Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Cookie Central started just after Thanksgiving, and the freezer quickly was filled to capacity with dozens and dozens of nine varieties, along with huge batches of peppermint divinity and peanut butter fudge. This week we assembled cookie tins and cookie plates, and are having quite the time blessing our neighbors and friends. Baking in the kitchen together is one of my favorite ways to spend time together, especially with my children. It's so easy to involve them! I believe that anything baked with love has that love infused within it and will nourish, no matter the fat or calories. Share what you have, no matter how simple or elegant. Cookies are gifts of the heart. And I mean that.
Friday, December 14, 2007
I think there's hardly anything cozier than singing carols together in a group around a lit Christmas tree. And so, we do, to practice. And then we hit the streets.
I have taken my children caroling for many years, and it's a tradition we look forward to each December. Practices take place on Monday nights as part of family home evening, but at this point we don't really need the practice. We go out after dark and canvas the neighborhood singing our hearts out to unexpecting friends and strangers alike, and the experience is one that everyone should have.
When Adam and I first married, and I wanted to carry on the caroling tradition with our new, blended family, he balked a bit at the idea. Well, a lot. He was a downright Scrooge, and I worried that his blatant bad attitude would spoil the evening for the children. Fortunately, the Christmas Spirit intervened with the knock at our very first door. We knocked and began singing "Hark the Herald Angels Sing", and a white-haired old man opened the door. I could tell he wasn't expecting visitors, and he didn't want to be disturbed, but almost instantaneously upon hearing singing on his porch, and seeing a family (and not a salesman), his wrinkled face melted and the corners of his smile reached up to catch the tears that soon began winding their way down his aged face. He wanted more and more, and we gave it to him. He lamented that he wished he had known we were coming so he could have had hot chocolate ready for us, that we might come in and visit. He was lonely, and we had been Christmas angels. And his eyes weren't the only wet ones.
Dear Adam caught the spirit, and led the way from there. He had been changed, softened too. He's now a caroling convert.
We walk the neighborhoods for an hour or two each season now, and love the joy we see on the faces of the strangers who answer their doors to us. The children receive an instant gratification for their service. They know it makes a difference.
We have had people open their doors to us, and then turn and call the rest of their families to come and listen. We've had whole groups gather out on the porch to get a view. We often receive gifts from those we sing to. People are so happy, and so touched, that they want to do something, and they disappear into their kitchens, returning with cookies, chocolates, gifts, even a few dollars. We always try to refuse, but then again, they received our gift with gratitude.
It always makes for a wonderful evening that the entire family anticipates. Maybe caroling is a forgotten activity. Maybe people have become too shut in, too closed up, too involved in their own little circle. Maybe people have become too scared of people they don't know, too affected by the news reports, and too nervous of knocking on a stranger's door, but every Christmas we hope to sing a carol or two and give our brothers and sisters a little cheer, and a little more belief in the basic goodness of people, especially at Christmas time. After all, a song is a powerful tool, and a universal language.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
So, this is hard, because my 100th post is fast approaching, when I'll have to do The List, but here's a sneak preview of the fun that is to come:
1. Once my husband bought me sex toys for Christmas, which wouldn't be so bad, except for the fact that we were living with his parents that year.
2. Ever since I was about 8 or so, I would sneak downstairs on Christmas night by myself and tenderly caress the ornaments on the tree and cry about how another year of my life and my siblings' lives was over, and how fast time seemed to fly. I would play out memories of the past year in my mind and weep, sentimentally. What a dork.
3. Shortly after my divorce, I changed my diet to consist primarily of Totino's cheese pizzas, puffy Cheetos, and Ben & Jerry's. Those were the things my body wanted, and they were GOOD.
4. Once, while babysitting, I was snooping around the master bedroom, and came across the cremated remains of their infant daughter. It was CREEPY, and not hidden all that well.
5. Another time while babysitting, I was snooping around in the bathroom, and I found a picture right in the bathroom closet next to the towels of the mother's dead mother lying in her casket at her funeral. Even CREEPIER, although if you've been reading my blog for any length of time, you know that I like these kinds of creepy.
6. When I was in 2nd grade, I lived in a primarily African-American neighborhood, and I could double-dutch with the best of them. Little tiny white Jenna.
