Tuesday, August 8, 2017

DesignMom Feature!



I can hardly believe my good luck today!  Our home has been featured on DesignMom - a publication I've long read and admired.  I've been alternately excited, humbled, and terrified.

Friday, August 4, 2017

The Bike Rack


I grew up on a bike.  I loved flying down the street, my timid feet planted firmly on the brake, so I wasn't really flying but going as darn fast as I dared.  My brother gave me a hard time about how slowly my "fast as I dared" was, but I won't go there today.

When my first boys were 2,4, and 6, Jay and I decided to spend Grandma Jeanne's Christmas money on little bikes for them.  Alec's bike was little.  Ben's bike was tiny, and the bicycle for Chris was downright tiny.  We had a large RV garage, so they pedaled their little hearts out, round and round the garage.  They arranged stacked boxes to make racetracks and spent hours in there.  Seeing their fun, of course Jay and I had to purchase bicycles for ourselves.  From then on, we rode bikes to school.  Alec and Ben parked their bikes carefully in the big bike rack, and Chris and I would head back home, stopping at the post office on the way.  It was an itty-bitty small town and we pedaled all over it.

A few months later, we moved to the Seattle area.  We found many bike trails snaking alongside the river and through town.  We packed up our dinner, loaded it into the bike trailer with Baby David, and rode off into the sunset.  What fun we had!

Not long after Eddie was born, a neighbor gave us their bike rack.  Huge and made of solid steel, it held all our bike upright and tangle free.  This is where the bicycles belong.  Not falling over each other, not on top of the sprinklers, not stashed into the bushes, not languishing on the front lawn.  What a wonderful organizational tool!

And do the children actually use it?  Ha.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Little Black Rain Clouds


It's been hard to sleep.  I lay down and my exhausted body rebels.  It's too hot.  My skin itches all over.  There are too many blankets.  It's too noisy.  The fan tickles.  My legs feel twitchy.  It's too bright.  My mind whirls with a million plans, worries, and disappointments.  Slowly, everything unravels and relaxes, and at 3 or 4 am, I sleep.

My thoughtful husband stayed home this morning and made breakfast so I could keep sleeping.  I woke up to a small boy snuggling into my bed before he ran off to play.  Then I woke up to the neighbor's muffler pointed into my bedroom window.  Then I woke up to little footsteps skittering through the kitchen.  It was glorious to fall back asleep after each interruption.  When my eyes finally opened, I felt rested, beautiful, light, and hopeful - things I haven't felt for a long time.

Within a few minutes, however, I feel the weight crushing back on my shoulders.  Life is heavy right now.  I'm struggling with the stress of an all-consuming, life-changing project foisted upon me for the convenience of others.  I think there is a little black rain cloud hovering over this part of town.  A girlfriend is dealing with her husband's invisible injury.  Another is dealing with heartbreaking family relationships.  A neighbor worries over a possible major life upset and what that means for her delicate children.

I don't know any way to go on but to just go on.  One foot goes in front of the other as we drag ourselves along.  We all have black rain cloud periods, don't we?  I'm exhausted.  But somehow we make it through.  There is nothing so wonderful as a warm summer thunderstorm, as wild and turbulent as it begins.  There is a promise of a rainbow at the end of the storm - or at least clean-washed air and a peaceful stillness.  And then we will rest.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Inked Pillows

I have a great big giant bed, and only two of us sleep in it.  More people are in it at other times - two big boys were sprawled across it last night, looking at pictures of a recent camping trip; and two littler boys with cold feet were snuggled in it with me much-too-early this morning.  I have great big pillows that fit on the bed, but I prefer to use the regular sized pillows.  Partly because they are Goldilocks-just-right, and mostly because of the nice pillowcases I have for them.


My grandmother made these pillowcases for my mother's trousseau.  I don't do fine handwork like this, so I can only imagine how many hours she spent embroidering and crocheting the edging.  The pillowcases went from her loving hands to my mother's cedar chest - where they stayed for decades.  My mother never used them.  I don't know whether they seemed to fancy to actually sleep on, or whether it was residual bad feelings from her short first marriage, or whether she just forgot about them.  But I love them.  They are old-fashioned and 100% cotton and they make me happy.

Recently, as I was making the bed in the morning, I noticed some extra decorations on one of the pillows.  Ball point pen marks!  Thankfully, they are on one of the plain great big pillows and not on grandmother's pretty pillows, but still!


