The Christmas Chronicles...Day 4

Something happens to my children and their father when it comes to decorating the outside of our house for Christmas...some kind of decorating frenzy over takes them and once that happens, there's no reasoning with them.

You know how people always compare the lights on their neighbor's homes to the Griswald family? The house in the Christmas movie that had so many lights it caused power grids to shut down? 

Let me tell you a little secret...the movie guys got the idea for the Griswald Christmas house from us.

And my children and their father are twinkle light junkies...

There... I spilled it...no more secrets...whew, I feel better...

Every tree, bush, rock, window, roof line and door post around our house is covered in twinkle lights...if it's stationary for more than 2 and a half minutes, it's got a string of 100 wrapped around it.

Once my mother sat in a lawn chair to watch them put up lights...within 4 minutes she looked like the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center in New York.

It all starts with the four of them climbing up into the rafters of our garage to bring down the 83 plastic storage boxes of lights we keep up there during the year. They argue over who gets to go up first, they argue over who got to go up first last year, they argue over who comes down the ladder the quickest...

Then they spent the next 2 hours testing EVERY. SINGLE. STRAND. WE. OWN. And they even have a special box for extra bulbs and fuses (it's painted blue with a green light bulb and a red light bulb hand painted on the lid)

And then, they're on the roof...they spend hours upon hours on the roof...stringing and securing and moving and adjusting and picnicing and...you get the picture, they're up there forever...and let me tell you, they aren't exactly light on their feet if you know what I mean...when they walk across the roof it sounds like Santa and the reindeer have come in for a crash landing and have brought an extra 50 elves with them.

And finally our landscaping (the trees and bushes the first owners planted) gets the royal decorating treatment...our huge oak tree actually sagged for most of December last year. I thought it was a goner until Mark took down the last strand of lights off it and it snapped back.

So each year, after a long day of stringing thousands of twinkle lights, my bunch walks to the front of our house and takes in the sight of their masterpiece...and that's usually the same day I receive my yearly "Thank You!" card from Florida Power & Light.


The Christmas Chronicles...Day 2

Traditionally, we put up all our decorations, inside and out, on the Friday after Thanksgiving (one year we waited a week and Kaitlin went into a tailspin) so yesterday we started and we finished up this afternoon by decorating our ONE tree.

I write ONE because a few years ago, we had no less than 6 decorated trees in our house...that was also the year I left one of the kids in the church nursery and didn't realize she wasn't in the car until I pulled into the driveway at home (that might also explain the decorating tailspin).

But we always start with our Nativity scene which Mark and his mother made together when he was a young boy...Taryn puts it out each year in our family room...under armed guard and my constant hovering...

"careful, Taryn...the middle wiseman looks like he's standing on one leg...where's the donkey's ear? what happened to the donkey's ear? ok, who glued the donkey's ear on backwards?...careful, Taryn...the little drummer boy is drumming sideways..."

I've got to give it to her though, she's a trooper. Each year she's right there, willing to put up with my babbling for 20 minutes about how the camels should be facing east...

And then we get to the family tree. Christmas trees can be tricky...I used to try something new each year with our family tree but they never seemed to work out...the theme tree (I tried that once with an all snowman tree... I couldn't keep it from melting and shorting out the lights)...the all-one-color tree (the Grinch green tree I put up made everyone nauseous)...the skinny tree (I resented it)...the upside down tree (every time I went into the family room, I felt the need to walk scrunched over with my arms out for balance).

We've had live trees and artificial ones too. We've bought them at grocery stores and in parking lots. We've cut them down at Christmas tree farms and once inherited a 1960's model from Mark's parents. We've gotten a few half off on the day after Christmas sale and we've had one that cost more than our presents that particular year. (I didn't hear the guy in the flannel hat with the toothpick in his mouth correctly...I thought he said $65, not $25...and he apparently thought the extra $40 I handed him was a tip)

We've had multi colored lights, all white lights, all red lights, all blue lights...one year I spent 2 days stringing real popcorn with a yarn needle and thread...glitter garland, beaded garland, no garland...silver tinsel, tinsel so long the girls wore it around the house as a wig, and tinsel we've extracted from the cat (trust me, you don't want to know). You name it, we've probably decorated with it...(although we did throw the cat tinsel in the trash)

Naturally, our family tree has had different ornaments throughout the years. Mostly our tree is decorated with ornaments the kids have made at school and church, ones with their names and the year on them, the special ones from family and friends...

and then there is the newest ornament to adorn our family tree, one that Kaitlin brought home this week...

it's a grizzly bear with a salmon in its mouth...

yes, I know...everyone is going to want one now, but I'm sorry...that special place where she purchased this gem will have to stay a family secret...for now.

coming up...our outside decor


The Christmas Chronicles...Day 1

So I thought I would chronicle the next few weeks until Christmas...what our family does to prepare for Christmas, how we celebrate, where we go to look at Christmas lights, how many times I'll hear the following..."who drank all the egg nog?" "he gave you that for Christmas?" "I can't believe they didn't send you a Christmas card!"

Precious, tender, heart-warming moments...

To kick things off...let's talk about Thanksgiving. The day after Thanksgiving actually.

We usually host Thanksgiving at our place and we've been to know to have as few as two and as many twenty-two for dinner. But this year, my WONDERFUL sister-in-law volunteered to host the family.

I didn't have to clean the bathroom.
I didn't have to cook a 24 pounder.
I didn't have to find new places to hide our dirty clothes.

We traveled down to my WONDERFUL sister & brother-in-law's, enjoyed a fabulous meal, played with our great nieces & nephews, took some bad photos (I hate that camera), kissed my WONDERFUL sister-in-law goodbye and got home around 10 p.m.

And then this morning...Black Friday appeared on the horizon...dum dum dum (dramatic music)

I don't do Black Friday. I think standing outside in the cold for hours, getting pressed against the fingerprint-smudged glass doors of the local discount store, and being pushed down by the woman behind me in the lime green stretch pants, only to be the number 17 in the line for 16 Chatty Cathy dolls is depressing. I have that kind of luck.

So like I said, I don't do Black Friday.

I ask Mark to go.

Yes, I have somehow convinced my WONDERFUL husband in the past, to go out in the wee hours of the morning into the middle of all that craziness...on his day off. His mission? To try and wrestle away from the clutches of those lime green stretch pant wearing women the bike, computer, or doll "our baby just had to have!" And he has said yes when I've asked him to go...in the past. Didn't happen this year.

This morning I had to go myself. But I decided that if I was meant to have that laptop (that laptop advertised at a frenzy-inducing price, the kind of price that by just seeing it in the newspaper it makes you feel faint) it would be still be there on the shelf of the local discount store at 8 am this morning.

Apparently that's not how it works on Black Friday. When I pulled into the parking lot, it looked like a deserted street in a ghost town. Deadly quiet...empty plastic shopping bags rolling around like tumble weeds...a slight humming noise coming from the neon store sign...the only person in the parking lot, a slightly dazed shopping cart guy, listlessly pushing a mile long line of carts back towards the store.

"Did they close the store?" I thought to myself. "No, there's the gal ringing the bell at the red kettle. They have to be open."

I walked inside and grabbed a cart (I didn't want to disturb the shopping cart guy, he seemed to get a little agitated the closer he got to the front door of the store). I started toward the electronics department when I noticed some thing out of the corner of my eye. Something was swinging. It was a rack of plastic hangers. As I watched them swinging slowly, I ventured closer to see if any evidence of what once was there was left. Then I saw it. An extra small green and gold Christmas sweater for $14.99 dangling off the end of one of the hangers (I checked the tag...you never know...)

