Wednesday, December 13, 2017

December 12

Today was a day for a Christmas adventure of a very special sort: I flew to New York City for a visit with my friend, Christy, and dinner with my cousin, Anna.

Going to New York is a bit like entering Narnia -- it's a world away from home full of all kinds of sights, noises, tastes, and inspiration that I don't get at home. It's a magical place for me. And, I've always wanted to go there during December. A cheap ticket and a window in the calendar made it feasible.

A bit of an early start found me on Christy's Washington Height's doorstep by 10am! That gave us six hours to catch up, see her little boy Nathan, walk to the heather gardens, have lunch in the garden cafe, have our own tea party back at her apartment (essential of course), and talk about her baby who is due in just two weeks!

At 4 pm I headed back down to Penn Station to meet my dear cousin Anna for dinner! Anna is an artist with lots of talents and is about to move to Berlin so I was glad we could meet up one more time before she heads back over to Europe. Anna made sure I saw as much of NYC Christmas as I could -- we went around the corner to see Macy's fancy Christmas windows, which I've read and dreamed about. They were so lovely and festive and I wanted to meet the people who get to mastermind them. Then we whisked ourselves down to the Rockefeller Center to see the big Christmas tree, finding ourselves in the Garment District (read: all kinds of shops selling fabric) on our way. I had to resist the strong pull to go inside those shops and start browsing which would have led to wanting to start buying. We pushed our way through the crowds in Times Square and rounded the corner down to the Rockefeller Center. There was the tree in all its glory with such a large trunk I couldn't imagine how they moved it or set it up. And there was the ice skating rink (which I must go on next time) and lights on the buildings. Just lovely. I forgot to say my phone's battery died so I couldn't take any pictures of our evening adventure. Anna obliged my every "take a photo of that and send it to me."

It was nearly 7 when Anna found us a subway station and sent me hurtling back to Penn Station where I ran to the right track and jumped on a train bound for the airport. And that was it for my New York City Christmas adventure.

Monday, December 11, 2017

December 11

Today felt like one of those trips around Costco where you zoom from one tester-taster to the other, enjoying just a bite of life at each stop before it's on to the next one.

We finally sat down to start school around 9:15 only to receive a text from Rachel 30 minutes later asking if I might somehow manage to make it downtown to see her "We The People" competition which would begin at 10:45. Neither parent had, as yet, been able to watch any of the competition and with the change in time for her it seemed a possibility.

Laura and I abandoned the boys to do school on their own, jumped in the car, raced to Kroger to pick up some flowers, and then drove downtown to the Crowne Plaza Hotel with 3 minutes to spare. I'd already resolved in my mind I would have to fork out the $20 valet parking in order to get to the competition on time. I flew out of the running car toward the valet man only to find out the charge would be $30. Nope. I wasn't going to do that. Blessedly, the man showed me that an $8 car park was just north of the hotel and within four minutes we were in the hotel and walking to the competition, arriving in the room just as Rachel and her teammates were introducing themselves.

It was a joy to listen to Rachel and her friends present and I was duly impressed and proud. It's actually an answer to prayer that Rachel is so interested in politics, the history of our nation, and how government works. She and her school managed to win 3 of the 6 awards given today.

Laura and I popped back in the van, paid our $8 which by then felt like a real bargain, and drove north to meet Emily and Olivia for a quick lunch to celebrate Em's birthday. Laura entertained Olivia and we all enjoyed good food. When Olivia started to fuss we packed up and headed home.

There was time to change over the laundry and grab a cup of tea before a Skype appointment with a far distant friend. Fortunately that provided time to sit, relax, connect, and unwind after the busy morning. Mid-call Michael arrived back from his long drive home from Kansas.

Then it was off to the post office and back to the desk to take care of phone calls to insurance and that sort of tedious desk work. I threw some ground beef and onions in a pan and started on spaghetti, hoping to have dinner cooked before I headed off to a school meeting. Eventually I had to delegate the cooking to a child and take to the road again in order not to be too late.