Can you see it?  I went around for quite a while, grumbling at my small children for scribbling where they definitely should not have been!  Later, as I was pulling my hair up into a bun, I remembered that I had stuck a pen in my hair the day before... and I had done the pillowcase decorating while I was reading in bed, my head (and bun and pen) resting against the pillows.  Aargh.  I think my Grandma Amy is laughing at me for my lovely pillowcase skills.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Snippets

A neighbor up the street replaced the grass in their nature strip with rocks.  A few times every week, they have to get after the neighborhood kids for throwing rocks or kicking them out in the street.  They told me they were plenty surprised when they answered their doorbell to find my Angel on their front porch.  She opened her hands to show a collection of rocks and asked timidly if she could take them to school for show and tell.  She loves pretty rocks!

Freddy has a loose tooth.  It's on the lower left side,  and he's been wiggling it a bunch.  These first graders are so proud of their missing teeth!  He showed me the wiggler, and I told him that Georgie also had a loose tooth.  Before I could mention that Georgie's was on the opposite side, he grinned and exclaimed, "I know!  And it's the very same tooth!" I guess it looks that way when you face your mirror image. 

I drove to the high school to pick up David after his track meet.  I was people-watching while I was waiting,  seeing all different kinds of folks go by.  I was particularly intrigued by one old woman.  Wrapped snug in a blanket, she hunched over against the chilly breeze and hobbled awkwardly towards the building.  Imagine my surprise after a few minutes, when I realized that the "old woman" was actually my teenaged son. His backpack bulged his shoulders out under his blanket, and he took quick, tottering steps on the heels of his track spikes. Hasty first impressions can be amusing. 

Angel was coloring with a friend.  When I went in her room to call her to dinner,  the friend had gone home and Angel was still coloring,  her mouth set in a grim line.  Usually she loves coloring,  so I was puzzled to see her buoyant spirit so dimmed. It turns out that the friend wanted the background of the picture colored black,  but had to leave before she finished so Angel was helping complete that section.  She has such a bright, bubbly disposition that working in black literally depressed her.  Maybe I should hide the black crayons. 

I work with the children at church and I love my job!  Their happy faces and sweet singing voices make me happy all week.  I'm the secretary,  and I actually work with the papers more than the children, so I was delighted when a tiny girl pointed me out to her mother at church.  "Look, Mommy,  it's my teacher!" I got a big grin on my face that she would recognize me... and it lasted until I noticed her class teacher sitting behind me.  Then I laugh at myself. 

Tuesday, May 9, 2017


I have some lovely planters that have been living on our front porch.  The idea is to fill them with flowers and then remember to water them.  I fail on both accounts.  This year, the two planters were just more in Opa's way than not, since his shuffling across the porch was more wobbly.  I stacked one planter on top of the other, then told Angel that she could plant whatever she wanted in them.

I like the look of silk plants, wooden birdhouses, and tomato plants that desperately need to be planted.  I think she will be our resident gardener from now on.  I don't have to remember to water fake plants and birdhouses!

Friday, April 28, 2017

Popcorn Popping


It's finally springy around these parts!  We forgot to prune the apricot tree in late winter like we should have.  No matter - we'll prune it now by cutting off all the wild water sprouts and bringing them inside to enjoy!

As a child, I remember singing about "popcorn popping on the apricot tree" in the springtime.  My children still sing the fun little song.  Its true - the blossoms really do look like popcorn all over the tree.  And now we have popcorn branches on the counter, where we will keep them until the blossoms fall and we have snow all over the place.  Hmmm... spring turning backwards into winter?  Odd.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Easter Ants

I was too tired to do a big Easter this year.  I didn't do Passover or Easter egg hunts or coloring eggs or even Easter dinner (we had Easter tacos).  Trent, remembering the big Easter celebrations of his childhood, put together some Easter baskets for the kids with random stuff he had on hand.  I am always amused to see what random stuff he can pull out of his sneaky hiding places!  I did get Angel a new dress, because they were at the store and she is so cute.  After church and before we started getting dirty making Easter tacos (I think that should be a new tradition... wait, Sunday tacos IS our tradition), I pulled one of the boys outside to take a quick snapshot of our Easter dresses.


