Thursday, December 31, 2009

What a difference a decade makes...

December 31, 1999
My parents, new husband and I embarked on an adventure only my mom (and a million or so other crazies) would have planned: New Year's in Times Square.

Our day started around 5 am when we awoke, dressed in our warmest gear, and headed down to claim our spot in one of the "pens" close to the crystal ball. (NYPD long ago figured out that crowd control is best accomplished by keeping us all segregated into manageable numbers of people in carefully counted and locked gated compounds - our "pen.") We were in place by 6am, yet enough other revelers were already in the square that our pen was still two blocks back from the front row. In addition to what ended up being a prime location, God graciously paved the way for what otherwise might have been a truly miserable 18 hour wait for the ball drop. My uncles - nearly-native Manhattanites - wisely stayed home, but equipped us with a mountain of blankets. We were blessed with not-freezing weather in a city that often ices out its visitors in December. Y2K that threatened to cripple all transportation and communication and to bring out all the terrorists ended up being a non-event. Our "neighbors" (or most of them at least) eventually became friends and helped us pass the hours. The time was also more easily counted-down with an hourly parade in honor of each region of the world ringing in the new millennium at that moment. Some of the parades, naturally, were pretty cheesy, but we were close enough to the action to be given all the accompanying accessories to make for a better TV shot (hence the lovely hats!). We even got a call from a friend who saw us on one of the major networks for at least a split-second or two. Of course, not all of the 18 hours were so glamorous. See, once you're locked into a pen you can get out, but not back in. The police graciously gave us limited in-out privileges because we could show the keys to our Times Square hotel room. We each got one trip to the bathroom and one trip for food. Our neighbors, not so much. When they huddled around an empty milk jug, the liquid that refilled it was not beer (I know, TMI... I thought so too). At times we were cold. At times we were bored. But it truly was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Once-in-a-lifetime partly because we're not likely to do it again, but mostly because it is still incredibly memorable. And oh yeah, the midnight dropping of the ball was pretty cool too!

Fast-forward a decade...

December 31, 2009

The kids are asleep and I'm sitting here on our couch with Danny, cuddled up with my jammies and favorite laptop, feeling the effects of a wild and crazy night at Round Table for pizza and McDonald's PlayPlace for sundaes. Not at all glamorous. We may not even make it until midnight. But this night to me is special for its ordinariness. By God's grace I have a home I love to be in, kids I enjoy being with, and a husband who chooses to love me even when I'm not so lovable. Times Square in 1999 was incredible, but I wouldn't trade it for my spot right here in 2009.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Cute-kids-in-front-of-the-Christmas-tree photos

Well, the annual Christmas trip to Picture People was a total failure. Please remind me never to go back to that place. Did you know that they are instructed to show you no more than 2 photos of any one pose? And did you know that they only have 3 possible configurations for 5 children, one of which I think is totally dumb and would never buy. So that left us with a whopping 8 photos to choose from - 4 of my 3 with their cousins, and 4 more of my 3 together. None of which were nearly as cute as the ones for which I made my poor children pose in front of the tree when we got home. It was such a miserable experience for all involved that I'm seriously considering buying myself a little muslin and setting up my own "studio." Good news is, Reagan is no longer deathly afraid of Santa. The photo with him turned out reasonably cute, and redeemed what otherwise would have been a worthless trip to the mall. It also compelled Danny to buy me a better camera lens for Christmas. So maybe it wasn't so bad after all...

Friday, December 25, 2009

Good news of great joy

Come thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel's Strength and Consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.
Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.
By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all sufficient merit,
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.

He is my Rest, Strength, Hope, Desire, Joy and King. Is He yours?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

What I've been up to

Enjoying our Southern California weather. I can't say it exactly feels like Christmas, but we actually broke out our coats this week! I suppose there aren't too many places where you throw Christmas lights over still-blooming rose bushes.

Fudge... my favorite Christmas-time treat. I finally got it made after first discovering my candy thermometer was missing, making a special trip to Target for a new one, starting a batch, finding the new thermometer to be broken, and ultimately having to rely on my good old kitchen timer and my own two eyes. It's not perfect, but smooth enough for me.

Carmel Corn... Danny's favorite Christmas-time treat. I finally got this made after making one special trip to our favorite store for the brown sugar I had been sure was already in our pantry, only to find the popcorn said pantry had gone bad, requiring a second trip for the kernels. Baking was just not my friend this year!

