Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Holiday Break

Between the traveling, eating, unwrapping, traveling, more unwrapping, toasting, partying and more traveling, this week has been full and is about to get fuller, and I want to enjoy every delicious morsel without worrying about where to upload my pictures or what exactly I should write about.  So...I look forward to sharing all of my adventures with all of you next week, starting Monday, January 2.  Until then, happy holidays!

PS Isn't my husband a great photographer?

Monday, December 26, 2011

I'll Be Home for Christmas

 Family is like this Christmas tree: a little goofy, mismatched and lopsided, but full of memories and altogether beautiful.  Tomorrow, I'll give you ten reasons why I love coming home for the holidays.  For today, just enjoy the beautiful mess that is 25+ years of ornament accumulation. 

A note about the pictures: We left our camera cord in DC, so these next few days' posts will feature some retrospective photography (aka old pics from my parents' computer).  Kurt got a new lens for Christmas, and I look forward to sharing some of his recent fabulous photos will all of you as soon as I am able.  Until then, enjoy some images from back before we got our fancy-pants camera.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

'Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.'"
Luke 2: 8-14

See you all on Monday!  May your holidays be joyous!

Friday, December 23, 2011

11 Reasons My Husband is Amazing

1. He is a great dad.  There is nothing he is afraid to do in the name of parenthood.  A lesser man might have shied away from the 10 yards of fabric that is the SleepWrap, but not my Kurt.  From the beginning, he has been a partner in this uncertain journey, and our family is better for it.  

2.  We have a shared thirst for holiness.  The journey of faith is arduous, and I struggle daily to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus.  Kurt can't do it for me, but he struggles alongside me, and together we are more than we could be apart.

3. He and I think the same stuff is funny.  For those of you who are married, you know this is a matter of grave importance. 

4. He is admirably ambitious in the kitchen.  I may handle the day to day operations on the homefront, but Kurt is the true culinary visionary at our house.  I come from a semi-homemade family, but he challenges me to make more things from scratch, from pizza dough to icing.  A few years ago, he made his own gyro meat, something that until that point, I did not even know was possible.
5.  He believes in my dreams. He is the one who encouraged me to blog in earnest.  I would not have become a daily blogger without his support.  Writing something every day is a lot to handle, but I know that he believes I am a writer, and that motivates me.

6. He is darn good-looking.  

7. He takes cool pictures, and is teaching me how to do the same.

8. He is always up for an adventure.  On our honeymoon, he tried windsurfing.  As you can see below, it was a little rough, but he persevered.  These days, our adventures lie a little closer to home, but he still finds ways to make life exciting. 

9. His family is the greatest.  The whole in-law situation can be tricky.  I mean, you have 20+ years to get used to your own family before you become an adult.  Yet, when you get married, you are expected to accept an entirely new set of people as your own in what feels like no time at all.  Fortunately for me, my in-laws are so easy to love.  Two weeks before I first met them, Kurt's mom told him to tell me not to worry, that they are "just folks".  They have made me feel welcome ever since.

10. He is passionate about social justice.  So much so, in fact, that he does it for a living.  As an advocate and community organizer, his work is an uphill battle to say the least.  Yet, he is determined to press on, putting in many hours to bring about a more just society for everyone, especially those who have the least.

Clients on a field trip to the MLK memorial
11. On July 5, 2008, I married my best friend.  How cool is that?

Merry Christmas, darling.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Christmas Tradition: Storybooks

This is Elijah's second Christmas.  Last year, as a wee lad of three months, he had no idea of what was going on.  This year, as a big boy of 15 months, he still has no idea what's going on. He is enjoying the multitude of treats, particularly gingerbread biscotti, and he loves ripping paper, so Christmas morning should be fun.  Mostly, though, the whole Christmas business is lost on him. Thus, I have not gone overboard in worrying about starting a million Christmas traditions.  Rather, I look forward to adding them bit by bit as the years go by.