7. I have never been able to do a cartwheel. Darn it.
8. But I can almost do the splits, even when I'm 9 months pregnant, although my husband won't let me because it freaks him out.
9. Once I made a cake for a cub scout auction, and it sold for $85, because people know I make good cakes.
10. Today I rollerskated in the driveway with my son. I'm an 80's girl, and I still got it, baby.
Now, to tag:
Abby, because I wanna know more about my little sis.
Hannah, because I wanna know more about my other little sis.
Sarah, because she's part of the gang too, and she needs to give up the goods.
Mom, because I always tag Mom and she's so interesting.
Hilary, because I think it would be fun if she joined in the blogging funness of being tagged.
and, Piper...because I'm dying to know more.
Monday, December 10, 2007
Friday, December 7, 2007
Monday, December 3, 2007
Lyndsay was 5 months old, and we spent her first Christmas in New Jersey on a surprise (to my siblings) visit to show her off to family for the first time. I remember my dad holding her for the first time, his first grandbaby, and weeping. All of my eight siblings adored her, and somehow, though she barely touched the floor during those few weeks, she learned to sit up while we were there. Notice her doll with brown hair and eyes like she had, and her matching nightgown that my mom made for her, but wait, it gets better:
I had a matching nightgown too! My mom made us matching Lanz of Salzburg flannel nightgowns for Christmas morning. I am a little shocked by how young I look. I really was an adult. I had even been married for more than 3 years!
Dylan was born January 6th, so he got to celebrate his first birthday right after Christmas, lucky duck! He got a Little Tikes basketball set that year, I remember, and he knew instantly what to do with it.
Here's baby Aiden, born the day after Thanksgiving that year, and wearing...er...swimming in...the duck sweater Nana knitted for him. He didn't much care for Christmas, and preferred nursing to opening presents.
Last year was baby Conor's first Christmas. He wasn't all that thrilled with the Jolly Old Elf, and he didn't get any presents that year because of his poor attitude. I mean, we were just poor, and figured we'd better spend our money on the five kids who would notice.
But doesn't he look cute in that hat he borrowed from cousin Calix? I love babies in hats!
So here it is Christmas time, and looking back on my sweet babies, it almost makes me want another one! But Santa definitely isn't bringing that this year!
Sunday, December 2, 2007
Saturday, December 1, 2007
In the beginning, there was me. (I've often joked that the word should be spelled "Jenna-Sis", since I was the first, and I am definitely a sister, but I digress.) It didn't stay that way for long, as each of my eight siblings was born one after the other almost like clockwork, but here I am on my very first Christmas. These are the only two pictures I have of that day. For the only time in my life, all the focus was on me, as I don't think my mom knew she was even pregnant with Ethan yet. Well, maybe she did, but just barely. He was born in September the next year.
It's such an odd thing to look at baby pictures of myself. I don't think I was an especially beautiful baby, but I'm sure my parents disagreed. I was hopelessly bald for several years, for one thing. But I do see traces of my own babies in my little face and it makes me feel more connected to my children.
I smiled when I saw this stocking that my mom knitted for me. She knitted one for each of us, and all eleven of them hung from our mantle every Christmas. The color combinations got way better as we moved into the 80's, but there I am with pink and green, and it brings back such a flood of memories. I'm sure my mom still has it, though it's probably disintegrating by now, as yarn quality was the other thing to improve over the years. She let us take our ornament collections with us when we moved out, but she held on to the stockings, and I don't blame her. She has since knitted a whole new collection for my family and several other siblings'.
I wanted to reminisce this December, and share memories from Christmases past. My mom made Christmas my very favorite holiday of the year, and my sisters share the obsession. My mom is all things quaint, cozy, and traditional when it comes to Christmas, from the stories she told, to the treats she baked, to the carols she played and we sang. I have tried to pass those things on, and more, to my own children, so this month you get a glimpse! I hope it warms your heart and fills you with Christmas joy!
Thursday, November 29, 2007
"...thine ass shall be violently taken away from before thy face, and shall not be restored to thee." --Deuteronomy 28:31
Bring it on.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be--
I had a mother who read to me.
Reading to my children is one of my favorite things to do as a parent. My mother gave her nine children this gift, and it has been so valuable in my life both as a child and as a parent. Over the years we've read hundreds of stories together, and read-aloud has always been a part of our homeschooling day, even as the children have entered junior high. We've had many great experiences, interesting conversation, a few disagreements, but always a connection with each other.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
I've come to realize that my ex is:
Not as perfect for me as I'd always thought.
