I'm not sure why I have been so uninspired to write over the past two months, but blog posts have been few and far between. Here is a Cliff Notes version of all the awesome stuff I wanted to blog about over the past two months, but never got around to.
1. Birthday Surprise - My husband, who is THE BOMB, completely surprised me with a girls-only trip to Colorado for my birthday. He went around canceling all the weekend plans I'd made for my birthday and on Wednesday night (36 hours before departure) he had me open my birthday present, a winter coat we picked out together and bought in October. I couldn't figure out where the urgency came in until I saw the envelope at the bottom of the box that held a flight itinerary to Denver. What a sneaky guy!
I had a fabulous weekend with Cousin Sonja (who is like a sister to me) playing in beautiful Colorado. When we weren't living the life of luxury, we were exercising. She is hyper-athletic (think part human/part superhero) and we made the most of working out together. We did yoga, went for a trail run in the mountains, and my favorite, snowshoed in a blizzard. Sony described this outing to her husband Venu and I as, "a little trail run up to a glacier. We might pack snow shoes just in case we need them to cross the glacier." Ahem... We took a windy mountain road up the mountain to about 10,000 feet and parked by the snow-covered porta-potty. The thermometer in the car read 21 degrees F, but the gale-force winds that almost blew us over when we got out dropped the temps to around zero degrees with windchill. We couldn't see the trail head because of the knee-deep powder that had been accumulating since it started snowing the night before, but we strapped on our snow shoes (a first for me) and started trekking up the mountain in the general direction of the glacier. Sony blazed a trail for us while Venu and I huffed, puffed and gasped for air about a quarter mile behind her. We eventually hit the glacier, gaining 2,000 vertical feet in just under a mile and half and then half-slipped, half-fell back down the mountain to the car. The challenge was exhilarating and one I'm most likely won't be able to re-create in the Willamette Valley.
2. Thanksgiving with my Dad and Marcy - My Dad and his wife Marcy were at the beach the week before Thanksgiving on a working vacation and they invited us to join them for a Thanksgiving celebration. We crashed their pad on Wednesday night and spent the next 24 hours playing and hanging out together. It was unseasonably cold, especially for the ocean, and the kids bundled up in their winter coats and hats and played Kings and Queens (a game they made up that resembled Mother May I?) on the deck after breakfast. They talked Grandpa Don into coming out to play with them and somehow Kings and Queens ended up in a big wrestling match. We watched the Macy's Thanksgiving parade and the Dog Show and then took two long hikes on the beach. Alli chased Grandma Marcy down the beach, Katie enjoyed Girl Time on a rock with Grandma Marcy, Grant hunted sea gulls with bait, a home-made bow and arrow, and a Indiana Jones style "rope" that he fashioned from a sea onion, Paige drug a sea onion all over the beach making designs in the sands, Dad chased the kids, and Curt and I played referee for our kids who temporarily forgot how to get along. In between our beach expeditions we enjoyed a delicious Thanksgiving meal and played a few board games. Our time went by WAY too quickly and we enjoyed every second we had celebrating our many blessings.
3. Hunt for the Perfect Tree - The day after Thanksgiving, we headed to Jorgensen's Tree Farm to find the perfect Christmas tree. It's a yearly tradition and one modeled very closely to Clark W. Griswold's family in the movie National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. Curt spotted "the tree" within seconds of arriving but you can't just chop down the first tree you see. We traipsed around the entire tree farm in the increasing drizzle/rain making sure that the light from heaven was indeed shining on this tree. It was ten feet of perfectly shaped beauty and took a good ten minutes to cut it down. It was so bushy that the crew of employees couldn't shove it through the baler and instead strapped it to the top of our van in all it's unbaled glory. At least we didn't have the stump and the roots hanging off the back of the van... Curt, per tradition, took hours decorating it symmetrically with matching ornaments and ribbon while the kids and I pounded out the 6 foot artificial tree in no time flat. All I did was unwrap ornaments and they hung them all. Of course the ornaments ended up in one big lump in the middle-front of the tree, but I exhaled deeply and chose not to re-organize the ornaments after the kids went to bed.