This year, I did begin preparing for one future tradition.  In case you haven't noticed, I love kids' books. Plus, winter is made for snuggling by the fire with a good book.  With these ideas in mind, I have started building a collection of Christmas storybooks.  Eventually, it would be great to have enough books to read one each day of Advent, and maybe twelve more for the Christmas season.  Don't tell Kurt about this plan.  My books are already taking over the house.  

I hate paying full price for picture books, so in order to build my collection, I have been perusing the Christmas aisle at Value Village in the past few weeks.  In doing this, I have found myself getting quicker at sifting through the piles because there are certain things I know I like.  These are my personal preferences, and even still, a book in no way has to meet all of these criteria for me to like it.  These are just some things I keep in mind as I shop.
  • Religious themes We are Christians, and this is Christmas, so clearly this is a thing I am on the lookout for.
  • Good stories Seems like a no-brainer, but the book industry is not immune from the trap of selling garbage just because people will buy it.
  • Favorite authors Just as everyone from Mariah Carey to Barenaked Ladies has a Christmas album (both of those are pretty good, by the way), many children's authors have Christmas or holiday themed books, and some are quite good
  • Not so much with the Santa This is just personal preference, and something I need to explore more before it becomes an issue, but I just don't really like Santa.  Something about the whole thing doesn't sit right, particularly if he is a main character in the story.  Hmm. The only exception is The Night Before Christmas
  • Quality illustrations Snow-covered trees, manger scenes, cherubic babies, family - the season was made for evocative artwork.
So, with these qualities in mind, here's the collection so far:

Christmas Tapestry by Patricia Polacco
Gingerbread Baby by Jan Brett
The Story of Christmas (board book) by Patricia A Pingry
The Tale of the Three Tree by Angela Elwell Hunt (There are many versions of this story)
The Tree That Came to Stay by Anna Quindlen
The All-I'll-Ever-Want Christmas Doll by Patricia C. McKissack
Olivia Helps with Christmas by Ian Falconer
Elijah's Angel by Michael J. Rosen
The First Christmas: A Pop-Up Christmas Classic Illustrated by John Patience

I am looking forward to adding to this list over the years (and maybe during this year's after Christmas sales). Any suggestions?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

5 More Reasons Why Kids' Books are the Best Kind of Books

I am sure you have all been waiting eagerly for this post ever since I wrote the first half a few weeks ago.  I went to Value Village today and was once again reminded why my shelves look like the one above.  No matter how stuffed my shelves are, I will never pass up at 69 cent copy of Animalia.  I just can't do it.  So, here we go...
  1. Nostalgia Unlike love or envy, nostalgia is a uniquely human emotion, a yearning for times past when we were happier, freer and better looking (or so we tell ourselves).  Books have, at least for me, a strange ability to kindle this bittersweet feeling more that any other medium.  A word of warning, though.  Some books (The Phantom Tollbooth, The Wizard of Oz) have definitely stood the test of time better than others (The Babysitters Club, Encyclopedia Brown).  So feel free to stroll down memory lane, but if things aren't quite as rosy as you remember, don't blame me.  In fact, maybe it's best just to relive the books in your mind.  
  2. Cost  Most paperback children's books cost around $6, compared to $13 and up for grown-up paperbacks (at least the good ones).  Picture books are expensive-if you buy them new, which I rarely do.  You can get them at thrift stores or, if you live in DC, at the Friends of the Montgomery County Bookstore. At these venues, the books usually cost a dollar or less. 
  3. Humor  Some kids books are funny.  Really funny.  Like pretty much anything by Mo Willems.  I recently really enjoyed It's a Book by Lane Smith.  When I was teaching fifth grade, I would often recommend Regarding the Fountain, which is a great book for struggling or reluctant readers, or just an adult who could use a little silliness.
  4. Feel-good themes As you may have noticed from my Books to Live By posts here and here (and those aren't even my two favorites), I am a sucker for warm-fuzzies.  Adult books that fit that category (particularly the whole Chicken Soup phenomenon) tend to leave me feeling a little queasy.  When it comes to serving digestible, delicious life lessons, kid's authors just do it better.
  5. Series investment When it comes to books for adults, it seems there are two options: good books or series books.  When it comes to kids' books, these two things are no longer mutually exclusive.  From Pippi Longstocking and Dr. Doolittle to Alice McKinley and Angelina Ballerina, there are so many great characters with their own series.  I'm not a huge sci-fi/fantasy buff myself, but there seem to be a lot of quality kids' series in that category as well.  I'll check with my brother-in-law and get back to you on that.   
    There are so many more things I could say about children's books...I didn't even mention alphabet books, or Eric Carle, or Dealing with Dragons...

