Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Day in Los Angeles with Rosa and Dan

This morning we made a cozy drive toward the rainy L.A. skies to visit with my bestie Rosa and her husband Dan. This is an exciting time for Rosa and Dan. Now married a little over a year, they just bought their first house and closed escrow today! We met at their apartment, exchanged presents, played with their dog and cats, and then drove by their new place. I love the location, the cozy neighborhood, the style of the their house and the houses around it. Their cheerful yellow home is situated nicely, with a side-facing garage and good windows and lighting. They chose a neighborhood that feeds into a better school district, too, and I predict they will have many happy moments in their new home.

After cruising the house, we went out to lunch at Salt Creek Grill in El Segundo, looked at paint colors, and chatted. Our visit felt too short, as it always does, but with the rain and Katie looking like she might want a nap, we had to head home. Due to rain and congestion on the 91, it took us twice as long to get home as it otherwise would, but Katie napped and Bill and I got to discuss some of our favorite philosophical topics and I also dozed.

We had a happy day, and I love my friends so much. I am so lucky to have the friends I have, truly.

Since arriving home, we have been making preparations for our New Year celebration! I hope everyone has a beautiful New Year's Eve!

Monday, December 28, 2009

My 30th Birthday

I have been so excited about entering my 30s, though now that I am officially 30, I can't say I feel too different yet. I know my 30s will be defined by being a wife and mother and loving two children with all of myself. I hope to cultivate new passions and ventures and, above all, to achieve greater balance in my life.

When I was younger, even when I was in high school, I always thought that by the age of 30 I would no longer fear anything, especially going to the doctor and dentist. I have indeed learned how to manage those fears, but I realize now that my fears take on greater depths especially as a parent. My greatest fear is something horrible happening to my children---and I think I will have that fear as long as I live. I remember my parents both at age 30. They seemed so adult and like they had all of life figured out. I wonder if I will seem that way to Katie, even though I know that inside I am still very childlike and still searching for truths in this world and still learning.

So many times in my 20s, I thought I had parts of life definitely figured out. The past couple of years I have realized that my quest continues and that only by being open to the mysteries of this universe can we really understand the whole picture. However, I do feel I know for sure that, even if it is difficult to love every individual on Earth, it is probably right to cultivate a love for humanity as a whole and to learn to place even the horrible things people do into a broader perspective. I also know that I was born to ask questions and to listen to all sides, and I know for sure that love is at the center of the universe.

As I enter my 30s, I also value relationships with others much more than I used to. I used to think of myself as an introvert in extrovert's clothing---yet over the past couple of years I realize that I do thrive on being with other people; in fact, I love to be social and to talk about things with people. If I need to balance that sometimes by coming home and resting up for a few days, that isn't so much an expression of introversion as it is a requirement for balancing myself. I am so lucky that, as I enter my 30s, my friendships with many of my high school friends are still some of the most beautiful in my life---we have been friends for over 15 years. I am so fortunate for those forever friends, through thick and thin. I am also lucky that I have blossoming friendships right now, as well and that I have so many people from whom to learn and with whom to spread joy. I am privileged also to count among friends several teacher-mentors from high school, whom I will always look up to. My family, also, continues to bless me with their camaraderie and laughter, and we continue to expand as new spouses and children arrive. I am lucky to have two of my grandparents still alive and feel so full of gratitude that, life willing, both of my children will know them.

I always knew that when I reached 30 I would have more confidence in myself than I did even at age 22. And I do---in some respects. I am sure that I know myself fundamentally; that is, I know who I am at the core. I know what I need to improve, and I know my strengths. At the same time, just as I used to suppose I would be entering my 30th year with an ironclad philosophical system, I find myself almost returned to infancy as I realize the extent of all I do not know. So I enter my 30th year with a return to one of my core values: this majestic experience we call life requires nothing less than my full pondering and appreciation for all I need to learn at every moment. There is more to do and to love and to think about and to read and to experience in this life than we can ever do.

