Christmas Eve Memories

The apartment complex courtyard was unusually silent and empty. The snow had fallen after the residents of The Gardens had gone in for the night and nothing stirred, nothing made a sound. The tall, blank-faced buildings were hushed under a thin quilt of white and the air was so cold that it caught in my throat and brought tears to my eyes. The night was painfully crisp and clear and the stars glittered like shattered glass in the depth of black sky. I felt as though I had stepped into a fairy tale. We rarely got much snow, especially for Christmas and it was often blown about by violent East winds, filling the ditches and piling against houses and fences leaving nothing but a dusting on the grass. Tonight the wind was quiet and every inch of the dusty courtyard ground was covered in Snow. My brothers and I were bundled up against the frigid night air with only our noses and eyes exposed and those froze in the moments it took us to walk down the sidewalk to the parking lot where our big maroon van was parked.

We were on our way to midnight mass at the small, old church in town. It was deliciously late, another rarity, but it was Christmas Eve and if any night during the year was ripe for irregularity, this was it. I yawned and shivered as Mom ushered us toward the van. The stillness of the night seemed to seep in through our many bulky layers and infuse us with quiet awe. We piled in and after buckling up, covered ourselves with the several heavy comforters that were waiting for us in the back. Our van had no heat so we had to make the best with what we did have – blankets and comforters. I wrapped myself up, pulling the quilt over my head  and tight against my body and then rested my exposed forehead on the window beside me. The icy glass was painful at first but soon warmed to my skin and I dozed as we drove into town.

The church was almost as quiet as the town streets. The sanctuary with its wooden pews and broad, dark beams looked majestic decked in greenery and red velvet. The walls were baptized with the light of what seemed to be hundreds of candles and the flames danced and trembled around the shadows of the other members who had gathered. Hymns were sung, prayers said and as the bells tolled midnight, a tiny statue of the Christ Child was laid in the straw of the manger scene before the altar. It was all so achingly beautiful to me as a child and I sat on the flattened cushion of the pew, half asleep, with tears in my eyes.

When the service was over and the great wooden front doors opened, cold night air came rushing in and ended what seemed to be a dream. The congregants  milled out and went back to their homes while we made the short hike back to our big, chilly van. We bundled in once more, this time with a little more commotion because we were *not* going home as all the others were. The silence had been broken and our Christmas had begun. We were headed to a friend’s house where we would spend the holiday. Literally over the river and through the woods, across fields and to the next county we drove in the middle of the night towards our friend’s cozy farm where warm beds and Christmas morning waited for us. Presents, snow and a delicious brunch were just on the other side of sleep.

Christmas Brunch

1 lb bulk sausage

1 cup chopped onions

3 cups cooked spinach

1 red pepper, chopped

1 cup flour

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 tsp salt

2 cups milk

8 eggs

1 cup shredded cheese

Heat oven to 425 degrees

Grease a 13×9 inch pan. Brown sausage, onions and garlic and then spread the mix on the bottom of the pan. Top with cooked spinach. Mix other ingredients in a bowl before pouring over the sausage. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the center is firmed. Cool for 5 minutes before serving.

A Merry Christmas to You and Yours from Me and Mine… Enjoy!

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being the mother

When I was a little kid, I was terrified of werewolves. Terrified, I say.

I remember laying in my bed, straining to hear the click of clawed feet on our linoleum kitchen floor or heavy, wolf-like breathing in the hallway. I avoided looking out the window in my bedroom, sure that if I did I would be face to face with gleaming teeth and yellow eyes.

My one comfort and hope was my mother. My mom is  the kind of mother who put the fear of God into any monster our fertile imaginations could dream up. Because of this power, my middle of the night bathroom trips always ended with a stop in mom’s room where I would ask her to stay up for a bit and watch T.V. while I fell back asleep. She never complained, never denied and I never questioned or doubted her, I would simply trot back to my room and lay down in utter peace – mom was awake, I was safe. No werewolves could get me.

Now, being this young, I never once thought, “Gee – mom was up all day long taking care of us, she must be exhausted!” I always took it for granted that as she had the ability to defend us from evil, she would be willing to use it no matter what time it was. I had no guilt, I only remember this intense and overwhelming assurance of being protected. Trust. It’s one of my best and most comfortable memories.

