Friday, December 28, 2007

More Flexibility

I wrote that whole post about Christmas traditions and didn't even think to mention food! We don't have much in the way of really solid Christmas food traditions, but we have a few things that have to fit in somewhere.

At some point around Christmas day we have to have a meal that involves summer sausage, cheese spread/ball (this year it was Boursin, which is my new favorite!), good crackers, candy, cookies, and sparkling apple cider. This is usually our Christmas night meal, but this year things got rearranged and we ended up having it on the 26th.

We also really, really try very, very hard to have spumoni ice cream at some point during the Christmas season. But this year there seems to be some sort of anti-Italian ice cream forces at work in our city, and there was NO spumoni to be found! Ah well..we'll find some in Illinois and eat it on New Year's Eve. :)

Other than those things we have lots of good food around the holiday, but it varies from year to year. We've done everything from turkey to roast beef to shrimp casserole for Christmas dinner. Natalie and I like to try different cookie recipes and this year Natalie made butter mints for the first time. Tom got me a candy thermometer, so I want to try making real toffee (as opposed to the yummy, but not authentic, cracker toffee we usually make) and also divinity and pecan logs.

Well, that's it for me for now. I may be able to blog from Illinois, we'll see. Colin is feeling much better and we might actually get a bit of sleep tonight. Last night he (and the rest of us) got about 4 hours, and most of that was after 5:00 AM. Of course we slept past the "sick clinic" hour at the pediatrician's office...argghh! But we are very thankful to the head of Clan Little (would his title be Chieftan? Someone let me know...Mandolinartist, you know these things...) for taking time out of his busy day to give us some recommendations to get Colin's cough under control.

Tomorrow we hit the highway...pray for us, please!

Flexibility vs Tradition??

Is it possible to have family traditions and have *flexibility* in observing those traditions? Or does having flexible holiday activities mean our family doesn't really have traditions at all? Maybe we have untraditional traditions??

Here are some things that are part of our usual and customary Christmas observance, along with the ways in which they've flexed from time to time:

1. Scripture. Some years we've gone the whole Advent Candle route, with weekly readings and candle lightings. This was something we thought would be particularly meaningful, but it turned out not to make much of an impact on the kids and was hard for us to implement. It works better for us to incorporate "advent" readings into our regular Bible reading time in the weeks leading up to Christmas. We also take time to read the Christmas narrative from Luke or Matthew or both on either Christmas Eve or Christmas morning...or both.

2. Music. We like to sing Christmas carols, and we usually have at least one family singing time in which we croak along a capella with many changes of key between verses to try to accomadate 4 different, yet all limited, ranges. Our church is a SINGING church, and we sing LOTS of advent hymns, so that's another opportunity to worship the Lord with beautiful Christmas music.

3. Performances/Concerts. The local symphony orchestra puts on a "free" concert every year; the price of admission is a bag of canned goods for the Salvation Army. We try to get to this concert every year. It's a combination of beautiful instrumental pieces, classic arias, fun sing-alongs, choral numbers, and whatever else the symphony director comes up with. The medical school where Tom works also has Christmas concerts in the hospital chapel. We try to fit in a visit to one of those, but that did not work out this year. Several years we've also attended the holiday extravaganza at the local Super Big Baptist Church. But after last year we decided to take that off our list; they just try too hard to be trendy, relevant, hip, and "fun 4 the Uth". And they always have to have a number where the adult choir dresses up in 1950s styles and dances...and they dance like Baptists, if you know what I mean. :)

4. Christmas decor. We like to get our tree from Lowes (cheaper!) the weekend of Thanksgiving and get it into a bucket of water on the patio to keep it fresher. Then we put it up the next weekend, along with a bunch of poinsettias, the nativity scene, and a modest outdoor light display. Here's where we have to get more flexible. I think Colin and I are having allergy problems from the real tree and poinsettias. Of course he's also having the Year of Many Colds...but I still think his allergies are flaring in between the colds. Next year we need to consider going to artificial decorations. Certain factions in this house are not going to be happy about that at all...including the "Drinking Out of the Big Piney Holiday Waterbowl" faction. But some of us are tired of having to be half-sick for a month just to be festive!

5. Gifts. We don't do Santa, so around here the number of gifts given every year may vary. This year money was tighter than some years, plus nobody needed anything! It's hard to buy for people who don't need ANYTHING! We thought we were buying very conservatively, just purchasing three things for each kid...things they didn't NEED, but things they could use and/or add to a current interest. For instance, Natalie got a new hairdryer to replace her ancient one that doesn't work well, and Colin got a nice big box of Legos to add to his building obsession. This year Tom and I bought each other a handful of little things that we needed or wanted. Like cell phone chargers for the car, and ice cream scoops, and a carving knife...exciting romantic stuff. :)

So, that's what I can think of right now. My brain is failing me today...thanks to Colin...see Natalie's post for details. :)

Monday, December 24, 2007

Regarding the Life of the Beast---or The Cat Who Cried Wolf

Proverbs 12:10

"The righteous man regardeth the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel."