My mom brought the movie Up over for us to watch today. It definitely touched on the theme of "ideas you have as a child about what you are going to do vs. what you actually do as you age" (one of the issues brought up in Gatsby, which I adore). The whole movie kept making my throat choke up (I highly recommend it by the way). One of the points made in the movie is that we need to cultivate contentment in what our lives truly become, and appreciate the moments we have created, even if we must relinquish some of the child's ideas in order to apprehend greater dreams. Even if we know we are making a better decision for ourselves that our child-selves ever could have, nonetheless there is an inevitable wistfulness and grieving over what we now know for sure will never be. Even so, just as the film suggested: we must be ready to embrace the unexpected and beautiful adventures that await us yet.

I had a lovely birthday. Bill and Katie and I went out to The Original Pancake House this morning for a birthday breakfast. Katie was an angel and we had an easy, happy time of it. I came home and worked on a project for my best friend Rosa, and I also opened gifts from Bill and Katie. Bill gave me a Blu-Ray player and National Geographic films, an intriguing book, and a large gift certificate to one of my favorite clothing stores to update my "30s" wardrobe after our next baby is born. He knows I can't bring myself to buy clothes for myself usually when our babies need things more, but with a gift certificate I have no excuse and will enjoy myself free of guilt.

Then my parents came over, and my mom cooked a yummy Italian meal: antipasti, spaghetti carbonara, and Caeser salad. She did an amazing job, and on my 30th birthday, I stuffed myself silly of deliciousness! For dessert she made my favorite: red velvet cake. Katie put in all the candles. She is the sweetest daughter in the world. All day she knew it was my birthday and reminded me when I woke up. She wanted to put the candles in for me and was so pleased with herself. She helped my mom carry in my gifts from the car, and then she helped me open them later. The best gift in the whole world is getting to be her mommy.

Pictures of my birthday:

Coloring with Katie as we await our breakfast...

Katie and I in our booth...

Katie enjoys some of the antipasti...

Putting candles on my red velvet birthday cake...

Looking for more candles...

I had so many beautiful Katie-candles on my cake this year...and I was able to blow them out in one breath!

She wanted to make it beautiful for me...and she did...

A glass of sparkling cranberry-apple cider for my 30th...

My mom totally surprised me: I have been wanting a Shawnee pottery "Smiley Pig" cookie jar for absolutely YEARS! I have tried bidding on them on eBay several times, but they usually go sky high and recently I'd given up! Nana had Smiley Pig cookie jars, and now my mom and my aunt's a family thing I guess. Most were made in the 1940s. I was so excited to see this in the package! My parents also gave me Julia Child's My Life in France book, a shirt, grey wool ballet flats, a huge roasting pan (yay!), and a hummingbird hook rug kit.
So it was a beautiful day. I started off reading an essay this morning about the concept of personhood. How do we define our own personhood and, if all of our cells are constantly dying and being made anew, and if we can even lose parts of our brains and still be "us"---then what constitutes the essence of a person? Immediately I thought of: how does my 30th year old self relate to my 13 year old self? People identify as the "same" person, but in many literal respects, I am not at all: I have totally new cells, new memories, probably the loss of old memories, etc. So what makes me essentially me? What would we call that essence?
I guess I have something to ponder and figure out for the next 30 years. ;-)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Valencia/Bergon Tea

Katie and I had the delight of attending Lauren and her mom's 11th annual Christmas tea this afternoon. I was able to attend once a few years ago, but I have been unfortunately missing it the past few years due to it falling on my birthday. I was so glad we were able to celebrate and spend time together today.

Lauren has a beautiful group of friends, and many are mothers of younger children. Katie got to meet a little girl who was 2.5 and they played together so well! I loved watching Katie blossom in this setting. I was not sure how she would do with so many people, especially since she tends to be more reserved in some of her classes, but she did really, really well. In fact, she seemed to feel right at home in Mrs. Valencia's house. A few times she started venturing on her own into the kitchen or into the living room---she never does that. Once, we got separated a little by the flow of people, and Katie didn't even cry. I could see her from across the room and after looking for me a bit, she decided just to return to the family room where we had been visiting. She didn't even seem distressed: Katie definitely felt comfortable. She was even good at trying new things: she liked the muffins. She also had pineapple, a gingerbread man, and some crackers.

