Merry Christmas Eve


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Our 2015 Christmas Card photo. Life as it is.

It’s raining hard in the mid-Atlantic; el niño is making itself felt with temperatures in the mid 70s on Christmas eve. I have to admit, it feels more like a California Christmas than it has in the 13 years since I left my home state. It’s disconcerting- but I am so happy to see the west getting desperately needed snow pack and the pictures from my mom of the creek on their property running for the first time in ages.

The humidity and warmth has completely jacked my holiday baking, and after my first batch of baklava wasn’t as pretty as I like, and Jon’s batches of fudge didn’t set up right, we kind of threw our hands up and gave up. “Not this year, then.” was the peaceful resignation. We let the kids decorate the sugar cookies, as is tradition, but then called the game. Not worth the aggravation or frustration.

I love having the kids home from school. We’ve had a lazy few days of doing not much of anything- aided by the endless rain. Abby and I took in a professional performance of the Nutcracker- her first, and mine in many years. Her takeaway was that it would be easier to pay attention if the theater had reclining seats like the movies, and that she felt wiggly and thirsty. Hard to argue.  I admit to finding theater and modern dance more compelling than classical ballet- and this was a very classical production.

Jeffrey has now taught Bean and Abby how to cross stitch, and they are all deeply invested in their respective needleworks. It’s pretty great to look around our house and see them all bowed low over their hoops and Aida cloth, busily stitching away. Jeffrey has an opinion on needle-threaders and particular brands of cloth, and Bean made it all the way through church by working on his embroidery.

My knitting yields this year were less than in previous, high-stress years— only seven pairs of socks. Photos forthcoming, as they are all wrapped under the tree.

We celebrated Star Wars Day (with most of the nerds on the planet) last Friday, and had our tickets in hand for opening night. But first, Star Wars Day dinner… Fresh Tauntaun Stew over Hoth Snow and Degobah Swamp Punch:Screen Shot 2015-12-24 at 7.32.24 AM

Now to enjoy my most favorite day of the year… everything is done, the lists are all crossed off, there is nowhere to rush, and nothing left to wrap. There is a broad and gentle day of calm before the chaos and joy of tomorrow. I will enjoy the pregnant peace and love of Christmas Eve, and wish you and yours the same.

In Praise of the Good Teacher


This morning, as he was getting his trumpet and backpack ready for the walk to school, Bean flopped down on the sofa next to me. Tiberius immediately tried to squeeze in, and upon being ignored, settled for sliding down my leg and napping on Bean’s feet. Bean was fidgeting with the crêche on the coffee table, and smiling.

“What’s up?” I tried to be nonchalant. It’s so hard to get him in the right moment when he feels like talking- I hold my breath and hope.

He smiles again, to himself, as he adjusts the little sheep who follow the shepherd. “I love my school so much, mom. I love my teachers, I love Mr. W, I love playing the trumpet, I love my friends, I love PE.”

Suddenly my heart is in my throat, and as always, I have to fight the urge to hold and hug him- it would break the spell. I hold super still, waiting for him to continue. “It’s pretty different than last year, isn’t it?”

He laughs, and rolls his eyes. I love that he’s starting to pick up on teenage behavior and smarty-pants replies. His laughter comes easy these days, and he often comes home from school happy and with stories of his adventures. It’s a whole new world.

“It’s so great, mom.” He lets that just stand, and sit there, a statement of truth and happiness. If there ever was a testament of the power of a good teacher, it is this. And if there ever was any doubt that some people should not be teaching, that real, long-lasting damage can be done in a classroom, it is what happened to this child last year. The differences between then and now are profound.

So tomorrow night he has his first brass concert- his first since switching from the cello- and he is so happy. He’s confident and excited about performing. He loves his band teacher, and he is able to attend every day.

He’s got friends, he’s looking forward to the holiday party at the end of the week, he’s making honor roll, the school hasn’t called me to come in even one time, and he’s not received any disciplinary action– and he’s been praised for being a leader. This is what happens when a child is getting built up at school, and not torn down.

So yeah, teachers matter. Teachers matter so very, very much.

The Season’s Upon Us…

IMG_5425It’s that time of year again. My hands have been tangled up in yarn, as sock after sock spills from my needles. I have switched from my old steel double-points to beautiful Brittany wooden needles. Everything about them is lyrical and soothing, and frankly, I want more of that as the holidays barrel towards us.

We had a home-Thanksgiving. With Jon’s brother and his family in from out of state, there were nine kids, four parents and one giant puppy under one roof for the better part of a week. It was pretty great, actually. I love having family around for holidays. We had the traditional Fast Food Feast the night before Thanksgiving, because seriously, who wants to cook?IMG_5471The remains of the day… Like just about every other American house, we had too much, and I found myself wishing for a longer table and more faces I could welcome and feed.IMG_5477Tiberius is getting huge. He’s five months old this week, and is running at about 80 pounds now. It’s time for puppy school. He’s completely housebroken and never has accidents in the house, but he simply cannot control himself when left to his own devices, as evidenced by how he helped me with the Christmas presents last week:
IMG_5513He ate three books, a wreath, and the door bells. I was, apparently, gone too long. We came up with a solution, though…
IMG_5529There is no way he’s outgrowing that beast of a crate. Thanks to a local friend who was downsizing from her Great Dane, we inherited this joy. Now Ty again has his own space, and I can keep him (and the Christmas tree) safe while I am out. Over/Under on Bean locking himself in the crate was 30 seconds. Actual time: 12 seconds.IMG_5502He’s not always in trouble- Sometimes he’s just cute. The kids had fun dumping the ornaments on the tree, and I tried to just let them do it. I have a fancy tree named “Mr. Fabulous” in the front room- this is the family tree, and it’s way more fun for them to decorate it themselves. Ty has only eaten one ornament, and one branch. So far, so good.IMG_5427Bean has found an author that resonates with him, and he’s become a specifically voracious reader, after years of struggling. OT and PT do work, folks- it takes a while sometimes, but keep it up.  I love this snap of him, lost in his book.IMG_5478And this is why we love him, even when he eats Christmas presents, messes with my yarn, and slobbers on the pillows. How could you not just love that face? He waits like this for Bean to come home everyday, and then bounds down the stairs to the front door. Bean lays on the floor and they wrestle for a bit before they head outside together. Every once in a while he’s too much of a dog for Bean, but they’re growing up together and he loves him so much they find ways around the drool and the loving of digging holes in mud puddles.

In Abby news, we have our 5th 4.0 honor roll award in a row. It’s all her.IMG_5404And Jeffrey has taken up cross-stitch. He found a photo of a mastiff and turned it into a pattern for his first one. He takes it to church now, stitches through the meetings.IMG_5456I’ll just leave you with this gem: