Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas Past

I am feeling a little shocked at the passing of the Holiday. It feels like it flew past this year and there was not much time to process and yet, yet it also felt just right.

The Christmas weekend was a whirl of tradition and exhaustion. We spent Thursday night with good friends and family, eating pizza and strolling all the littles up to a ridiculously elaborate Christmas extravaganza of lights. The name of the street is Thoroughbred and people come from far and away to walk the 5 or 6 blocks.

Lights Walk

There are some homes that literally sag under the weight of their decorations and there are people in their driveways with cocoa and tamales and brownies. Oh, the brownies. I almost bought a whole pan but stopped at 4 because that was enough for a taste for each person in the party. I loved the way the boys fixated on the home featuring the Grinch (their new favorite Christmas character). And then we arrived home from the long walk and lo and behold, there is the Grinch on TV with the little wHOS holding hands and singing with great joy and aplomb.

And Christmas Eve with its preparation and the family party on Tim's side. His extended family is Hispanic and they gather with a huge dinner and a bar devoted to tequila (Patron Silver, one shot, thank you very much). Family that we only see once a year, but after 16 years running, they are family nonetheless. The old are getting older and more frail, their speech rambling and sometimes incoherent. The middles (we in our 30s and 40s) laugh and compare the gory notes of parenthood and joblessness. The young sneak beers and cigarettes in the back yard, slipping up to the tequila table discreetly. And the very little, well, this year we entered the door and then did not see them for a long long time. This is when you reap the benefits of a huge family with another set of twins. This video is the only thing I shot before getting swept up in the fun, O passed out and tortured, pretty funny actually.

And then finally finally Christmas morning. I woke at 7 a.m. with not a creature stirring. Not one in a house of people. Might have had something to do with going down at 11 for the boys, 2 a.m. for us. Always the last minute wrappers, we are. But then the boys woke and the fun started.

Christmas Morning

Santa on the fire truck, stockings, then breakfast and presents, a walk, Grandpa Jim's with another breakfast and mimosas. It was a good good day. And me, the Santa ain't real girl, was totally delighted by the fact that the boys believed Santa heard their requests for 1) Dora and Diego figures 2) a few rescue Heroes 3) Pillow Pets and 4) Crazy racer cars. So, thanks Santa GP Mona and Nick and Santa Auntie Libby and Santa GP Jim and Carol. You made their Christmas shine.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Noel con Havana

I am not a big fan of the baby infant stage. All that purposeless limb flailing and constant need for head support. They need so much milk and usually their mama is the only one to provide that. Not much to interact with either, all that sleeping then fussing then pooping. They are so much more fun when they learn to roll, sit up, walk.

These are the myths I have been telling myself for a few years, since the boys left their baby infant phase. It took just one morning with my newest niece Havana to dash those myths to bits. Because I do love baby infants (much to my own relief).

Christmas morning and breakfast is ready. She settles slowly onto my shoulders, adjusting to my smell and feel. Her mama needs two hands for a few minutes to feed herself as she is running low on fuel after days of newborn + sick baby. Havana fusses and then with a few pats, a burp of relief bubbles up and her body relaxes, she slumps to sleep in my arms, head at the awkward angle that is only comfortable for the very young and boneless. And she stays there as I eat my burrito one handed, dropping bits of egg and bacon on her downy dark head.

My arm begins to ache and then slowly begin to adjust to the warm soft weight, a feeling that was light years away until it just wasn't .. until it was just familiar again.

Me and Havana

Later she wakes up and we lay her on the couch, letting her little limbs flex and extend. We coo and coddle her, watch her eyes catch the black line of that picture frame, the bright shine of the Christmas lights. Her arms pump and stretch, hands gripping in that newborn grasp, not purposeless just unskilled, untrained and untested. And I start to remember my fascination with watching my newborns as the world became theirs.

Her Uncles pass her around, their arms huge around her swaddled body. I caught them one by one as they took time to meet the newest little of our tribe.

Rick and Havana
Havana and Tim
Jon and Havana

And then we do our Christmas walk (during which she has the mother of all poop blow outs which requires emergency changing on the park table). And then she goes home, her first family Christmas complete.

What does all this Baby Love mean? Certainly not another for me. Just the secure knowledge that I like them, these new people joining our family. A good thing as there are two more on the way, set to join in the festivities of Christmas 2011. And the knowledge too that this is what family is ... the recognition of souls that belong together, that found each other and that harmonize as well as any Church choir or band of angels.