The whole afternoon was lovely and Lauren and her kinswomen provided us all with abundant and delicious food and camaraderie. One part I really loved were all the beautiful teacups they have collected. Gorgeous patterns... I had an orange herbal tea and it was delicious. I do miss my black tea and the like, but I can't have those while pregnant. But this orange tea was heavenly and so seasonal and cozy.

So, a big thank you to Lauren and her mom and her aunt, who all put the tea and day together for all of us to enjoy so much! And I am so thankful that Katie and I were invited!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

A Day of Play

Katie and I spent our day playing with many of our Christmas gifts, eating yummy leftovers, and relaxing.

The moment she woke up, Katie remembered her fire station Lego set and wanted to put it together. She is such a good helper and so dextrous with her fine motor skills. She is really precise, and it was a good time to teach her about how to follow instructional diagrams. She loves playing with the assembled fire station, which came with flame-type pieces. Eventually she put those pieces away, explaining that the flames/fire is too scary. So we play without them. She is such a sweetheart. Building the fire station...

The finished fire station! Legos are so much fun!

We also painted on the easel today. She reports, "I really like these paints!" And earlier she said something about this type of painting being the best type she has tried so far. Amie and Boppa gave her the easel, and they gave her color coded paint jars and paint brushes, just like at a school. She was good about keeping the brushes in their colors---it seemed to be a system she readily understood. The front of the easel is a white board, and we are already having little lessons on it. Ah whiteboards---brings back happy memories of teaching!

Katie tries out her easel for the first time...

The freedom to create and let her mind play...

Katie, the artist hard at work...

Toward the afternoon/evening, we watched Gone With the Wind and played with tinker toys and other toys on the floor. Katie doesn't nap much anymore, and while in the past I have watched Gone With the Wind while she sleeps, today I did indulge myself and managed to still be attentive to my daughter. It helped that for all of the first half, she was asking questions about what was going on and was very interested in the movie---and it gave me the chance to talk about the American south and the Civil War a little.

I always watch Gone With the Wind after Christmas but before New Year's. It's this silly little ritual that is meaningful to me at this time of year and reminds me of who I am and, most importantly, that happiness always follows no matter how bad you feel. When I had my miscarriage a few years ago, I was in a deep, deep funk for some weeks. Reading Gone With the Wind over Christmas break was the start of feeling happiness again. I will never forget losing myself in that novel and letting my mind and heart and body heal. In some ways, that book is more important to me than any other, even longtime favorites like Jane Eyre. After I finished reading it that year, Bill bought me the movie which I had never seen. I had a southern themed birthday party that year with red velvet cake. That was a healing time. In retrospect, the most peculiar thing about it was that, when my Grandma Joan died, my part of the family inherited her Gone With the Wind book. I was not as close to her, and so I never read it and never read it. But at the same time, I also forswore seeing the movie until I read the book. I had so many opportunities to read it for soooo many years and never did---and there it was, waiting for me when I needed it the most. It is strange how that happens.

So we had a relaxing day, which I needed, because I am feeling so tired and still hormonally off kilter. I am trying to ride it out, but it is difficult not feeling totally like my usual self---which is usually full of energy and pretty emotionally balanced. I also get hard on myself for not being able to control these aspects, and by doing that, I compound the problem with guilt. I am trying to remember that I felt similar things in the first couple of months with Katie and that it will pass. I usually feel the worst in the morning and then better as the day goes on, with dusk being a time of relapse, and the night bringing the most peace. I'd so much rather have morning/afternoon/night sickness actually, and get my full energy back. I would make that trade in a heartbeat.

Anyway, I'd better wrap this up! I hope everyone had a great day-after-Christmas!

Friday, December 25, 2009

A Merry Merry Christmas

What a beautiful holiday! Our festivities began Christmas Eve, as we visited much of our family in Orange County. After leaving out our cookies for Santa and sprinkling the front lawn with reindeer food (oats and glitter), we piled into our car with gifts and blankets and George Winston's December album. Listening to this album on the way to Christmas Eve dinner is a tradition that began when I was little, and now I get to share that with Katie.

When we arrived at Nana's, the scent of warm apple cider greeted us cheerfully. Although we wished we had more time with Nana, we got to give her our gifts and visit for a little while. Nana gave Katie a special recording of The Night Before Christmas, with Nana's voice reading the story. This will be a treasure for all time.

