 handfuls of spinach
Some water or OJ as a liquid base
Frozen mango and pineapple
1 tsp Vanilla
1 T Coconut Oil

Blend and enjoy! I don't have a fancy blender, and it still blends the spinach completely. I think I'm partly drawn to green shakes this time of year because I'm looking for anything with immune boosting effects. Oh, cold and flu season!

3)My new favorite Christmas Album. I just discovered this today. Design Mom mentioned it and I went and checked it out. I listened once and SOLD! I knew Rockstar would love it as soon as I heard the pianist has been compared to Vince Gauraldi. The featured vocalist, Acacia, has a fantastic jazz voice.

My other new favorite Christmas Album. Rockstar bought this for me last week, and it's been in near constant rotation. When I first heard Zooey Deschanel's voice in 'Elf', I remember thinking, "Why isn't this girl making music?? I'd so buy her album." I googled it, and found out that at the time, she was popular on the Hollywood party circiut as a singer. I'm glad that she's made albums now that we can all enjoy.

4)This article is worth a read. A good friend and I were talking this morning about what parents can do to help kids grown into more respectful teenagers. She pointed me towards this article, and I thought it made so much sense. I really believe that the kind of love, generosity and respect we model in our marriage will be pivotal in our children's behavior. Just last week we had a family night lesson about being nice when other kids aren't(geared toward the preschool set). Afterwards, Tiny was playing with her toys while I recounted a story from the day to Rockstar, including a semi-sarcastic thing someone had said. Tiny pipes up, "Mommy! You can't talk to Daddy like that! We just had a lesson being nice, and you need to be nice!" We were cracking up as I explained that I was just relaying a story, but holy little pitchers! These little ones don't miss a trick. It was a good reminder to make a more concerted effort in the generosity department.

5)DIY Chandelier


I don't really consider myself a DIY'er, but I was helping out with the Halloween party for our church this year. The main planner came up to me while we were setting up and said, 'Hey, do you think you could build a chandelier in the middle of the ceiling with all these paper lanterns?' And because that is just precisely the kind of nebulous challenge that I love (the kind where I don't really know what I'm doing out the outset), I said yes. An hour and a half and a lot of fishing wire/masking tape/twinkle lights later, my friend Jen and I felt pretty pleased with our efforts. I'd give you a step by step on how we did that, but I'm not really sure!

Happy Weekend!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Memory Keeper

**Oh, I loved Thanksgiving. What's not to love about low-key day with parades, treats, family and gratitude? I'm stuffed with the goodness of it all.**

As the year winds down, I start to feel nesting instincts. I spent last week organizing random corners of my house and purging our piles of paper and to-do lists. I know this is off season, but I can’t fight the urge to have all of our i’s dotted and t’s crossed so we can start the new year fresh and organized. I like to know that all of the memories from 2011 are taken care of, so I have nothing hanging over my head as we move forward. Sometimes it feels like an overwhelming job to figure out the best way to organize, store and keep track of all the photos, papers and memories we constantly create as a family. And undoubtedly I don’t do the best job in the world. I’m still trying to figure out what to do with all the cute home videos I’ve shot of the kids on my iphone (ideas anyone…do you just burn them to a disc?). But there are a few things that I’ve figured out that help me feel like I’m storing our memories without overwhelming myself. Here are the ways I approach memory-keeping.

1)What/When/Where Binder:


My mom gets credit for this simple and effective idea, and boy do I think It’s genius. The gist of it is this: Each year gets its own three-ring binder. You print out a sheet that says, “What/When/Where _________ Family 2011” or what have you for the front cover. You can make it fancy if you’re so inclined, but I am not. Then you visit a website like printfree.com and you print a monthly calendar for each month. Put those in the binder with a few clear plastic holder sheets in between, and then you're ready to go. As the year goes on, jot down a one-liner on the calendar when something notable happens or when you do something as a family. I always note vacations, movies, dinners out, birthday parties, etc.,


What do I do when I get a mothers day card or thank you note that is particularly meaningful, and I want to keep? Three hole punch it and stick it in the binder.


