Tuesday, December 25, 2012

...we wish you a Merry Christmas...

Whatever holiday you celebrate, whatever beliefs you may hold,
have the merriest of days.. to those young and old.

Saturday, December 22, 2012


My mom died two years ago yesterday. Two years.

I will never forget that day, the chaos that surrounded it, and the cloud that overshadowed that holiday celebration. Without going into too much detail, my mother had been suffering from Alzheimer's. We lost her at the young age of 66, after she courageously endured the effects of her dementia for 10 years...at least.

Her death did not come as a surprise, it was an expected departure. The timing of it was what was, to me, a surprise. Early on that day, we had gotten the call that she was unresponsive. While I wasn't sure exactly what was meant by that, I made my way to see her as quickly as I could. I sat with her, talked to her, read some Bible verses with her, and then just prayed with her. The very last thing I said to her was that I could not watch her die. That if she was going to go (as we had had some false alarms in previous years), I would rather not be present. I trusted she was going to a better place, one where she would be free of the shackles of disease. But please, go without me.

That evening, I arrived back to her room at 7:05pm....not even 10 minutes after she had passed.
Angel given in memory of Mom

Oh, she didn't die alone.  My 3 sisters were with her, as well as our dear Pastor. Her passing was peaceful and serene, and perfect in every way. And when I arrived, my tears were of her heeding my last request. She had heard me.

Life has continued on in a normal fashion. I do feel sadness from time to time. It's a selfish sadness, really. I wish that I could hear her voice, or joke with her the way we used to. I wish she could see my children grow and change, and be the grandmother I know she looked forward to being. I let the sadness pass (usually quickly) and remind myself that she can see everything, that she knows everything. I trust that she is with me. And really, that is enough.


The significance of that day, I feel compelled to remember. Not in a sappy, feeling-sorry-for-myself, oh-woe-is-me way. I am not that type of person. Instead, I feel the urge to find a special way to remember her. Nothing fancy, nothing crazy. Simple, meaningful, and a way to honor her memory...for my sake, for my family's sake.

"Invisible" Isaac

Love this new snow!

No one was taking her spot by the fire!

This year we chose to focus on Light, which seemed appropriate, it being the Winter Solstice. We had a fire, which proved a bit more challenging than we originally thought (thank you, dear hubby). Kids played outside, I took many photos (attempting to learn how to use my camera better), and we released a couple of lanterns into the night sky (again, thank you, sweet hubby -- my sisters and I are terribly inept). We shared stories, had many laughs, and froze our butts off.

Lantern - pre-launch

I'm pretty sure my mom would've thought we were crazy. She hated the cold.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

..deck the halls..

Ahhhh, Christmas.

This past weekend we finally got around to 'decking the halls.' We even got a Christmas tree. Now that my kids are past the age of helplessness and life-threatening exploration (for the most part), and since we haven't a mischievous cat anymore, we decided to go all out and find a tree. The kids were thrilled.

 With Christmas tunes blaring, we got our decorating on. Lights, jingle bells, snowmen, santas, sparkle, baby Jesus', wreaths, reindeer, angels.... There is no shortage of yuletide decor here.

Each year I pare down what we put out for decorations. There are certainly those nostalgic items, the ones  you can remember hanging when you were only yea high. But then, somehow, at some point, you just started accumulating junk. (why on earth do I still have these glittery gold sticks?!) And so you purge.

Then there is the precious kid-made ornamentation. When you have kids, the number of homemade decorations grows exponentially each year. I now have 3 children making an endless stream of pictures/ornaments/signs/snowflakes that are the 'handmade' variety.

These sweet decorations are what make my heart sing. The furrowed brows, the wagging tongues, all focused on creating the perfect representation of what the holiday means to them. Sometimes I love the process more than the end result. I'm not as quick to purge their handiwork. However, they sometimes don't hold up to the frequent moving around that is done to find that "perfect spot."

After decking these halls, we sit down with a cup of hot cocoa, filled to the brim with marshmallows, and revel in what is a job well-done.

Fa la la la la, la la la la.....

Thursday, December 13, 2012

..advent time..

I'm not ashamed to admit that I enjoy the holidays. We celebrate Christmas in a pretty traditional fashion, but every year I strive to include more family time than anything else. With increasingly demanding schedules full of homework, lessons, and chores, it gets harder and harder to grasp those moments. But Advent gives us the perfect excuse to make time for each other, in the hopes that the enjoyment we experience together will carry on for longer than 24 days.