After a visit that was too short, we made our way to Newport Beach for dinner with the Yoder part of the family at The Ritz. It is amazing to be able to share with my daughter the Christmas Eve experiences of my youth. I love that she is able to have memories of Christmas Eve in her great-grandfather's house, that we have that in common with each other.

The Ritz dinner was tastier again this year. We began with shrimp, crab, and lobster cocktail, which never fails to be absolutely delicious. The next course was a soup or salad, so I ordered the mushroom soup with morels (YUM!!!!) and was able to eat part of Bill's salad, too---a pear and goat cheese composition that I loved. For the main course I ordered the osso bucco this year. I always order the roasted goose with red cabbage and apples, but it was sounding a bit rich that night (I had little waves of pregnancy queasiness, but they passed without incident). I did miss my goose this year, and I found the osso bucco to be melt-away tender but also under-seasoned for me. Still, with the gratineed cream corn, the main course was nothing to complain about. Dessert was back to fine form this year (the pastry from The Ritz can be hit and miss): a delicate pear tart, lemon meringue pie, and chocolate cake comprised a dessert sampler in small sizes.

Back at Great-Grandpa's house, the children played a bit and Katie admired the tree. We went outside to look at the various lights reflecting in the bay and with the nip of cold in the air, Christmas Eve was quite cozy.

Katie and I sat together in the back seat on the way home, and we spent the whole drive seeing if we could find Santa in the sky and talking about where he might be. We got home near 11:00 pm and by the time I got Katie bathed and settled, we were almost at midnight. After she fell asleep, Santa came. I was new to the rite of passage known as "Christmas Eve toy assembly" this year, as I had decided to build Katie's train set for extra effect. That took about an hour, and so I ended up with only a little sleep.

On Christmas morning, Katie and I ran to the staircase and looked over the banister. When she saw all the presents, she exclaimed, "Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh!" The first task of the morning, though, was to check the cookie plate: Santa had left some crumbs and the leg of a gingerbread man and had evidently poured himself a mug of milk and left a napkin behind.

Katie loved exploring her stocking and was very enthused about a set of Hello Kitty chapsticks. After the stocking, she ran speedily into the living room and loved opening her presents. Following presents we got dressed for Christmas breakfast at my mom and dad's house. David and Ashley had breakfast with us and we opened presents. My mom makes a yummy Christmas breakfast: a woven yeast bread studded with green and red candied cherries, eggs with cheese and ham, sausage, and stove-melted hot chocolate. Delicious.

We visited with David and Ashley for a bit before they left for her family's celebration, and then Boppa and I took the gifts back to my house. Boppa assembled Katie's easel while I put away all the gifts and cleaned up from our opening of Santa's presents. I was so glad to have this time and not have to come home to chaos later in the evening. I am also thrilled that Katie's easel is assembled, because now we can use it right away today.

I gathered the food I had prepared to contribute to our Christmas dinner and then went back to my parents' house. (I love living so close!) Katie and I read some books and we both got to take a nap together, cozy by the fire as the smell of prime rib filled the house.

Our Christmas dinner was very tasty: prime rib and gravy, mashed potatoes, green beans, glazed carrots, creamed corn, popovers, butternut squash soup and cranberry pecan salad to start, apple cider, and creme brulee with raspberries. Very old-fashioned and English. Yum!

Katie had her bath in Amie's tub, which she always loves, and we came home in jammies and read and fell asleep.

A very cozy Christmas! I hope everyone found the magic in the day!


Sprinkling reindeer food on the lawn...

Katie loved this, a new tradition. She keeps mentioning it, so I know it made an impression on her.

More reindeer food...

Leaving a plate of cookies for Santa....

Walking up Nana's driveway for a visit...

Nana's apple cider...

A book to treasure, read in Nana's voice...

For Katie, the carollers were the best part of dinner! They sang several songs she knew, and she had a front row view!

Talking with Amie about the singers.

All bundled up at Great-Grandpa Yoder's house...

Enjoying the tree together...

Holding Boppa's hand...

Happy little Christmas girl with joy in her heart...

Walking with Boppa...

With Bill on Christmas Eve...

Katie gives Amie a running-start hug!

Evidence of Santa...

Bill opens his stocking...