We posed for about 20 seconds before we realized we were standing in an ant nest and they were crawling all over our legs.


Yup, that's how holidays seem to go down around here!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Today I...

Today has been a busy day.  I gave Chris some pointer on the biscuits he was making for breakfast.  I won't say I helped him, because he did a great job solo!  I led a great family discussion about how to handle kitchen cleanup when Ben and Chris move back home for the summer.  And then I helped clean up the kitchen.  I don't mind cleaning up when I didn't have to make the food - Trent and Chris made a fabulous team for biscuits and gravy this morning.

I helped Angel sort through the dresses in her closet.  She has a dozen of them, but only wears two.  We pared down a few, and she remembered some that she just loves - maybe they will see more wear time.  Or we can pare down a few more.

I assembled a shelf, with the help of four additional hands, and figured out where to hang it.  Trent is better at the power tools, so I let him hang it on the wall.  I also located a spider in the bathroom sink and allowed him to kill it for me.  See how nice I am?

I supported a neighbor's moving sale and toured their house.  I'm now fighting a touch of envy because it is bigger and five million times better laid out than the one I live in.  I wish I could buy it.

I sent birthday wishes to a brother-in-law.  I texted a list of shopping items my dad has requested to my sister-in-law.

I held a six-year-old on my lap and consoled him when everyone else got to play with a toy but he didn't.  I later convinced the other one that he would not die if he ate the gravy.  A bribe of chocolate milk didn't hurt there.

I taught David about pedal markings in piano music and how to properly use the sustain pedal.  He is teaching himself to play "Chariots of Fire."  I admire his dogged determination to do things he sets his mind to.

I had a discussion with Eddie about "fair," and complemented him for getting right on his chores.  He is the best one we have to get started without being asked.

I can't take a nap yet, because I still need to have an executive council meeting with my fabulous husband and send an email to my brothers.  And lunch - it's about that time.

I wonder what the afternoon will bring?

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Pioneer Face

A couple of months ago, Trent and I had a little weekend getaway.  As we were driving around the city, we stopped in at a historical society museum and looked around.  I've always been drawn to old things and historical stories, so I could have easily spent several days there.  On every wall hung portraits of people long since gone.  Posed family portraits, individual faces mounted behind rounded glass, formal wedding pictures, stiff groupings of social events...  The old photography rendered their bodies still and their faces grim.  Rarely did I see even a flicker of a smile.  


I wonder who these people are, and what the occasion was for them to have a formal portrait taken.  Was it in joyous celebration of a life event?  A memento for a too-distant loved one?   I'm sure their expressions wouldn't have always looked so grim, but that's how I always see them portrayed.

I know some of their stories, and I've read of hardships that my own ancestors faced.  It seems, in the histories, that they often went from one trial to the next.  Tranquility doesn't make good plotlines.   I'm sure they triumphed, and rejoiced, and had happy times - I wish I knew more about those.

Late at night, I often feel like I have pioneer face.  It's harder to feel happy when I am tired, and my challenges seem to grow ten sizes after the sun sets.  Maybe when I feel my mouth fix into a grim line, and my eyes start to stare coldly, I'll have to imagine a pioneer party.  They made it through their trials - so can I!

This is my ancestor Eunice Reasor Brown, born in Kentucky in 1808.  She birthed nine children, buried a two-year-old and a three-year-old, and adopted a Native American boy who was sold to her by his family.  She accompanied her husband in an army battalion during the Mexican War, and helped him build a new city out of arid nothingness.  She accomplished so much in her 50 years - so can I!

Monday, April 3, 2017

Spring Break


It's Spring Break around these parts.  It is a Very Important Week, and that is why I capitalized it.  Actually, for the kids it probably should be written SPRING BREAK!  With probably a dozen or to exclamation marks and a random assortment of silly face emojis.

We aren't able to go to Disneyland or even camping this year,  but we thought we'd make the most of it at home.  Today, we built tent forts in the back room.  Yes, they do want to sleep there, so sure why not go ahead and have a tent fort slumber party.

I mopped the kitchen floor and made it cry in happiness because it has been so long since it got an all-over, proper mopping instead of a quick wipe here and there with a washcloth under my foot.

Yes, of course we went to the library!  I figured that if the kids had some books to read, then we could have some nice quiet time without anyone punching anyone else.  Not that we ever have punching.  And I even picked out a few nice books to read.  They have nice covers, but I don't know if I'll actually have time quiet enough this week to open them.