A program for a recital? Same thing. Ticket stubs? Tape it to the back of the calendar. Random printed photos? A cute kid drawing? You get the idea. I absolutely love this. It allows me to keep a few sentimental things, but do so in a chronological way that makes more sense than just sticking it in a pile or a box. Plus, I love how flipping me through the calendars gives me a general sense for the year; what we did and who we hung out with. So easy, so useful.

2)Photo Books—

**My birthday was last month, and boy did this man spoil me rotten. For an entire week, the surprises kept coming (good surprises are my love language). He's a gift--the best one of all, for sure.**

I think most of us are probably doing something like this. I don’t do fancy digital scrapbooking, mainly because I have so many photos, I feel like they’d be 1000 pages long if I made room for anything decorative. I just can’t rest knowing that all my digital photos are languishing on my harddrive, but I don’t have time for complicated. I use simple layouts, a few captions, and lots and lots of pictures. I’ve let go of perfect. Each kid gets their own digital baby book for their first year of life, otherwise, there’s just a family book for each year. The first time I did one, I used Blurb. I was impressed with the pricing and the ability to print the picture directly onto the cover. Plus, I could use as many pages as I wanted to and the final product was nice. The one thing I HATED was the software. Everytime I dragged a picture into the book, the program had to ‘think’ for a million years. That first book took an eternity to make. Blurb has probably fixed this by now, but in the meantime, I tried My Publisher. My Publisher’s program is a dream to use. I drop a photo on the page, and BAM! No thinking. My second book took a fraction of the time that the first one did. Plus, they also now offer the photo printed right onto the book cover and unlimited pages. I think this is a great way to keep memories for busy mom’s who aren’t into scrapbooking. I can complete one in a day if I have several hours to focus.

3)Child Diaries:

**I'll save this picture for Drummer's future fiancee. In our house we have a saying: Real Men Wear Aprons.**

This is also something I adapted from my mom. She had books for each of us that she would write cute sayings in and record recent happenings. My book is pretty sparse because she didn’t think of this until I was in HS, but my little brother’s books are hilarious. I bought one of these nice notebooks from container store for each of the kids. When Tiny was a baby, I’d record all of her milestones and cute baby happenings. I write letters to her in that book, jot down some of her dramatics, etc., I could handle this even as a busy resident because it was just a quick note whenever I thought of it. Now I have one for Drummer as well. I keep them in my nightstand and try to update them on a regular basis. But I don’t let myself feel guilty about it when I slack for awhile, because I love even the few pages I have from my mom. I figure my kids will appreciate what I manage to get down, and won’t know what else they’re missing!

**Maybe I should note in her book how she was super excited about ordering this parfait until she realized they were using plain, sour yogurt to keep it french.**

A friend of mine also directed me to these calendars from Hallmark while I was pregnant with Drummer. It's a similar idea as the what/when/where calendars, but just for that baby's first year. I used one during Drummer's first year, and it worked out wonderfully. Quick, easy, not overwhelming. We're sensing a theme, no?

Those are the main three ways I keep track of our personal family history (aside from personal journal keeping, which I am TERRIBLE at). The minor ways?
*Blog books: I am in the process of printing my old blog via blog2print. I know a lot of you do blog books, but they always seemed to take me forever to re-format in Blurb, etc., Blog2print just does everything for you, and I think that’s hard to put a price on. My blog has never primarily been about keeping my family’s history, but I still like having a printed copy.
*Photo Calendars:I also do yearly photo calendars as Christmas gifts, and those are also sort of a fun visual record of the passage of time.

**Another visual reminder of the passage of time--drummer's first locks hitting the ground. You know where Tiny's first curls are? In my what/when/where binder!**

**So now I’m curious to hear from you. How do you keep track of your family’s memories?**

Happy Weekend! Our Holiday Schedule starts off with a bang tomorrow, and I just have this to say:

Bring it, Holidays. I'm so ready to make this month sparkle.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Curtains Down, Curtains Up

You know, when it first starts to get dark at 5:00 in the evening, I get a touch of anticipatory anxiety. Winter must be almost here! With Thanksgiving a mere week away, it's hard to ignore that fall will soon be a memory.

