Friday, December 30, 2011

I Am Glad I Was a Teen Before the Internet

In the late 90’s when I was in high school, the internet was still obscure. I remember my oldest brother telling me about it, sitting me at his computer and telling me to look something—anything—up. I had no clue what in the world I would ever want to look up online. I was always miffed when teachers required a research paper to include an online reference. Can’t we just use normal books from the library? (A few years later in college, everything changed and we were required to have one book reference and we grumbled about that). My senior year I created an email account and I discovered AOL instant messenger. And now I am an internet junkie. I love it and would probably curse my existence if it were ever taken away.
But thinking about my teenagehood and teenagehood today, I gotta say, I am glad the internet didn’t play such a big part for me during those years.
I get a little nostalgic when I think about how things happened then.
When a boy called, it was pretty major. Either he had asked for my phone number (pretty bold!) or he looked me up in the phone book (what fortitude!), paced around for a long little while, his fingers hovering over the touch tone buttons, and finally found the gumption to dial the numbers. We had family phones back then, so most likely one of my parents would have answered. Family rumors would circle immediately. It’s a boy! And he asked for Lara! I’d search for the cordless phone so I could retreat into my bedroom or at least a closet for some privacy. I’d carefully listen for the sound of a sibling (or nosy mother) lifting up another receiver in the house to listen in.
It was sheer torture when I had to leave the house and not knowing whether or not I would miss a phone call (no caller ID either).
Now days, Facebook, texting, email, and other technological advances have made things so much easier. And I think that devalues it a little bit.
Everyone is friends with everyone on Facebook. Sending a poke or a Facebook message as a way of flirting is so diluted that it loses its affect.
And don’t get me started on email.
I had a knack for having long-distance “relationships” as a teen. A guy I met at summer camp. An international pen pal. Crushes sent across the world for 2-year missions. A friend of a friend who lived out of state that I fell for. I have boxes and boxes of handwritten letters. (Yes—handwritten). Because long-distance phone charges still existed back then. Oh the anguish of waiting days and weeks for news from my beau. Oh the exaltation of seeing that envelope in the mailbox, my name carefully printed in his handwriting. Slowly fingering the pages of the letter. Knowing his hand, his pen had touched the paper. Knowing his lips had brushed the envelope as he sealed it. Smelling the paper, sometimes detecting the slight scent of his cologne. Pictures—real printed pictures—a little frayed around the edges falling out of the folds of the paper. Smudges and spills.Crossed out words. So many clues to a far-away love that an email cannot convey.
Life was a little more romantic then.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Pocket Full of Christmas 2011

A quick recap of our Christmas holiday.

Trimming the tree. A few days after we put it up, a strand of lights went out. We had to take all the decorations off and replace the strand of lights, then put all the garland and ornaments back on. 

Joci loved making this year's gingerbread house. See my gingerbread tutorial here

Last year I bought this foam tree with foam stickers for Joci to decorate and I forgot to have her do it. She loved it this year - and probably had a lot more fun than she would have a year ago.

Our tree. We "flocked" it with snow in a can (I could not find real flocking anywhere) but since we had to remove all the decorations and then decorate it again, a lot of the "snow" flaked off. We were left with kind of a blue spruce look instead of a snow-white look, but it's still a nice effect. I love how our tree turned out!

We filled our ceiling with tinfoil stars. Wrap tinfoil around a straw. Remove the straw. Take 6-8 of the hollow tinfoil tubes, tie them with fishing line, spread out the tinfoil tubes and you get a very cool looking star. 

Our Christmas Eve live Nativity

My niece Afton was the narrator. She did amazingly well reading all the big words in the Bible. 

Joci as Mary laying Jesus in the manger.

These two cousins fought over EVERYTHING.

The Christmas angel

Crowns from Christmas crackers 

We tried out a new tradition this year - having a "birthday party" for Jesus. We had candles we sang happy birthday. Hopefully this will help the little kids understand what celebrating Christmas is about.

Opening one present on Christmas Eve.

Princess jammies!

Christmas morning eggnog in Mom and Dad's bed

Joci got a kitchen!

Ready to open presents! (Notice the new jammies - as soon as she opened them she had to put them on)

Fun hats from Grandma. Grandma even crocheted the blue one on Justin's head.

