Monday, December 23, 2013


I'm a big fan of homemade gifts. There is something really special about the act of giving something made by your own hands. It's important for me that the little people witness the process of making and understand how those kinds of gifts are as important (and in some ways more so) than the newest electronic gadget that tends to cost way too much. It's important that they also understand how receiving a gift that's handmade is like receiving a little part of the person giving the gift.

Every year at Christmastime, I have big plans to make something for everyone on my list. Maybe the item will be significant, or maybe just a small token, but something handmade for everyone is the idea. Every year I fall short. Sometimes my problem is time; it's tough to find the time to get everything done that I would like to do. Other times it's execution, my end result doesn't match the picture I have in my mind.

My gifts typically include knitting or sewing projects and jam or other preserves from our spring and summer efforts in the garden. And although I am giving some of those kinds of gifts again this year, I did fall short of my goal yet again.

However, I did try something new. I tried my hand at vanilla extract. It was very easy to make, the most difficult part of the process being the amount of time it takes to transform from vodka to a baking necessity. But shocking as it may sound, I started the process back in October and was able to bottle my concoction over the weekend. A pretty bottle and a simple tag, and ta-dah! An easy and practical gift for the bakers in my life.

On the heels of this minor success, I should put together my plan for completing hand-crafted gifts for next year. The secret is clearly an early start! Sounds like I have a good reason to spend some additional time on Pintrest in 2014!

Friday, December 20, 2013


We enjoyed our second and final Christmas concert of the season. Benett and Ellie both did a great job, belting out their respective songs, even taking some creative liberty with some of the words. It's always entertaining.

Actually, they had their songs down. Both of the littlest people took every opportunity that they had (mostly at the dinner table) to practice. And no matter how many times they repeated the festive carols, we enjoyed the performance. My personal favorite was Ellie's rendition of "Let it Snow." She can sing it beginning to end and even adds a few gestures.

Traditionally, the night of the concert is when the little people visit with Santa. The big man was there yet again and didn't disappoint. Gavin was right there with everyone else, the biggest of all of the little people... actually he was first in line. This year was the first ever that he was even willing to consider a scenario in which there was no chat with Santa.

Gavin had wresting practice that same night and was really torn between which was more important. Ultimately, he decided that if he was one of the first 9 kids in line, he'd wait his turn. If he were #10 or further back, he was willing to skip Santa and go to practice. (Apparently they were going to be working on a new move at practice, something he wasn't keen on missing.)

Ellie's desire to see Santa was solely to avert disaster. She wants a Hello Kitty toy for Christmas. Badly. When she found said toy in the back of the car, she was in shock and dismay when Monte told her the toy was for her cousin. (There were lots of tears.) Her only purpose for visiting Santa was to make sure he KNEW what she wanted, in very specific terms. Very. Specific. When Santa asked if she wanted anything else, she said, "No. Just Hello Kitty." With her wishes made known, she bounded from his lap with candy cane in hand.

I was curious to see how Benett would respond to the typical question... "Have you been a good boy?" Benett opted for denial. His vigorous nodding was compelling, if not accurate. He's trying... some days are better than others... Either way, he shared his wishes for gifts and couldn't have been more thrilled. I think the visit was more akin to a confession of sorts; clearing his conscience and creating a blank slate.

For the most part, I think we're ready for Christmas. I'm to that point where whether I'm done with my shopping and baking or not... I'm ready for Christmas itself. Ready to spend time with loved ones. Ready to enjoy Christmas morning, watching three little people happily ripping into packages delivered by Santa... finding their heart's desire in each box, excited to see and enjoy the tokens of Santa and Mom & Dad's love.

Friday, December 13, 2013


It took them longer that I thought it would, but eventually they noticed the first gift sitting all alone under the tree. They sat quietly under the glowing branches for the longest while, chatting about the parcel and trying to determine just who it was for... eventually Benett spelled it out, but only after the "to:" situation was clarified.

They've always had these quiet little talks; private discussions for just the two of them. I could sit and watch them like that, heads together, working through some important issue with their young perspectives.

