- Paint complicates the blasters. The marshmallows do not zip through as well. It is difficult to get the elbows and tees and caps on the blasters.
- Be careful not to sand too much on the PVC pipe or the elbows, tees and caps do not fit tight enough.
- We do not glue the pieces together unless they get really loose.
- It is fun to have extra parts as kids like adding on and making their own creative blasters.
Monday, December 31, 2007
Me proud beauty wishes all, Godspeed!Aye, Aye! This Lad Sam is one of the crew!
Beware, The Black Spot! These mateys are the reason for me finding bullets in my clothing
as I readied for the eve's sleep!
(Equivalent of "Things to kill, straight ahead.")
Fair Winds! Dawn looks friendly
but she knows how to use her blaster.
Sunday, December 30, 2007
The Walter Gisel Family celebrated Christmas yesterday. We have one tradition. We sing The 12 Days of Christmas. We have been doing this for so many years that it seems normal and benign. However, we realize that it can be intimidating to each new in-law and understandably they occasionally wonder about our sanity. This year, Amy brought costumes that even caused some of us to wonder. . . Brian, agreeing to participate in Day Eight before he discovered the full ramifications of that day’s costume, played the part with style and class. TJ looked lovely as he represented the nine dancing ladies. Our soon to be family member, Bethany, endeared herself to all of us by leaping with such joy that our photos could only capture a blur. We enjoyed our cell phone calling birds and our swans swimming with their goggles. Ryan loved marching and playing the drum so much that following the 12 Days, we segwayed into The Little Drummer Boy so that he could continue having a percussion part.
On the twelfth day of Christmas,
Twelve drummers drumming . . .
Eleven pipers piping. . .
Ten lords a-leaping. . .
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
I am well aware that Christmas traditions are not for forever. Last year, some of our grandsons, who were then ages 5, 9, 10, 11, & 12, complained and one even said, “This is stupid.” I knew then that this little tradition of mine had come to an end. I was wondering what we could do to replace that experience.
Just before Christmas, I went for breakfast with a few friends and one friend told of their custom. She has little individual Christmas candle holders that hold just one birthday candle. When she sets the table for their Christmas dinner, she places one little holder by each plate. At the end of the meal and before dessert, they light their candles around the table. They sing Happy Birthday to Jesus before dessert. That was just the idea that I was looking for.
Of course at that late date, I could not find the darling little candle holders but we did find candles and paper guards that would work. After our Christmas dinner, we passed out the candles. Even Seamus, our three year old, could have his own this year. We turned off the lights and lit our candles. As the lights went around the table, someone started singing Silent Night and then we sang Happy Birthday to Jesus. It just took a few moments but it was long enough for me to praise God for His precious gift. We are so blessed.
Call me old or overly sentimental but I was reminded of this camp song from when I was young. . .
It only takes a spark to get a fire going,
And soon all those around can warm up in its glowing;
That's how it is with God's Love,
Once you've experienced it,
Your spread the love to everyone
You want to pass it on.
I wish for you my friend
This happiness that I've found;
You can depend on God
It matters not where you're bound,
I'll shout it from the mountain top
I want the world to know
The Lord of love has come to me
I want to pass it on.
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Our drama queen, Morgan, playing Mary, does a great job. She is so pretty and sweet and nurturing that it is not hard to imagine her as a young mother and that is a scary thought for all of us.
Kent played a wild-haired Joseph. Joseph could have been quite confused by the whole situation and his restless sleep probably caused his hair to be a bit unkempt. Kent’s sense of humor makes all of us smile!
The sweetest of all shepherds was Seamus. Just look at that face as he worshipped the baby. I think that is how the shepherds truly looked. Watching him, reminded me that that is why we are told to become like a child.
Steven buddying up with Seamus to let him think that being a shepherd was a big kid’s role. That was just too dear.
Jessica, tired of playing the girl’s roles became a very fierce King Herod. She would have scared me.
Kathi made my day today. She was supportive and encouraging and said, “This play has become our family thing.” It meant a lot for me to hear Kathi say that because I started the McDonell Christmas dramas. I married into this family. They are not mine even though I love them very much. I yearn for my family. My heart gets very heavy and sad. Today when Kathi spoke about the drama, I knew our family included me. It was a good Christmas.