4. 100 Year Celebration - The day after we located the perfect Christmas tree, my Mom and her husband Terry came over to play. We potlucked a Thanksgiving dinner and then had birthday cake for dessert. I was 36 this year and Terry celebrated his 64th birthday two days later, so my very funny mom put a "100" on the cake. Silly Mom.
5. Best Christmas Pageant Ever - Little Paige has been drug around to events featuring her older siblings since she was in-utero. She is always such a good sport and a big fan of all her brother and sisters do, but she's never been in a program that featured her. Until this year. She started pre-school in the fall and loves everything about it. The friends. The responsibility. The homework cause if you do it you get candy and she likes to tell people she has homework. The independence. She goes to a Christian pre-school so they actually get to talk about Jesus and the true meaning of Christmas. These adorable three and four-year-olds worked for months practicing and perfecting their Christmas pageant, which they performed for family and friends in mid-December. The three-year-old classes dressed in Christmas best, but the four-year-old classes got to dress in costumes. There was an entire nativity scene of 4-year-olds. A star. Wise men. Shepherds. Sheep. Angels. The Donkey. Mary, Joseph and a baby doll that served as Jesus. The rest of the 4-year-olds dressed up as "a choir" and wore adorable pint-sized purple choir robes. Paige was one of four angels and the angels got to make a special announcement. They loudly, clearly and carefully proclaimed with hand motions, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news. A Savior has been born today. He is Christ the Lord." They sang "O Come Let Us Adore Him Christ the Lord" but the choir, which was set back from the nativity, sang to a faster tempo than the nativity group and in spite of the teacher's very exaggerated "O" with her hand, finished a good five seconds before the nativity. The last song they sang was "Happy birthday Jesus. I'm so glad it's Christmas. All the presents are nice, but the real gift is you. Happy birthday Jesus. Jesus I love you." Paige was so calculated and exact while she sang, opening her mouth so wide it looked like she was yawning or trying to sing with a mouth full of gravel. I almost melted at the sweetness of it all.
6. Dance Mania - The same night Paige had her Christmas pageant, Katie and Alli had a dance showcase. They take a little class called Jazz Jam one afternoon a week after school and every quarter all the classes in the Community School put on a showcase. Fortunately, their showcase started 30 minutes before Paige's debut so Curt and Grant were able to cheer on Katie and Alli while I got Paige set up at pre-school. They danced their hearts out and dashed into the pew in the back row right as the baby angels made their grand entrance. Two days later, Katie, Alli, Paige and 127 other giddy little girls participated in a dance camp. They went to the high school and spent five hours with the high school dance team. They ate a snack and dinner (something notable because it was SOOOO cool), learned a dance routine to "All I Want For Christmas is You" and then performed it at half-time of the varsity basketball game. Can you say adorable?!?!
7. Parties, Parties and more Parties - We had Christmas party after Christmas party to go to. We attended Curt's white-elephant party for OHSU. He opened a 3-foot stuffed frog that was hideously ugly I thought a few of the pregnant ladies might wet their pants laughing. It was so awful that someone stole it from him to give at a different white elephant party they were attending later in the week. The next night we attended the Hope Orthopedics costume party where Curt was a co-host and got to play a version of Minute To Win It. He had to tie a box of jingle bells around his waist and dance or jump to get them out of the box. We hosted a party for our house church and I attended a MOPS steering team party and a baby shower for twins. Fun, fun, fun, but don't compare the pictures from these events too closely. I'm pretty sure I wore a version of the same outfit to each gathering.