My mom and the last 3
A good start

It was a good Christmas.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Everything Will Be Alright

Kate at Sweet/Salty gives this Reverb prompt : Tell me about one 2010 moment that served as proof that everything is going to be alright. It doesn't need to have been profound. Think a passing serenity that makes you pause in the middle of a blink. Beyond trying to believe. A knowing that's as deep as bones, neverminding the how or the when.

emigrant's gap

My one and only Reverb reply for 2010 :: I am writing on this for two reasons. 1) A serious girl crush on Kate. It did not abate when I met her in person. Actually I think it got worse. 2) Her words make me want to write. With the full knowledge that they cannot shine in the way her prose that is actually poetry does, but still, those words of hers make me want to find expression here.

2010 was a really rough year. It started out promising enough. I was part of the Mondo Beyondo class in January and that experience opened me up to new people and possibilities that made the horizon seem saturated and bright. But then kinda' things went to shit from there.

We had a year of joblessness and return to full time for me. We had struggles with role reversal and resentment and wanting to just be comfortable again. We got sued. We got sick. I ran away for a bit in order to take a breath, learn how to breath ... instead, I landed smack in the middle of a world I inhabited when I was in my early 20s and found it was really not to my liking. I turned 35 which threw me for a huge loop. For a girl that never really paid attention to the years passing, this one, well, it just about did me in. And I feel quite done with 2010.

At the beginning of the year I declared it, called it the Year of the Gypsy. Guess what I found out? That gypsies are poor. Also you should not declare a year because it will bite you in the ass somehow. In truth, it was the year of the Gypsy. We roamed far from home and found that we really could. We discovered that home is where We are, where that core community of family and friends reside ...

But it was hard, ugly even sometimes. There were missed moments and tears of frustration and the eternal wrangling of two small people when sometimes all I wanted to do was stare at a wall.

What made me know it would be alright? There is not one moment in the year, rather a moment of the day. It is that moment before sleep, when I am prone and my mind is unwinding, the events of the day unfolding and reflections on small moments flick by the screen of my mind. I kiss my husband, or if it one of those nights when sleep will not come and I find myself in the boys' bed, snugged between them, I touch a unbelievably soft cheek. Sometimes a tiny bubble of panic will rise in my throat when I think of the unfinished paperwork, that dying patient, the next bill, the lack of time, the demands of Life. But then I touch them again, these people, this man and these boys that connect me in a way to this world where sometimes it is so hard to live.

And I know it will be alright. Because they are real. And they are mine.

And then my mind begins that slow descent into oblivion and my last thought is invariably of the cup of coffee I will drink in the morning, fragrant and loaded with the synthetic creamer to which I am addicted and I know, I just know, it will be okay.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Almost There

I have been trying to take it easy on the Holiday making front but as always, I have gone and bit off more than I can chew. It seems like JoAnns is perennially out of the bamboo stuffing I need to finish this and that toy, that I have misplaced my scissors, bobbins and brain on every occasion possible, and oh yeah, that thing called work? It is being terribly pesky and will not let up and let me be. It seems like people really prefer to wait to get sick just before the holiday. Sorry, that sounds horrible, it is just this can be a really busy time at work, right about that time one would wish it is not.

So, the making? It is going. Little stops and starts, but going. There are some textured knit mitts working their way off the needles. And a slew of hats that need to be packed and shipped North (they are going to end up being New Year gifts instead of for Christmas/Boxing Day ... but I am pretty sure the snow will still be on the ground up there in Canada).

This sweater which I finished some time ago is meant for a new little one that lives in a cold climate. It is a hybrid version of the Placket Neck Sweater from LMKG. I used the raglan shoulder decreases, but changed the neck line to this cute shruggy ribbed collar. I like it.
Hybrid Sweater
Though I do tend to knit really looong arms on all my bebe sweaters. As a mama, I should know better and stick with 3/4 sleeves that stay free of all the muck and guck. Note to self :: 3/4 sleeves next time.

Lately my knitting has been all about the simple 'sans pattern' project. It is nice to be able to visualize something I want to make, do some quick math and come out the other side with a pretty piece for someone.
Simple Earflap hat
This hat just makes me happy, nice colors and some comfortable earflaps to keep someone warm. This was knit top down which makes it super simple to size; just increase until it feels about right, knit until that feels right, switch to a edge stitch you like and wa-la! A hat.

The machine sewing has stalled lately but I anticipate a few hours this week to power through the planned projects. I was totally sidetracked by the wonderful felt ornaments over at Posie Gets Cozy. I always love her attention to detail and I could not resist downloading the latest ornamanet directions. Then my hands just started cutting felt and stitching bits which quickly became the sweetest little coat.