Monday, December 19, 2011

What do you get for the man who was Everything?

Elijah and Brittany last Christmas

Me: Brittany, next week is Christmas.  Do you know why we have Christmas?

Brittany:  Christmas is for giving.

Me.  That's true.  It's also Jesus's birthday.

Brittany: Oh.  Can we have a cake?

Me: Sure.  Why not.

Brittany: Can I get him a present?

Me: Um, okay.

Brittany:  Does he like lip gloss?

Friday, December 16, 2011

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.
Thank you to Amanda Soule of Soule Mama for the words and inspiration.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Another Habit Dies Hard

Have you ever noticed how neatly a Pringles can fits in the glove box?  Well, I have.  For some reason, junk food, particularly that in the chip family, that would never cross the threshold of my house, finds a home in my car.  I'm like Claudia from The Babysitter's Club with her Mallowmars and Nancy Drew novels.  (Anybody get that reference?)  I am not secretly binging on junk food.  Quite the opposite.  I slowly ration it out, savoring each salty (or occasionally sweet) morsel.  A single candy bar can last a week or more.  The best is when I forget about a particular snack, then stumble upon it weeks later.  For that reason, I often choose foods with long shelf lives (read: lots of preservatives).  My husband is at least somewhat aware of my hidden stash, as it can't stay that well hidden in the car.  Plus, if we are in need of a snack on the road, I am always willing to share.

Well, my friends, all of this came crashing down yesterday.  Sitting in the parking garage, I opened a bag of Friday's Potato Skins purchased in the dollar section at Target.  (I was not kidding about the junk part).  I look behind me, and poking out from the still-rear-facing car seat is a little hand, reaching up.  Then, I hear a tiny voice.  "More."  Was it the crinkling of the bag that alerted him?  Or did he actually glimpse the cheez coated chip emerge from the shiny red and white package?  And, if the latter, was this car seat mirror really a good idea?  Well, no matter.  My jig was up.  I passed a chip back to Elijah (What?) and together we crunched.  It was a mother-son bonding moment, but I knew it was fleeting.  Elijah has years (probably mainly the college ones) to eat as much junk food as he pleases, but I know that it is my job to keep the worthless calorie intake at a minimum until then.  Sure, I could eat my junk when I am in the car alone, but how often does that happen?  No, this was the end of Lisa, undercover processed corn consumer.

Sigh.  I knew that parenthood would make me a better person, but I didn't realize it would happen in a way that was so...specific.  So, adios Flamin' Hot Cheetos.  It's been nice knowin' ya.  And Elijah, I hope you enjoyed that chip, because it's back to the whole wheat pretzels we go.  

But wait, aren't we going to Grandma's next week?  