Sunday, December 23, 2007
However, this blog is actually about Christmas gifts. My friends gave the best gifts. Let me share with you because you still have Monday to run out for one last gift.
From Greg and Connie, Bob and I received a beautiful handcrafted decoration for our hallway. I love how it enhanses our entryway.
From Timothy and Nancy Botts, also in our small group, we received Tim’s wonderful new Daily Portraits of the Word calendar of verses. (Not yet listed on his website but you can contact him about purchasing a copy.) It is such a thoughtful gift to direct our thoughts to the scripture each day. Our appreciation and understanding of the verses are sharpened by Tim’s artistic calligraphic interpretation.
Three of us in the neighborhood always get together—even if just for a short visit at Christmastime. We are so thankful for our friendship and exchange a small gift. From Cindy we received a sweet ornament that says “Hope”—because we bring each other hope and a purse with stationary. Both Mary and Cindy brainstormed and loaned me items and shared ideas when I planned a shopping bridal shower. From Mary I received the cutest coffee cup and candles that smell like coffee—a reminder of our heartwarming coffee chats.
From my dear friend Ellie I received a wonderful Yankee candle that smells like balsam and cedar—I am reminded of her generosity and goodness each day. Recently while preparing for our small group Bible study, I read Hosea 14: 5 & 6. The study was regarding a clear conscience. The chapter title is “Repentance Brings Blessings” and is regarding Israel turning back to the Lord. We can apply these verses to ourselves as well when we repent and make things right with God. I love the freshness, joy, and fragrance of Ellie’s candle and friendship and the freshness, joy, and fragrance of a clean conscience.
I will be like the dew to Israel;
he will blossom like a lily.
Like a cedar of Lebanon
he will send down his roots;
his young shoots will grow.
His splendor will be like an olive tree,
his fragrance like a cedar of Lebanon.
I must also tell of Kathy’s gift from Port Townsend, WA. She gave me some gifts typical of her locale—Goddess Chi Wild Sage Tea and tea wrappers. (I cannot read anything on the package except Made in Japan.) This next gift is one of my favorites. Only your good friends get you what you need but don’t even know to write on a list. She got me an Elixir tonic called Mind Over Muddle. She says it really works and I am definitely a good test case. To my surprise, it tastes good—but I don’t think that is the point of it.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Monday, December 17, 2007
I cannot really talk about the project that I worked on today because it is a secret—kind of. Actually probably not much of a secret but I am still pretending it is a secret. I planned on doing this project months ago while it was warm and sunny outside. This messy-to-make project involves using a hack saw to cut many pieces of PVC pipe. This summer when I tried cutting PVC pipe, it worked well because I could cut it on the picnic table on the back deck and the wind took care of most of my white chaff. Even though it was cold out today, we have a nice covering of snow everywhere so I thought it might work quite well as a disguise for my messy PVC chaff. However, I hadn’t planned on it being so difficult to cut PVC pipe in the winter. I guess the PVC pipe gets harder in the cold. Also without a vice or picnic table rungs to grip the pipe and with gloves on and a few other issues, I had a lot of trouble. One issue was that Bob has two hack saws and both are dull but one is duller and I mistakenly tried using the dullest one and after getting half way through the first piece, I was able to break the piece in two—with great effort. I had prepared to spend some time on the project so my radio was on loud enough to hear above the whistle of the wind and I heard Joni Erickson Tada talking about humbling ourselves and asking for help. It sounded like a good idea so I reviewed who I could ask. I couldn’t ask Bob because he thinks this is somewhat of a dumb idea. I couldn’t ask Kevin or Andy because their wives have large honey-do-lists for them. One by one, I eliminated, Greg Fantozzi and John Krieger and even some of the neighbor boys—for various and very good reasons. So I ventured inside to the basement to try again. Amazingly with a vice and a better hack saw and lots of pressure, I cut the pieces—all 140 of them. Did you ever notice how things go better with a system? I even vacuumed. For those of you that are not Messies, I do want to explain that Messies do not try to be messy. They really try hard to not be messy. Things just happen and sometimes we hurry.