Spring was calling, and since the weather is so delightful, we went to a park.  We have lots of parks in town, so it was fun try out a new one.  I walked laps around the park while the kids played, mostly because although the sun was warm, the breeze made it a bit too chilly to sit and watch children play.  And there playground was a touch on the small side for tag-with-Mom.  Assuming that I like tag, which I don't.  I have accepted the fact that my children play very nicely at the park without me needing to hover over them, so I don't.  We all got some exercise, so that was good.

After all that running around, everyone was hungry.  Opa was in particular hungry for a hamburger, so we went out for burgers.  No, dear children, we are not going to the place with the play place inside.  The noise and commotion would do your Opa in.  And likely your mother and how would you even make it back home then?  We went to the drive through, then back home with our burgers and fries, while they were still hot.  Cold fries are not great.

Freddie needed a little special attention, so while everyone started on their books, I took him to Costco for a mother son date.  He loves the taste tables, and I was able to pick up another big pillow bag of spinach and a dozen other things I didn't know I needed until I got to the store.

I made macaroni and cheese for dinner while sipping on my green spinach smoothie.  I like to be good and healthy, but the kids need some fun dinners this week.  Everyone is cooking - or helping - one night this week, and Georgie wanted mac and cheese.  He helped... some.  I didn't quite have it in me to make the boxed nuclear-reactor-fluorescent-orange stuff, so I made it from scratch.  They wolfed it down and proclaimed it "best ever!" Even thought I made them eat vegetables too.

Monday night is family night.  Zig Ziglar said, “Your family is designed for accomplishment, engineered for success, and endowed with the seeds of greatness.”  We are totally awesome that way (seriously, I believe all families hold the seeds of Heaven), so we are taking the 7 Day Ziglar Family Challenge to improve our family.  We watched the first video, put on by Dr. Gary Chapman of 5 Love Languages fame.  (I'm not fancy enough to be an affiliate, but I'll link to it if you are interested in trying it out.)

Whew.  What a day.  But I think they had a good Spring Break.  What?  Spring Break is this whole week?  


.... I need a nap...

Thursday, March 30, 2017

How to Keep a Big Bag of Spinach from Going Bad

I bought a bag of spinach at the grocery store when I was doing my weekly shopping.  I wish I could go shopping every two weeks, or even once a month - oh how nice that would be!  But we eat enough food around here that I would need a second refrigerator just for the produce.  And produce doesn't stay lovely and perky for that long, anyway.



I brought home my little bag of spinach and tucked it in my produce drawer - the one on the left side.  The right side produce drawer is my husband's and I keep it stocked with the kinds of things he uses.  The spinach is for my green smoothies.  Later that day, as I was making my usual green smoothie - two carrots, four cups of spinach, a frozen banana or two, an apple or orange, and a handful of whatever fruit I could find in the freezer - David came home from track practice.  He said his track coach wants them to get more vitamins and minerals in their diet.  As we talked, I realized that he could get everything his coach wanted in a daily green smoothie!  Nature for the win!

So my little grocery store bag of spinach is being depleted at an alarming rate.  I gave in and went to Costco for a big bag of spinach.  No, it's not a bag - it's more like a pillow.  A great green pillow o' greens.  Good stuff.  The challenge was to find a place for it in the refrigerator.  We moved leftover pasta and cartons of eggs so we could squish it in next to the stack of tortillas for Sunday tacos. 

I've purchased big spinach pillows before, and I generally use about 3/4 of it before it turns to mush.  There's nothing like reaching into the bag and getting a handful of green slime.  Blech.  So how do you keep from wasting perfectly good spinach?  Here's our family's top five tips:

5) Dry it.  I've noticed that there is a lot of moisture in the bag - to keep it fresh, I suppose.  I lay a towel out on the counter and dump all the spinach on it.  Pat dry, and return to the bag.

4) Shake it.  Every time you use some spinach, give the bag a shake.  This prevents the leaves at the bottom of the bag from getting squashed and keeps everything mixed up well.

3) Freeze it.  You can throw a bag of spinach into the freezer!  The leaves freeze well, almost as if they were individually flash-frozen.  When you are ready for a smoothie, just open the bag and pull out what you want.  Don't try this if you like your spinach in salads - the thawing does not turn out well.