Well, I’m a mama now and it makes me see my own mother in a breath-takingly new way. I am now the one who is counted upon to be there *all the time* day and night, to feed, warm, comfort, entertain, protect, defend, clean, and sit up and watch during the night to make sure all is well. My son doesn’t doubt or even think for a moment about whether or not I will feed him or love him or be there for him when he needs me, he doesn’t consider that it’s the umpteenth time he’s been up that night, or that it’s the fourth time he’s needed a new change of clothes in a two hour period and you know what, I hardly notice it myself. He is enveloped in a sweet, oblivious trust. I think about all the years my mom cared for me without me ever realizing exactly what all that entailed. I never realized that I don’t ever remember my mom being tired, or sick or hungry or needing to use the bathroom or needing anything throughout my entire childhood. In my memory she is this incredible person who could do anything and do it all with nothing to work from and four little beings trailing along behind.

This past week I contracted a chest cold and have been gimping around with a cough and slight fever for a couple of days. Strangely enough, my illness didn’t seem to affect my three-month-old at all! He still needs to eat every other hour, still needs to be changed almost as often and seems to fall asleep in my arms just as the tickle in my throat becomes unbearable.

When I am sick, food preparation is usually the first thing to suffer (which is why there is no recipe this week) and we all suffer with it! I don’t know what my mom had going on yesterday, I don’t think we asked. I just knew that if I needed her help, she’d be there – and she was. Like the work of a good fairy, delicious food appeared and my husband was fed before he went off to work.  Chicken noodle soup, eggplant parmesan, baked french toast – she cares and feeds and gives like it were as easy as breathing. I gulped down her homemade soup and knew that health and healing were right around the corner… I guess the same Super-Mom Power is as effective against illness as it is against werewolves!

 

 

corn child

I heard the other day that there is now fresh sweet corn available in the area- it must truly be summer.

I grew up in ‘Corn Country’ surrounded by hundreds of acres of corn that were at least ‘knee high by the Fourth of July’. Most of what the farmers sowed each year was left to dry on the stalk. I’m not sure if it was just a rumor, but I know some people said that it was bought by cereal companies to make corn flakes. I remember scorching days when the clay the corn was planted in would split into a mosaic of cracks and crevices while the corn plants themselves would roll their leaves up tight in an effort to keep in their remaining moisture. They’d stand in their neat lines in the blazing sun while the locusts sweated on the roadsides, breathlessly waiting for rain with the rest of us. After a good, soaking sort of storm the leaves would unroll once more and the fireflies took up to dancing in between the stalks after dark.

Even though field corn was a rather common, every day and over-abundant part of life for us, there was still a little thrill of excitement and romance attached to the sweet corn harvest. Unlike the patient field corn that waits for its day to come in October, the sweet corn is a short-lived crop, needing to be harvested at just the right time and preferably eaten within hours of being picked. I think of it as one of those summer luxury foods that comes on and needs to be fully enjoyed while it can be gotten as close to the source as possible like peaches, melons and berries.

By some miracle of engineering you can now buy sweet corn in the grocery store at all times of the year, but that will never come close to being able to acquire it in season from a local provider – they’re practically two different foods! I think there is something about the local harvest that adds a sweetness and depth to the food you eat like nothing else.

One summer my brothers and I volunteered to help one of our farmer friends work the local Farmer’s Market by going out with him at 3am to harvest sweet corn to sell later that morning. “This is the way you do it, fresh as possible. It’s the right thing to do.” He was not a man of many words and the ones he did use weren’t often very shiny or complicated, but he usually meant what he said and punctuated the statements that he felt the most strongly about with the phrase, “…it’s the right thing to do…”

This is how my family and I ended up in a pitch black sweet corn field out in the middle of nowhere’s nowhere – we were doing the right thing. I have to admit that I never felt so much like a raccoon as I did that morning, slipping between the corn stalks that towered over my head, enjoying the cool of the damp darkness and the occasion bite of raw sweet corn from an ear that I picked to keep my stomach happy while we worked. The kernels burst in my mouth, each one filled with sweet, milky goodness that couldn’t be found in corn that had been grown ‘away’ and was tired from traveling across county in a truck. Sweet corn is one of those foods that likes its home and gives itself most graciously to those who are willing to make the extra effort to keep it there. The farmers and gardeners who brave the weather and soil and before dawn harvests are able to offer the best there is to their families, customers, and community.