My next step involved sanding all of the 140 pieces. I am not yet finished but I will show you that I am doing the best I can under the circumstances to keep the mess from invading our home. I am quite sure that I can finish in the morning. It is warmer when the sun is out even if the temperature is just as cold. I don’t know how to set the camera to photograph myself actually working so I will just show you my set up—imagine a ski suit and green wool cap. I can almost cross one more item off of my list. I am happy to report that the mess will not be noticeable to the ordinary eye.
Yes that is a boom box in the back corner and a space heater--all the comforts of home.
Sighs. . . Oh so many.
Carrie was gorgeous, her smile, her hair, her dress. . .
And then her daddy, Jim played trumpet for the attendants processional. . .
And the look on Matt’s face as he waited for Carrie,
And the look on her daddy’s face when he first hugged Carrie as the new wife of Matt . . .
Silver. . .
The color scheme was silver and hot pink.
It was stunning in the white décor of Immanuel Presbyterian Church!
And the reception . . . so breathtaking when you entered the room. . .
So Christmassy, so elegant, so special. . .
Smiles. . .
The moms were so enthusiastic in lighting the side unity candles that they excitedly and in perfect timing together lit the center candle as well. Cindy (Carrie’s mom) quickly saw a few puzzled expressions or suddenly remembered on her own and stretched her whole 5’ 0” self up on tiptoe and after a few tries was able to blow out the center candle. The moms laughed at each other, did a little center curtsy and heartfelt hug, and walked off of the platform. In the excitement, Cindy’s candle was left askew so Jim Stowell, (father of the groom and volunteer fireman) with a broad grin pulled up his pants and walked up on the platform and unceremoniously straightened the candle and walked back to his seat. The moms in the front row, worked hard to control their embarrassed giggles and the wedding proceeded as planned.
Sweets. . .
A candy bar! Really! With clear plastic bags and a wide assortment of candies in large beautiful clear containers with little metal scoops so each guest could fill their own bag until their heart’s content. What fun! The Candy Man song was also on the dance venue.
The clever wedding favor was a reminder that Carrie’s father is a dentist. There was a toothbrush, floss and a small tube of toothpaste in a darling little bag that had this little poem:
Enjoy our favorite candy. It is our special treat.
As your presence here today is really very sweet.
This gift inside you can take away
To help clean the smile you shared today.
Thanks for celebrating with us!
Matt and Carrie
In addition to the wedding we enjoyed sweet fellowship with good friends, Dan and Kathy Waterkotte. They celebrated their 34th wedding anniversary on the same day that Carrie and Matt were married. My sons and I spent many summer vacations with Dan and Kathy and Cindy and Jim on Bull Shoals Lake in Arkansas. We love them all so much! Dan and Jim taught my sons how to water ski, water safety, how to drive a boat and many more life lessons . . . and all of the time being wonderful Christan role models. They also make me laugh . . .definitely happy days and memories for all of us!
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Dale was a good man—a very good man. He was kind and helpful and had a wonderful easy smile. He was happy to help without being noticed or acknowledged. He knew our mailman and garbage man by name. On garbage days when he was home, he would run along with the truck for a few houses talking to our garbage man and helping throw the garbage in the truck. One day I asked Dale why he did that. He said, “I want him to know that he is a person.”
So in anticipation of his birthday, December 12, 1988, I made plans. I cooked Dale’s favorite meal for our dinner. I baked cookies and made hot chocolate mix with powdered milk—a recipe that I used often—and packaged it with directions in sandwich bags. At dinner, the boys and I talked about remembering Dad by doing something kind for someone without them knowing who did it. We made a list of people to “Ding, Dong, Ditch.” That simply meant that I would drive and drop the boys, the boys would run up to the door and ring the doorbell. They would leave a gift of cookies and hot chocolate and a typed Merry Christmas note and then run down the block behind trees to where I was waiting in the get-away car. I wanted the evening to be fun and also a remembrance.
