Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Our Crazy Christmas

The following may not be very interesting - I'm in the mood for chronicling.

I love the family-visiting-tradition DH and I have been cultivating for the last few years. Shortly after we got married, DH's folks moved from Bakersfield (where DH and I went to high school) to San Bernardino County (south of B-town, east of LA). So for the last five years, we fly into Ontario airport and spend some time with his family (grandparents, aunts, uncles, everyone's in SoCal!) There's the annual Christmas Eve party at the grandparents (1st Christmas), then stockings and more gifts on Christmas Day (2nd Christmas). My parents come down on FIL's birthday (day after Christmas) for the birthday party (last year was chocolate tasting and this year we're doing cheese) and then we go back to B-town with them (~3hr drive.) After a 3rd Christmas in B-town, we drive to NorCal to visit my grandparents and other family (~5hr drive.) My grandparents have a vineyard in Suisun Valley (next to Napa Valley) and most of my mom's family is still within an hour of "The Ranch." We'll have a 4th Christmas on the 30th (usually), and then my mom and her twin sister celebrate their birthday on the 31st.

In years past, after the celebrations at The Ranch we'd drive back to B-town for a couple more days, and then make our way back down to DH's folks' house and fly out of Ontario airport. Last year was the first year with LB and we had three weeks to spend with everyone. It was, as usual, lots of fun, but all the driving gets tiresome, especially with a little one. This year, DH is working on his thesis project and didn't feel his advisor would let him take as much time, so we only have two weeks. As we looked at the calendar we realized there was no way we were going to be able to make our usual circuit of California, so we talked with our moms and altered our usual plan a little bit. This year, we flew into Ontario, as usual (well, we would have except for the storm in Las Vegas), but we fly out of Sacramento (about an hour from my grandparents'). Knowing that we don't have nearly so much driving ahead of us lifts a lot of stress. We do have to be sure to take everything with us when we drive up to B-town this time, since we won't be coming back this way.

Every other year, the W Family (MIL's sister, hubby, & 2 kids (15 &19)) fly out to CA from VA (they're the ones we've been spending Thanksgiving with for the past few years.) This is their year to be here, so it's a full house! MIL+FIL+DH+me+LB+SIL+W Family = 10 people in 4 bedrooms, 3 baths. With so many people, there are always multiple things going on, and even when we're all in one room, there are multiple conversations. It's a lot of fun, especially compared to my normal days at home where it's just me and LB. The downside is that there are always things going on, and for introverts like me, it can be a little hard to get downtime to recharge. I was talking about it with DH, and he reminded me that SIL hides in her room and reads. But, I don't have a room to hide in! With the W Family here, DH and I are on the pull out couch in the living room - there's no door, and we're right in the middle of the house! It's also a little frustrating when watching a movie or playing games. It was hard work keeping Monopoly moving the other night with FIL trying to watch the game on TV and play at the same time. We tried watching Wives and Daughters, and the buzzing television notwithstanding, I only caught about 3/4 of what was going on in the movie between FIL's snarkiness and SIL's commentary (FIL was teasing because it's a bit of a chick-flick (Jane Austen style) and it's one of SIL's favorite movies, so she was enjoying sharing it, but couldn't help talking through it). So I'm looking forward to borrowing the movie from SIL and watching it at home where it's much more quiet.

So, what's going on in the next couple days? Well, today (Christmas Eve) is Cousin J's birthday - she's 19. So we had a birthday breakfast of pumpkin waffles, sausage & cheese balls, and fruit salad. At 3:00 we're headed to church for the Christmas Eve service, then straight over to Grandparents' house for the annual Christmas Eve party. We'll have Vince's Spaghetti brought in and open gifts and play games to celebrate with MIL's family. Then tomorrow we open stockings and family gifts and hope to celebrate with FIL's family. On the 26th we celebrate FIL's birthday (53) with as many friends and family as will show up, including my parents and bro (hopefully). This year it's a cheese tasting party. We have 12 different types of cheese from several different categories (semi-soft, hard, moldy, stinky, mild, creamy, etc.) and the resident winos will be sure to have several types of wine to enjoy with the cheese (the winos are MIL's sister Aunt C, my folks (my mom grew up on a vineyard, what do you expect?) and FIL tries.)