Katie opens her Christmas stocking...

Running to the tree on Christmas morning...

Santa wrapped all of Katie's gifts in a special paper that Mommy doesn't use for any other presents... So it must be Santa's special paper...

Christmas morning at Amie and Boppa's...

Boppa assembled a new bench for my entryway! And Amie made the cushion! I love it! It looks so cozy by the front door. On top are the silhouette of Katie I made for Amie and Boppa, and the scherenschnitte (delicate German paper cutting) I made for Amie of Noah's Ark.

Amie opening the scherenschnitte.

A Christmas nap by the fire as dinner cooks...

Merry Christmas to all!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas is Almost Here!

I woke up today in awe of the little person growing inside of me right now. I find myself having a mix of so many emotions. In some ways, Katie and I going to be bonded even more deeply than we already are, because we get to experience her big sisterhood together and, as I tell her constantly, she is my best little friend. I am also nostalgic for her babyhood and wish I could reexperience it with her. Yet I also want her exactly as she is now. Motherhood is often joy and nostalgia all at once.

The big difference with this pregnancy is that it is even more stunning a miracle to me. I knew that I loved Katie in the womb, and I knew I would love her when she was born---but absolutely nothing prepared me for how much I would actually love her, which is infinitely and beyond even infinitely. After experiencing the process of life developing once, I realize more precisely what is going on in my womb right now---how there is a little soul in there that I am in love with forever, that will learn to roll and walk and talk and have opinions. Katie is so much her own person that I realize how much of an individual this new baby already is, if that makes sense.

Katie takes on a new and deeper role in my life, too. I realize that she is the child who has taught me how to be a mother: I experienced it with her first, and that bond is like our secret special thing. I know that I will have a different secret special bond with her little brother or sister, but I am sure now that my love will not divide itself (as I once worried, being so in love with Katie) but will only multiply.

I want to involve Katie in every part of this journey we are on together. I have my first OB appointment scheduled, and I am excited to take her along. I want her to see the whole process and to own part of it with me and not feel left out. I also want to use it as a chance to normalize doctors and nurses and to show her what mommies do.

Of course I am worried about not getting as much time with her once our second baby is born, but I plan to have her help me with everything she is interested in helping me with. At some of our toddler classes, I have been watching how mothers with two seem to be focused on both at once. I definitely think I want one of those front harness carriers so I can hold the new baby on my chest while playing with Katie.

One thing I know for sure is that we get the children we are meant to have...and I can't wait to find out who this new little life is.

I have been tired lately and my emotional aspect is all out of order. Hormones. I have been adjusting my diet in an attempt to stabilize these hormones as quickly as possible. Berries, nuts, etc. I learned with Katie how to manage morning sickness, so I am also trying to be proactive on that front early on. I am also making it a point to exercise every day. I was too scared to jostle Katie around, because of the prior miscarriage...but with this pregnancy, I am having lots more faith and I also want to be in tip top condition to care for two children under 3 at once.

And also in best physical condition for labor...which I do want to do naturally again. It is more interesting, if that's the word, to approach labor now that I know for sure what is involved in a drug-free labor. Birthing Katie without drugs was the proudest moment in my life, and I hope to replicate it for our second baby. Still, knowing what is coming makes me a little less bold than I was before, in some ways. The other way to look at it is that, even knowing for sure now what is coming, I've already conquered it once. Why not again? I have such strong philosophical feelings about it, and they carried me through before---along with my natural stubborness to follow through on things once I commit to them. But I am a bit more humble as I approach labor this time; I have a bigger appreciation for the way I have been built to labor and the pain (woops, the Bradley method says never to use the word "pain" so I should say "discomfort") that goes with it. But one thing I know from Katie's labor is that I have been so glad so many times since her birth that I felt all of it, pain and all. I wanted to experience that moment fully with her and let the pain sear it forever on my heart, to make it big and unforgettable and branded---every sensation. So many times I have held Katie and been thankful for my memories of birthing her. I know to many it might sound nearly insane to want that pain, but I did---to make that moment larger than my own human life. And it was... It also turns out that, with Katie being early, some forms of drugs would have compromised her further, and it was in her best interest not to do it. When I think about it, once I move a little beyond the fear of the pain, I am actually very, very excited to be in labor again this summer. Crazy, I know, but it is truly a sublime moment. It is also possible that I am not recalling slightly how much pain there really was. :-)

Anyway, Katie and I played all this morning: we water-colored, and on her very own, she made a present for me, she said, and she wanted to put it under the tree. She is so so so so sweet. Last night she kissed my hand and said, "I always want my mommy." I never knew a sweeter heart than hers. She helped me make the glazed carrots, creamed corn, popovers, and creme brulee for our Christmas dinner. Mom is making prime rib, butternut squash and ham soup, green beans, and probably something else I am not recalling... YUM!