Meeting done and home for the evening. Phew. I think the boys are calling for a little read aloud time to make up for our ditched school time this morning. That will help provide another moment of relaxation and connection.

December 10

We were off to church in the morning and enjoyed having a guest preacher since Michael was out of town. My mom had roasted chicken with rice and carrots ready for us when we arrived home. I'd made some gluten free and refined sugar free gingerbread which we had for dessert. I was disappointed in its dryness and made a mental note to find a new recipe.

Mid-afternoon we went to visit an old family friend (and my former boss), Dr. Blackwood. We toured his new apartment and the facility where he lives and then David and Laura played a few Christmas songs on the big, shiny, black piano in the foyer. The kids practice each day on the piano that belonged to Dr. Blackwood's wife. I want to make sure he gets to enjoy the fruits of that gift. Oh course Dr. Blackwood did love it and the other residents who were around gushed in amazement at how wonderful the kids were (even though they were only simple songs). It stood out to me how such tiny little things could bring light and joy to an older person's life -- a bit like the small things that make a child happy. I think that's a good thing.

Back home there was just enough time for Laura's teatime before we headed back to church and another sermon by our guest preacher. We must have talked a long time afterward because we weren't home until 8:20pm at which time we had our weekly "pow-wow" with nachos for the kids. I tucked myself into bed with Handel's Messiah playing and wrote some Christmas cards until it was time to sleep.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

December 9

Today was a very ordinary sort of day: housework, desk work, an errand.

We finally had a touch of the snow everyone else seems to be getting -- but just a mere dusting. My aunt and uncle in NC are hibernating under a foot of the stuff! And though the snow is strangely scarce here we still bore the effects of the storm: Michael's flight to Kansas was cancelled so he had to rent a car and spend the day driving there! This did solve the problem of no one to pick Michael up from the airport on Monday afternoon!

I managed to put in a few hours on my class and we had a tasty dinner. My diet is very limited and it is easy to be very bored. It's always nice when I think of some way to make chicken, ground beef, pork loin, or Italian sausages taste different. Tonight I took the sausages out of their cases and made them into patties which I fried with onions and made a gravy. We had this with roasted butternut squash and mashed cauliflower (which I nearly ruined by trying to steam in a pot with no water).

Three hours of ironing have ended the day. Phew. I trust that means there are enough shirts and trousers to get us through the holidays!

I hope you all have a lovely Lord's Day tomorrow!

Friday, December 8, 2017

December 8

It was a much earlier morning than I expected. The plus side to not being able to sleep any longer is getting up early and getting a head start on the day's work! By the time school started I was dragging but we jumped into Christmas in the Victorian Era which is really where most of the fun starts! The kids sipped eggnog while we continued reading through the handful of chapter books we've started with this Christmas course.

The afternoon found me cleaning the house and making dinner in anticipation of my dad and his wife, Janet, joining us for dinner. We had roasted chicken with a leek sauce. Once I find a new recipe I like I tend to serve it to company over and over again. Ha ha! We also had an apple pie for dessert.

Then we piled into vehicles and headed out to the high school Christmas concert where we watched Rachel perform in the orchestra and choir. A lovely and festive night of music!

I came across this quote from Bonhoeffer today in the emails I received:

“I think we’re going to have an exceptionally good Christmas. The very fact that every outward circumstance precludes our making provision for it will show whether we can be content with what is truly essential. I used to be very fond of thinking up and buying presents, but now that we have nothing to give, the gift God gave us in the birth of Christ will seem all the more glorious; the emptier our hands, the better we understand what Luther meant by his dying words, ‘We’re beggars; it’s true.’”
(A letter from Dietrich Bonhoeffer to fiancée Maria von Wedemeyer, sent from prison December 1, 1943.)

It added to my thoughts about Christmas and the great balance between those that are rejoicing and those that are mourning. I think we all can relate to this -- we are either in a place of joy, or one of hardship, and most likely both at the same time. If we are in a place of joy, it seems becoming that we receive it as a gift and enjoy it. If we are in a place of hardship or grief, we can trust that Christ will meet us there. And we can trust that Christ will meet others in that place too as we pray for them in their need. 

