Saturday, December 29, 2007

Keeping 'em on a leash

I told you the holidays were fodder for excellent blog material. Well, here's the first memorable story.

While sitting around the kitchen table at my grandmother's house on Christmas evening, I entered a memorable discussion about baby gadgets. Now I am all for cool, innovative gadgets for entertaining and keep track of children. I have thrown plenty of money at the baby products industry. But there's one item that seems to have escaped me...

the child leash.

I thought - for a brief second - about doing a search on the internet. But googling "child leash" will probably take me to places I do not want to go.

If you have frequented an indoor mall in the last fifteen years, you have probably seen what I am talking about. The child leash is essentially a harness put around the shoulders and waist of a small child attached to a long leash. The leash is affixed to the mother's wrist. Therefore, the child can have the sense of walking independently, yet when said child is more than ten feet away from mother, he has "reached the end of his leash" and is yanked back to his mother. You've seen a dog walking on a leash, right? It's the same concept.

Hmmm...I wonder why I don't recall seeing the product at Target or Babies R Us lately?

One of my aunts - who shall remain nameless - was a proud user of the child leash. She didn't leave home without it. Her own children even testified they are physically and emotionally unharmed from being put into the child leash.

The rest of my family, however, found the child leash concept hilarious. Knee slapping funny. Belly laughing material.

And where does my opinion rest?

I have sided with the babysitter. Yes, the next time I want to venture out to a shopping mall I will be hiring a babysitter. Even on a leash, shopping with my children is not fun. Not fun at all.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Back home

We have returned home from a five day trek to my parent's house for Christmas. High speed internet has just recently reached their rural location. (Yes, there are still places like this in America.) So blogging away from home was not an option.

This holiday was wonderful in so many ways, but mostly it was special because it was warm and cozy. There was snow on the ground, but it was toasty indoors. (And there were so many great ideas for blogs yet to come!) My mom (and dad) worked hard to make a happy holiday home. We were all at home together - that was the best gift.

There will be more time tomorrow for some of the good stories from the holidays. Tonight, I'm going to break ground on our new addition so we have a place to put all these da*# toys!

While we tried our best to smile for a picture, my husband was foaming at the mouth at the thought of the Christmas buffet awaiting him in the kitchen.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

What to wear?

I came to the realization today that I have had a complete paradigm shift. Ladies, I know you'll understand this one...

When I look back on significant dates in my life, I can remember exactly what I was wearing right down to the shoes. I may not have ever been high fashion, but I know my clothes were always well thought out for each occasion. There were the big ones - proms and graduations. And then the less significant - dates, holidays, family weddings and parties. I guess it's just one of those things we (women) are born wired with the capacity to remember.

Today - while pondering what to pack for my daughter as we traveled for the holidays - I realized that I can't recall a single thing I have worn in the past two years for any special occasion. I do, however, remember with specific detail exactly what my daughter was wearing.

It's not that I don't care anymore. I think I have done an okay job of keeping up with styles and dressing age appropriately. It's just that my focus has moved to my children; no exceptions.

With that said, I want to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas. I'm signing off for a few days as we're traveling for the holidays. I promise a complete holiday review when we return. I hope the spirit of Christmas finds its way into your heart!

Santa came early to our house - here's the kids on their Christmas morning.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

More Christmas spirit

Husbands: In the days before Christmas, you should refrain from saying to your wife, "Woman, get your sewing done so the kids will have some presents."

Wives: In the days before Christmas, you should refrain from saying to your husband, "What are you doing around here to make Christmas happen?"

Instead, you should cooperate together to get the kids to bed and then, again in the spirit of cooperation, wrap presents for your children. Try using phrases such as "please" and "thank you." Hold the tape for one another. Kindly ask for the labels and ribbon. In general, practice a spirit of Christmas at all times.

Monday, December 17, 2007

My Christmas moment

I took last Friday off to finish my Christmas shopping. It was a desperate attempt to check off my list before things get too "last minute." Thanks to the ice storm and a looming dumping of snow, I had to keep my shopping local. I was hoping for a retreat to big mall in a big city, alas I settled for Target and JC Penneys.

The shopping went okay. I left without a few gifts, so I wanted to hurry home and finish my shopping online. Hurrying home, however, was not what Mother Nature had in mind.

I called my mom, who came out for the weekend to help with the kids while my husband was three hours away making deer sausage. (Did I forgot to rant about this?) She informed me that it was snowing lightly and there was just enough snow to cover the ground. I had a 35 mile trek in front of me, so I thought it would be a quick drive home.

About 10 minutes into my trip, she called again. By this point, I was driving 40 mph and had visibility of about 100 yards. She wanted to tell me that it was snowing quite heavily now.