Well, thanks for reading through the most boring post ever, if you made it this far. Hopefully I'll have some funny stories or interesting insights to share with you soon.

Monday, December 22, 2008


I am terrible at coming up with nicknames. It just doesn't come naturally to me. In fact, I will continue to call a person by the name that was originally used when I met them. For my bro- and sis-in-law, that means using their shortened names (Beth and Ben) even though now that they've graduated from college they're preferring their lengthened names (Elizabeth and Benjamin). (I met my DH's family when we were all in high school - thanks to Boy Scouts!)

But when my son was born, it was completely different. Not that any nicknames I come up with are that unusual, but they are nicknames nonetheless. I call him Little Bug, Baby Boy, Big Boy, and Little One (I call him by his name too, no worries.) My favorite is Little Bug - he's had that one since he was born (he looked like such a little bug!) What's funny is other people use my nicknames! (At least, I think it's funny. Do they have the same problem I have with coming up with them? Are they afraid we'll get upset if they come up with their own? I dunno) So DH will use the one I used most recently, and SIL likes Baby Boy. The funniest is MIL: she picked up on the Little Bug, but either didn't hear it right or purposely changed it - she calls him Little Butt!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Sunday Morning

I realized this morning that I really like going to church. I love going to church! I love the communal worship, and then the learning more about God's Word from (essentially) a trained professional. I did not enjoy it nearly so much until after I was married. Maybe it was because once we were married, the choice is ours whether we go or not (and DH helped me work through the "guilt thing" I inherited from my mother's Catholic upbringing) and we get to choose where we go. I get such joy from being with other believers and learning about God.

My father-in-law (FIL) is a golfer and was thinking of golfing this morning. He kinda wanted DH (his son, if you're confused) to go with him, but we were planning on going to church. FIL made a couple comments about "trying to corrupt" DH. It really isn't a corruption thing. It really isn't! That's the guilt thing I've now gotten past. There is absolutely nothing wrong if DH and his dad went golfing instead of going to church. But I was going to church, because there was no reason not to, and I would have been sad if I didn't get to go. We found this fantastic church when we were living with DH's folks about three years ago, so I jump at any opportunity to worship there again. There's also a wonderful church in the city my parents live in (we were married in that one), but the way our visit to CA usually works, we don't get to go to it - we go up to my grandparents' house for most of the visit.

But I digress. I now look forward to going to church and miss it when we don't get to go. We heard an excellent sermon this morning, and sang the most beautiful Christmas songs (except the flute was out of tune. Oops! But how could she not hear she was so flat?? Agh! Stop it! It doesn't matter!) We've been talking of trying to go to the Christmas Eve service, but we may not because of the annual party at the grandparents' house (DH's maternal grandparents). I won't be upset if we don't go. There's so much going on in this family on the 24th (including a birthday) and being with family is so important (not to mention fun), that if going to the service would be a burden, it's not worth going. Besides, this morning's service was so excellent, that my soul feels fed enough to last until we get back to Nashville.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

A Moment of Clarity

Yay, I got all my wrapping done! We're in California now (after a long night of flying on Wednesday night: snowstorm in Las Vegas --> re-routed to Phoenix --> missed connection to Ontario --> flew to LAX --> long drive home.) The wrapping station is upstairs and I have several things to wrap because we actually thought about Christmas all year long and picked up little things for people throughout the year. DH is downstairs doing "work" on the computer (found out later he was fiddling with the webservers and creating problems that wouldn't've existed if he hadn't messed with them, lol) and DS was wide awake. DH ended up being primarily in charge of keeping Little Bug (DS) out of trouble, which meant he didn't get as much "work" done. When I was finally all done wrapping everything, one of us said something about being so productive, followed by a comment about how unproductive DH was in the same amount of time. He explained that it was because he was chasing Little Bug around. I paused for a moment and looked at him, then asked if maybe he could see now why I don't get as much work done during the day at home. I think maybe something dawned on him in that moment. Whether he remembers it, I don't know, but at least I got through for a moment!!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