Tomorrow is a fun day of celebration and then Santa comes! Santa has to build a train set, which Santa is thinking might be a bit of a thing to tackle late at night---but oh, the things we do to make the magic, right parents? Katie helped me to lay out all of our fancy clothes for tomorrow's formal dinner---Christmas Day is a little more casual for us. We did all of our cooking and cleaning today so that tomorrow is dedicated solely to walking and playing and dressing up.

Such a beautiful time of year!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Happy News

I was going to save this news for Christmas, but my mom guessed this morning...

Katie is going to be a big sister! I am pregnant! We are far enough along now that I am confident in letting people know. We are expecting our child in the summer.

There is much to be done before he or she comes. I need to finish my real estate courses and sit for my license exam, and we will need to convert the guest bedroom into a nursery. I am also hoping to finish my first Toastmaster's workbook, but we'll see... So much going on right now, but all good!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Cranberry Cookies and Christmas Lights

Every year Bill and I select a night in late December to take Katie on a Christmas light adventure, and last night was our night! With the city Christmas light tour map and snacks and Christmas music in hand, we set out in our cozy pajamas and found treasures! Katie squealed in delight at some of the houses, and she definitely had favorites!

A friend of mine, Linda, and my mom both brought to our attention a street on the outskirts of Temecula that has assembled an amazing display this year. Bainbridge Circle was featured in The Californian yesterday and is also on YouTube:

The neighbors all got together back in the summer and decided that every house would have lights, and that all the lights would be synchronized to dance to the music on a Christmas radio station. The YouTube video is stunning, and so is seeing it in person. Definitely worth a trip. Katie loved it!

There was a similar street in Crowne Hill: everyone had lights and decorations and there was a Tigger and a Winnie the Pooh and a festival of light and twinkly colors. I think the street was Via Destello, but I would have to make sure. We also visited perennial favorites, including a house of Nicholas that had a winter wonderland scene with a Ferris wheel and other amazements.

Our night was so exciting and cozy and full of Christmas. Hunting for Christmas lights is one of my favorite traditions, and I look forward to it every year. It fills up our hearts and minds with beauty and goodness.

During the day, also, we were festive: my mom came over and we baked some cranberry white chocolate pecan cookies. We have actually eased up a little on our baking this year. Usually we make almost a dozen different kinds of cookies. This year we are a bit more conservative with our calories. Still, we hope to fit in a couple more batches of something or other... We will take the cookie overflow to our New Year's party.

Katie helped, as always, and we discovers that she likes white chocolate and dried cranberries! She liked them so much that she absconded the Kitchen Aid mixer bowl. She picked out a few chips for everyone, to share. Even one for Tuna Cat!

Katie with her bowl of cookie dough....

Christmas is soon, my friends! I hope you are all having a cozy and cheerful week!

Friday, December 18, 2009

On a Date

Katie spent some time with her Amie and Boppa today while Bill and I went out on a Christmas shopping/movie date!

Bill is getting a Kindle for Christmas, and I am getting an opal and diamond ring to represent Katie's birth month. We aren't really surprising each other, but we are each waiting until Christmas to start enjoying out items. I am also turning 30 this month...about which I am very excited actually. The thirties are going to be great years, full of motherhood and new chapters in my life.