I'm guessing this proverb was intended mostly for someone using a beast of burden...i.e. the righteous man would stop plowing before his poor oxen fall over from too much work. Or perhaps the meaning is comparision...the righteous man cares even for his animals, but the wicked man is not capable of "tender mercies" that are anything but cruel?

Anyway, it's a verse that we quote around our house fairly often, especially to a young boy who would really like to plague the cats a lot. And it's a good way to remind a child that the cats need to be fed, "Would one of you get out here this minute and REGARD THE LIFE of these CATS before I trip over one and KILL MYSELF?!"

Yesterday, our oldest cat needed her life "regarded". Petunia is 12 years old, and she has arthritis in both knees, but she is generally in good health otherwise. She's a very proper Southern lady cat, so she very rarely hisses and never bites a human. Starting Friday night she had hissed, howled, and tried to bite when anyone got a hand near her tail and back. We took that to mean something was wrong and started checking her over for signs of injury.

Natalie and I pinned her down Saturday night and checked all around the sore area for signs of swelling, bite marks, anything broken...but we found nothing. Sunday morning when we got up, though, she was holding her tail in a funny position and the area all around the base of her tail looked very swollen.

Of course this is Christmas week, and our hardworking vet and his assistants get a nice holiday until Wednesday. Normally I would decide that she could just wait till then. BUT...we're leaving town later in the week. What if she has an abscess (most likely scenario for pain around the tail) and needs antibiotics, hot compresses, wound cleaning, drains, etc. Our cat sitter/house watcher is very dependable, but that's a lot to expect of someone else. So wouldn't it be best to get her to the emergency vet on Sunday, get her started on the meds, etc, and have her on the way to healing in case she won't cooperate with the cat sitter?

So, yesterday afternoon Natalie and I trundled off to the emergency vet with a disgruntled cat in the cat carrier. We planned our route to go on the least-busy streets, but even so...the emergency vet is near the mall...yikes! We made it with no problems, took her in and explained her symptoms to the vet tech. "Oh, yes, sounds like an abscess, probably from a cat bite, good thing you brought her right in." They take her off and we go to sit down.

Three minutes later the tech is back..."Could you show me where the swelling is, I can't find it." I show her, she says there isn't any swelling there and when I press right on the area Petunia just looks at me in a mildly irritated fashion. The tech says we will wait and see what the vet says.

Well, the upshot is, after spending two hours and too much money at the emergency vet...we don't know what's wrong with Petunia. She absolutely REFUSED to act as though she was in pain for the vet. Her "swelling" was gone...the only explanation any of us could come up with was that she was poufing her fur out in that area when it hurt. The vet's best guess is that she did have pain, but that the stress of the trip raised her adrenaline levels so she didn't exhibit pain at his office. As to the cause of the pain he had two theories, neither of them verifiable without expensive time-consuming x-rays which he didn't push for and I didn't elect to pay for...basically, it could be:

1. A bruised tail or tailbone caused by a fall. Very possible because she insists on jumping onto things even though her knees don't work well, and often ends up slithering ungracefully back down.

2. More arthritis, perhaps in the hip joints or tailbone area.

Either way, the solution was pain medicine plus keeping an eye on her for further developments.

So, that was fun. We got to hang out in the waiting room with the mayor and several other Dog People Whose Dogs Had Real Problems...and another cat owner whose cat had a rash on its tummy. I know those vets and techs were aggravated at having to waste time they could have spent working on Serious Dog Issues to deal with us hypochondriac cat owners and our weird little cat problems. :) Oh well, they got paid for it!

Meanwhile, The Cat Who Cried Wolf is enjoying her pain medicine and seems downright perky and youthful after her trip out on the town. One beast life regarded, and we will now get on with celebrating Christmas!

Merry Christmas to all my (6 or 7) readers!

Friday, December 21, 2007

An Interesting Question...

My brother, the oddly-labeled "Uncle Jim" of comments fame, asked this in response to my post "So...I'm Fair and Balanced?":

"Just an aside: is your church filled with followers of Hucka-Hucka-Boom-Boom, or do they see the Second Coming of Jimmy Carter through his shallow disguise?"

(And now I have Springsteen's "Brilliant Disguise" going through my head...Jim, you should write a parody about Huckabee..."Shallow Disguise")

Anyway, I could answer Jim via email, but blog fodder is blog fodder...and who am I to pass up a free idea? :)

So far I have not heard a lot of political discussion around our church, but it's early days yet. There were some interesting discussion during the last go-around, and I narrowly escaped being excommunicated for not voting Republican. I KID, PEOPLE!!!