I think about Benett and Ellie in terms of twins so often... twins with an 18 month introduction. Benett seems to have always felt this bond with his sister, even before he met her. He was so little, but had this funny connection with my growing belly... like he knew this secret that no one else could fathom.

Their bond is a part of who they are as individuals, although I think that means something different to each of them. I'm sure as they grown that bond will change, but I hope they're always close. I could do without some of the plotting and instigating, but I'm sure in a few years I'll look back and miss even that mischief.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


Although I love the thought of a real Christmas tree, we have typically opted for an artificial version. I think real trees are so beautiful, but there is something about cutting the tree that seems wasteful. Maybe a little bit frivolous. And yet, this year we decided that we should introduce the little people to the process of cutting our own tree.

I thought it would be fun to wander through a lot, enjoying one another and considering all of the lovely trees. Ultimately, it wasn't quite so idyllic... someone was begrudgingly waking up from an impromptu nap, someone else had to go potty and simply could - not - wait. Monte was recovering from a 12-hour bug and I was upset that my perfect little tree-cutting activity wasn't going to plan. Gavin was a trooper, determined to be the best helper. (Although I think that has more to do with him wanting to be the keeper of the saw than anything else...)

We walked through the little forest of tidily groomed trees and critiqued each. This one is too small, that one is too large. One a bit crooked while another has an awkward bare spot... 

The truth is that each tree was beautifully created just the way it should be, just like each of us... flaws and all. And just like each of us, we can position the tree so that the imperfections are turned towards the back, and seem more charming than glaring... putting the best side forward.

We ultimately settled for a tree that looked to be about the right size. Ultimately, I compromised and let Benett pee in the woods. Gavin used a saw. Ellie stopped crying when she realized there was no way that Mom was going to carry her through the woods, and settled for holding hands.

We all have our flaws... but in the end that's just the way it's supposed to be. Learning to love and even appreciate them is the real treasure.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


I didn't think he would like to get quite so dressed up for his school holiday concert, but Gavin appreciated dressing smartly. His attire made me appreciate the pure genius that is the tie. It possesses transformational qualities, magically imparting manners and reason, banishing rowdy and rambunctious behavior. Gavin, and his siblings by association, became models of the most refined manners.

Plus he looked handsome. (I think that handsomeness is equal parts tie and manners.)

There is something charming about a reserved child... But truth be told, I feel a little strange being around my kids when they act that way. (It doesn't happen often.) Even though they aren't reserved very often, I do find them charming being themselves. I like that each of them are comfortable in their own skin.

That's the part that I think is so fascinating as we watch Gavin grow. Each day when we think we can predict what he's going to say or how he's going to act, he throws us a curve. It's just because he's trying new things in an ongoing effort to figure himself out. He and I are alike in that regard, I suppose.

So on this day, he was a smart, reserved version of himself. Which Gavin and I both appreciated, on that day, in that moment.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013


I have to say, Thanksgiving this year was a big improvement over last year, if only because we didn't spend any of our day at the emergency room. It's been a whole year since Gavin earned his scar.

I say earned because when we're lucky scars come with lessons learned. Gavin will never forget how he earned his scar. I'm not sure he's attempted to climb a tree since that day... but the lesson he learned was to never climb a tree; rather he learned to be aware of his surroundings.

Maybe it's just me, or maybe it's his age, but Gavin seems to be a bit more careful about things. Don't get me wrong, he's still an impulsive child, I'm sure he will always lean that way... he's still rough and tumble and manages to pepper himself with bumps and bruises every day from his extreme boyishness... but he also seem more contemplative about some things. He may even worry a bit... that is something that we talk about, something that will take age and experience to help calm.

For the kid who seldom got worked up about anything, his new found concern about some situations is new. We talk about worry and what it means and how it differs from awareness and concern. I want that to be a lesson learned young.

Hopefully, in the process, I'll be able to take some of my own advise. You see, that scar that Gavin earned is part of me too. Every time I see it, I am reminded of my own lesson. How quickly things can change, how that scar on his temple is a physical representation of luck and resilience and a measure of what is really and truly important in life.