And after months of indulging my wanderlust, I sometimes worry that winter will make me feel boxed in. But then I think about the yin to my wanderlust yang, which is coziness. And winter? Winter is the season for coziness. A curtain goes down on the routines of warmer weather, and with that it's curtains up on popcorn popping, hot chocolate stirring, and general homey togetherness.

There are a lot of pleasures to anticipate in the coming months.

**But while the seasons are in transition, I'll savor the lovely days that still come our way. When we stumble upon 65 degree weather, we race off to the zoo for one more chance to admire lions and tigers and flamingoes. Oh my!

**Tiny was entranced.**

**Don't worry, little man, these days will come again. And in the meantime, don't count out trips to the zoo with snow on the ground. It wouldn't be the first time.**

Though our routines change in the winter, we make room for new ones.
Less zoo, more indoor playroom. Fewer outdoor concerts, more movie nights in. Less ice cream (!!!), more baked apples.

And the search for new routines unearths some pleasant surprises. My urge to get out of dodge (read: the kitchen) on Friday evenings is seasonless. So since we can't have outside BBQ's anymore? Well, we decided to head on over to a diner where the lights are always on.

**Chocolate Milkshake Joy.**


**Multiply said joy when it's a shared chocolate shake.**

**We got the windowseat, which was great for our very social Drummer.**

**He waved at nearly ever passerby, and was rewarded with lots of return waves and giggling smiles.**

And it was awesome.

Cold weather? Flu season? Dark evenings? I'm ready for you. Because your fabulous counterpoints include so many of my favorites: Chrismas carols, snowflakes and twinkle lights. And Diner frequenting. :)

Plus, change is always on its way. The winter solstice hits before Christmas, and the idea always surprises me that the light has begun its slow march towards luminous evenings again, when it seems like it just did the opposite.

I guess that's just the way of things.

To close, I'll leave you with a few links. I work with the youth group at church right now, specifically the girls, and so I think a lot about how to empower them. In honor of them, here are some of my favorite girl power links:

*I'm trying to figure how how to incorporate one of these into Tiny's room.

*I read this article about standards nights months ago when it first made the rounds, but it's still the best article I've read on the topic. I want so much for these girls to understand how powerful they are, and to understand where that power comes from.

*Another article that made the rounds a few months ago, but that I still contemplate as the mom of a young girl.

**Keep on Rockin', my friends.**

Happy Friday. Warm, cold or in between--let's make it good.

Thursday, November 3, 2011


**Seeing the two of them up at a door together? Now that's a moment.**

One of our recent family walks (we do a lot of those), Rockstar suggested that we try out a local BBQ shop near our house that we'd never tried. It's a family owned business, and he loves to support those. We stopped in, and ordered hot dogs for the kids and beef brisket for Rockstar(luckily there is also salmon on the menu for the pesca-vegetarians among us). While waiting, the engaging shop owner chatted us up about HS football and other local happenings. A few other people stopped in for food who clearly knew her and got equally friendly treatment.

As we walked home, I smiled to myself as Rockstar talked about the pleasure of finding little businesses like that.

**Then there is the pleasure of seeing Tiny dressed up as Rosetta. In case you are out of the loop, she's one of Tink's friends.**

A week later, we were driving past the BBQ shop again and Rockstar said out of the blue, "Wanna stop there for lunch?" Now, I'm always ready to dine out, but the husband usually takes a little more convincing. So if it's his idea? Yes, sir.

**Drummer's idea was usually to walk inside the house when the door opened. I had Tiny run interference.**

We walked in and the owner recognized us immediately. We ordered our food and again chatted while we waited. I realized that she had an Irish accent that I'd missed the first time.