So, there was nothing I could do except to turn up the defrost and crank up my new Josh Groban Christmas CD and focus on the miles I had to cross. "Ave Maria" was blaring in the car. Big, soft, perfect snowflakes were blanketing the earth. A black coal train was rumbling on the tracks along side the highway. And somewhere, from deep within, Christmas spirit swelled within me. It was a moment so moving only comparable to the spirit swirling at Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.

It was my Christmas moment. I took it in, breathed deeply, and cried a tear for the Christ child. It's likely the moment won't come again this year. I will be wrestling my children at a 4:00 pm mass on Christmas eve. I doubt I will even hear the stories or be able to hold a hymnal and sing along.

Thank you, Lord, for granting me my Christmas moment...

The Annual Christmas Letter

I'm posting this year's Christmas letter. It's going out in the mail tomorrow. I like to take a more honest approach to this annual letter writing venture. Who needs to paint a rosy picture? This is a wonderful life!

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Like most eager openers of Christmas cards,
I know you looked at the picture first. You wanted to catch a quick glimpse of the kids and then briefly skim the letter for a few highlights from our perfect and accomplished little family. I want you all to know that this year, the perfection stopped somewhere in the middle of my second pregnancy.

We switched gears from striving for perfection to simply maintaining. The vacations, promotions, achievements, and major purchases were put on hold. Indefinitely.

This year, we changed diapers, read stories, rocked babies, mended hurt fingers and broken hearts, played games, pushed strollers, tickled toes, played in mud puddles, chased a toddler and giggled with a baby.

I am doubtful we have really ever been the “perfect family Christmas letter” type. I suppose it was just the kind of year that made us thankful for all the things we don’t have and all that we didn’t accomplish.

Looking back at 2007, there were two significant highlights. First, Tucker Jacob arrived June 12. He is a mild and mellow change of pace from his eager big sister. At six months old, we love him for his slobbery, toothless smile, the way he giggles at his big sister, and for his laid-back attitude.

And secondly, Noah had her second birthday in November. She is reason to pause and catch your breath! She has taken well to the role of big sister, and cares for her own baby dolls lovingly every day.

All in all, we have come to define perfection in a whole new way: two happy (sleeping) babies; a cozy, warm home; a few toys and books and sippee cups to trip over; and each other.

Having a baby certainly changes your life. Having two children changes your perspective. How easy it is to let go of perfection when all you really need is your family near you at Christmas!

Wishing you and yours all the best…

Brent, Sarah, Noah & Tucker

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Digging out

Winter came early to our little patch of earth. We are just now digging out of an ice storm and twelve inches of snow. I have been a bit preoccupied (and I forgot my password for a couple days), and plan a complete blog tomorrow.

I celebrated my birthday last Wednesday! There were two special guests at the party!

With no experience, Noah took to sledding like a baby duck takes to the pond!

Monday, December 10, 2007

We kicked the baby out!

For the past six months, the baby has been sleeping in our bedroom. We have a quaint three bedroom house, and I have been reluctant to let go of my spare bedroom / home office / craft & sewing room. I have been hoping - somewhat foolishly - that the baby would start sleeping peacefully through the night, and that he could move in with his big sister. Guess who won this battle?

Saturday night my husband and I stayed up late, err, until 11:00 pm, watching a movie. That was about the time the baby started fussing. It was about 3:30 am when the baby stopped fussing (crying, wiggling, sometimes screaming). After nursing and a dose of Tylenol, he settled to sleep for about three hours.

As I pulled myself out of bed, I said to my husband, "Get that crib out of here. I'm kicking the baby out of our room." Before he even bothered to find his slippers, he had screwdriver in hand and was dismantling the door to squeeze the crib into the hallway and back to the kid's room.

We didn't stop there. We rearranged all three bedrooms. We moved the baby to the kid's room. We moved his big sister to the spare bedroom. (Pause for grief at the loss of my office / sewing room.) We cleaned out closets. We moved boxes, storage tubs, toys and heavy furniture.

My hobbies were reduced to an old dresser crammed in the closet in the baby's room. Our college diplomas and collection of textbooks were boxed up and sent to the garage. Our children have officially taken over our home. (When will they take over the mortgage?)

Needless to say we missed church Sunday morning. I think God will give us a pass. He would rather we were rested and present in church, rather than tired and testy and spiritually absent.

I am still climbing out of the mess. My mom told me that I will get caught up in about eighteen years. I said I'll be caught up by Friday. Hmmm....I wonder who will win this battle?

Friday, December 7, 2007

Peace on Earth

The mess from lunch is still all over the kitchen...

there is sloppy joe meat all over my floor...

there is a stack of dishes that exhausts me just to look at...