The other night at dinner DH commented that I was brave for feeding DS with my fingers and not flinching when he got food all over my arm (DH jumps back several feet if a grubby hand moves in his direction.) I looked at him blandly and said, "I play with poop every day, why would I be scared of sticky hands?" Perspective, you know? Later, I was upstairs in the hall bathroom, playing with poop, and realized that what I had said was true: I do play with poop every day! I'm either shaking baby poop out of a diaper (we're a cloth diaper family) or I'm scraping cat poop out of the cat box (we have two cats - see pic in sidebar). Some days I get to do both. Yay for me!

'Tis the Season

Isn't Christmas a season of giving? Isn't the whole point of exchanging gifts to practice GIVING? It's not about what you GET, it's about what you GIVE, right? Every time someone talks about not exchanging gifts, they use justifications like "too much materialism" and "need to get the focus back on Christ." How is NOT GIVING gifts focusing on Christ? I don't understand. I can understand asking others to cut back on how much they give you or your kids, but telling others that you're not going to give them anything just comes across stingy, every time. "I don't want to feel obligated." You're not obligated! You don't have to spend a lot of money, make gifts yourself if you're that hard pressed! Last year we gave homemade zucchini bread (with homegrown zucchinis) and this year we have a few jars of jam from our strawberries and peaches. Not expensive. But still thoughtful.

I agree that retail stores produce a focus of materialism that distracts from the true meaning of Christmas. But to us it’s really a focus thing: as long as the focus is on Christ, giving gifts is not in itself an evil thing. From the point of view of a parent, giving and receiving gifts is actually a very important part of Christmas. Kids learn how to graciously give AND receive gifts. (you know, smile and say thank you even though they didn’t ask for it, or picking out something they want to give to someone else.) We feel it’s really important to give of ourselves by thinking of others and spending our time, effort, and money on choosing something for someone else. We hope to impart a spirit of giving to our children. It’s not that we feel obligated to give gifts, but Christmas and birthdays give us an opportunity to love others (2nd commandment). When we give a gift, it's not because we feel obligated, but because we're showing love!

Again, though, you're certainly not obligated to give gifts. A feeling of obligation completely negates the point of giving! I like my sis-in-law’s approach: rather than feel obligated to give something just because of the calendar, she gives when moved to. The caveat (again, I can’t seem to help but see it as a parent) is to remember that kids don’t always understand abstract concepts. So if you choose not to send gifts, try to think of other ways to show you care by calling on the phone or sending a card, or if we’re together for a celebration do something else that’s special. I just don’t want our kids to think family members don’t like them or don’t care because they don’t exchange gifts. DH and I were talking about this and we both remember feeling like someone didn’t care at Christmas or on birthdays. One year I received a bunch of hair accessories from my aunt. It looked like she had cleaned out her drawers and sent me all the stuff she didn't want. I'm not even sure she cleaned them first.

I'll get off my soap box now.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Playing the Offertory

I played a duet with a guitar player for the offertory this morning (you know, the music while the offering plates get passed around. It would be rather awkward if there were no music.) We played "What Child Is This" twice and then transitioned into "The First Noel" and stopped after the first chorus. I've played the flute since I was 11, and even though I'm not spectacularly good at it, I'm good enough that I've been playing with the worship team on Sunday mornings at the church we've been attending (and have now applied for membership, actually.) It doesn't get any better than that: I get to play every week AND I get to do it to the glory of our Lord!