When Isaac was a baby, I found an Advent calendar that had 24 little compartments, each with a magnet that, at the end of Advent, would depict the Nativity. With a desire to keep Christmas a bit more focused on the religious importance of the holiday, it was a more appealing choice than any of a number of other calendars with santas, snowmen, and/or elves. It also helped that it wasn't chock-full of candy.

When Evy was small, I belonged to a mom's group, and they shared their idea of Advent calendar activities that families did together. As you opened each box/door/compartment, inside you would find an activity that the family would share in sometime that day. I was so excited by some of the activities that they shared, I wanted to start getting mine ready right away.

Then I realized that all the cool stuff to do, the stuff that I was really excited about, was not necessarily appropriate for a family with a 2 year old and a 4 month old. So most of our first Advent calendar activities included a significant amount of reading books, finger painting, coloring, etc. All I really wanted to be doing in those early years, was settling down for my long winter's nap.

Fast forward to today.

We are now in our 6th year of Advent activities, and now the fun has begun. Our activities have graduated to those of the *cool* variety, that I longed for (what feels like) many moons ago. On the docket for this holiday season are still the reading of stories, the decorating of everything, but also more creating...winter wonderland, ice sculpting, baking, maybe our own Nativity... precious moments spent savoring each others company. Whether it's a rousing game of Uno or sitting together singing Christmas carols, it's these shared activities that, for me, are the purpose of this holiday.

It's a time to show our appreciation to others, through gifts or acts of kindness. And for those closest to us, it's a time to relish in our togetherness, whatever shape or form that takes.

May your days be merry and bright....

Monday, December 10, 2012

..the night queen..

My mother-in-law loves plants. She has a marvelously green thumb, and I admire her ability to take a withered, half-dead stalk, work her magic, and *boom,* a plant is revived a la the Phoenix. It isn't uncommon for her to share her green goodness with me, and I am always appreciative.

Recently, she brought over a tall, thin plant, and placed it behind a chair in our family room. She made sure the leaves were facing just so, and then proceeded to tell me about the plant.
"Ah, Emily, this is the Night Queen," she started, "when the little flowers come, it will smell your whole room, but only at night. That is why it is Night Queen."

Only at night?

Now to clarify, my mother-in-law is from India, so there are times when I think I am misunderstanding her because I get a little lost in her accent. However, she did (a number of times) tell me that the scent would come only after sundown. To be perfectly honest, I did think her a little crazy. What plant emits odors only at night? And what of these scents? Will they be pleasing, or will they overpower the room and make me want to chuck that plant out the window?

I let the plant stay. I left it alone, watched it suspiciously, and waited for this night perfume. At the end of the day, with my little ones all tucked in bed, I readied myself with some tea and waited for this mysterious, spindly plant to effuse it's essence.


A week or so later, I was hurriedly putting kids to bed, and when all was said and done, I crashed on the couch, exhausted from a particularly busy day. I think all the energy I had left was expended playing some words in my phone scrabble games. As I lay there trying to make the most advantageous move I could, I noticed the hints of a perfume. My Night Queen!

I must tell you, this scent was heavenly. As the night wore on, the scent became even more pronounced. Why yes, I did stay up for a bit longer than intended...but the excitement of it all gave me my second wind. Even in the dark, early hours of the morning, before the kids woke up, I could still enjoy the delicate scent of my Night Queen, as I organized backpacks and coats, and packed lunches.

As it  turns out, my mother-in-law had switched up my plant. According to my husband, she had come by and replaced the Night Queen she initially gave me with one that had more flowers. It is the flowers that emit the scents, and boy, did that make a world of difference!

My Night Queen no longer has any flowers. They only lasted a few weeks. I miss them. Every evening, I would bask in the darkness, enjoying the sweet smell of my Night Queen as I relaxed after a long day. Aromatherapy at it's best. I have since found out that Night Queen is also known as Night Jasmine. If you are familiar with Jasmine, it's blossoms also have a light perfume. I am now tending to this houseplant of mine very carefully. I am watching and waiting, hopeful of my next round of blossoms.

And I will be forever, eternally grateful for my mother-in-law bringing this lovely plant into my life.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

..happy belated birthdays..

Is it really less than a month until Christmas? Yikes.

Well, let's take a step backwards and talk about a couple of birthdays that happened around here, albeit a few months back *sigh*.