2) Compost it.  Waiting until the spinach is at green-slime stage saves a step for your compost bin.

1) Eat it.  This is our family go-to.  We just eat it before it goes bad.  Works like a charm every time!

Happy smoothies!  And strawberry spinach salad, and spanakopita, and spinach dip, and spinach soup, and spinach quiche... I'd better go back to Costco.  I might have to buy another fridge while I am there.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Women's Conference


We went to General Women's Conference, Angel and I.  We have a church-wide conference twice a year, with a session just for the women a week before.  They used to have a special session just for the girls in the spring, with the rest of the women in the fall, but now they have combined the two.  Women of any age, and girls age 8 and over can attend.  We went to our local church building and watched the conference live.

Angel is always delighted to have "girls time" together, and wanted to bring a notebook just like Mom.  She took notes for the first few minutes, then just wanted to snuggle into my arm.  I'll take that!

My favorite talk was given by Linda Burton, president of the Relief Society.

"The New Testament includes accounts of [certain] women, named and unnamed, who exercised faith in Jesus Christ [and in His Atonement], learned and lived His teachings, and testified of His ministry, miracles, and majesty. These women became exemplary disciples and important witnesses in the work of salvation.
I have read and passed over the seemingly unremarkable expression "certain women" numerous times before, but recently as I pondered more carefully, those words seemed to jump off the page. Consider these synonyms of one meaning of the word certain as connected to faithful, certain women: "convinced," "positive," "confident," "firm," "definite," "assured," and "dependable." 
As I pondered those powerful descriptors, I remembered two of those New Testament certain women who bore positive, confident, firm, assured testimonies of the Savior. Though they, like us, were imperfect women, their witness is inspiring."
The whole meeting was inspiring.  I am glad to be a women, and to remember the strength that I have.  This life can be so happy!


They served ice cream afterwards, so Angel was especially happy she came.  We got to visit with many other wonderful women - we have such good, supportive neighbors!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Dementia Caregivers Conference


This is where I am today - studying crazy.  I know, I know, one cannot go where one already is and all that.  I often feel like I am the one who is losing my marbles, but whatever my personal sanity is, this fact remains: I am a full-time caregiver of a man with dementia.

My sweet dad has Parkinson's Disease.  He also has Lewy Body Dementia.  They are really two sides of the same coin, since when the body runs low on dopamine, the neurotransmitter that helps brain cells relay messages, it will affect both the body's ability to move (Parkinson's Disease), and the brain's ability to function (Lewy Body Dementia).  They don't always go together, but usually.  50 to 80% of Parkinson's patients will eventually get some dementia.  70% of Lewy Body patients develop some movement difficulties.  I learn as much about it all as I can.

Much of the conference was geared specifically towards Alzheimer's Disease, because it accounts for 60 to 80% of dementia.  Lewy Body Dementia is the second leading cause of degenerative dementia, but it's a distant second.  It was nice to hear the caregiver presentations, and to see so many of the people at my table nodding their head in understanding of the difficult parts.  It is wonderfully validating to be around other people who know how difficult it is to be a caregiver.  It's nice to talk with folks who just.. get it.  You can only do so much explaining, or outlining lists of needed tasks, or trying to describe what the burden feels like.  Unless you are in the trenches all day long, you just can't really understand like someone who is.

I loved it.  I liked the camaraderie, the information, the support, the resources, and the fruit buffet.  Yay for fruit!  I wish they had more conferences, and I would go to them all.  Trent is always so supportive and he worked from home, keeping an eye on my dad, so I could go.  I need to process all the information I got, and decipher all my notes, and see what I can start implementing.  There are always ways we can improve.

Now, back to the trenches.

For more information: Lewy Body Dementia Association and National Parkinson's Foundation

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Hashimotos in the Park


Sounds like we're having an Oriental picnic, no?  The kids were begging to play at the park, but the weather, indecisive about whether to be winter or spring, has been leaning towards winter.  Finally, we had a clear day and I figured I could sit as well at the park as at home.  Away we went.

I make this out to seem like a big deal, but it's really not.  The park is nice and safe and just up the street from our house so it's quite easy to get to.  I've just been... so... tired... lately.  Any exertion is a big deal to me.  But what mother won't ever let her kids go to the park?  I'm sure I'm not THAT mom.  Even though I want to be.