**The wings missed the memo about staying upright. I assured Tiny that their flying capabilities would not be diminished by hanging upside down.**

She offered Drummer an irish rubgy ball to play with and told me not to worry if he ran circles around the store.

She laughed as Tiny danced on her stool.

**Dancing off on a sugar high!**

We talked about naming our children and the differences between Irish and American names.

Then we ate our food and left. "Good to see you again!" She called.

Rockstar and I looked at each other as we walked out, feeling full in more than one way. I knew we'd be back soon.

**I get the same feeling after a night of smiling at our neighbor's children and their adorable get-ups.**

It's true that in the influx of technology, something of community has been lost. Of course there are new online communities that have popped up to replace them, but as I left that shop, I knew there was nothing that could ever replace that face to face connection.

Nothing can replace the fact that it feels good to have a local shop-owner know your kids names. To stop and talk to your neighbor on your way in from work, and help them shovel their walk in the winter. To chat with fellow moms at the playground.

Having those connections makes the world feel a little safer and a little happier.

**Apparently, candy does that for Drummer. Look at that expression! He deserved it since he said, 'thank oo', to everyone who gave him candy--unprompted!!**

That doesn't always come naturally to me. In a doctor setting, I've learned to be pretty extroverted. But on the playground and in restaurants? My shy side comes out and I'd probably keep to myself if it weren't for an outgoing husband and run-ins with equally friendly strangers.

**Tiny elected to keep her candy to herself and Drummer was none too pleased.**

But our few trips to the BBQ shop have reminded me how satisfying it is to push outside of that initial barrier and build communities. Because now that I've been in a few times? I feel like I could walk in and feel totally comfortable asking the owner about the season closer for our football team, and I'm glad for that.

I'm realizing more and more how that's something worth cultivating. That there's a benefit in turning more strangers into acquaintances. How a smile and a short conversation can brighten a day. How knowing that I'm connected to the people around me, makes my own house feel more like home.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Saying No

**Face painting, round 1000? Seriously, nothing puts a smile on her face faster. Oh, and the bow situation? Her doing.**

After heading home from a morning of patient care and picking up Tiny from preschool, I sat down on the couch while the kids were napping. I sighed a tired sigh, because this is one of the busiest weeks on record for us, and did what I usually do when I'm tired or frustrated: I called my sister.

We were talking about the goings on of the past few days when I noticed my cell phone ringing. It was my office number.

"Hey hang on a second, someone from work is calling me."

**One thing that does not make me tired or frustrated is a good fall festival. We headed to yet another one this past weekend. Can't. Get. Enough.**

I picked up the phone and heard the voice of one of our third year residents. A few days ago he'd asked me if I could by any chance help with out for a Q&A meeting they were having for the residents tonight. I'd told him that with committments on pretty much every other night, it wasn't a great week. Plus, I wasn't working the afternoon shift, so it would mean fighting rush hour traffic to get back. Still, I told him to call me if he got in a bind.

And he was calling me. Great.

A heavy dose of guilt is a just part of my personality, and so once I've been asked to do something, even if I have a good reason for saying no, it still makes me feel bad. My sister is always telling me to let go of the guilt and 'just say no' when I need to.

**The kids never say no to bounce house fun. In fact, they said 'yes' about three dozen times.**

The resident said, "Hey, I know it's a crazy week for you, but is there anyway you could help us out with the Q&A?"

I asked how many people they had coming, and felt confident they had enough help to pull it off without me.

Then I thought about how my Dad had always put family ahead of his church and work responsibilities. I thought about how when he chose our back to school nights over meetings he was supposed to conduct, he probably felt a little guilty. But he chose us anyway.

**Drummer chose the corn box over pretty much every other activity. Do you know how much less messy this is than sand? Why is this not a thing??**

I thought about how choosing space for our family is generally not the path of least resistance.

I thought about how with my plate so full this week, my family just needed a quiet night together.

I thought about my sister on the line and what I knew she was rooting for me to say.

"I'm sorry, don't hate me, but I just don't think it's going to work."

