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...