I am listening to:
My kids eating breakfast downstairs. And rollerskating in the kitchen. Can't get mad at them for that one....they learned it from me!
Many times when I shouldn't, and often for too long. But not deeply enough.
Books. Kitchen stores. Homeschooling. The color red. Clean, high thread-count sheets, sparkling bathrooms, the smell of vanilla and coconut, a really good haircut, when my jeans are loose, reading to my kids, snuggling with a baby fresh from the tub, to buy things for other people.
I never (never say 'never'...hardly ever) lose anything. Except maybe hope sometimes, and my mind. But I'll find that too.
I hate it when:
I have to dust, fold laundry, or clean bathrooms. When I don't have harmony in my marriage, or when I bounce a check.
My goal in life. To give it, to have it, to feel it.
A mystery to me.
Somewhere there is:
Enough for all of us.
I'll always be:
The oldest child in the family, and all that that entails. There's no breaking free from that stereotype, and how it's shaped my personality.
I have a [little] crush on:
hmmmmm......I'm drawing a blank.
The last time I cried was:
A few nights ago.
My cell phone is:
Ruined, thanks to my slobbering baby.
When I wake up in the morning:
I try to always be cheerful when I greet my children.
Before I go to sleep at night:
I like to watch a few episodes of "Everybody Loves Raymond".
Right now I am thinking about:
How to best help Dylan with his writing assignment, when we should schedule our early Christmas with the kids before they leave, how to squeeze in a nap today, and where else I can canvas for a few more piano students.
Not little for long enough.
I get on myspace:
Never. I am not a fan.
Went to the grocery store early in the morning to get enchilada sauce and black beans so that I can make dinner for my friend who is on bedrest for pregnancy complications.
Tonight I will:
Teach piano lessons and then watch a Christmas movie with the kids while Adam works.
Tomorrow I will:
Do everything I have to do today over again. (Doesn't it feel like that sometimes?)
I really want to:
Write my book(s).
The person who is most likely to repost this:
I hope it's Hannah.
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Thursday, November 22, 2007
The other day when I was out for my walk, pushing Conor in the stroller up Wentworth Avenue, I struggled for the last three blocks, as the street becomes increasingly uphill. I had set a goal of reaching Mt. Gleason Street, but many times I heard whispers as my legs burned and my heart pumped: "Just cut down one of these side streets and head back home. At least you got out here today. It's not going to make that big of a difference." But I trudged on, utterly ticked off and sweating. I just want to be in shape again! I don't want to have to do all this stupid walking up these stupid hills, pushing this heavy baby. The last hundred feet or so is very steep as it makes a final climb before leveling out. Something in me kept taking one more step. I braced myself behind that stroller, with arms straight out and leaning over into the pushing, I finished the climb. The thought occurred to me that though the entire walk up Wentworth is difficult, it's the last several yards that are the hardest and the steepest, and always the ones I'm most proud to have walked. And then, I get to turn around, and walk effortlessly (for a while, anyway) downhill.
Life is especially hard right now. Steep and challenging, and the voice whispers almost daily to just quit. Take a side street and get off the course. In the meantime, I tell myself that I set out to do this, darn it, and I just keep taking another step.
Thursday, November 8, 2007
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
Thursday, November 1, 2007
1. True. I did go to a dork's prom with him as a favor for my dad. I did not want to, and I made it clear the entire evening. I was horridly rude to him, and just wanted the night to be over with, which it was, early. Poor guy. I think about him from time to time and feel so ashamed that I was a person of such little character in those days. I even tried to find him on the internet to apologize, but so far have been unsuccessful. The details of that night are too shameful, so I'll leave them in the dark.
2. Lie. I went to a Halloween party once where a seance and a game of Ouiji board were being played, but I had been taught to leave, and so I did. My friend Lisa Dovi and I both called our parents, and we were picked up early.
3. True. This was a highlight of my life since Richard Paul Evans is one of my very favorite authors. I dated his brother for a while, and got to know Rick on a somewhat personal level. I did beat him at the karaoke, and I owe him for giving me such a fun memory.
