Monday, December 31, 2007

Pink Martini




Watch Oregon Public Broadcasting at 10:30 PM this New Year's Eve to see Pink Martini in concert at Portland's Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. I'll be waving to you from the audience as I enjoy our first New Year's Eve couples' night out in years. Six years ago, I was in the hospital giving birth to our #1 son, born just six minutes after midnight. I'll be a little blury-eyed for Levi's birthday party this year, but it will be worth it!

This is my third opportunity to see Pink Martini in concert, and I'm heading out with enormous expectations. If you get a chance to see them, don't miss it! Or just pick up one of their excellent recordings. Listen to song previews over at Amazon.

Potential

The one little word I have chosen as a catalyst in my life for the year 2008 is Potential.

As in: Living Up to My Potential and Helping My Children Reach Their Potential. I must make the continual effort to be the best me I am capable of being.


Everyone has inside of him a piece of good news. The good news is that you don't know how great you can be! How much you can love! What you can accomplish! And what your potential is! ~Anne Frank

Continuous effort - not strength or intelligence - is the key to unlocking our potential. ~Winston Churchill

The essence of our effort to see that every child has a chance must be to assure each an equal opportunity, not to become equal, but to become different - to realize whatever unique potential of body, mind and spirit he or she possesses. ~John Fischer

When I approach a child, he inspires in me two sentiments; tenderness for what he is, and respect for what he may become. ~Louis Pasteur
Have you chosen a word yet? So far, Mt. Hope readers have shared:

Enjoy

Courage

Generous

2008 is going to be an amazing year!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

One Little Word


I recently stumbled upon an inspirational blog. One of Ali Edwards' scrapbooking books is a favorite of mine, and I am ecstatic to discover that she has an incredible blog that I look forward to visiting often this next year.

One of Ali's recent posts resonated with me. She talks about the 'one little word' that she chooses each January to set the tone for her new year. (After you've read the link above, read more here.)

One word for a whole year might be a stretch for me. How can I limit myself to one little word? But maybe that is the point. That one little word, when used as a focus, could be like a continuous drip of water upon a stone.

I thought back over the last two years. 'Journey' is the word that instantly comes to mind when I remember 2006. Russ got a new job, Leif was born, we began homeschooling, and moved to our forever home. 'Hope' sums up this past year beautifully. Life in 2007 has been full of hope.

What are my goals for 2008? What tone do I want to set? What can be improved upon in my attitude or actions?


What word would you choose?

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Project 2008

I'm joining Kelli at New Mercies Every Day for her Project 2008 Challenge:

Starting in January I am going to tackle some area of my life each month. It might be a closet that needs reorganizing, it might be my school record keeping methods, it might be the flowerbed out front.

Would you like to join me?

Feel free to join in. Each month you will need to announce your project of the month at the beginning of the month. Take pictures if that is appropriate to your project theme. During the month you can blog about how you are making improvements. At the end of the month share with us how you did in accomplishing your goal.

If we stick with it, in December we will have accomplished a minimum of 12 projects. That would be a great way to end the year!!

I would rather not make a bunch of New Year's resolutions that I won't keep, but this sounds like a way to concentrate on one thing at a time with a bit of accountability. You, my dear readers, will hold me to it, won't you?

Are any of you interested in joining me? Be thinking about your project for January!

Friday, December 28, 2007

A Big Year For Levi


As I was sitting here trying to grasp the fact that Levi is soon turning the age of six, I realized what a big year this has been for him. He has acquired three monumental life skills: reading, swimming (or at least keeping his head above deep water for extended periods of time), and riding a bike. Along with basic social skills (an ongoing maturing process, helped by the fact that he is extremely outgoing) and love of learning (which he naturally possesses), I would put these three life skills close to the top of the list.

There is no question that the whole world opens up for someone when they are able to read. Learn something new, participate as a citizen, follow directions, fill out a job application (maybe not at the age of five, but...), and go on any number of adventures in your imagination!

Russ and I both agree that being able to swim is an indispensable life skill. Apart from being a survival skill and fun recreational activity, swimming is a terrific exercise for bodies of all sizes, ages, and physical abilities. It is a skill that can be used, and an activity that can be enjoyed, for an entire lifetime.



I hadn't thought much about riding a bike as a life skill until my sister mentioned it. She reminded me that being able to ride a bike ensures very inexpensive transportation. This will seem like an obvious statement to many people, but we grew up in the country and never rode our bikes on the busy highway into town.

No gas (whether there will be a shortage or it will become outrageously expensive...), no insurance, low maintenance, and exercise thrown in! Down on your luck, car breaks down, just getting started in the world... if you are able to ride a bike, transportation to a job is one step closer. In areas like ours, public transportation isn't readily available. It never hurts to give yourself an option you have more control over.