After finding my ring, we had a quick bite to eat and then saw Avatar, the most visually stunning film I have ever seen. I hadn't heard too much about it until Bill said a few weeks ago that he wanted to see it...apparently, it is an historic moment in film history/the future of film, and I can see why. We saw it in the IMAX theater in 3-D. I was so totally absorbed in the Pandora world, and the message of the movie emphasized the interconnectedness of all things---which I believe. The film, though 2 hours and 46 minutes, totally captivated me and I appreciated many of the more philosophical overtones in this science fiction/fantasy hybrid. I definitely recommend seeing it, in IMAX if you can. One of the big deals about this film is that theaters all around the nation had to be refitted with the right technology in order to screen it, so from a technological standpoint I am doubly fascinated.

So we had a really fun date, and now we are home having a beautiful evening as a family. Katie and I have been singing more carols together. This has been an amazing week! This weekend shall find us putting finishing touches on Christmas presents and perhaps baking another batch or two of Christmas cookies!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Tea with the Ryba Women

Celebrating David and Ashley's engagement, I hosted a ladies' tea for the Ryba and Matics kinswomen this afternoon. I want to make memories with our soon-to-be family-in-law, and I hope that today was the start of many memories and moments of laughter to come. My mom, Katie, and I shared the day with Ashley, her mother, and her grandmother. All of the Ryba women are so easy to talk with. It feels to me as though we have known each other longer than we have. They brought such joy into my home today, and I hope I was able to give them some in return. The Christmas season is such a beautiful time for togetherness and celebration---such a cozy time of year.

Our tea menu:

* First course: almond filled scones with devonshire cream

*Second course: spinach salad with dried cranberries, roasted pecans and asiago cheese and raspberry vinaigrette (very Christmassy looking in color)

* Third course: tea sandwiches---salmon, cucumber, cream cheese; egg salad; minced ham, raspberry, and fresh thyme

*Fourth course: dessert---raspberry linzer cookies (okay, I bought these), and chocolate torte bites

We had a delicious time! Lorraine brought surprise also: English crackers! Oh how I love crackers. When we pulled them apart they popped, and we all wore the crowns and told the jokes and played with the toys.

I wish I could bring back the idea of tea time to the culture of the United States. People could call upon one another just like in the older times and we would pause and take time with one another. I dream.

Picture of the day:

A view of the Christmas tea table with our tree in the background...

Another view of the formal table...

The tea sandwiches: the hearts were for the egg salad to celebrate David and Ashley's love; the pig shapes were for the ham sandwiches...

A place setting up close...

Ladies at tea time...

Our expanding family...

Love to all and may happiness be ever in your hearts...

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Yummy-Yums and Sing-along

With Christmas in our hearts, and joy in our movements, Katie, my mom, and I prepped much of the food for tomorrow's ladies' tea with the Ryba and Matics kinswomen. We want to welcome Ashley properly into our family, as she is now engaged to David. I am so excited to share tea and time with her, her mother, her grandmother, my mom, and Katie tomorrow. Life is all about creating happy memories, bonds that are meant to last.

With my mom's help and with a burst of energy today, I finished all of the tea prep earlier than I expected---including setting the formal table. Whew! With my spare time, I took Katie for a walk (we had the most joy in finding all of the Christmas decorations we could), helped her nap, and then wrapped some Christmas presents while watching Home Alone.

To make the day feel totally full of Christmassy happiness, this evening we attened the Valley Winds Christmas Concert at the Temeku clubhouse. My brother, his fiancee, and her dad were all playing percussion, and we ran into several friends and acquaintances there. The clubhouse was beautifully decorated with several trees adorned with white lights and poinsettias, Santas, and snowmen. "Admission" was a toy for the firefighter's drive and/or canned food. Katie and I brought a little of both. I loved this concert, for most of it was a sing-along of all of our favorite carols. Besides, few things in life compare to hearing music played live. Katie really seemed to enjoy herself.

Tonight in the bath, she spoke of watching the trombones, which were featured in one particular song. She really was drawn to them. There were also cups of steamy hot chocolate and Christmas cookies to enjoy. What an amazing event!

So basically, today was perfectly full of Christmas spirit and joy.

Pictures of the concert:

My brother (standing closest to the sign) playing percussion...

Katie, Amie, and Boppa...

The Valley Winds...

Katie and I before the concert begins...yummy, hot cocoa!

My sweet angel...

Happy girl, full of vitality...

Sitting by her pink Christmas tree in her concert attire...

What a beautiful Christmassy day, a reminder of all that is truly good!