Saturday, December 29, 2012

Everything Just Right

Our Christmas was just right. Or better. Yes, better than just right. There is a huge list of things I did not do, errands left for another month, decorations still packed, traditions set aside, details that failed to rise to the top of very necessary. In those last few days, when some are frantic, and strangers are asking, 'Are you ready for Christmas?' I love the happy realization that Yes... yes, I am ready. We have each other, sandwich fixings, and favorite games, we have candles, music, an almost decent roof. The rest are extras. Amazing, lovely, and honestly, unnecessary extras.

Once I've read some favorite stories, had friends over for food and good cheer, I feel giddy and blissed out. Christmas carols have been playing since... oh, about... December 1, Thanksgiving, late October Autumn Equinox, and I've enjoyed at least one really delicious cup of hot chocolate. What more could I ask for? Once the children are home from school, we've sent out packages to family, and Geoff's announced he has days off... well! nothing could be finer!

Melancholy? Blue? Yes, sometimes. Sometimes I get entangled in those notions about what could be done, or should be done. And my own health has been an obstacle too... so that some days I felt defeated, like the activities and plans I longed for were far out of reach. When we lost dear pets, when rain came through the roof and into our living room, when I let one more year go by without sending out Christmas cards... those moments were not the best. I do have a list... a list of wishes, and hopes, fantasies about the kind of person I wish I were... the fit and fabulous-marvelous-domestic-wonder-woman-decorator-magician with a lilting voice, and impeccable grammar, who's had her flu shots, alphabetized all the paperwork, and made pajamas for her children, and their cousins. Oh, that horrible, wonderful person. For all our sakes, mine especially, I banned her. Early in December, I crossed her off my list, and opened the door to our imperfect, lovelier reality.

Our Christmas was just right, warm, cozy, silly, traditional in our unconventional way. It was picture perfect, in a soft focus. Geoff had days off and we shared activities and preparations, and that was loads of fun. The children have found their interests, and ways of sharing in the happy frenzy. It's so nice, they make no demands, and everything is figured out, managed, enjoyed, or left aside for another day. I want them to know, to remember, that their generosity, their gentle kindness has made life with them an easy pleasure.

Santa's little helper? Chango wanted to help, too.

Maria figured out the Santa truth, and that year was bittersweet, but she still embraces the wonder, the magic. She still has faith. And even though I know truths too, I delight in the joys we can create for each other. I still have faith. Nurturing and protecting happiness is a gift of Christmas I very much enjoy. It does not have to be perfect, it does not have to be A-Z complete... it's best when we are together, and the rest are just amazing, lovely extras.

Friday, December 28, 2012

{this moment)

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.

:: Inspired by Soule Mama ::

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments, for all to find and see.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Sugarplums and Cookie Crumbs

Merry Cookie Baking!
And Happy Decorating, too.

Using just some of the lovely cookie cutters Calamity Kim shared with us, we made sugar cookies. I love a splash of lemon extract in our sugar cookies, in the icing, too.

Anyone who knows us, or has followed Chicenkenblog Chickenblog for any time, knows two things: 1. I always mistype "chicken," and 2. we have food-dye allergies. In the past, I have jumped through some weird hoops, in search of alternatives, and mostly we have had to say 'pass' on colorful iced cookies. But this year I scored a great find with India Tree natural food dyes! No petroleum concoctions to make anyone sick, or uneasy. The colors were festive enough... I grant you, they are not the technicolor fantasy palette we've come to recognize, but we were happy to play with these safer varieties.

December 22 was warmer and dryer than most, so we took our cookie decorating outdoors.

I know. It might look like a luxury, from other parts of the wintery world, but we'd love to trade our short sleeves, and plein aire art for a nice deep, fluffy snowfall!

Okay, honestly, I was only going to share cookies and icing, and all things nicing... but did you know that artificial dyes, and food additives, exacerbate the symptoms and behavioral challenges of Autism, and can cause behavior problems in otherwise healthy children? The reactions children have to these unnatural ingredients can have devastating effects... we learned this through painful personal experience, and no support from our pediatrician. Fortunately, in recent years, there is published evidence that our findings, and suspicions, are founded. I like to mention this periodically, because I hope that other families will be spared heartache and unnecessary hardships. Get the dye out!

Back to cookie town and merryness...

This one, according to Alex, is the William Cookie.

You can see they are challenging themselves to make the most of their sweet skills in cookie arts.

Maria was thrilled to have this fun activity to enjoy.

India Tree makes sugar toppings, like nonpareils, sprinkles, snowflakes, too! Those cookies look crunchy!

James is focused, Alex and John look on.

And now... all the bros are represented! Alex, Wames aka James, John, and William.

A few days later, after guests shared loads of beautiful treats at our Solstice party, I found a napkin covered plate in the refrigerator...

Set aside, with a fair caution to all who sneak & snack, Alex saved some treats for the night of our annual visit to The Living Lights Project.

I only peeked. Honest!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

City Christmas

It's our fifth year for trekking into the city, to enjoy seasonal delights, Christmas lights, art, music, and a special meal. Each and every venture has been something delightful... and this year was no exception.





Our tradition is part of a Christmas gift for Ruth, the children's Tutu, and this year we decided to bring her, and Bambi too, to Balboa Park, to the Science Museum, so we could see To The Arctic in the IMAX theater.

After a few morning showers, the rest of the day, and evening, was crisp and clear. We weathered our City Christmas joyfully.
The park was full of great sights, and even some unexpected magic.

Before and after the Arctic movie, we played in the science center, where there are two floors full of hands-on demonstrations and activities.

It was great. It was Science, which is... well... awesome!

We weren't there very long before we were agreeing that this activity was a good choice, one worth repeating, next year.

If you have the chance, I hope you will visit The Reuben H. Fleet Museum, or any of the wonderful museums in Balboa Park. It's a beautiful park, with plenty to see, and do, from the moment you arrive.

Max loves figuring out what each exhibit is demonstrating, and he's always happy to explain what he's figured out. Being invited to participate in the experiments makes this a wonderful place to learn through experience.

Make weather! At first, I thought the tornado was appearing only because of the set up, but it turns out that we could manipulate the weather by moving our hands along the pipes, which altered the air flow.

A real hands-on experience.

Maria's working up a storm.

Come, explore with us!

Outside we found a magic show, face painters, musicians, artists, even Whoville, at The Old Globe Theater, where the annual production of Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas was the main attraction.

We walked from one end of the park, to the other, through gardens, around cabbage beds, under giant ficus trees.

Stopping to ride the Nikigator.

I call this picture "Telling Maria." Geoff is telling Maria about this place, where her daddy and mommy were married, twenty-three years ago. It was summer and the trees were full of blooming morning glories. And our vows included our hope to have children to love and care for.

Time is strange. It is fleeting, and slow. It is not linear. It's sweet to come back to this place, with our children, and recall the beginning... our beginning.

It's sweet to think how good life has been.

William, Ruth, Bambi, Alex, and Max

Dinner and dessert were the grand finale of our City Christmas!
What a sumptuous treat those were!

No disappointments... everything beautiful, delicious, cozy, and good.

We drank a toast to Christmas, to traditions, and merriment.

I think it's true, what some say... good things are much better shared.

What a very good day, and night.