About the fifth measure into it, I forgot what the key signature was and totally messed up on the measure. I don't know why I thought it should be E-flat, but that's what I played. Totally wrong. I didn't stop playing (I know better!), and I could see the guitar player looking at me out of the corner of his eyes, kinda like, "what are you doing?" I realized I needed to just give up on that measure and move on, so I started the next measure about when I thought it should start and kept playing. It was actually something of a relief! Now that I had messed up, I could just enjoy playing the rest and not worry about it! So I did. I enjoyed playing instead of worrying about it, and made sure that I played that measure perfectly the second time around!

Afterwards, if I confessed my HUGE GIGANTIC mistake to anyone, they were amazed! They hadn't noticed anything wrong! It sounded great to them! This astounds me. I totally have empathy for a musician if they make a mistake, but I do notice it. Especially on familiar music like Christmas carols. At least, the kind of mistake I made today (wrong notes); I probably wouldn't notice if they played the wrong rhythm. Probably. Not that I'm judging in any way! Just that I know what it's supposed to sound like and so I hear when it's wrong. I guess my ear is trained, after so many years of playing. I'm sure other members of the worship team noticed my mistake. I KNOW the guitar player did. Poor guy. It took him a couple measures, it sounded like, before he figured out where I was and got back on track.

The last time I played the offertory, it was a trio of violin, flute, and piano. I did the same thing: I forgot what the key signature was and played wrong notes. Afterwards, someone told me "at least you didn't miff it like the violin player!" I hadn't heard her play anything wrong. Talking about it with my husband later, we determined that one of two things had happened: 1) my mistake had messed her up and she made a more noticable mistake, or 2) they noticed my mistake, but they thought it was the violin. Oops.

Practicing the music more often would probably prevent these mistakes. I mean, they're key signature mistakes! These are errors that shouldn't happen after junior high! I feel terrible that I'm allowing them to happen. It's the pressure of playing in front of so many people. On the other hand, being so nervous that I'm shaking gives me great vibrato!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

What a day!

Yesterday was such a crazy day! I had MOPS from 9:30 to noon, but DH had an 8:00 meeting and since we only have one car, DS and I had to drop him off, which meant getting out the door at 7. I got up at 5 so I could bake the quiche I had promised to bring and we had stayed up late the night before at a Christmas party and I hadn't slept well, so I was tired before the day began! Driving DH to work was awful because it snowed the night before and the roads were covered in ice and it seemed like we were always behind someone with sports tires, i.e., no traction. Scary!

So I drop off DH and have an hour and a half before MOPS, but it's not worth it to drive home just to turn around and drive to MOPS, so I had planned on a small shopping trip. When I got there (at 8:15) the earliest any store opened was 9, and since I was only 6 minutes away from where MOPS meets I didn't want to drive anywhere else. So DS and I sat in the car and played with the radio and the GPS and my keys and my phone for 45 minutes until Ross opened. I had 20 minutes to shop and DS decided he'd had enough of sitting and fussed the whole time! I was so frustrated! I was determined the get the pair of shoes I'd been dreaming about, so DS sat in the cart and expressed his displeasure at my indulgence while I tried on every pair of shoes that appealed to me. I finally decided on a pair as the alarm on my phone started going off (I was NOT going to be late for MOPS - I've missed the last two meetings and this was our only one for Dec. Plus, I had baked a quiche!).

The meeting went well. DS played with other "Moppets" and there was lots of food and fun talk. We listened to The Crippled Lamb that made me cry and played a game and made ornaments and exchanged cookies (another reason I wasn't going to miss this meeting!). I even made small talk! I was very proud of myself :) (my mother is very good at conversing, so I never learned how to start a conversation.)

After MOPS I picked up DH and we headed for lunch. The plan was to eat out and then go to the Y and then to DS's doctor appointment at 3. But I was so tired and had eaten so much at MOPS, that I wasn't hungry enough to justify eating out and DS was sound asleep in the back seat. So we went home and ate all the cookies I had gotten at the exchange (after a very wholesome and healthy lunch, of course.) At the time it seemed like a good idea. How were we to compare them and determine which ones we liked the best if we spread it out over several days? Besides, they'd just go stale. There were a couple very tasty ones and one really nasty one and one that I liked very much even though DH said it looked like chocolate covered cat barf. I ate it anyway. And I gave some to DS.