**This painted pumpkin works beautifully on our front porch.**

"No problem, I understand" he said. And we hung up.

I picked the house phone back up, where my sister had been listening to my side of the conversation. "I'm proud of you," she said. Just as I'd known she would. Then we jumped back into our previous conversation.

It was a good night, albeit a little crazy with two toddlers who had slight cases of the grumpity grumps. Whenb Tiny asked 'if I was going anywhere tonight?' I smiled as I answered: 'Nope, I'll be here all night.'

I put them in bed, knowing I was exactly where I should be.

And now I'm heading to bed myself, grateful for the people who help me make the right decisions as I go, and for more reminders that little choices add up to big ones.

That saying no to one thing is usually saying yes to something else. And when we repeatedly say yes to the right things or people at the right times (which is not so simple to sort out!), we're laying the foundation for great things and great relationships.

That I believe. I really do.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Making It Count

**Pony on up, friends, and let the festivities begin.**

On the morning before Tiny's birthday, I laid down next to her in bed. "Today's the last day you're going to be 3," I said, "so let's make it a good day. Let's make it count."

She smiled at me like she understood what I was getting at. She got up and ran downstairs, while I lay there, my breath caught in my throat. 'This is the last day she's going to be 3,' I thought.

**Wanted: The Power to Freeze Time.**

But it wasn't just the nostalgia over the fact that the toddler I so adore is always, always, always evolving into a little girl I love just as much. It was more a remembrance of the concept that 'you won't pass this way again.' That everyday is unique and then it's gone, and I hope I'm appreciating that today is the only day that will ever be just.like.this. Of course there are do-overs and second chances and I've always loved the Anne of Green Gables Quote "tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it."

But I also want to retain a little bit of awe as I think to myself in the mornings, "Make it good, self. You won't pass this way again."

**Which is why Rockstar and I dressed up as well.**


Speaking of not passing this way again, it occurred to me while planning Tiny's birthday that this was probably the LAST time we'd ever do a cowgirl party. And a cowgirl party and a pony ride just go together perfectly, right? When I get a bee in my bonnet, well....I just have to follow through. So, while my husband rolled his eyes at my enthusiasm for the idea, I researched and finally found a pony rental from a local farm.

What can I say. Lots of times, I'm saying, "Keep it simple, people!" And then sometimes I'm unexpectedly acting on, 'Go big or go home!' impulses.

There's this part of me that always wished I could be an event planner. So I looked at that part of myself and said, "You're hired. Go crazy." And she had a blast. More importantly, so did those cute little cowgirls and cowboys.

**Our guests let themselves into the ranch.**

**We outfitted the girls with badges and hats upon arrival, then had them color their own Wanted posters (mwahahaha).**

**The birthday girl with her new Jessie Doll.**

**Dollar store cowboy hats have a myriad of uses.**


**The Party Favors. When the cowboot cookies I'd ordered didn't materialize, I made little sherriff star cookies. Thank you ready made dough!**


**Pink Lemonade for the weary riders who needed to wet their whistle.**


**Need a place to spend those tickets? Step on up!**

**Girlfriend took full of advantage of the times the store wasn't manned by this guy...**

**...or this guy.**

**He rocked his 'stache all party long.**

**The locals got a little nervous when the Sheriff came riding into town.**

**But the birthday girl told them there was nothing to fear.

**My MIL manned the Cowgirl Salon, aka face painting central.**

**Even tiny got hired for a brief stint at the salon.**

**Our cowgirls were experts at finding the gold among the rubble. More tickets earned!**

**The Sheriff was less adept at finding gold, and more adept at splashing water.**

**And also skilled at cattle rustling.**

**Good times were had by all. And a little nostalgia as I felt a pang for a life with horses (we had them growing up).**

**A sigh of relief from two happy parents: no one got sick and it didn't rain.**

There's this one cowboy phrase that goes something like this: "Don't stop kickin' until the clock stops tickin'." Whether in celebrating milestones, or in just appreciating each simple day, I reckon that's just what we'll do.