We did that for a few years—sometimes dropping gloves and mittens to a needy family, one time delivering a Christmas tree and always a few bags of cookies and hot chocolate. Eventually the boys either got too busy with sports schedules or no longer wanted to participate in “Ding, Dong, Ditch.” Then we encouraged each other to do something kind for someone during the day and report on it when we all got together again in remembrance of Dad. I was always touched by their sweet stories. I remember a couple of stories in particular. One year when Brad was driving a truck and he saw a man and woman struggling to take a mattress home. It kept falling off of the man’s car. Brad stopped and offered to help. They loaded the mattress in the back of the truck. The man rode with Brad in the truck to his home and the wife drove the car. Their home was quite a distance away—I think about 10 miles. Brad had an opportunity to share with the man about his dad and why he especially wanted to help on that day. The couple was very grateful.
After Andy was married and lived in Vancouver, he and Amy raked and bagged leaves for someone in their neighborhood. They never were recognized or thanked and it took them several hours. They did it to remember Dad by helping someone else.
Several years ago, I released the boys of remembering Dad in that way. They are adults. Their schedules are very full and I did not want them to feel pressure or guilt over that tradition. Dale has been gone from us a long time now and I believe that there needs to be a stopping point on some traditions or they become burdens. Brad told me that he spends some one-on-one time with his son Jackson either on May 4th or on December 12th telling Jackson about his daddy. I am proud of both of my sons. They honor their dad every day by living as good men.
But Dale was my husband. I loved him. I usually try to talk with Dale’s mom on December 12. I try to remember to send her flowers. Her loss is still great. We both miss Dale. Additionally, I love to do some little secret special act of kindness for someone else. Bob—my husband since 1996, has often joined in and helped me. I have prayed today from time to time today asking God for an idea. I ask God to put someone on my heart that I could have the privilege of blessing. I can’t blog about it or it wouldn’t be a secret. I’m excited because I finally know what to do.
Monday, December 10, 2007
Brenda & Margit (back) Beth had to miss this outing.
Good friends help us laugh at all of our problems! We all feel better when we whine together!!
Eighteen years ago--in 1989, some girlfriends started meeting for breakfast on the second Monday of every month. You have heard of the organization called MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) and MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving). We called our group MOCKS an acronym for Mothers of College Kids. Since that time all of our kids have graduated from college, we are all mothers-in-law now and we are all grandmothers. I just counted and I know that among the eight of us there are 57 grandchildren—maybe I even missed some.
We have become a sisterhood of sorts. At breakfasts, we have shared our tears and our laughter. The group has saved our husbands hundreds of dollars that we otherwise would have needed for therapy and counseling. We do not limit our times together anymore to once a month breakfast—that is just the only protected date that we have on our calendar. We love to get together whenever we can think of an excuse. Sometimes we even invite our husbands.
Today we went to Long Grove and did some Christmas shopping. I don’t even like to shop and I shopped with the best of them today. It is so much easier to find great buys when you are in a group! Debbie made the discovery of the day—a traveling picture for our group. We will bring it each 2nd Monday of the month to breakfast. At each breakfast we will decide a worthy friend that should keep the picture for a month and then bring it back the following month. You’ve perhaps heard of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. We relate.
Sunday, December 9, 2007
I love sending and receiving cards. It makes me feel connected to friends and relatives. I read every letter and look at every picture. But sending cards out is a process. I start thinking about the next year’s card when I have mailed my current cards. Not completely consciously just when I notice a particularly interesting card, I file that somewhere in the recesses of my mind for use maybe next year. I love family picture cards but unfortunately it is very rare when our whole family is together and organizing a picture –well, if you are the matriarch of a family—I need to say no more. I admire those families that regularly pull it together.
Once and awhile I come up with an idea right away and stick with it. That has probably happened twice. Then sometimes on a road trip in the fall, I start putting together ideas. But sometimes, December 1st comes and my mind is still blank on cards. One year around the first of December, I went to the Wheaton Public Library and sat on the floor looking at children’s Christmas books for an afternoon. I used an idea that I got while there but I never did like that card. I liked the first creative card that I did. It was lots of fun to do and I had the idea early in the year in plenty of time to hone it. It is kind of sad when the first thing you create is your last great idea.