I made my way to the electronics department and to my utter shock, the laptop I wanted was sold out. As I stood, looking from shelf to shelf, mouth wide open, a sales clerk suddenly appeared out of nowhere, as if an angel. As she walked by me, she said, "Honey, those things were gone in the first 4 minutes." And then as quickly as she had appeared, she was gone. (I later saw her at the snack bar)

So I slowly turned my cart around and headed toward the exit. Defeated, I thought, "Well, I guess I wasn't meant to have that laptop." I made my way through the store, got sidetracked in the yarn department, bought an Icee and headed home.

And as I told my family the story of shopping among the ruins, the sad tale of shopping cart guy, the account of the angelic sales clerk, and the ultimate loss of the new laptop, Taryn said, "Why don't you just go online?"

The laptop will be here Thursday.


Happy Thanksgiving!

Just wanted to share a few of the faces that I am so very thankful for this Thanksgiving (and everyday)...

my brother and sister Dale and Chris
(technically they're my in-laws but I claim them as my very own)

These precious three...our nephews and their families

On the left, Mike and his children, Brooke & Ryan...Mike leaves for Kuwait in January and will be gone a year...please pray for him

On the right, Christian and Leigh and their baby girl Allison (aka Squirrel)...celebrating their first Thanksgiving together as a family
(and drove 9 hours to be with us)

And on the bottom, Walt and Keri and their children, Arraiol, Casen, Levi and baby girl Kale...I had to throw in the extra picture of them below...
all arms and legs and smiles...

and then there is this bunch...my bunch of bananas...
who fill me with utter joy every day.

and finally, Nellie...who came with her parents Christian and Leigh
to see Aunt Deb
how can you not be thankful for a face like that?


She's Making A List, She's Checking It Twice...

Insane...that's all I can write...insane...

(well, not really ALL I'm gonna write...I'm just being dramatic)

I must be insane because I'm actually considering going out to a store on Friday...Black Friday.
(and why do they call it Black Friday? I mean I know it's an accounting term but can't we think of a better name? Like Danger Friday or FindMeIfYouCan Friday or Midnight Friday, something with a little suspense...)

There is a laptop for sale, and I've been saving my pennies in a giant pickle jar (really, it's true, in fact I'm gonna have to wash all that change before I take it to the store cause it still smells like vinegar in the jar) ok, where was I? Oh, the laptop...so this laptop is on sale and the sale only lasts until 11:00 a.m. Friday at our local discount Blue Box.

So I have to consider...just how badly to I want this thing? Am I willing to risk any of my body parts for $50 off? How do I feel about sneaker prints up and down my back for a free carry case? Or what if I get caught in one of those human tsunami waves that can happen around the front doors right before the store opens? Or worst of all...

do I want to get up that early on my day off?

lots to consider....maybe I'll send Mark


Gobble Gobble

My love for all things Thanksgiving continues...

I've been cooking all afternoon and we aren't even eating here Thursday...I just can't seem to help myself.

The pilgrim salt and pepper shakers. The Peanuts gang eating toast and popcorn. The plopping noise the cranberry sauce makes when it slides out of the can. The stuffing, my oh my, the stuffing. It's all just a little too much...I'm feeling light-headed...

Going out to the grocery store last night to pick up some canned pumpkin and a whisk was even a little exciting...seeing all the other shoppers...watching the first-time Thanksgiving meal makers go from aisle to aisle in a trance-like state. One poor girl had a frozen 22 pounder in her cart...it looked like it could take down the Titanic. I passed her on a couple of aisles and it just seemed to get bigger and bigger. As did her look of panic...

I understand that panic...the thought of a half cooked turkey throws me into a cold shudder...

But by Thursday afternoon, my love for Thanksgiving and all its fixin's will begin to slowly fade into the sunset...and my heart will begin to flutter, thinking about Christmas.

I wonder if I can watch last year's Macy's parade on youtube?