So, while 'book learning' is very important to us as a family, the life skills we help our children develop along the way are part of the big picture that I need to keep in sight. Many of these skills will come naturally, but occasionally parenting feels like an overwhelming responsibility. I wonder if we will fail our kids somehow. What are we missing? What can we improve upon? What will we look back on and wish we had done differently? What is the big picture we are striving toward? What are the individual and unique needs of each child? Of our family?


The book I've found very helpful on the subject of life skills (you knew there would be one, didn't you?) is Life Skills for Kids: Equipping Your Child for the Real World by Christine M. Field. From a Christian perspective, this book covers time management, people skills, money, self-care, decision making, and even the art of celebrating life. There is so much more to this book. I'd recommend it for any parent, homeschooling or not.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Over the Mountains, Through the Snow





Russ needed to head over the moutains to see a client yesterday. He thought it would be fun to take Levi and Luke and play in the snow. I always wonder if he knows what he is getting himself into, but Russ is a big boy. He just wings it, and everything turns out fine. Three very tired guys trudged into the house late last night after 14 hours of driving/working/and playing.

Chains were required over the pass, and Russ had to stop a few times to help get trees out of the road. It was slow going, but Luke and Levi rarely see snow (although we did get a few flakes at home on Christmas Day!), and it was a great novelty. They were able to play in the snow after dark, thanks to a night skiing area. Russ topped them off with hot chocolate in the lodge. What a great dad!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Day

Christmas!
The Grandkids:
My Incredible Mom:
My Brother-in-law and Swedish Pancake Expert, Casey:
Gifts:
Prime Rib and Yorkshire Pudding:

Russ Snitching the Ham:

A Bountiful Table:
Ivy Darling:



A Christmas Prayer
by Robert Louis Stevenson

Loving Father, Help us remember the birth of Jesus,
that we may share in the song of the angels,
the gladness of the shepherds, and worship of the wise men.

Close the door of hate and open the door of love all over the world.
Let kindness come with every gift
and good desires with every greeting.
Deliver us from evil by the blessing which Christ brings,
and teach us to be merry with clear hearts.

May the Christmas morning make us happy to be thy children,
and Christmas evening bring us to our beds with grateful thoughts,
forgiving and forgiven, for Jesus' sake. Amen.

Our Brother is Born

Merry Christmas to All!!
Our Brother Is Born
by Harry and Eleanor Farjeon

Now every child that dwells on earth,
Stand up, stand up and sing;
The passing night has given birth
Unto the children's king.
Sing sweet as the flute,
Sing clear as the horn,
Sing joy for the children,
Come Christmas morn:


Little Christ Jesus
Our brother is born.





I'm posting this picture for my friend, Carole, at Thoughts of Home. We have to take life as it comes, and find humor and joy in every moment.

Monday, December 24, 2007

The Children Are Nestled All Snug in Their Beds


The house is quiet and dark.

The white lights on the Christmas tree are glittering.

The Lime Cream Souffle for tomorrow's dinner is in the refrigerator.

The Land of Nod Cinnamon Buns are assembled and ready to throw in the oven first thing tomorrow morning.

The gifts are wrapped.

The stockings are filled.

The boys are bathed. Two haircuts completed.

The toys are picked up, floor swept, and laundry put away.

Our Christmas clothes are set out.

(If only I could say that Christmas cards are out.. They have been finished for quite some time, but I hate the way the picture turned out when I got them developed. Apparently we are sending out New Year's cards...)

Tomorrow, we will open stockings in our PJs. The boys will sing 'Happy Birthday' to baby Jesus. We'll get dressed, load up the truck, and drive the two miles through the silent countryside to my parents' home. There we will join my sisters, brothers-in-law, nieces, and nephew for breakfast including Swedish pancakes made by my brother-in-law, Casey. I'll sneak a moment to sit in the living room alone and gaze at the Christmas tree. All the memories of past Christmases washing over me. Every one of them (save the two or three out of town at a Grandparent's home) in this house--in this room.

We'll spend the rest of the morning opening presents, one at a time--from youngest to the oldest. There will be oohs and ahs of delight over the thoughtful gifts. My oldest son is sure to have a few dramatic moments-- either ecstatic over a perfect present, or devastated with disappointment. My second born will find it impossible to wait his turn. My youngest will hopefully be thrilled just playing with paper and boxes.

The wrappings will be cleared away, the kids will find a cozy nook in which to play with their new treasures, and dinner preparations will swing into full gear. I pray that the youngest child decides that a nap is in order.

For the first year in my memory, turkey will not be served. But ham and prime rib will grace our table, and no one will complain. The dishes and centerpieces will look beautiful. The conversation will be cheerful. The kids will be antsy and unable to concentrate on eating. (I'm speaking only for my 3 boys...and keeping it real.)

The afternoon will dissolve into dishes, laughter, dessert, games, and naps. Eventually, each family will gather up its coats, empty plates, and new treasures. We'll say good bye and drive through the dark to our own glowing homes, where each one of us will fall into bed. Except myself. I'll be up for a few more moments. Just long enough to put pictures on my blog.