It took us so long to eat the cookies (we had to cut each one in half, determine who was going to eat each half, and then discuss the merits of the cookie) that when we finished it was time to get ready to go to the doctor's. DS is still too young (15 months) to dread the doctor, so it wasn't too bad. The waiting room was full of kids since school was cancelled ("inclement weather") and we were very pround when DS had no fear to walk right up to the table and play with the toys when there were so many other (bigger) kids! He loved it. The visit was uneventful, except for the vaccines. Those were an event, but DS stopped crying before the technician had even finished putting the bandaids on. Then DS insisted on walking out instead of being carried, which was absolutely fantastic: 1)he's heavy 2)it's so cute when he walks while holding my hand! And he got a sticker, which made his day. Then we went home and had frozen pizza for dinner and I went to bed at 8 because I was too tired to do anything else.

When I woke up this morning I opened my eyes and laid in bed for a moment and savored the feeling of waking up on my own, feeling well rested, without being woken up by anybody else. It hasn't happened in a long time! I slept for almost 12 hours! My sleep was interrupted once a little after midnight when DS was screaming (his first nightmare/night terror!) But other than that I slept very well - something else that hasn't happened in a while! So today I've been very productive and feel very proud of myself. Maybe the house will be in decent shape when we leave for CA after all!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Cat bait

I caught my cat Beau on the counter this morning, drinking water out of a mug. We bought a fancy water fountain for our two cats, but every now and then it's apparently not good enough for them. As I was dropping (not literally) dishes into the dishwasher, I decided that the hard sugar stuck to the bottom of the sugar bowl wasn't worth saving and it's time to wash it before refilling it. The sugar is so hard that the bowl needs to soak. I realized that I just left a bowl full of water sitting on the counter and that it might look mighty inviting to a thirsty kitty. Do cats like sugar water? Is it wrong of me to leave the lid off the bowl to find out? Eh, who am I kidding? Cat have such good sniffers, there won't be much of a show.


Have you ever wanted to experience hydroplaning? You know, one of those things they try to scare you with in driver's ed. It's when you drive through standing water and your tire no longer makes contact with the pavement.

You know it's a dangerous situation, but you were always slightly curious what it's like, right? Well, Nashville is the perfect city for hydroplaning: we get lots of rain in a short period of time, and the roads don't drain well, so there's plenty of standing water, even on the freeways! You'll want to try it at night. There are lots of roads without streetlights, so you can't see where the puddles are, and you're too focused on staying in your lane because the lane paint/tape has lost all reflective abilities. So the standing water will take you by surprise, thereby increasing the thrill of the whole experience. Right?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Au Revoir

My sister-in-law flew back to one of her "other homes" this afternoon. The house feels so empty! She had things to do while she was here, so she was out and about most days leaving DS and me home alone, but the house never felt as empty as it does now. It's quieter and more empty than it ever is. And if I just sit without doing something, the quiet and emptiness seem to press in on me. It's one of the saddest feelings in the world, and it happens every time someone leaves after an extended visit.

But, we'll see her again in 11 days! We'll all be flying to CA for Christmas, as usual. Both my family and DH's family are in CA, so that's where we always spend Christmas. It makes November and December the busiest months of the year for us: we drive to VA for Thanksgiving, Sis-in-law has visited us for 10 days for the past two years, and then we fly to CA for 2-3 weeks. Then everything comes to a screeching halt in January. The weather's cold and dreary, there's nothing going on, we've left all our family behind...yeah, January's not one of my favorite months! So I won't think about it and just focus on all the craziness we've got going on for the rest of the month :)

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Bible Study

I did my bible study for Sunday School tomorrow. When they passed out the new curriculum, I was excited that it was on Thessalonians - one of Paul's letters. I took a class in college on Paul and his letters and kept all my books. But when I sat down to do the study, none of my college books came in useful. I didn't even need my bible! The scripture passages were printed right in the workbook. The study was more about applying principles in our own lives. It was using the passage from Thessalonians more as an example and jumping off point.