Well, then, nevermind.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Dinner Dance

Are we having fun yet?
Yesterday, I was ready.  Friends were coming over for dinner and some Law and Order, and I had the pizza dough rising, spinach pesto ground and the mozzarella shredded, all before nap time was over.  I love my food processor, by the way, but that is a love story for another day.  I had even picked up two bottles of wine at Target (tres chic).  All that was left were the dishes.  A job that could certainly be done in 20 minutes under normal circumstances.  But SOMEONE is in the middle of dropping his morning nap, and had thus be awake since 2:30 pm instead of his usual 3:30 or 4.  SOMEONE couldn't stop clinging pathetically to my leg, or koala-ing, as we like to call it.  (Where's a koala containment unit when you need one?)  And so began the making-dinner dance of the desperate mama. 

Fill the sink.  Pick up the baby.  Give him a cookie.  Try some toys.  Put on some music.  Sit down and play.  He seems occupied?  Wash three dishes.  Not so much.   Give him some lettuce to play with.  How about some refrigerator magnets?  Singing and dancing, washing and drying (or, some days, cutting and slicing, sauteing and stirring.)   Dad comes home, toys are put away and, an extra blessing, our guest calls to say he will bring dinner, shortening tomorrow's dance considerably.  But I can't forget the post-dance-party clean-up, because my efforts to keep Elijah entertained through those last few dishes has left the kitchen looking like this:

But soon that is cleaned up, too, and because we now outnumber Elijah, Kurt and I manage to get the rest of the house picked up in record time.  Ta-da!  Big finish! The dancers collapse on the couch.

But soon it is bedtime, and a new dance begins. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Sleeping like a baby: Toddler Edition

A month or so ago, something happened.  

Elijah started sleeping through the night.  

The fact that I don't remember the exact day is surprising.  Shocking, even.  After all, just 11 months ago, this was me.  Sleep was so much on my mind that it was the topic of my very first post on this blog.  I fantasized about the day that I would be able to sleep all night, although, as discussed in that first post, I tried my best to avoid entertaining such fantasies, as they only lead to heartbreak.  

I have tried to remember when it started happening.  After all, this was a MAJOR MILESTONE.  But I can't.  It happened gradually.  He would wake up twice a night, then once, then back to twice, then only at 5:30 am, after which he would go back to sleep for an hour once his binky was back in.  Then, one day, the 5:30 wake-up stopped, too.   Whoa.

Here's the craziest part- I don't really care.  I mean, don't get me wrong, I'm glad that those newborn no-sleep days are over.  It is fortunate that such an extreme degree of fatigue seems to cause amnesia.  But it is hard to get too excited because 1) I know that this is not guarantee that he won't be back to the crazy wake-ups, especially when teething comes around again and 2) we hope to have more children in the not-so-distant future, so before I know it, I will once more be plunged into the pit of sleepless nights.  Unless, of course, our next child is more like Eleanor, and sleeping through the night comes naturally.  But then again, she hardly takes naps, so...I think I'll just stick with my usual mantra:  This is my life right now, and it is awesome.  

Sweet dreams.

PS I have no current pictures of Elijah sleeping because taking one would not be worth the possibility of waking him up.  Sorry, but can you blame me?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Brianna to the Rescue

Last Thursday was not my best day.  I had my wisdom teeth out a week ago Friday, and on Thursday, my face was still hurting.  I admit that I am a wuss when it comes to pain, natural childbirth notwithstanding.  Also, there is something particularly jarring about mouth pain.  I don't know if it is proximity to the brain, or that fact that the mouth is such an oft-used body part, but I was just feeling like I could not get away from the pain.  The night before, I had woken up around 2 am and was unable to go back to sleep for an hour, until the next round of pain medicine kicked in.  That morning, I dropped Elijah off at my friend Laura's for his weekly playdate/mom break, and instead of spending the time writing as I usually do, I took some Benedryl and went back to sleep.  

I was on my way out the door to pick Elijah up when my phone rang.  It was school, calling to say that Brianna had a fever and needed to be picked up.  I snagged the E-man (as my mom calls him) and made my way to school.  Brianna saw us coming down the hall and practically bounded our way.  Apparently a 101 degree fever was not enough to dampen her spirits.  

