Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Lilly Turns 15!

I baked a cake (yes, you read that correctly), had Lilly make a wish and blow out her candles while we sang to her. She couldn't quit smiling. She said to me, about five different times, "I am so happy. I am so happy." The cake was late, but her smile made me very glad we celebrated - even if not on the exact day.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Words to Remember

A Christmas message from my Momma:

You are sentimental, sensitive, intelligent, thoughtful, kind, loving and on and on and on.
I love you,

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Day

I was an only child for a good portion of my growing up years. My parents didn't exactly spoil me, but they did encourage my independent thinking, my creativity, and my desire to express myself. They gave me the freedom to experience life with a child's excitement. It's something I haven't completely outgrown. Santa used to visit us. My dad would wake me up sometime after midnight and carry me down the hall, where I could watch him putting presents under the tree in his bright red suit and gigantic gift bag. To this day, they won't tell me who was in the suit. My mom's answer, "Santa. It was Santa!"

Like all kids, I was very excited Christmas Eve. I couldn't sleep. Unlike the parents of my friends, mine allowed me to wake them up when I couldn't be still any longer. When they were really young - this might be as early as 3:00 a.m. As they got older and I was able to control myself a little better, the time was pushed back to 5:00 a.m. It is when I still get up -- bright-eyed, ready to see the twinkling lights and rip the paper off my presents. We always started our morning with Christmas carols playing quietly in the background, coffee for Mom and Dad, hot chocolate with whipped cream for me, and a note from Santa thanking me for the tuna fish sandwich and milk I left him...umm...leave him. I don't know who eats it but it's gone every Christmas morning...still.

This year was no different. I wasn't home with my parents but the same traditions were followed. I turned on the music, had a fire in the fireplace, made hot chocolate and woke everyone up at 5:00. We opened presents and all went back to bed. It was lots of fun. Tonight we are having our Christmas meal. It is something new...
~Horseradish Crusted Steak Roulade
~Cinnamon Sugar Roasted Sweet Potatoes
~Mashed Potatoes and Gravy
~Sweet Corn
~Cucumber Onions in Sweet/Sour Sauce
~Crescent Rolls
~Sparkling Apple Cider
~Warm Apple Pie

The timer just went off so I need to put everything on the table.

Merry Christmas from H, J, S, W, R, Y, L, and T!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve

My family's Christmas Eve traditions are many. There are certain foods we eat, certain movies we watch, certain activities done in a certain order. Even though we aren't home with Dad, from whom I get my obsessive qualities, it is still necessary that the traditions are observed. Christmas Eve morning is free...we can do whatever we want. Somewhere around mid-afternoon, snack preparation begins. We don't eat a real meal during the day but at night we feast on finger foods...pigs-in-a-blanket, lil' smokies in grape/chili sauce, Mom's homemade chip dip, cheese and beef sausage with crackers, shrimp and cocktail sauce, Gram's sugar cookies and this year...a couple of new things...cheese crisps with garlic and chocolate stuffed croissants. Yummy, delicious...all washed down with an ice cold Pepsi served in a wine goblet.

Before eating, we go to our church's candlelight service and are welcomed home to the smell of lil' smokies simmering in the slow cooker. We load up our plates and settle down for several movies - the same movies every year, watched in the same order. Charlie Brown's Christmas, How the Grinch Stole Christmas (the old cartoon), two short Disney cartoons, and Mickey's Christmas Carol. Now that we are older we have added National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. We'll go to bed late....AND THEN....

CHRISTMAS MORNING! but that's an entry for another day.

This year I had lots of help preparing our snacks and lots of help eating everything.

Merry Christmas Eve!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Remembering Gram

Every year for as long as I can remember, I've made sugar cookies with Gram. There have been several Christmases where I have been unable to go home. Wanting to carry on the tradition, I made them wherever I happened to be celebrating the holidays but always, I called Gram and either had her recite the recipe to me or I asked her for help in thickening the frosting for which she was famous. This is the first year I've made them without any input from her. My brother is with me and he pitched in to help. We both did it more to remember Gram than because we were hungry for the cookies. In fact, they didn't turn out that great. We didn't have our expert to call for guidance.