This ornament is going to one of my favorite friends. She is that friend, the one that makes the most perfect handmade Christmas cards and looks like she walked out of an Anthropologie advert and yet is so sincere and lovely and wonderful. Hard to buy for but this will be just right for her to hang on her tree.

So, the all the plans may or may not come through. I did a lot of prep work this weekend and plan to watch some holiday movies with sewing and knitting needles in hand. There are a few boy dolls that need limbs and eyes, another little inchworm in the making and some Christmas pants. Wish me luck.
To Be Done

And happy holidays, however they are shaping up for you and yours.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

House Opened


We held our annual Open House early this year. My plan was to avoid the nuttiness of house prep plus Christmas countdown by scheduling it early. Last year I was in the midst of cleaning when folks starting showing up but it was still fun. This year I knew I wanted to try to find some time to actually spend with my lovely friends and family. Well, that did happen. A little bit.

Sure, 2/3rds of it I was doing something, whether it was rolling lumpias or searching in vain for that beer I just put down right there, but all in all it was a wonderful Open House.

I have insisted on the tradition since we bought this house, this childhood home of mine. We do not practice a religious holiday any more but I realized the why of the Open House just this year. While I was growing up, my family participated in the Catholic church quite a bit. I was raised with the tradition of Advent which in our Church consisted of 4 families choosing each other and spending the four Sundays before the holiday of Christmas gathering at each residence. We would come together after mass, Advent booklet in hand, read through the book and discuss the miraculous event to come... and then eat. And eat. And eat.

I've known this girl since she was born. She still hates the camera

There was always some type of magic in it for me. Wondering which families would group with us. Then wondering what food they would have on their turn. Exploring some other families space (I was nosy even then). It was exciting and a fitting way to slowly prepare for what then was a holiday much more about the birth of a baby then the stuff under the tree.
3 Generations
Havana, my sister in law and her mama

Although we do not practice the religious aspect now, I still find myself clinging to the desire to slowly invite the celebration that is Christmas into our lives. And I realize I crave that gathering of families. It is why I open our doors every year, clean house, make the laborious lumpia (which will blow your socks off, but takes a team effort to create). It fills me up and makes this time seem much more about family than consuming. Well, it still is about consuming, just in a food way, not a stuff way.

I think next year might actually be our last in this house, in this area, in fact.

It made the party seem even sweeter, the idea that next year could see a goodbye to so many of the people that all live so close. It makes it bittersweet and I think come November of next year, I might start canvassing the friends and family and find three others that want to open their home and have us, this community that we are, come together.

Here is to home, hearth and happiness.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Giving Time

The weekend may have held 80 degree temperatures and short sleeve shirts but the spirit of the season was well and truly celebrated by me and mine.

Saturday was the meet up of my lovely L.A. knitting friends, we had exchanged Secret Santas with the guidelines being something simple and hand made. These exchanges always make me giddy because 1) they all have amazing taste and 2) making for others just makes me giddy. I was super excited to get Shan because I just love her and she has a little one that I knew I had to make for too.
Gifts for Shan

For Shan I chose to make the quick coasters from Last Minute Patchwork Gifts. I love all the Joelle Hoverson books because they hold simple projects that you can really make.
Her aesthetic is flawless and the coasters were a snap. It is always nice to use lots of pretty fabrics and play with the color palette. I also had to make Shan the little Inchworm from Wee Wonderfuls Doll book. This little betty was too sweet and kinda' hard to give up. And the book with 24 projects? I am thinking of doing them all ... just sew them one by one until I am done. That is how good her book is.

Miss Bean got Ellie the Elephant, another project in LMPG.
I have wanted to make this toy forever and it seemed perfect for a sweet toddler girl to squeeze and love. My boys thought she was pretty lovable too so she went to Bean with some good happy love imbued in her stuffed body. The pattern was simple enough and I finally have confidence in sewing curves. The only thing was the stuffing. Man, that round little elephant took a load of stuffing, it seemed like I just had to keep adding and adding and still her legs were not firm enough to support her weight. Pudgy thing, isn't she?
Ellie the Elephant
I am so glad I made it because Shan told me that Bean's favorite thing ever is elephants. Which I did not know when I chose the project. Talk about being spot on, right?

We had a great time talking and eating and exchanging and squealing at each others gifts and looking at patterns and doing what we do. We also decided that we are bringing the L.A. Group to Rhinebeck 2011, right ladies? And the knitalong, right?