Loose Ends Vol. 1 No. 18

Trying to lose serious, serious poundage during Thanksgiving week is not exactly the brightest thing I've ever done...and walking around with a 32 oz water bottle welded to one hand and a weight watchers calculator in the other makes for a wonderful holiday experience.
We've gone without cable and network tv for almost two months now...just dvd's and the internet for news...and no one has run from house screaming yet...or been thrown into rehab.
Our dogs actually have their own Christmas lists...thanks to my crazy first born child. She claims they told her what they wanted when she took them for a walk last night.
As I type this, Mark, Kaitlin and Hayden are playing "Monopoly Electronic Banking Edition". Next they want to buy "Monopoly Skyscraper" where you actually get to build city skylines.
I want "Monopoly CleanMyHouse".


I Love Giveaways

*************We Have A Winner!************
ok, so like I was saying...

To kick off another attempt at daily blogging, and because my favorite holiday is this week, and because my children are all home and safe, and because I'm soooo ready for this very difficult year to be over (I'll leave it at that)...I'm having a Giveaway!

Truly, Thanksgiving is my absolute favorite holiday...I love our family coming together, the cooking, the baking, the Macy's parade, the Publix commercials (even though we don't watch television anymore, I still sneak on youtube to watch them). I even bought an inflatable turkey for the front yard a couple of years ago (Tom is in most of our family pictures on Thanksgiving).

And I love turkey. And stuffing. And green bean casserole. And pumpkin pie.

We could be here all day...

So here's the Giveaway...

(1) $25 Winn Dixie gift card

Buy a turkey, a pumpkin pie, some Oreos...whatever makes your Thanksgiving meal special.
Here's what you need to do...leave a comment to the question below, just one comment per person please, (and if you leave a potty mouth comment a.k.a leave a comment that's inappropriate, it'll get deleted). And when time's up whatever the total is on my Winn Dixie grocery receipt, that's the number I'll pick--no wait, that won't work, I put my gum in that receipt--I'll just pick a number out of the hat...

and the question?

"is there anything unusual/unique you serve (or eat) for your Thanksgiving meal?"

Giveaway ends at 9:00 p.m. Eastern on Sunday, November 22, 2009

Our family has to have two kinds of cranberry sauce...grandma Dryer's and Ocean Spray's. And some of us like to put Ranch dressing on our turkey. Oh, and one year Mark and I gave everyone food poisoning with our dirt pig (we cooked a pig in the ground for 3 days...I don't suggest it)


Glimpses In The Rear View Mirror

My friend and pastor, Gene Graves, passed away last night, after an 11 month old battle with cancer...

He was a man's man, who stood around 6'4", and when he entered a room, you knew it. 

Wrangler, Carhartt, Georgia boots and a white cowboy hat were his choice of style. Sometimes he wore a John Deere baseball hat and he was never without the red bandana he kept in his pocket. He was a farmer, a hunter and a business man. He drove a truck, a tractor, and in his younger days, a motorcycle.

He was a husband, a daddy, a son, a brother and a Papoo (that's grandpa).

But the most importantly, he was an Evangelist and a Pastor. He was a Disciple of Christ who loved the Lord so greatly, and was so focused on serving Him with his whole being, that it propelled him into a life of missions in a foreign land...

to a place called Honduras...

He worked, sweated, and preached his way through the big cities and roadside shanties. He drove thousands of miles along dusty country lanes, dangerous mountain roads and congested city highways. He led hundreds of fellow believers into the fields, white with harvest, showing us how to share the Gospel with others. He ministered to thousands of men, women and children of Honduras, not only by preaching the Word of God, but also by helping build the churches in which they could worship.

He was a man of integrity, who knew he wasn't perfect. He was a man of purpose, who knew how to laugh. He was a man of God, who now knows our Lord face to face.

A simple shopping story...

Her cart was dripping. The grocery cart she was pushing around the produce section of the big box store I had just entered was drippin...