We went back to my house, made some flatbread pizzas and Elijah and Brianna played hide n' seek.  Elijah went down for a nap, and Brianna played with Noah's ark.  Before I knew it, three hours had passed and Brianna's dad came to get her.  Three previously dreaded hours had flown by.  Soon after Elijah woke up, Kurt came home, and the next morning I was back at the oral surgeon., receiving some much needed pain relief.  Brianna provided just the distraction I needed to make it over the hump.  Thanks, Super-Brianna.  You saved the day, and looked good doing it.

Friday, December 9, 2011

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.
Thank you to Amanda Soule of Soule Mama for the words and inspiration.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

This is how I feel today...

...so this is all I'm going to write.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

5 Reasons Why Children's Books are the Best Kind of Books for Adults (Part 1)

  1. Pictures Children's book illustrators sometimes (often) fail to get the recognition they deserve as artists.  I am particularly partial to intricately detailed illustrations, like those in books by Jan Brett or Graeme Base.  Also, the books that have received the Caldecott Medal are a good starting place for beautifully illustrated books.
  2. Length (or lack thereof) Sometimes, you want to read a long book.  I went through a John Irving phase for that very reason, and last week I finally finished reading Roots.  Most of the time, though, especially for parents, reading time is limited and it is hard to get into A Tale of Two Cities in five-minute chunks.  Young adult novels are long enough to weave a delightful story, but can be read in a sitting or two.  Cue the sense of accomplishment of actually finishing a book.
  3. It's a tough market According to the Library and Book Trade Almanac, about 25,000 children's and young adult books were published in 2009.  Considering how many of these are addenda to existing series, board books, or worthless commercial tie-ins, that really isn't so many.  More to the point, kids are notorious BS detectors, so when books become popular, it is usually with legitimate reason.  You won't catch a child claiming to have loved Heart of Darkness just to impress his preschool buddies.
  4. Non-traditional formats. Variety is the spice of children's literature.  From novels-in-poems (Out of the Dust) to wordless picture books (Tuesday) to out and out hodgepodge (The Magic School Bus series, classics, not TV tie-ins), kids' books provide a wealth of formats to keep things interesting.
  5. Kid-cred If you don't spend a lot of time with children, it can be hard to know what to talk about. The holidays are approaching, and if you want an instant connection with that awkwardly tween niece or nephew, books are a great place to start.  And unlike watching the Disney channel, brushing up on your kiddie lit won't make you want to claw your eyes out.
But wait, there's more!  Tune in tomorrow for five more reasons to embrace your inner literary child.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A Worthwhile Occupation

“A children's story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children's story in the slightest.” - C. S. Lewis

But there's more.  Children's books, and children's authors, have plenty to say to us grown-up people that merits listening.  To me, children's books are the best kind of books.  Tomorrow, I'll explain why.  For now, go here.   Which one is your favorite?  I like number 5.

Monday, December 5, 2011

On this day, one year ago...

...Elijah sneezed...

...and thought it was funny.   

(It's amazing how many pictures you take in those first few months.  Now, he likes to fake sneeze for a laugh, but I have yet to catch it on video.  I promise, Mom, I'm working on it.)

No deep thoughts today, as I'm still smarting from the abrupt loss of my wisdom (teeth) on Friday.  See you tomorrow!

Friday, December 2, 2011

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.
Thank you to Amanda Soule of Soule Mama for the words and inspiration.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Gratuitously Cute Video

When I write my posts, I try to write things that might appeal to a wide audience.  After all, what does any blogger dream of besides having random strangers tracking their every update?  Sometimes, though, you have to give the grandparents what they want.  For once, I got a video of Elijah playing rather than trying to grab the video camera and film the inside of his mouth.  And just in case his adventures with my birthday balloon didn't max out your cute-o-meter, hang on till the end to hear a couple words from his ever-growing list.  You're welcome, Aunt Sarah.