Friday, December 12, 2008

An Assortment

If you find yourself behind in practically every area of your life, if responsibilities are piling up on your doorstep, what do You do? Sometimes I manage to do less than ever when feeling overwhelmed. Or worse, I decide to do something that makes very little sense and then it backfires anyway. Example: Last Christmas I packed our holiday decor and treasures as though for moving and everything has been stacked and stored in the deep, dark recesses of the garage. Inaccessible. I am continually regretting this and rationalizing what we don't actually need, but yesterday while in a fabric shop I said something out loud in an absentminded, innocent kind of way...We should make stockings. Maria, let's see if we can find stocking fabric. I couldn't find anything that really sparked my imagination and so, again, I resigned myself to letting go of yet another tradition, and took Maria's hand to leave. Maria started crying... not a wailing tantrum cry or an embarrassing phony whine... she had plump, warm tears slipping down her cheeks and she said, "But we didn't buy fabric for stockings. We have to quilt stockings for Christmas."

I am weak. I am susceptible. I want Home and Christmas and tradition and loveliness, and I have always been obsessed with some day having really, truly lovely homemade Christmas stockings. So why not now? Why not this year? We have the technology. We have the skills. We just need fabric, and a lot of free time, a clean house, paid bills, groceries, errands run... never mind! We chose flannel fabric with a snowman motif and reindeer, very folksy and snug. We came home and walked passed all the chores and duties waiting for my attention, and went directly to the sewing space at the top of the stairs. Let's get right to the point of this sad story... my stocking making career is a bust. They are rushed and poorly planned, and when I tried to find a template to trace, I found all of our old stockings!! Now I have 2 half finished and pitiful stockings and the 6 stockings we have had for 10 years that I bought on a whim, because we had no stockings, because whatever we had been using were packed from some other move!


Yes, that was a lump of coal. But I have something sweet and gingery to share too. I did promise an assortment.

On Wednesday Alex and William went to school with their homemade, customized gingerbread house and mill. Many students and even some teachers, with their own children, met after school and we had a decorating extravaganza. Max, Maria and I came with juice, chips for snacking, and more powdered sugar for the icing. Many of the other students were gingerbread novices and it was a lot of fun encouraging their inner elves to decorate with sugary abandon.

This school has the best staff and teachers. Their interest in the students and the lengths they go to to extend themselves is very refreshing. The principal, the custodian, the office staff... everyone came by or participated. It was a gumdrop, candy cane mess! Wonderful! We laid on some thick layers of icing and sweets. We made marshmallow snowmen and pretzel fences. It's a pleasure being creative in a supportive and enthusiastic environment.

William and Alex's mill is awesome. The wheel still turns... it actually spins marvelously! Can you believe that? A gingerbread mill, made entirely out of baked goods and sugary confections and it can move like a real, working mill. That is so cool. And now it is decorated and has snowmen in the yard and a snow covered, thatched roof.

The house smells of spice and sweetness.

For a few minutes I thought maybe this would satisfy our appetites for making gingerbread houses. We were immersed in this project over several days, and it was intense and messy (even though I was not technically involved.) But it's so much fun making these houses and playing with candy and cereal and thinking of new ways to fashion fences and trim... I think we'll have to make at least one more. And maybe we will finally give up the glue gun tradition!

The stocking fantasy needs more time, like a year or two, but there have been successes in the sewing room and the yarn obsession is alive and well. I made Maria a skirt, and I have several pencil/marker roll-ups ready to wrap. I finished the big quilt I have been keeping under wraps (big reveal soon.) There are many hats and scarves that I have fashioned with my handy crochet hooks. What else? Oh, yes... these balls, which are a bit wonky, but still fun to prepare and play with after.

Did anyone else catch all the amazing giveaways and creativity going on at "Sew, Mama Sew!"? They had a zillion links to talented and generous bloggers that were participating in Giveaway Day.
I meant to visit every single post, but that would have taken many hours of wild Internet cruising. Happily from the handful of sites I visited I actually won a prize! (insert picture of me jumping and looking giddy) Thank you Twiddletails! I bet Anina recognizes the fabric I used to make the ball Maria is holding... it's from a scrap bin at the fabric store I love! "Woodland Blooms" are lovely! I think the fabric series would be really nice for a pencil roll, and now, thanks to Tami, of Lemon Tree Tales, I have the actual pattern for making more of these handy pencil and marker carriers.

And now I am going to do a few of those chores and errands... I wouldn't want to find myself on anyone's naughty list!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

For My Scrapbook

The 3 weeks we had with my mom, with grandma, were wonderful. She split her time between our home and Hans and Gretchen's place, plus we had time with everyone in the mountains. We went to favorite eateries and celebrated Maria's birthday. We went on some nice walks. She guided me though some domestic duties I've been neglecting... guidance is needed and appreciated. We did a lot, and after her first day back home, I already miss her and can think of a dozen things I meant to do, say, share. For certain I thought I would take more pictures, especially family portraits. Clearly, 3 weeks is just not enough time. So, I am already happily anticipating next time.

Quickly, before taking her to my brother's, I thought to snap a few pictures of my mom with my daughter, and I could not be happier with that stroke of genius. A strong breeze had begun to blow from the north, and we remarked that Oregon was in the wind, calling her home.