This is our first Christmas without her. We try not to dwell on the fact that she isn't with us but focus instead on the fact that she is with her Savior. As my brother said yesterday...she isn't in pain, she doesn't need her walker, her hearing aids didn't make the trip to Heaven with her and she no longer has to wear glasses...although we kinda hope she has a spare pair because we'll have a hard time getting used to her without her spectacles when we see her again!

I have some of her Christmas stuff set up around my house and enjoy looking at it, feeling like part of her is still with me. I'm sentimental, I know. I miss my Gram but there is a lot of her in me. That's a comfort, too. No matter how old I get or how long she's been gone - I'll always be her granddaughter.

So, as I remember Gram this are some pictures of messiness, frosting, past Christmases and this year's batch of sugar cookies.

Our last Christmas together... December 23, 2009


Sugar Cookies 2010

Clean Out the Junk

This is what an organized (somewhat) refrigerator, pantry, and overflow looks like when you need to make room for enough food to feed a small army of five growing teenagers. Oh - and with a missing refrigerator shelf - that will probably never be replaced.

Meatloaf rice crispy treats, anyone?

Monday, December 20, 2010

4 countries + 8 people = 1 happy Christmas family

Sight-seeing downtown
(Pike Place Market)

Me and my boys

Lilly found a friend -- this little guy was enamored with her.
He kept trying to play with her hair through the glass.

The animals are loose

I think he was posing!

Eating together...our Chinese girls prepared the main meal
and our Vietnamese girl prepared dessert. Yummy!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas Thoughts

"Let us remember that the Christmas heart is a giving heart, a wide open heart that thinks of others first. The birth of the baby Jesus stands as the most significant event in all history, because it has meant the pouring into a sick world of the healing medicine of love which has transformed all manner of hearts for almost two thousand years... Underneath all the bulging bundles is this beating Christmas heart."
George Matthew Adams

Our home - decorated for Christmas...courtesy of Woojai, Johnny and IndieGrace.

Monday, December 6, 2010


She is a magical beast that holds the secret of light & shadow in a safe place in her heart & when it has been too long grey, she starts to dance & laugh & cry & sing & the sunlight fills her up & spills in wild abandon back into the world again.

Thursday, December 2, 2010


There was a single blue line of crayon drawn across every wall in the house. "What does it mean?" I said. "A pirate needs the sight of the sea," he said & then he pulled his eye patch down & turned and sailed away.

I was listening to music earlier today while my students were working on an assignment. An instrumental version of "When I Survey The Wondrous Cross" came on and made me think about the word survey. Survey means to examine, view or consider comprehensively. I then jumped to the word focus because it seems to me if I am going to examine or view something I need to make sure it is in focus. Merriam-Webster says focus is:
-directed attention
-a state or condition permitting clear perception
-the area that may be seen distinctly

My whole life is about growth. Physical growth, mental growth, spiritual growth, emotional growth. Some of it happens without any conscious effort but the real gains are made when I am attuned to what is taking place around me, when I am focused on the important parts. The peripheral things do not always matter. I have opportunities to learn this every day. When I drive to work in the fog and every person in Seattle acts like it is the first time they have encountered a misty morning, upon what do I focus? I could direct my attention to their idiocy. I'm sure that would encourage "expressive outrage" growth. It might, however, be better to use the time of quiet in my car to pray. After all, I am about to spend 8+ hours with a captive audience. My students are coming to class ready to be fed. Why not talk to my Father about them, about my day, about the people I will encounter? Why not ask Him to help me see my life, my world with His eyes?

There are other, bigger, things that have become unfocused for me. It's because I'm looking at the wrong parts or, at least, focusing on the wrong parts. Maybe all of the picture is necessary but some of it can be the background, providing a setting...a richness...a depth; required for proper viewing but not the part intended for "directed attention." I have allowed my gaze to wander to the periphery, trying to understand the fringe, while the main point has escaped my notice.

Hebrews 12:2 reminds us: We must focus on Jesus. He is the source and goal of our faith.

When I am confused, when nothing makes sense, when I don't know where to look or what I am supposed to do with the picture in front of me...I know this.

Focus on Jesus.

These are not just pretty words that sound nice in a rambling blog. They are words to be branded on my heart. I am a Christ-follower. I need Him always in my sight if I want to sail.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus.
Look full in His wonderful face
and the things of Earth will grow strangely dim
in the light of His glory and grace.