A riding horse from Grandma and Grandpa. As you can tell from that glowing expression on her face, Joci LOVES her new horsey. 

Another favorite gift - Joci's very own nail polish.  

Joci got several baby dolls. She particularly enjoys her twin babies. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Putting Aside Parental Guilt with the Help of My Scanner

My little girl is an artist. At least once a day she pulls out her paints and goes to town.

I have dozens of pieces of paper around the house that look like this:

 Dozens, I tell ya. I am not sure what to do with them all. Quite a few are hung around the house. A few are stacked in piles. A few are painted front and back to reuse paper. I need to get rid of them, but I feel so dang guilty!

Every parent has a ton of guilt - it is part of the parental package. It may be a bit selfish, but let me go out on a limb and say that adoptive parents have a little bit more. Whenever I am about to throw one of these paintings away, I pause and remember the empty years of yearning for a child. How can I throw her paintings away? It seems like a slap in the face to my former self. And I think of her birth family. They still miss her. They will always have an unending ache for her. I am sure they would walk across hot coals to have all these paintings.

Sometimes I put on a thick skin and just toss some out. But I decided I would compromise. Thanks to my nifty scanner, I have memorialized her paintings in digital format and can feel (a little) less guilty about throwing them out.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Finding Christmas

Most Christmases, my little family reads a nightly story and scripture as a type of countdown to Christmas. We didn't do that this year. Too much going on. Instead, I read read the New Testament books Matthew through Acts. While I missed my favorite Christmastime stories about giving and loving, my new reading assignment gave me a new perspective on Christmas.

The old stories were familiar favorites. The scriptures that when with each story were too. The scriptures generally referred to the miraculous birth, the angels declaring hallelujah, the wise men following the star.

What I read this year chronicled (four times throughout the four gospels) not only the birth but the life, actions, words, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Christmas is the time we celebrate His birth. But what is the point of that? Ultimately, we are celebrating His life. Reading the four gospels and the book of Acts has reminded me what His life and Christmas is really about. A higher way of living, the opportunity to have second chances (and third and fourth and fifth and six thousandth chances), infinite, unconditional love, and the overcoming of physical death.

My favorite story (right now) is found in John 8:3-11. A woman had been found committing adultery and the Pharisees (a political group) brought her before Jesus. "Now Moses in the law has commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?"

Christ and the woman taken in adultery by Guercino

As always, the Pharisees were trying to trip up Jesus - to Him to confuse his message of justice and forgiveness.

With such wisdom, Jesus sat quietly, writing in the dust with his finger. When they pressed him again for an answer, He simply stated, "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her."

One by one, the crowd dispersed. When Jesus looked up again, He saw that He was alone with the woman. "Woman, where are thine accusers?"

She replied, "No man, Lord." And Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn thee; go and sin no more."

I love this story. I love that mercy was exercise while the law was upheld. I love that Jesus did not "rescue" the woman, but rather awoke empathy in others and spread the message of mercy. And Jesus so easily forgave such a grave act.

I love everything about this story. To me, it exemplifies my Savior.

My favorite line of one of my favorite Christmas carols comes from O Holy Night:

"Long lay the world in sin and error pining, till he appeared and the soul felt its worth."

I doubt the adulterous woman really knew her worth before her encounter with Christ. None of us really do. His birth isn't the miracle. He is. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. It is His life that I celebrate today and tomorrow. It is so much more than a miraculous birth in a tiny manger. It is about hope and infinite chances and pure love. He lives today. His message of love, forgiveness, peace, and hope has never changed.

Have a beautiful Christmas.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Is for Giving In (An Apology in Advance)

Ask anyone who knows me...I am a sentimental sap. A couple years ago my mother was cleaning out some very old kitchen items - brown Tupperware salt and pepper shakers that must be from the 70's if not the 60's. They look like these:

"You can't get rid of those! We grew up with those!"

And I kept them. They are butt-ugly. I don't use them (well, they remain unused in my camper. They will be my camping salt and pepper shakers). I have nicer, more functional things. But I will not get rid of them.

Every family member knows to check with me before throwing something out. An old picture. A ratty quilt. A broken toy. Usually, I want it.