Even with wisps of hair across her eyes, I love Maria's pretty face next to my mother's beautiful face. Those smiles. Their light. Such a lovely sight. Seeing them evokes the pleasure I feel when I think of them together.

I see love and humor and joy. I see freedom of expression, and passion for living. I see my mommy and my baby... what a blessing, what a wonderful gift.

Sometimes Chickenblog reminds me of a family album, a scrapbook of memories and treasured moments. I will turn to this page many times.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


I asked Santa to send me some creative, ambitious elves for Christmas. What I had in mind were cute little fellows that live to clean. They could live at the top of the stairs and scurry down to sweep and mop, to sort the mail, wash dishes, clean the oven, scrub the tub, polish the wood, teach Maria how to put away puzzles, dishes, bows, crayons, scissors, tape and her accessories.

What I got are 2 tall, handsome, gingerneer elves. They are still in school and they came home with an unusual assignment: make, bake and assemble a gingerbread house to be brought to school for decorating. From scratch. You may know that our family has a long tradition of making gingerbread houses from a store kit and we forego the use of royal icing in favor of hot glue... instant gratification, not food, being our primary objective. Slow drying royal icing. Real gingerbread from a recipe. Two boys in the kitchen measuring, mixing, slapping it all together... this seemed ambitious enough, but gingerneer elves like to kick it up a notch. They aren't happy enough with cottages or cabins. They need something different.

So, I got this.

And a lot of this.

Gingerneer elves are nothing like cleaning elves. But boy do they spark the imagination! They enchant and inspire and display a wealth of ambition, perseverance and ingenuity and the results are a delight... messes aside.

Alex thought to do a castle and then a cathedral, and finally settled on a mill. I thought making dough and icing and cutting and shaping pieces was enough to accomplish in 2 days, and when he explained that the entire structure would be edible, then I had to bite my tongue... I had to resist blurting That's impossible! I don't believe in squashing big ideas and optimism, but seriously... gingerbread gears and turning wheels? Everything held together with sugar and gumdrops? No time for test runs? No blue prints? No mechanical devices whatsoever? Mercy. William was behind Alex 100%, offering suggestions, support and enthusiasm. I felt doubt, but I offered whatever practical advice I could think of... like baking lots of gears in case of mishaps, and not making anything too big or heavy. But mostly they were on their own and loving it.

On their own measuring, mixing and designing. William learned how to operate the big mixer and what cream of tartar looks like. Alex may have mastered sanding, gently filing, gingerbread and the specialized skill of making gingerbread gears. They cut candy canes, shaping and fitting everything, until by midnight they had an assembled gingerbread mill with a working, turning wheel... completely edible!

Now the mill, the elves and some extra icing and candies are at school. Later today all the students will meet in the quad with their gingerbread houses and there will be a decorating event. I'll be there too. I would not want to miss it. And hopefully while we are away Santa will send in some cleaning elves... it's never too late to hope for those.

As for the Gingerneer Elves... those 2 are welcome to stay. Tonight we can begin a cleaning lesson. Maybe they will build a gingerbread butler!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008


I know the calendar days are moving swiftly. One. Two. Three. Nine. Just that quickly. And I am trying to sort feelings and thoughts, push forward the beauty of the moment and cast away stress and grief. I love this time of year. The traditions and connections, the soothing rhythm of the songs we sing, the spices, ribbons, greetings and light... it fills me with hope. Having my Mom here, leaning on her and playing with her, has made everything particularly good.

But those days, those fast moving days have brought us to the end of her stay.

She's Grandma Boo-Boo. William named her that. We used to be neighbors, when William was a serious baby, riding around town in the '64 Comet we shared. Now he's a serious young man, and I wish we were still neighbors of Delia and Ron, Grandma and Grandpa. I wish some days moved more slowly, like the days we spend walking on the bluffs or making gingerbread castles, or imagining ourselves in French castles. I wish there were more time to make tamales or to not make tamales, but just to debate the pros and cons of all that cooking and steam and fragrant memories of ollas passed.

Here is love.
I wish for everyone someone that laughs with them and cries with them, someone who can tell you your own stories and listen to you tell them again. Love is in the hands of the person who will hold you and push you forward and catch you, and fold your laundry.

So, I have been going slowly, absorbing the love and cherishing the laughter and the ease of our days and moments together.

And s l o w l y we have been gathering with friends and family. We went to the Holiday Christmas Parade. We've been playing Christmas music and we drove in meandering circles, looking for the best light displays. We even brought home a Christmas tree.

Nick came with us to the tree lot. We settled on a tree that Geoff calls Charlie Brown, denoting its small size. Maria thought it was too big. Aren't there always different ways of seeing things?

Guess what I did... after last Christmas, I packed 95% of our decorations for moving. I never imagined we would be here, still. We would have to turn the garage upside down to access the boxes, so...

Ready or not, days pass, visits come to an end and Christmas comes. There is no waiting or stalling... the fun things we like to do, the music I want to hear... do it now! We bought 3 small boxes of ornaments. Max and I put together a Playmobile advent calendar and hung it up. Maybe I can make stockings and more of those felt trees we displayed last year.

The joy cannot, and should not, be contained. So here we go! Behind or late, early or unprepared, messy and chaotic, bright and brilliant... whatever it is, bring it on!

The whole tree sways when Benjamin slips beneath... bad kitty... lol

Here too is love.