4. True. But don't act like it's never happened to you, alright? I was a long way from home and it was snowing HARD! Even sphincter muscles don't work as well in the freezing cold!
Great job, everybody!
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
1. I went to a prom at another school with a complete textbook case DORK as a favor to my dad, who was law partners with the dork's father. I was horribly rude and insulting to him the entire night, and I still regret being so mean and ruining his prom.
2. Against my better judgement, I participated in a seance and in a game of Ouija board at a Halloween party once, and was told that I would have two husbands named Adam. It scared me so much that I never told my parents, and I didn't believe I would ever have two husbands anyway.
3. I played Karaoke Revolution with Richard Paul Evans in his family room, and kicked his butt.
4. Once, while delivering my Shopper's Guide newspapers during a snowstorm on the other side of town, I couldn't hold it anymore and I pooped my pants. But only a little bit.
Now I'm laughing. This was fun! I'm tagging Kimberly, Pezlady, Josi, and JulieQ. And my Mom, because even though it gets on her nerves to be tagged, I always love her answers.
Monday, October 29, 2007
Okay, here goes:
1. I love karaoke, but I'm mostly too chicken to get up in a karaoke club/bar and sing. My first time was by complete coercion, when my friend submitted my name without my knowledge, and suddenly I was called up to the stage to sing Shania Twain's "Man, I Feel Like a Woman".
2. I prefer cats to dogs for pets. Long-haired cats. Although if I had a dog, it would be a big, giant, fluffy one, like a St. Bernard or a Great Pyrenees.
3. I love to catalog shop and shop online, although I hardly ever do either. (But I would!) My favorite thing to buy, hands down, is books.
4. I am very frugal with most things, but one of my indulgences is that I will spend a lot of money on good linens for bed and bath. Sheets must be at least 400 thread count.
5. When I was a teen, dreaming about my future family, I wanted to have 4 or 5 children, all girls. (I got one.) I wanted to name them Karin, Michelle, Stephanie, and Jessica. (We named her Lyndsay.)
6. I absolutely love peanut butter sauce on ice cream (with accompanying hot fudge, peanut butter cups, and Reese's Pieces.) Peanut butter sauce is very hard to find. I had a friend in AZ who owned a Dairy Queen franchise, and for my baby shower gift for child #3 she gave me an entire (restaurant size) jar of peanut butter sauce. It was the best gift ever, and it was gone in about 2 months. I don't remember sharing. Yeah, baby.
7. My favorite color is red. My favorite flower is the tulip. My favorite child is....KIDDING! I do not like sushi, or shellfish, or shrimp. I love salmon more than steak on most days.
I am starting a 30 day Isagenix nutritional cleanse, and as part of my preparation, I needed my husband to take "Before" pictures, and "Before" measurements. (I know, right? What crazy wife asks her husband to document how chubby she is?)
We got lots of different shots in bike shorts and sports bra, and then even in less than that, cause I want to be sure! Mr. Hollywood wanted the pictures to be all dramatic, with back lighting, and scenery, and he wanted the theatrical no make-up, messy hair, slouched, stomach bulging, miserable expression thing going on. You know the one. After he took all the different angles, I got after him because I didn't look "fat enough" in the pictures. I said things like, "You didn't get all the cellulite!" and "You can't really see the bulge good here!" He said a good thing here: "Jenna, sorry, but you're not as bad as you think you are." Okay, I forgive you.
But then he got out the measuring tape. We had to fill in a chart with very specific measurements of my entire body. We measured upper arms, rib cage, neck, waist, abdomen, and carefully wrote down in inches the findings. Then, we measured buttocks. 9" below the waist, were the directions. He read off the number and then said, "Wait, maybe I'm measuring from the wrong end of the measuring tape."
Nope, dear. But it gets worse.
As he double-checked to be sure, he asked, "How many feet is that?" And he was totally serious! He even did the conversion, held out his arms, and said, "Weird. It doesn't seem like it."
What???? Big jerk.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
I must say that I miss the seasons of other states I have lived in. Being in sunny California does have its benefits, but I loved looking forward to the crisp bite to the air that usually accompanies fall. The changing of seasons always reminds me of my mom, who loves anything cozy. I know she would have loved this trip with us (though she was at a pumpkin patch herself last week with my brothers!)
This service costs extra, but it's well worth it.