Wrapping... also not my friend. I always underestimate how much time it will take, but love the end result. It looks so pretty, and makes Christmas morning so much more fun than paper bags would be.

Christmas is almost here! Yeah!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Cards... check

I love Christmas cards. Getting them, that is. Sending them is a pain! Getting the whole family clean and coordinated, recruiting a photographer, hoping for 5 smiles and 10 open eyes, choosing the best of what's actually captured on the memory card, getting the photos printed, cards assembled, addresses located, confirmed and printed, envelopes stuck, licked, stamped and into the mail... all takes so much time. My bloggy friend Nicki greatly simplified the process for me this year with her great creativity and generosity. (You didn't really think I would be able to come up with something so cute all on my own did you? When she decides to start charging real customers for her services, you all ought to head her way!). But all of the hassle is worth it for the fun of rushing to the mailbox each December day to find updates, photos and Christmas greetings from friends and family, near and far.
Each year our extended family has a little informal competition for the most entertaining card received during the season - whether it's for a fabulous photo or one that obviously has a story behind it; a well-written letter or a ridiculously detailed saga. We love them all! But I think this year's award will go to my parents. For at least the past three Christmases, Danny has been trying to get us to take the family picture in a spa, complete with loads of bubbles. Us girls have all balked, opting for more traditional options that were sure to be easier on our hair and kid wrangling duties. But don't think that kept Danny from starting up with the idea again shortly after Christmas last year. He didn't even let up after we posed for a "boring" photo on Thanksgiving. So the next day we all hopped in the spa, added a little soap, and voila! A picture we all ended up loving! Based on the volume of cards my mom sends and the volume of readers left here on my blog, 8 of the 9 of you have probably already seen this. But just in case you missed it, my family:

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Happy, rainy Birth-4-day

In many ways we're Disneyland snobs. We only like to go on warm, sunny days when no one else is likely to be around. No school holidays, no weekends, and never in the summer. But in celebration of my birthday (days 3 and 4 of what Danny dubbed the "Birth-4-day"), we had booked a Priceline hotel for Monday night. The rate was ridiculously low, but they're not big on refunds for inclimate weather. So despite Monday's Southland storm, we headed down for a couple of days at the happiest place on earth. We figured that if we were miserable we'd just go back to the hotel and enjoy a nice dinner. We bundled up in our warmest jackets, trash bag parkas, and "raining boots" and prepared for an adventure. To our great surprise, it turned out to be one of our best Disney days ever! When I say no one was there, I mean no one. If even one person is in line, the staff will not allow you to remain on a ride. On Monday, we stayed for second and third rounds of most every attraction. I can't say that it resulted in great improvements in my Toy Story Midtown Mania score, but it did compel me to finally try Grizzly River Run. We were already a little wet, and figured our sophisticated gear could protect us from the river as well as it had sheltered us from the rain. Actually, it turned out to be trip of firsts: Alyssa, our least excitable child, was elated about being able to ride California Screamin' - a real upside-down roller coaster. Parker braved the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror - twice! And Reagan was finally tall enough to ride the Matterhorn. She kept her hands up in the air the entire time, and spend the better part of today sliding down the back of an armchair saying "Matterhorn Mama!" We might have some thrill-ride junkies on our hands in the years to come.
Tuesday's sun and accompanying "crowds" were almost a let-down in comparison to our nearly-private park experience. Next time the forecast calls for rain, you'll know where to find us!

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

* Our "real" fake tree - the one we put our gifts under that stands in the front living room window. It matches (thanks to my OCD) and showcases the Margaret Furlong collection some dear friends started for me as a child. Gifts I didn't necessarily appreciate then, but cherish now.

* Danny's childhood train set, which finally has tracks. I think he's every bit excited as about it as the kids are.

* Santa's bells on the front door to welcome guests and the big elf (who our kids happen to know is really "Daddy Clause").

* The true reason for the season.

* The wreath that satisfies both my need for the smell of Christmas and for the ease of fake, pre-lit trees that don't become a fire hazard inside the first week.

* Our non-toxic "mistletoe" that, again, doesn't die.
* Grandma's beautiful (and sadly, rather dusty) chandelier.

* Our "kid" tree, which hosts all the other miscellaneous ornaments that we've collected and made. It's not quite as pretty but has lots of personality and memories.

So that's our house at Christmastime!