I have to trip over toys to get to my computer...

the back door won't open because of the pile of shoes, coats and gloves blocking the way...

but there are gingerbread ornaments on the kid's Christmas tree...

and there really is peace on earth.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Crazy hair!

I took my daughter to get her first real haircut tonight. I have trimmed her hair at the bathroom sink before, but I thought it was time for a real trim from a professional. Actually, I knew she would sit still for someone else. Whereas if I tried to trim her hair, she would have ended up looking like her bald little brother.

She did such an excellent job! She hasn't sat that still since the first time she had a lollipop. In fact, she was just an angel until she looked at the client in the chair next to her, pointed, and said, "Crazy hair, momma!"

This isn't as bad as it may seem. Let me explain.

This all happened because I read one of the "how to be a good parent" magazines. I read an article that had some fun things to do with a toddler. One idea suggested that while shampooing your child's hair you should make "crazy hair-do's" with your child's sudsy locks and let them see the "do" in a mirror. Like a sucker, I tried the tip out on my daughter. Of course, she loved it. We keep a mirror within arm's reach of the bathtub now just so she can look at her "crazy hair."

"And now you know the rest of the story," as Paul Harvey would say.

The client as well as the stylist looked at bit insulted at my two-year-old's observation. I quickly smoothed the waters and told them about our bathtime crazy hair.

And in the end, mommy and daughter are trimmed and styled. The stylist even "fwipped" my daughter's hair. That means she curled it - in case you don't speak two-year-old. My dirt digging, sand in her ears, puddle jumping toddler may have just a touch of princess in her yet!

Monday, December 3, 2007


Daddy got up early with Noah this morning. She is like our own rooster, sensing the rising of the sun, eagerly anticipating another day of play. While I got a few more minutes of rest, they started making a batch of pancakes. By the time I got to the kitchen - about 45 minutes later - Daddy had already had his fill of time with a toddler.

She was dumping salt into the pancake batter - and some for the counter top as well - as I told them both good morning. Daddy hastily put her down, and she scooted right over to a bar stool and perched herself on the counter. There she preceded to make a puddle of maple syrup and commence to finger painting. Daddy paused from cleaning up the salt to take her to the shower, while he informed me of what she had accomplished before I made it to the kitchen. She had (pretended to) call Grandma half a dozen times, ride her stick horse around the kitchen table, and empty the tin of cookie cutters on to the kitchen floor. It wasn't even 7:00 am yet!

I know by this point you're thinking we have lost control of this (monster) toddler.

Well, you're right.

Just to make you feel even better - here's a few more things she accomplished today.

- She tossed her mudboots and climbed into a barrel sized planter full of dirt barefoot in the 40 degree weather.

- She ascended the bathroom counter top to eat toothpaste.

- She threw a tootsie roll half way across the kitchen. (She's got an arm!)

- She tried to feed the baby his bottle by poking it in his eye.

- And she perfectly executed use of the word "dammit" when she spilled some water on the kitchen floor.

Don't you feel better now?

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Grandma taught me how to sew

My grandma taught me how to sew...nearly twenty years ago, in the July heat, in her non air conditioned farm house. I was about nine years old and I had chosen to enroll in the 4-H sewing project. My mom knew how to sew, but she also knew she and I (at such a young age) would not work so well together. So she sent me to Grandma's house.

For several days, summer after summer, I would stay at Grandma's house until we had completed my outfit. Her house seemed to bake in the July, muggy, Missouri heat. I remember just hoping for a breeze to come through the bedroom window where I was sleeping at night.

I would make my way to the kitchen each morning to find her reading the paper, drinking her coffee and smoking a cigarette. She would make me a bowl of a yummy, sugary cereal, and we would talk about what we needed to accomplish on my outfit for the day.

She taught me how to read a pattern; how to lay out the pattern pieces properly on the fabric; to pay close attention to every detail on each pattern piece; to measure and pin and snip and stitch so carefully. And if I didn't do things just right, she would move me out of the way and finish it her way. She was particular, to say the least.

Eventually, I was able to complete an outfit without a stay-over at Grandma's house. She had successfully taught me how to sew.

And now, some twenty years later, I am still sewing. I began working on my daughter's Christmas outfit this afternoon, using the same old techniques Grandma taught me years ago. Paying close attention to the details, being quite particular, and thinking of my Grandma every stitch of the way.

Grandma is still with us, but her sewing days have slowed a bit. And as I think down my long list of cousins, I'm quite certain I am the only grandchild she taught how to sew. I suppose it's a dying hobby. Clothing stores offer extensive selection. And it really doesn't save any money to make things myself. But there is something about taking a flat piece of fabric and turning into a beautiful garment that is inspiring to me.

Grandma gave me a gift that I will cherish forever. And as long as my children are willing, I will lovingly measure and pin and snip and stitch just for them.