This year, I kept my eyes open all year not really desperate for an idea but hoping for an inspiration. One time I went into Alphagraphics for some project and saw a picture on their bulletin board. It had six adults all in the same kind of chair—just sitting and looking good. I think they were all people that worked there. I spent a few minutes studying their poses and smiles. December 1st came and went this year and I did not have any better inspiration so I decided to take photos of our family sitting in their kitchen chairs. My family is tolerant— resigned, knowing that if they do not cooperate, I will create a picture of them in Photoshop. After I had the pictures and got rid of all of the backgrounds in Photoshop, I thought an accordion fold card would be fun. However it was far too costly. Two of my family mentioned during the picture taking something like, “It doesn’t matter what I look like because the people on your cards are so small that you can’t really recognize who they are anyhow.” Okay, so I made them as large as possible and put them on an 8 ½ X 14. I just couldn’t send it out. It was too presumptuous to mail that large of a picture of my family. I reworked it and got all of them to fit on an 8 ½ by 11. The pictures taken on different days in various homes at various times had all kinds of lighting issues. I decided to print them in black and white. They looked so dull. I remembered liking Lois’s red and black Christmas Tea table so I decided a touch of red would help. The problem was I needed to create red on a few more people to balance the picture so Ryan, and Kathi and Steven—sorry about the changes in your clothing. I was ready to proceed except there was no caption for the card—just 21 people sitting in chairs. I wondered about submitting it somewhere on the internet for a best caption but worried that the captions might not be fit to print.
I have an Order for Christmas that helps me mostly get everything done that needs to be done and leaves the least important items until last. My days came and went on my Order schedule when I had to have the card completed. I wrote up a small poem. Bob wondered why I was up until 1:30 a.m. but I was really digging deep this year for inspiration. (That is a disclaimer when you get the card.) Then came the arduous task of deciding whether to print cards at home—testing various papers—getting estimates from three places and waiting in line to place an order. Woops! I saved them in Word 2007 and needed to return home and bring another file back with them saved as a 1997-2003 document. That accomplished, I bought envelopes and realized that when I got a new computer in April, I did not save last year’s Christmas addresses. So that is why none of you are getting Christmas cards from me. Just kidding. I cannot quit now. I am working on those addresses. If you don’t get a comment on your card and if you are in the beginning of the alphabet, your card will be in the mail in a couple of days. The others will come a bit later. I am feeling good--like I am ready to move on to the next project of my Christmas Order but first of all—a basketball game, a Wheaton College concert, a neighborhood gathering, hors doerves, a women’s day out trip to Long Grove and two birthday parties. Christmas will have to wait a little longer.
Saturday, December 8, 2007
I do love weddings! For twelve years, I was a wedding coordinator at Wheaton Bible Church. During that time, I found that my very favorite weddings were when a couple is in their 30’s or older and getting married for the first time. Their happiness is so contagious and it would cause Bob and I to sit in the back row and hold hands and remember how we had fallen in love. My new best favorite type of wedding is when two people have lost their spouses and have found love again.
Rhonda Williams’s husband, Tom was such a very special person. He was a head surgeon at Central DuPage Hospital. He was helpful, effervescent, did many missionary trips, and lots of fun. He was also the best friend of our pastor, Rob Bugh. They owned a ski boat together and were both barefoot water skiers. Tom died at age 49 in April 2005 after having been sick for only four months with throat cancer. He has three children. Tom had so much to offer. God had other plans.
Our pastor’s wife, Carol Bugh was beautiful inside and out. She was a quiet woman of faith and kept her home and family of three daughters and a son functioning with Rob’s demanding schedule. She was also fun loving and athletic, a skier and climber. She was diagnosed with colon cancer and died one year later in August of 2006 at age 50.
Those two deaths rocked our church and we grieved deeply. People in the congregation began to pray for Rhonda and Rob. Though afraid to mention it out loud, they wondered in their hearts if Rhonda and Rob could find love again and maybe with each other. And yes, they have.
Our pastor Rob and Rhonda Williams (a pediatrician) will always miss their first loves, Carol and Tom. But God has given them a second opportunity at love. They are so very cute together like teenagers almost. We are thrilled that they will be married next weekend. Their love story makes me smile. We wish them much happiness!
Thursday, December 6, 2007
Nicole posted these questions. So here they are for you. Answer them and post them on your blog or email me your answers. Don't you just love Christmas!
- Wrapping paper or gift bags?