(Not about the not voting Republican part...now all my nieces and nephews may pick themselves back off the floor...Aunt Beth is not a Democrat, either)

In God's providence, our pastor is currently preaching through 1st John. He's spent some time emphasizing the distinction John makes between the "children of God" and the "children of the Devil". And I just realized that instead of narrating his sermons and probably getting something wrong in translation, I can just link to his excellent blog post on the topic!

Absolutely No Apologies

I think he would be the first to tell you he's not setting up some official Pilgrim Bible Church political position, or meaning his blog posts to be used a sanctified voting guide or something. But it's worth reading to see how the two categories impact our voting choices.

And to bring this back to Bruce Springsteen :) here's a quote from the aforementioned song that Mr. Huckabee might want to think about: "God have mercy on the man who doubts what he's sure of..."



Which is More Frightening?

A. That this song exists?

or

B. That Natalie knows the words and can sing along?


Now I've got to go eat breakfast and wrap some presents...talk amongst yourselves!

So...I'm Fair and Balanced???

You Are 32% Democrat

You're a bit Democrat, and probably more liberal than you realize.
If you're still voting Republican, maybe it's time that you stop.

ACK!!!! That much??!!!

You Are 40% Republican

You're a bit Republican, and probably more conservative than you realize.
If you're still voting Democrat, maybe it's time that you stop.

Hmmm....

Your Christmas is Most Like: The Muppet Christmas Carol

You tend to reflect on Christmas past, present, and future...
And you also do a little singing.

A Colin-ism for a Friday Morning

Colin is 6, and I'm discovering what fun it is to hear what goes through the mind of a six-year-old boy.

Yesterday morning at breakfast he told me, "Mom, I had a really funny dream last night! Oh, but I don't have to tell you about it,though...you were IN it!"

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Why my blog is boring!

I've been pondering why my blog is I am boring and cynical. So often I sit down here to write, or I start to talk to a friend, and all that comes out of my mouth is "waaah waoohh wahwahh" like the adults in a Peanuts cartoon special. My favorite posting/speaking style tends to degenerate to sarcasm because I feel like I have nothing better in my head or heart to offer.

Today I saw a quote from Charlotte Mason that explained a great deal of my problem. She said, "Never be without a really good book on hand. If you find yourself sinking to a dull commonplace level, with nothing particular to say, the reason is probably that you are not reading and therefore not thinking..."

Reading blogs doesn't count, I don't think. I do learn from blogs, particular those written by bloggers who ARE reading and who are talking through what they've learned.

Time to make time to read real books. And also get some more sleep...

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

For Natalie...

...and any other girls in what Dorothy Sayers called the "poetic stage", which she described thusly: "The Poetic age is popularly known as the "difficult" age. It is self-centered; it yearns to express itself; it rather specializes in being misunderstood..."

It's Advent season, we are celebrating Christ's First Advent...God taking on human form and coming to this earth to die and bear the sins of many. Quit whining about the Algebra II already.

(For readers under age 18, language warning on the video...ask your parents if you can watch it.)





Side observation...I find it both intriguing and amusing that Joe Walsh can chew gum and play the guitar at the same time. :)

Thursday, December 6, 2007

"But I still love technology...always and forever..."

Just a heads-up if you commented and I didn't post it...I wasn't offended or dead or anything. :)

Blogger is just screwing up right now and isn't sending the comments to bloggers for moderation. The work-around is for me to log into my blog dashboard and find the comments, and I will do that now that I know there is a problem.

Technology is so fun...

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Anything to keep from hanging ornaments...

In our living room right now...one dad and two children are decorating the Christmas tree. Normally I would be the parent out there decorating and Tom would be safely over here at the computer. So how did I weasel out? I had to order some shoes from Zappos, and then I had to email someone, and then I thought I should blog...

But with all the talking, we'll not say bickering, it is hard to think let alone write.

So, anyway, I think we're done with the bodily function talk on this blog for a while. I read an article about good blogging in which the author said that nobody wants to read about another person's bodily functions. Well, I think that was a bit of naivety on the author's part because this IS the Internet. I'm sure there's some tormented soul out there who would be insanely pleased to read bodily function posts all day long.

Mandolinartist, I understand your reasons for desiring anonymity and I will not blow your cover. Just don't hate me if I misspell "mandolin", okay? It's one of those words that give me fits. Like "Tarheels". I always type "Tarhells" first and then have to go back and fix it. I can spell, but my fingers don't know it.

Natalie is pleading with me to help her finish the tree...more blathering later.