My SS was MJ and she made me a freaking fantastic pillow cover. Beyond fantastic, actually. Of her own design, of course. She is such an amazing designer so I want to be sure all knitters who still read here know about her latest hat design over at Twist. Look at this hat. Look at it!

Photo by Twist Collective :

Here is the pattern link. We are going to do a knitalong on Ravelry, so come and join us if you will. I have a feeling I am going to be knitting more than one version of this. There is just too much cabled goodness. Now buy the pattern, get some yarn and let's get on it. And thanks, MJ, for the beautiful gift and lighting my knitting fire again.

All in all, it was a wonderful afternoon with wonderful women that I do not see nearly enough. Until next time, friends.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Cookie Maker (get it, Em, get it?)

Now that the sick has gone, I am more than ready to focus on the upcoming holiday. Yay for recovery and the realization post-ick than my normal level of daily energy is more than enough to get things done.

The season of cookie making is upon us and so far this year it has gone quite well. Last year we made sugar cookies, but the recipe was off in some way and less than satisfactory to roll, cut and eat. This year we have had two spot on recipes that have been prepped, rolled and baked with help of some worker elves.

Christmas cookie making

I am loving the simplicity of the sugar cookie recipe from MS magazine this year and it comes with some great ideas to alter the basic recipe. We made the vanilla and chocolate version yesterday. With three under the age of 4. And it actually went well. I think it was due to some pre-planning and a lot of designating.

Christmas cookie making

Things I learned ::

- Set up stations, we had a dry measure station and a mixer station that we moved between. I let the kids measure from a big container of flour and it stayed fun that way. Plus they even helped me clean up.

Christmas cookie making

- Do not let them handle the soft butter. Enough said.

- Also do not let them flip the Kitchenaid switch after adding the flour. Big mess.

- My one Must Do :: Let them taste the dough (Samonella be damned).

Christmas cookie making

- Make the dough, chill it and leave the whole roll out thing until the next day. The attention span of the littles is good for only one step at a time.

The recipes for the vanilla dough is here. It is a Martha recipe, but that is the first link I found. Plus, I am trying not to frequent the MS website too often as it just makes me confused and distracted as to the holiday crafting/creating in my life. Waaaay too many options over there.

The other cookies we made were pre-plague cookies, up at the Cabin actually. Gingerbread cookies. They are again a MS favorite and they are really really good. They also make a load of cookies. The recipe calls for 6 cups of flour. That is a lot of cookies, people. But I never halve the recipe because we always end up eating the first few trays that come out of the oven.

Christmas cookie making
(He looks a little gansta' here, right?)

We had a blast cutting letters into the dough and making some free form snowmen, etc. I have found this dough tastes great at any thickness, the thinner you roll it, the crisper the cookie. Thicker leaves them dense and chewy. And delicious all around.

Christmas cookie making

Come Sunday, all the cookies are to be laid out on a table with frosting and sprinkles and candies and such for the littles to decorate. While the adults curse me for the mess their children will become. Sunday we are having are annual Indonesian lumpia holiday fest. Can I get a what what for fried traditional feast food?

Here is to your healthy cookie-fied deep fried beautiful holiday season. And I am looking to bring a bit of the holiday posting here sooner than later. Wish me luck.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Weathering It

You know, you hope and dream that your children will grow to love the same things you do, love the same life you live. And then you see that they do and it makes you feel so very good.

I am not sure how many parents embrace the idea that they know how to raise children. It seems in this day there is always some expert offering the latest way to do things or an explanation for why things are as they are. But how often do we hear that we do know what to do? That we are doing a good job?

Ha ha. I wrote the above a week ago, hours before our family was slammed for the second year in a row by some terrible virus. Let me tell you, I did not feel the above at all in the last 7 days. Alternately I felt like throwing one of them or myself or maybe even Tim somewhere. But I could not because I could not really get up long enough to do so. There is a particular kind of evil to your whole family coming down with something at the same time, its like being taken out by the knees. Not good.

Now we are almost on the other side of it, the boys are coming around and getting back to some semblance of sleep. We, the adults, are hacking up less stuff (and the stuff hacked up is becoming less disgusting in nature and color). Every time I wanted to cry and stop this week, I thought that if my throat feels like someone shredded it with broken glass, well, imagine how a the little people must feel. No wonder there was almost constant wailing and wake ups.

So, the post originally featured some adorable clips of the boys at snow play. And it still will. Because, now, a week after our fun and successful and chilly getaway, I am reminded to embrace the days that are just that. It ain't always sunshine and roses, but when it is, it sure is fun.