Wrapping paper for gifts under the tree. . .gift bags in a hurry
- Real tree or artificial?
Artificial—pre-lit and this year they actually lit!
- When do you put up the tree?
As soon after Thanksgiving as possible—I am still working on it.
- When do you take the tree down?
On New Years Day or there about
- Do you like eggnog?
Hmm—not much. But I do love a party.
- Favorite gift received as a child
A bed for my doll.
- Do you have a nativity scene?
Lots and lots. I love them all but I do not have any particularly decorative scenes.
- Hardest person to buy for?
Men in general but specifically Bob.
- Easiest person to buy for?
Andy and Amy Rowell
- Worst Christmas gift you ever received?
We get Wild Alaska Smoked Salmon every year from a very nice and kind person. (I am pretty sure that he is not a blogger.) That is my least favorite gift.
- Mail or email Christmas cards?
Mail—I still think it is fun to give and receive cards. I had a cup of coffee this am with 6 cards. It was great. However, my cards are still unfinished.
- Favorite Christmas Movie?
Any feel good and warm and fuzzy—I think probably Miracle on 34th Street.
- When do you start shopping for Christmas?
I would like to say mid November but that came and went this year—soon.
- Have you ever recycled a Christmas present?
Yes, lots—at our Gisel Christmas Gathering—it is lots of fun.
- Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?
Candy—those homemade chocolate and burned sugar ones that taste like Heath bars—yummy!
- Clear lights or colored on the tree?
I see more clearly now that I have married Bob.
- Favorite Christmas song?
All of them--well maybe not "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer," probably “Silent Night”
- Travel for Christmas or stay at home?
Home—we used to alternate going every other year to Gisels or Rowells but now we celebrate those on a day other than the 25th.
- Can you name all of Santa's reindeer?
“You know Dasher, and Dancer and Prancer and Vixon, Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen, but do you recall—the most famous reindeer of all . . .”
- Angel on the tree top or a star?
Absolutely and definitely a star
- Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning?
Whenever. . .
- Most annoying thing about this time of year?
Others talking about their families all coming home—not really annoying—just sad sometimes.
- What I love most about Christmas?
All of the concerts and gatherings: Our kids coming, Christmas Teas, Wheaton College concert with neighbors, a Chicago musical, Gisel family Christmas, Rowell family Christmas, a progressive dinner. . .
- Do you believe in Santa Claus?
Well. . .I love working for him and helping with surprises.
Monday, December 3, 2007
Psalm 8:2 says, From the lips of children. . .you have ordained praise.
In preparation of this special party, birthday girl Lilly wore her new Gymboree cupcake coordinated pink top, sweater, jeans, socks and barrette. Daddy, Mommy and Jackson put on their aprons. The doorbell started ringing at 10:20 a.m. with the arrival of mommy’s helpers, Mrs. Holly and Mrs. Karen and the photographer helper. (Not the photographs on this blog.) Immediately after that, other very cute, Parker, CO, little girls began arriving right on cue.
Upon arrival, the 15 little guests donned bitty bakers aprons designed with sweet pink and brown cupcake appliqués. Each little girl was given a miniature cake box to decorate with Pip-Squeaks Washable Markers which would be used later for safe transport of their own individual self-decorated birthday cake. The little girls were shepherded to three different activity stations that were rotated every 10 minutes. At station #1, they played games including “hot cupcake” and a relay of cookies on spatulas. At station #2, the little girls painted cupcake Christmas ornaments. At station #3, they decorated mini cakes (not cupcakes) with pink and green frosting and many kinds of sprinkles. There was a one book story time break while the table was set for birthday treats of cake and juice and the candle blowing ceremony. The little guests appropriately “oohed” and “ahhed” at the opening of gifts and then had just a few minutes for free play in the playroom kitchen. Parents of the birthday party guests arrived promptly at noon to pick up their sweet darlings.
With new toys to examine, the fun lasted all day for Lilly and big five and a half year old brother, Jackson. And there was more. . . another family treat—the Denver Parade of Lights with two of Lilly and Jackson’s best friends—Payton and Audrey. (Do notice the theme continued as Lilly wore her cupcake winter hat and mittens.) Lilly, this might just be as good as it gets!