Archive for December, 2010

A Glimpse

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

DSC_0006

In The Family Man, Nicolas Cage gets a glimpse of the life he might have led if he’d married his college sweet heart. This is a glimpse of what you might have experienced Christmas Eve, if you – like each of us three sisters – were joined by your parents, five of your siblings, their spouses, and your collective 14 children, plus a handful of aunts, uncles, cousins, and close friends. Happy holidays!

Hand Me Downs: The Next Generation

Monday, December 27th, 2010

KIDS122.JPGWhen I was growing up, hand-me-downs were a fact of life. Not a fact of my life, of course, because I was the eldest. Yet I knew exactly where my old clothes and toys went – “down” to my sister Francine, and then on to Kathy Jo…Each of my daughters have even been honored to wear some of my cherished childhood wardrobe. That’s Reiley on the left, sporting a genuine Hang Ten t-shirt that I remember taking to camp the summer I was eight.

Is it still considered a hand me down, then, or “vintage t-shirt”?

I held onto that t-shirt, but most of Reiley’s clothes have been passed down to Francine’s daughters. Some even made it “back” our way for Olivia to wear! Olivia was the ninth girl among my siblings children, not to mention my “baby,” so she ended up starting a whole new system of hand me downs that currently includes four of her younger cousins. I recently heard that a couple of them compete to lay claim to Olivia’s old clothes!

Hmm…I honestly don’t remember my own sisters being that enthusiastic about my cast offs!

Hand me downs continue to include a lot more than clothing in our family. No wonder, considering the high cost of all the baby stuff that almost naturally accumulates in the wake of every new bundle of joy. Two of my nieces used the co-sleeper my youngest children slept in, for instance, and Jeanna’s brand new daughter, Alexandra, just made her first trip out in “Bob,” bumblebee yellow  B.O.B. Ironman stroller that (Terri and) I used to run with Olivia when she was an infant and toddler. I’m sure the event was a lot more significant for us than it was – or ever will be – for her. Alexandra clearly looks just as thrilled about her new ride as her cousin Olivia did six years ago.

IMG952010122695124437

DSCN1794

Why doesn’t this surprise me?

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

100_2094

So…THIS is my Christmas gift from Maz this year. Yep, that would be “happy birthday” paper and duck tape. When I posted the picture on Facebook, one of my “friends” commented that Christmas is Christ’s birthday, after all. Somehow I doubt that’s what Maz had in mind. I can’t help wondering if Maz put as much time and thought into the gift as he did to the wrapping…

On the first day of Christmas…

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

My true love sent to me, A Vizsla in a fir tree…

DSC_0003

Cooper opted to join me while I was sewing this morning, and was unusually quiet…Apparently, he thought we wouldn’t notice him amongst the gifts under the tree.

While visions of sugar plums danced in their heads…

Monday, December 20th, 2010

-1Actually, it’s a sewing machine – this snazzy Husqvarna-Viking Sapphire 875 – that’s dancing in my head. Can you blame me? I’m currently in the midst of sewing pajamas and chalk buckets for Christmas presents on my aging, and increasingly tempermental, 12-stitch Kenmore. This fine manual sewing machine is a major step up from what my great-grandmother sewed on, of course, but cannot compare with the Sapphire’s touch screen control panel, 175 stiches, thread-cutter, and etc.!

Not that I don’t love my Kenmore. My grandmother bought it for me when I earned my MA. She really wanted to give me jewelry, but I wanted something more practical. I had recently moved from bike-friendly Davis to auto-dominated Los Angeles and relied on buses to get around, so the machine has a history that begins with a two-hour bus ride from West LA to the South Bay via LAX and the Del Amo Fashion Center.

My Kenmore is actually a terrific, basic, all-around sewing machine, but I no longer have the patience to deal with it. Due to the nearly constant need to adjust tension, the excruciating effort involved in holding fabric in place as it passes under the presser foot, and the regular occurrence of jams, I currently limit my sewing activity to the simplest of projects. I want more!

Although this need to liberate the super seamstress inside of me is not new, it’s only in the last year that I’ve spent any time researching sewing machines. I immediately limited my search to electronic machines, which permit users to select among numerous stitches, determine stitch length, and set needle position ACCURATELY by pushing a button rather than twisting knobs and moving levers. I considered embroidery machines, but couldn’t see myself doing anything but monogramming bath towels. Hardly worth the additional cost, I reasoned. Then I focused on “work horses,” quickly narrowing my search to Husqvarna-Viking, which, like Janome, are known for their capacity to facilitate garment-making and have the added benefit of using the many, many presser feet and other accessories my sister already purchased for her machine!

This week, I settled on the Sapphire, going for the 875 quilting model because it’s the top of Husqvarna-Viking’s sewing – as opposed to those very popular embroidery – machines. It doesn’t hurt that the LCD screen is my favorite color: blue.

Yeah, I know it’s way out of Santa’s budget this year, but a girl can dream!

Visiting Santa

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

IMG_20101211_161658

When we were growing up, my brothers and sisters and I were required to have our picture taken with Santa every Christmas, regardless of our age. The only way my mom would allow you to miss the photo was if you had moved out. I hadn’t thought of continuing this tradition with my own child, but my sister Terri changed my mind.