My memories are strongly attached to objects, and I am a highly sentimental, sensitive person. That's why it almost literally killed me when my parents moved. I seriously tear up when I think about someone else living in my house. Our handprints are in the cement. What if they ever dig up and repour their patio? (I wouldn't want someone else's kid's handprints in my yard - why should they?) The thought gives me chest palpitations.

That brings me to holidays. As you can imagine, I am pretty sentimental about holidays. I like things they way they always have been. I want to use the same spoon, sing the same songs, eat the same thing, do the exact same thing I have done my entire life. It's comforting. For me, these things are the little traditions that I associate with Christmas.

Enter marriage.

Ten years ago I permanently entwined my life with another person who brought along his own set of expectations, sentiments, and traditions. We have managed to evolve and create some our own traditions. But it gets really tricky when we start adding other people in. Like extended family.

And I become this stubborn brat that has to have everything my way.

"We do the big dinner on Christmas Eve, not Christmas day."

"Santa always puts the stockings here."

And it goes on and on. Let me tell ya, I am a real peach to celebrate holidays with.

Growing up, we never shared holidays with extended family. It was just my parents and my brothers and sisters. I guess I really never learned the art of celebratory negotiation. And I am trying to now, I really am.

It's not Christmas without a live nativity with towels on your head. Christmas 2010.

Some people just don't always seem to care. And I do. Like, a lot. Like, more than I should. And I know that. Christmas isn't really about using the same cranberry dish every year. It won't kill the holiday to eat something different and try a new recipe (ok, I am seriously having a mini anxiety attack as I type this, but I know it is true in my heart, even if my sentimental pea brain is resistant).

So to my ever-accommodating extended family members, please be patient with me. I really am trying. If something doesn't matter to you, perhaps allow me an indulgence. I will do my best not to be so self-centered. I promise to give-in more and complain less. Because Christmas is more about love, sacrifice, and gratitude than the silly things I get hung up on.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Santa Key Give-Away Winners

The winners for the two Santa keys are Rachel and Kirsten. I will be in contact with you for your addresses.

Thanks everyone for participating. I wish I had more to give out!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Santa Key Give-Away

I don't have a chimney in my house. Santa has to be pretty creative to get in here. He's jimmied through the windows, busted the garage door, and even tried to come in through the dryer vent. That one was messy.

I have been working with the Residential Access department at the North Pole. The customer service manager named Jangles - super nice guy! - sent me some magical Santa keys. I put a little ribbon on them to make them look festive. They poem on them reads:

Dear Santa,
This magic key works just for you,
Please open the door and come on through.
Thank you for coming to our house tonight.
We are celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ.
Thank you, Santa, for the gifts you bring.
Thank you, Lord, for everything.

So what do you do with a Santa key? You hang the key on your doorknob outside on Christmas Eve and this magical key allows Santa and only Santa access to your house. The thing is, Jangles gave me a couple extra keys.

I need to give a couple away! And we need to do this fast since Christmas is in a WEEK! A WEEK!!!!

To Enter the Contest for a Free Santa Key
To enter the give-away, leave a comment with your name and email address. I will take entries until midnight Monday. I will announce the winner on the blog and email you for your address. I will need you to respond to my email by Tuesday night so I can get the key in the mail no later than Wednesday.

I have two keys to give away. Let's get going!

Santa Has Gotta Be Diabetic by Now

I was thinking about all the cookies Santa eats. He has to be diabetic by now, right? And if that's the case, it's kind of rude to leave out cookies on Christmas Eve. Maybe we should be leaving out strips of beef jerky.

Remember Justin's recent diagnosis of hypogonadism? His treatment wasn't helping so we moved on from our family doctor to an endocrinologist. After a brief history, the doctor was immediately certain that Justin has an underlying problem causing all these problems: migraines, depression, anxiety, heartburn, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, constant fatigue, weight gain, inability to lose weight, and hypogonadism. One thing (in theory) explains it all - insulin resistance.

Justin underwent a 2 hour glucose tolerance test (super boring!) and Justin has started Metformin and a low carb diet.

Let me just say, it's a hard time of the year to be told you can't have carbs. No carbs means no fudge. No popcorn balls. No cookies. No almond roca. No cinnamon pumpkin bread.

It's gonna be rough.


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