Miss Evy is 6. She celebrates her birthday at the very start of the school year, and every year the teacher is surprised to find out she is only turning the age most kids turned last year. Thankfully, my Evy is patient, since the chaos of the new school year took precedence over any party with friends. Before you think me a complete ogre, we did have a small, family celebration and there were treats brought to school. In devising a gift for this birthday of hers, I turned to something from my own childhood.

This dollhouse was salvaged from my mother's attic, a few years back when we had the daunting task of emptying and selling her home. It was a gift given to me when I was 5, and I thought refurbishing it and adding some modern day furniture might be the perfect gift. This dollhouse is well-worn. When I found it, it still had lists posted on the wall. Apparently, even as a child I was a list-maker.

My plan was to clean it up, and give it a new paint job. It's a sturdy wooden dollhouse. All it really needed was some washing and some new colors. And that's exactly what I did.

 A couple months later, we celebrated her birthday with her friends, at a local art studio. Merriment was made, and celebrating was fierce. Lots of fun pictures were drawn, constructed, and glued together. All in all, it didn't make a difference when the birthday was celebrated. And as an added bonus, my youngest assumed that her birthday was being celebrated as well.

 Miss Margot turned 4 a few weeks after Miss Evy's party. As she is still young, we kept the celebrating to the family. She really didn't care....as long as we had cake!

Happy birthday, my sweet angels...

Sunday, September 9, 2012

..tell me a story..

I love reading. I don't do as much of it anymore as I try to manage this chaotic household of mine. Or perhaps, more accurately, I am reading, it's just that the books are more utilitarian, or well beneath my reading level. I don't mind this at all, however, as I know someday this whirlwind of raising children will quickly die down.

My very favorite books are those created by these children of mine that are responsible for littering my bathtub with cups and teapots, and leaving their books and crayons underfoot. I came across this one just yesterday. It was written last year by Evy, when she was in kindergarten. I tucked it away in a special place, and just happened upon it. (special place, indeed)

I adore the simplicity of the story, and the sweet accompanying illustrations. She is meticulous, the child that pays attention to every small detail. And this story is a perfect example of that. That, and I treasure the invented spellings... I cannot lie.

The world, as viewed by a 5 year old.
The End.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

..back to school..

And so begins another school year. Can you believe it? I can't. This week we had the first day of school for the older two...3rd and 1st grades. The littlest will start her first year of preschool in a week or so, although she is almost a full year older than her siblings when they entered the same grade (so it goes for a November birthday). It will be a busy year, indeed.

One of the biggest stresses, for me, is packing my kid's lunch. It is not uncommon for me to open the lunchbox at the end of the day and find a lunch barely touched. I realize that within the allotted 10-15 minutes of their lunch hour, they may struggle to finish the entire lunch. More often than not, however, I feel as though they are just disinterested in the contents of the lunchbox itself.

This year, I am attempting to make them responsible for their lunch. They will have the task of putting  together their own lunch for the day. In addition, I will take the opportunity to talk to them about what constitutes a well-balanced meal. Left unchecked, these children would choose a piece of bread and a handful of chocolate chips for lunch. *sigh*  Thus, my lunch chart was born.

I took white boards that we had laying around, and I created different magnets of possible lunch choices. I did this using cardstock, double-stick tape, scrapbooking scissors, laminating sheets, and self-stick magnets I had lying around the house. Is it terribly obvious that I am a former teacher?? In creating the choices, I broke down the food groups as follows: protein, vegetable, fruit, and grain. To me, that constitutes a well-balanced lunch. I opt out of the "sweet," simply because that will be the only thing eaten (and I speak from experience, here).

The choices are color coded, so that the kids can recognize when they have a balanced lunch. Proteins are red, vegetables are green, fruits are yellow, and grains are blue. Some choices are mixes, but the colors reflect that. Their task is to choose a combination of available items so that they have one of each color, at least. My hope is that by giving them the freedom to choose what is inside their lunchbox, there will be an increase in the likelihood they eat a bigger portion of it. My preschooler is also getting in on the fun, even though she will eat lunch at home.

After their choices are made, it will be up for approval from the parent. When approval is given, then we'll get down to the business of making the lunch. Ideally, the lunch will be made the night before, but there are certain items that are best made the morning of. Either way, having this responsibility fall squarely on the shoulders of the kids will be a big relief for this Momma. I'm sure there are roadblocks to be faced as the school year progresses. I am hopeful that by arming them with a certain amount of autonomy , and the knowledge of how to best nourish their bodies, much less time will be spent eating the leftover lunch after school.