Thursday, December 7, 2017

December 7

There was a light dusting of snow on the housetops when I twisted open the blinds this morning. It made me smile because since I was a young child it was always my wish for snow on my birthday. Today, being my 40th birthday, it was an extra special smile from Heaven.

I nearly hijacked my own birthday by falling into a grumpy attitude when I walked downstairs and saw some things not in the estate I expected them to be in to begin our day. My ideals of 40 being an age of maturity had a humorous reality check. I am thankful to say the bad attitude was eventually conquered and the rest of the day was delightful.

I made pancakes for breakfast and opened the pot of Jinja mango jam a friend had brought me earlier this year -- a nod to the years I spent in Uganda. I also indulged in a cup of real, completely real, black tea.

Perhaps one of the nicest things of the day was not having to go anywhere but being able to stay home and focus the entire morning on our homeschool lessons. Today we landed in colonial America for Christmas in the 1600-1700's. We read about colonial Williamsburg and made spiced hot chocolate with oranges and gingerbread for our foodie treat. The kids keep busy embroidering quilt pieces to make a "story of Christmas" quilt when we finish.

Yesterday we talked about the Puritans and their banning of Christmas. We started a funny book called A Little Puritan's First Christmas. It's quite good at describing many aspects of life in the mid-1600's in Boston. You can read a copy online for free. I learned a new word today: "bacchanalian" which means "given to drunken revelry." The Puritans considered Christmas to be bacchanalian and wanted nothing to do with it.

There were lots of lovely texts and Facebook greetings throughout the day. A plate of cookies from a neighbor, and two friends who stopped by with gifts. The doorbell also rang with the delivery of flowers! Such a surprise! I still remember when I was sent flowers by my uncle when I was about 6 -- I just couldn't have imagined something more grown up or important as to receive flowers!

There was an hour and a half set aside for reading in a chair in my bedroom. Such bliss! Especially since the library just "happened" to have delivered four amazing books yesterday so I saved them for a treat today.
Pattern -- by Emma Bridgewater
View from a Sketchbook: Nature through the eyes of Marjolein Bastin
Simple Gatherings -- Melissa Michaels
Everyday Watercolor -- Jenna Rainey
Seeing Beautiful -- Timothy Chambers (this came to the door this afternoon)

Laura and I sat and painted at the table while we waited for the big kids to come home from school. We also started reading Sleigh Bells for Windy Foot, an annual favorite.

There was another small cup of real tea and some Dundee cake when the kids arrived and it seemed amazing we could all be around the tea table in the afternoon at once!

Michael and I decided that what would be meaningful for this "big" birthday would be to take the whole family out to dinner! Since we never do this it was a treat for everyone, especially me. I love eating out, and I love enjoying a meal out with people I love. We had such a lovely time. We had to wait a long time for a table so we walked around the downtown mall and picked out what we wanted to eat from the menu on the outside of the restaurant. It was PF Chang's we had decided on. The kids loved it! I loved watching them love it! It was definitely the right gift!!!

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Wednesday, December 6, 2017

December 6

Today was very much a working day but thinking of it being St. Nicholas' day and the cute Santa Claus in the advent calendar, as well as the birthday of a friend, meant there was still something festive in the air.

School, a doctor appointment, a trip to the library, the kids to their co-op classes, shopping at Trader Joe's, Costco, Aldi, and Meijer and then picking all five kids up to go home and then put away all that shopping did mean it was a non-stop day and I was worn out before dinner. But there were a few fun moments along the way -- running into an old friend at Trader Joe's and then again at Costco, spying fruitcakes at Costco that looked just like the ones we would receive in the mail each year from our great uncle (perhaps the most exotic part of our childhood Christmas), browsing my beloved UK Country Living December magazine for a few moments, and, of course, getting new books at the library.

I've tidied up my desk and room and have organized things for the next few days so I think it's time to get to bed and see if I can't make up for all that running around today!