It's interesting that "bible study" can have two such very different meanings! Both are valid, and very helpful and useful in learning more about God, his word, and our relationship with Him, but very different in practice.

I think I am going to bring one of my books to church tomorrow though. I like the translation better for that particular passage, and I think it's always helpful to have more than one translation, especially during discussions.

Fast Food Junkie

We went to Hardee's (Carl's Jr. for you West Coast folks) for lunch yesterday. I love fast food hamburgers. Especially at Hardee's/Carl's Jr. I feel a little guilty feeding it to DS. He doesn't eat the lettuce, and I'm not sure the pickle counts as a veggie (although he didn't eat that yesterday either). Isn't it funny how we as parents are so concerned about what we feed our children, but we don't bat an eye at eating that stuff ourselves? Maybe it's because we're choosing to eat unhealthily for ourselves, but when we make the choice for someone else, we want to act more responsibly.

My guilty feelings didn't stop us though. DH and I had big, fat, juicy hamburgers and we got a kid's burger for DS. All he ate was the bun. Oh well. At least it looked like he enjoyed his meal as much as we enjoyed ours.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Christmas Lights

Yay, we got our Christmas lights up! It didn't take nearly as long this year. We have a step stool that we didn't have before, so I didn't have to get on the roof this time and it went a lot faster. And now that we have bushes in the front, I got to put lights around them (I love the way bushes look with lights in them!) We're always out of town for Christmas, so we don't put up a tree (what, leave two cats alone with a fully decorated and plugged in tree for two weeks?? I don't think so!!), so we have to put up lights, right? We installed a timer on the front porch switch and then we hook the Christmas lights up to that socket, so even when we're not here, the lights come on at night and go off in the morning. I should take a picture.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Random Blogs

I've been spending too much time on Blogger, clicking on "Next Blog" and reading random posts. More than half of the blogs that come up are in different languages. I wonder if there are really that many more blogs in languages other than English, or if there's some algorithm that's causing so many to come up for me. I did come across a couple French ones. That was fun. And then sometimes there's no banner at the top with the "Next Blog" button, so I have to backtrack to find it again. Sigh, why does wasting time have to take so much effort sometimes? ;)

A New "Ring Finger"

My fingers are so thin, I'm afraid my rings are going to fall off. I tried putting my wedding ring on a different finger, and was surprised that it fit on my middle finger! Can you put your wedding ring on a bigger finger? I couldn't have when we got married.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


What do you mean when you ask about a "least favorite food"? The question wasn't "what food do you most dislike?" It was "least favorite." Does that mean you want to know what's at the bottom of my favorites list? A food that I like enough to consider one of my favorites, but it's at the bottom of the list, so it's my least favorite? That would actually be a harder question. When we talk about favorites we say something like, "that's one of my favorites!" But I don't think most of us put them in order of most favorite to least favorite. Although I do remember someone saying something about grape being a more favorite flavor than something else...Anyway, it seems most people respond about a food that they most dislike. So I must conclude that although "least favorite" may have an alternate meaning, it really means "something you hate."

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Premise

After discussing it with DH, we concluded that I couldn't use wjcolion as a blog for personal thoughts etc. It was created primarily to keep family and friends updated, and especially as a place to upload all the videos of DS :). So I have a new blog that's just mine, for me. Of course, it's public, because according to C. Beth, I am a Type 3 blogger, so I'd love for you to leave a comment :)

For some reason, I seem compelled to begin a blog with a post about why that blog was created. If you check out my other blogs, they all have a "starter post". I don't know how many people go back and read the first post of a blog. I don't. But here I am, doing it again.