Christmas Eve

I have an awesome husband. He does a lot of 'stuff' with the boys. They go places, make things, hang out, watch movies, wrestle, and more. He'll even take all three boys out to breakfast--just the four of them. For some reason, though, my husband stays out of the kitchen. Maybe it is because I'm a control freak, I don't know. What I do know is that my husband has not cooked or baked anything, really, since we moved into this house a year ago.

However, this morning he woke up and decided (my husband is famously spontaneous) to make peanut butter cookies with the boys. The poor guy never gets peanut butter cookies because someone (the control freak in charge of the kitchen) likes chocolate chip. So this poor guy decided to make peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies with three pint-sized helpers. He had no idea what he was getting himself into.

I tried to stay out of the way. I only helped once or twice--maybe three times. Once, I steered him in the direction of the vanilla extract. He would have found it eventually, but the project would have taken more than all day if he had to search for everything. Another time I reassured him that adding two teaspoons of vanilla instead of one wouldn't be a big deal. (If it had been salt, or something, well...) The last time I stepped in after a few exasperated "Leif!'s" involving a camera and a carton of eggs (not at the same time, luckily). The little guy was then removed, washed up, and read to in his room.

I'm happy to say that the finished products were delicious. (Actually, I can only vouch for the chocolate chip version.) And I think Russ was immensely proud of himself as he headed out of the house with a plate of cookies for the client he is helping out today.




We have spent the last month celebrating, but Christmas Eve is a pretty low-key day day for us. While Russ is out working this afternoon, I'll be finishing up the wrapping (yes, it's a bit last minute), doing laundry, getting some food ready for tomorrow, and all the little things that moms have on their to-do lists so that holidays will go smoothly.
Leif is napping, the other boys are watching Christmas movies, and I had better get to work. Later we'll have (oh, wait... DINNER! I knew I was forgetting something!) to order pizza, the boys will get baths, we'll read a few Christmas picture books, and we'll settle in for the night.





Littlejim's Gift

Christmas in the Country

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Sentimental Memories

My Dad made this wooden nativity puzzle when I was young, and I remember playing with it every Christmas. After my sisters and I moved out of the house and had children of our own (well, we're still waiting (and waiting, and waiting...) for Shannon to decide that kids would make her life complete), Dad made copies for the grandchildren. It brings me great joy to see my boys playing with this nativity. Luke is an expert at putting the puzzle together.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The World's Easiest Recipe

Well, it's only the world's easiest recipe if you happen to be home for a couple of hours and are the patient type.

Dulce de Leche

Begin with a can of sweetened condensed milk (or two or three... I usually do at least two at a time) and a large pan filled with water.
Place unopened can(s) in the water. Bring water to a simmer. Leave cans in simmering water for 2 1/2 hours. (I turn them occasionally and add water when needed to cover cans.)
Remove cans from water and let them cool a bit. When ready to serve, open can, remove contents, and stir until smooth. Add a bit of vanilla.

Now, the general public would enjoy dipping sliced apples into this delicious caramel, but you haven't tasted anything until you have slathered warm dulce de leche on hot, crusty French bread. This is one of my favorite childhood foods.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Las Posadas





Eating:

Making (and Breaking):



Singing:

En nombre del cielo (In the name of heaven)
Os pido posada (I request you grant us shelter)
Pues no puede andar (Given that she cannot walk)
Mi esposa amada (She my beloved wife)
No seas inhumano (Please do not be inhumane)
Tennos caridad (Grant us charity)
Que el Rey de los cielos (Since the God of heavens)
Te lo premiará (Will prize you for that)
Venimos rendidos (We come very tired)
Desde Nazaret (From Nazareth)
Yo soy carpintero (I am a carpenter)
De nombre José (Named Joseph)
Posada te pido (I ask you shelter)
Amado casero (Dear innkeeper)
Por sólo una noche (for just one night)
La reina del cielo (the queen of heaven)
Mi esposa es María (My wife is Mary)
Es reina del cielo (She's the Heavenly Queen)
Y madre va a ser (And she'll be mother)


Reading:

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Words and Candles

My New Rock Garden:Handmade Stepping Stones:
Candle Gift:
Candle Centerpiece:
I found the candle idea in a decorating magazine somewhere. The article suggested buying inexpensive religious candles (found in the ethnic section at the local grocery store) and covering with paper, ribbon or twine, and a sprig of greenery. I think I might do a large collection of these candles covered in whites, neutrals, and greens for the top of my piano in January.

Also, cranberries are a favorite decorating element of mine in the month of December. Filling any glass container (vase, bowl, pitcher, etc.) with the red berries creates an instant festive focal point.

Russ and I created the poetry stepping stones using this kit from Magnetic Poetry:

I'm thinking of using a large collection of inspirational words to create a one-of-a-kind pathway to our front door. Won't Russ be thrilled?