A girl can dream, anyway.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

..summer rewind..

Admittedly, my posts have been few and far between, but there are a few reasons.

Isaac's first tennis tournament - 3rd place finish
flag football game

ONE:  Three kids going in twelve different directions. I take full responsibility for this one, since I filled July with everything I could. Flag football had already started, but we added in tennis lessons, there was Vacation Bible School, a Lego class was squeezed in there, and we cannot forget the girls' dance lessons.....seemingly their most favorite part of summer so far. Add to that trips to the local tennis courts, parks, and getting together with friends, pool time, and you have a string of days that blurred one into the next. All in the name of exhausting our children. 

Newly finished patio area

New dry storage shelves...thank you, dear hubby

attempting to weed out/organize my own crafty goodness

TWO: Home improvements. We are trying to move. As it stands, my husband works 2 hours outside of town, and we are tired of living separately during the school year. It certainly could be worse, I know. But we have dragged our feet long enough and need to get our house into "selling condition," whatever that means. There have been many projects undertaken this summer--building shelving, painting, sticker removal (not my favorite), decluttering, and landscaping, to name a few. Organization and staging remain on our list of things to do, but those are best done a little at a time.

Blowing off some steam...or smoke, rather...

...with some old sparklers.

THREE:  Impatience. When I have found myself with free moments, I have been choosing to enjoy those as simply as I can. Whether it's sitting down to knit a few rounds, sew up a headband, or even have an uninterrupted conversation with my husband, I have found that sitting down to write about what's going on in my life currently is something I haven't wanted to do lately. There is a point when you are so overwhelmed, that you just need to take a step back. And this blog was where I took my step back.

But there are many things to share, I promise. We are getting ready for a new school year, and with it a whole new rhythm. This fall will be different, as we start new lessons, navigate new schedules, and my youngest will begin her first year of preschool. It feels more like New Year's to me now than on January 1st.

So here's to those new beginnings....and the stories they will bring.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


Oh my stars. Our summer is almost over! July has been fraught with busy-ness, and now August preparations are in full swing. I did, however, promise to share with you some tidbits about our trip out West. It seems like a long time ago, but in reality, it was just a little over a month ago. Strange how many memories can be jam-packed into a little over a month.

 view from our hotel: Hot Wheels loop

The summer started with a trip to California to see family. We don't tend to do much touristy stuff when we travel, as our trips are more focused on the people we're going to see. My kids were happy enough to see the Hollywood sign (as seen in 'Alvin and the Chipmunks -- the Squeakquel').

Starting in LA, we visited with my husband's cousin downtown. It was quite a sight to behold as they set up for the XGames right outside our hotel. We also drove a bit further north to visit with a dear, old elementary school friend that I see once in a blue moon. I think my most favorite thing about seeing her and her family is how it never feels like much time has passed since I saw her last. Our friendship, to me, is just effortless.

fun at the aquarium
When we made our way back to the OC, we were able to spend some time with my mom's family. My aunt braved the Aquarium of the Pacific with our family, and we enjoyed seeing the amazing creatures great and small. I think the favorite part of the day was when the kids had the opportunity to touch the stingrays...or run through the dolphin sprinklers. It's a toss up.

 touching stingrays

For the remaining time in California, we made ourselves comfortable at my cousin's house in Laguna Niguel. We tried to keep things simple, so that we could spend time with my other cousins on my dad's side of the family, whenever it was convenient for them. And there was the added bonus of keeping a 3 year old's nap schedule in tact....priceless.

 framed succulents....my favorite!

My kids adored their free time. Most of it was spent outside swimming (my son learned how to dive to the bottom of a 10 ft. pool), snuggling with and keeping in line 2 adorable Puggles (Frank and Stella), playing at the park or on the tennis courts. There was also some down time spent playing indoors, but no one could stay indoors too long with the beautifully mild weather....one of California's draws, to be certain.

how I wish I could grow these fruit trees where we live!!
I just love to catch up with family and friends I don't have the luxury of seeing very often. It's a special time to reconnect, relax, share stories, and just have fun. One night we had an amazing Mexican fiesta, another night my husband and I created an Indian extravaganza (ok, in fairness to the hubby, he did most of the cooking, but I did make the naan). But the real joy came in the laughter and love that we shared.

Definitely a trip that will have to be made again sooner rather than later.