So up the street we traipsed.  Twins, girl, cute husband, maybe an older boy or two, balls and plastic bats, sturdy shoes and warm jackets.  And me with a giant quilt coming slowly behind.  I thought I'd spread the blanket out in the grass and sit on it to watch the kids play.  The wind turned out to be windier at the park than at our house, so I sat at a picnic table, wrapped up in the blanket, trying to keep all the body parts tucked in.  I felt like an old lady burrito.

It was nice to watch them play - mostly.  And it was nice to be outside - mostly.  They laughed and played on the swings.  They organized some kind of hot lava monster game on the playground.  They played wiffleball with the fat plastic bat.  Georgie spun and spun in circles until he fell to the ground, laughing and dizzy.  As he waited for the world to stop spinning, he noticed how fast the clouds were racing across the sky.  He wanted me to see, so I lumped over and rolled on the grass beside him.  The clouds really were magnificent.  Big and fluffy, with sparkling light tops and dark bottoms heavy with rain.  The wind blew them into piles and wisps all across the sky.  I was done moving, so I laid there and watched.  

It's not how I had envisioned going to the park.  It's not how I envisioned playing with my kids.  But for right now, while my body deals with this latest Hashimoto's flare, it's just right for me.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Happy Valentine's Day

25 years ago I found myself a lonely and somewhat cynical college student with a class assignment to make a simple computer animation.  I created a beautiful rose... and then had it explode into smithereens.  The year after that was my first Valentine's Day with my very own valentine - we were newlyweds of a couple months and it was delightful to know that someone loved me on that day.  The next year, I celebrated Hearts Day by feeling the new wiggles of a little one beneath my own heart.

This year, I'm celebrating all those hearts.  I bought our traditional red carnations, and bundled them up with bunches of baby's breath.  I took flowers and pizzas to my college boys.  I took flowers and pizzas to my newlyweds.  I gave cute little boxes of candies to my small fry.  I got my dad a box of chocolates.  


Then all my little hearts gathered up their valentines for their classmates and their lunches and backpacks and trotted off to school.  Maybe not all of them trotted.  Maybe none of them trotted.  Trent went off to the office, my dad went to take his morning nap, and the house was quiet.  

I sat back and listened to the quiet for a few minutes, and then I found this quote:

"Sometimes, my dear sisters, you feel inadequate and ineffective because you can't do all that you feel you should. Rather than continually dwelling on what still needs to be done, pause occasionally and reflect on all that you do and have done. It is most significant.
"The good you have done, the kind words you have spoken, the love you have shown to others, can never be fully measured."  -Thomas S. Monson

Happy Valentine's Day, especially to you mothers.  Your love is good and needed.  Thank you for the good you do in the world.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Happy New Year!

 It's a new year, but it feels an awful lot like the old one.  We're still eating odd things at odd times, we're still sleeping in late and staying up late, we're stl in party mode, and the house reflects that.  

Usually by the time January 1 rolls around, I am so ready to pack away the holidays.  The tree bugs me.  The red spangled decor looks like clutter.  The cute window stickers are all in disarray and have long ceased to be cute.  The stockings were hung with care, but now live in a wad on the floor.  The camels and sheep have been played with thoroughly and their packs and bells are regularly rolling around underfoot.  The pine boughs on the front porch look like something I picked out of a throwaway pile (wait, I did pick them out of a throwaway pile, but they definitely look worse now than they did a couple of months ago.).  It's all a big mess.

But this year, it doesn't bother me so much.  There's a messy pile of boxes still in the corner which houses the gifts Ben and Chris got, but when it leaves it means my boys leave, too. The big bowl of nuts is still on the coffee table (and I keep buying nuts to refill it) because the twins have learned to crack nuts this year and I like setting them work together and share.  And they drop lots of nut meat in the shells bowl so I get to eat nuts for free!  The tree is still up because Ben loves seeing the lights of his first Christmas home after two years in a third world country.  There are pillows and blankets strewn all around three different rooms, but the visual cacophony means that we've all been cozy warm and snuggled up together while the weather has been in the single digits outside.

My home is a place to house my favorite people, not a museum (although sometimes it feels a bit like a warehouse!).  I am glad I have this space to be together with this family of mine.  I'll clean up the decorations... elsewhen.