8. Christmas Eve with the Hadlocks - For the third year in a row, we hosted Christmas Eve for Grandpa Terry's family. It has been such a treat getting to know this new family that we inherited when my Mom and Terry got married. We followed tradition with a dinner of cheese soup and Christmas goodies. We gathered in the family room where my Mom read aloud the last chapter of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson. We laughed in all the usual spots and got weepy in all the usual spots. It's just such a great story - naughty welfare kids bringing the ham from their Ladies Aid basket to the newborn Jewish king because they think it's a better gift than smelly oil and gold. Priceless. We passed out candles, turned out the lights, and Terry gave the question that we all individually answered: what was a highlight of your year? He went first, then lit the candle of the person next to us. As the circle of light grew, so did our silent reflection and appreciation for all God has done for us this year. We finished by singing Silent Night and sending everyone off with hugs and love. I think this tradition will never grow old.
9. Christmas with No Agenda - Our Christmas this year was the Christmas that I envisioned as a new mom holding an infant. The one where adorable kids in matching jammies take turns opening presents, delight and gratitude enveloping their faces with each gift. The one where no one argues or whines or complains and everyone lives in a happy, serene bubble for the day. That lasted for the first ten minutes until Curt said, "I want to start our day by reading the Christmas story from Luke 2 BEFORE we open presents." Everyone thought this was a very Christian and lovely sentiment except Alli who exclaimed in disgust, "I don't want to read that story. It's boring and I've heard it a hundred times. I just want to open presents" and then proceeded to pout the entire time Curt was reading. Curt was on call and we were all convinced he'd end up spending Christmas day operating while the kids and I sat alone looking at unopened presents and crying in our egg nog cause our family day was disrupted. I mentally planned for Curt be gone all day and I had a happy heart about it, so it made every second we had together an unexpected blessing. Each time his phone would buzz or ring we'd collectively hold our breath while he checked to see who was texting or calling him. He never got called in and we got to spend the entire day as a family, agenda free. We stayed in our jammies forever, took our time opening presents, ate finger food, played the Wii and Guitar Praise, took a nap, and best of all, I didn't have to make a huge Christmas dinner. It was exactly what we all needed after a month of craziness.
10. Thirteen Years - Curt and I celebrated our 13th anniversary on December 27th. Holy cow - where does the time go and how old does that make us? We got gift cards for dinner and a movie as a Christmas gift so on our actual anniversary we headed out to dinner and a movie. I think it's been YEARS since we've done that. Two days later, Grandma Ru and Grandpa Terry took the kids overnight so we could have a getaway. We are both major planners, especially when it comes to meals, so we went completely out of the box for our date. We drove ourselves to Fred Meyer, got a coffee, wandered around the produce, deli, bakery and meat department, and chose our dinner based on what spoke to us. We ended up with marinated steak and herb-crusted chicken breast, Greek salad, potato jo-jo's, lettuce salad, bread, a bottle of wine, and cheesecake. We came home, prepared our meal, and dined by candlelight in a QUIET house. It was such a lovely date. I still can't believe I get to do life with my best friend.
11. Cover to Cover - Today was a big day for Curt, Grant and I. We finished our last day of assigned Bible reading and then high-fived and fist-bumped in the kitchen because we all read the Bible cover-to-cover this year. It was a big undertaking requiring reading five chapters a day and I still can't believe my nine-year-old faithfully did this or that we let him read all the stuff about sex, adultery, war and God kicking butt and taking names. The obvious reward is character-development, but Grant also gets to pick any restaurant he wants to go out for a celebratory dinner.
12. New Year - In a few minutes, we'll be hosting a New Year's Eve party for our house church. Since I didn't know we were actually going through with this plan until Monday, I'm not sure if anyone will show up, but I'm hoping we get at least one guest. (oh there's the door bell!) I can't believe 2010 is coming to close. It seems like it was just starting. It's been a great year with significant high (completing my first triathlon and running a Boston-qualifying marathon) and significant lows (won't bore you with the details), but through it all, our God has been Faithful. I'm excited to see what 2011 has in store. Happy New Year!