So, while she was visiting, we dressed five-week-old Alexandra in her Christmas outfit and headed to the mall. After 30 minutes of driving around the parking lot, we finally found a parking spot. Then the three of us headed into the mall. The line for Santa wasn’t as bad as I had thought it would be, so we got in line. After an hour of waiting amongst the strangest group of people I’ve ever seen assembled in one place, it was our turn! I only wanted to take a quick picture with my phone and head out of there. But no! In order to do that, I had to purchase a “package,” which included a single sheet of photos in whatever size I chose. I selected a sheet with two 5X7s, and it cost $25! Yes, I also got to take THIS picture on my phone. And Alexandra? She slept through the entire event, and appeared not even to know she sat on Santa’s lap. (Considering how many children scream when they’re forced to sit on the jolly old guy’s lap, that’s probably a good thing.)

In hindsight, the cute picture almost makes the whole thing worth it.

An Old Fashioned Christmas – Knott’s Style

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

164459_483658988738_645133738_5714628_2189860_n

We spent the day enjoying Knott’s Berry Farm’s “Old Fashioned Christmas” event with the kids’ school. Our day included a tour of Ghost Town that featured educational stops to learn about what black smiths do and how to spin wool into thread, make dolls out of everyday items, and dip candles. We also got to ride on the train – complete with armed robbers – and visit Santa’s shop via renowned log ride. And…we were privileged to see two shows at Knott’s Bird Cage Theater, which is notably celebrating it’s 25th anniversary: "A Christmas Carol," and "The Gift of the Magi." A very pleased Olivia is pictured here with the cast.

Though we had a good time, school tours can’t help but make for very long days. Bottom line: we experienced parts of Knott’s Berry Farm we may not have otherwise, but for an additional $3.75, we could have donated to Toys for Tots and enjoyed the entire park at the brisk pace that comes naturally to school children freed from school for the day.

Just Call it Christmas “Lite”

Monday, December 13th, 2010

DSC_0001

“Where has the Christmas Queen gone?” my loving spouse wants to know. I love Christmas time, but I’ve had a really tough time getting the season off the ground this year. It’s even worse than last year, when I attributed my inability to get in holiday mood to my brother’s death earlier in the year. I managed to dig the Advent calendar out just after Thanksgiving, but couldn’t muster the energy to find the Christmas CDs, which traditionally dominate our listening time during the holidays. I dutifully hung our Christmas stockings and swapped the everyday green and beige linens in the guest bathroom for Santa Clause towels, rug, and soap dispenser, but all things Frosty and winter remain in crates.

DSC_0002I wonder if I’m just coming “off” an incredibly full Fall quarter…or is it the dreaded Christmas Blues, that incompletely specified mix of feelings that can include garden variety sadness, full-blown depression, simple loneliness, and even anger? Although some people experience the blues every Christmas season, experts suggest the condition is more often episodic, attributable to more or less drastic life changes like a move or career change, loss of a loved one, illness, financial crisis, relationship troubles, or even accumulated stress. That’s right, just about anything can make you sad at this purportedly most joyous time of the year.

On the upside, almost anything might make you feel better:

  • You could try doing something new. Go skydiving or just initiate a new holiday tradition.
  • Or you could recover an old family, ethnic, or religious tradition.
  • Connect with friends and loved ones…or don’t. Apparently, some of those suffering the blues this time of year survive by ignoring the holidays altogether.
  • Then there’s my favorite – exercise. Even moderately vigorous exercise releases endorphins, adrenaline, serotonin, and dopamine, which work together to make you feel good.
  • If exercise doesn’t get you out of the house, simply going outside can be an effective mood enhancer, especially if the blues are associated with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
  • If it’s the shopping that brings you down, just say, “No.”

DSC_0001I can attest to the mood-boosting effects of exercise. Coop and I went for a run this morning, which generated just enough umpf for me to finish decorating the tree. Yep, it was nearly a solo project this year, after my children burned their initial burst of energy getting the tree in the stand and stringing the lights. I’d like to say I took the opportunity to zen out, but no, I complained. Before my spouse had the chance to chastise me, though, I told him that this year we’re doing Christmas lite.

You’re Never Too Old to Need Your Mom

Thursday, December 9th, 2010

IMG_1543

It has been one month since the birth of my daughter, Alexandra. At times it feels as though time has flown; it amazes me how fast she has grown. At other times, it feels like I’ve lived an entire lifetime in these four short weeks. I’ve learned many things, especially that my mom was right: you’re never too old to need your mom.

I was always fearful of having children because I have little to no patience. Taking care of my nieces and nephews has always been fun, but it has tried my patience. I’ve doubted whether or not I could actually have my own children without being on edge all the time. But my mom always said that I would have patience for my own child; it’ll just happen. She was right! Throughout the breast feeding attempts, the middle of the night feedings, sleeping, etc., nothing has unnerved me. My patience is still intact.

My mom actually came to stay with me the second week home with Alexandra. I honestly wasn’t sure how it would go. I’m a very independent person and wasn’t sure just how much help I would need. As it turns out, I needed a ton of it. My mom – the mother of nine children ! – proved to be a huge help, and a terrific source of information on baby care. In addition to helping out with the normal day-to-day chores of cleaning and cooking, she shared tricks to help Alexandra burp and sleep; she taught me how to bathe a baby; in fact, she had a solution for just about every “problem” that came up. Both Alexandra and I have missed her since she left.

People of Walmart

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

IMG952010120495214419

Somehow I never thought that I’d be related to someone worthy of being featured on the People of Walmart, a website that makes fun of Walmart’s stereotypically fashion-challenged and otherwise impaired shoppers. Can you guess who got caught Walmart shopping in her comfiest pajamas?