It’s sweet corn season in Vermont and you better believe I’m going to take advantage of it! I may not be in the field at 3am picking it, but I’m sure there are some local producers who will be doing their share of ‘the right thing’… be sure to enjoy it!

the preggo ten

Wow – has it really been several short decades since I did a 10 Things Tuesdays?

You can all throw your tomatoes now, I won’t duck or deflect – I promise.

This 10 has to do with – you guessed it – being pregnant (which I very much still am)!
Enjoy…

 

10 Things About Being Pregnant:

1) I now look pregnant. For months people have been saying,  “But you don’t *look* pregnant!!” which was somewhat distressing because my clothes started not to fit almost immediately. Immediately, I say. I felt extremely pregnant really fast and I have to say that I am glad I finally look like it to the rest of the world! I have a decent baby bump that sticks out and gets me stuck in tight places and makes me look like a mama.

2) 25 weeks – that’s how far along I am. 15 weeks left. Craziness.

3) It’s a BOY! Yes, we found out. No, it’s not a secret. Yes, I am thrilled. No, I don’t feel like it’s ruined any surprises. Yes, we have a name. No, that’s not a secret either… it’s Bruin. Yes, I can’t wait. No, he is not named after the hockey team. Sorry.

4) The sickness finally stopped around 22 weeks – one of the reasons why this blog-o was so cruelly neglected, I was sick out of my mind. I am sure other women have had it much worse and I certainly don’t mean to say that it was unbearable, but I am not a good sick person. I like to be able to do what I want, when I want and I want to feel good while I am doing it.

Can we say, “Proud and Stubborn Mama!”

Can we say, “Lesson Time!”

I feel as though I took the crash course “How to Not Be a Miserable Person but Deal with All Things with Thankfulness and Patience and Joy” and just slid through by the skin of my teeth. I won’t be posting my report card on this blog *that’s* for sure!  At any rate, I am so exceedingly thankful to be feeling better. So thankful. So happy. I’ll take tired, I’ll take sore, I’ll even take spacey and ditzy and hormonal – the sickness is over!! I was definitely humbled my the first half of this pregnancy, and that’s a good thing. I was expecting to breeze right through it on strength of mind and steeliness of will. Um – no.

5) El’Ditzoid. What was I saying? Where was I going? What was I doing? What? Why? Huh? I don’t remember. I can’t think. My brain has died. I’m so sorry, can you start again? I can’t quite figure that out. I don’t remember how I got here. Was I asleep? Did I eat already?  When did I say that? You already said that? Math? What do you mean I ate my piece already?  ‘Nuf said.

6) Gymnastics. It’s what Bruin loves to do best. If this little boot is *half* as active out of the womb, we have some fun times ahead of us! I lay in bed in the morning and imagine him spinning and punching and kicking all at once because I am SURE that is what he is doing in there and will continue to do until I get up and get something to eat. He does not like to be hungry. Not. At. All.

7) Crazy curly hair has been downgraded to crazy thick wavy hair. Interesting. And, even though I know I flirt with ‘oversharing’ when I say it, the hair on my legs has all but stopped growing (nice) and I have a beard (not so nice). Hair – it does crazy things under the influence.

8) Cravings? Not so much. I craved spaghetti for a couple of weeks, then pickles and now I’m just hungry. I drink a lot of smoothies packed with good things like chia seeds, coconut oil, flax seeds, fruit, homemade yogurt, etc. and they seem to be doing a pretty good job of keeping my cravings at bay. I do, however, thoroughly enjoy *other* people’s cooking and will eat monstrous portions of it when I have the opportunity.  Food weakness? Organic Cheese Puffs. No joke. I’m trying hard to stay away from junk food and caffeine and too much sugar, but organic cheese puffs….. yum.

9) Exercise? I do ‘labor-prep yoga’ and take walks. Sometimes. I fail. A lot. But I have glorious plans to do better tomorrow. Really.

10) 15 weeks left and I have quite the list of things yet to do. It’s just hitting me now in the past couple of days that this thing is happening, and we’ll be there in no time at all. There were three of us young pregnant ladies in our church at the same time, all 10 weeks apart. The first one had her baby a little while ago and the next will reach her appointed time in a month – you know what that means, folks – I’m next. It’s like waiting in line for a scary ride. I’m frantically taking notes as I watch the ones before me bravely step up for their turn and I can’t help but feel like I have absolutely no idea what I am doing. It’s exciting, and I’m looking forward to having this baby in my arms, but boy howdy – there’s quite a bit to get through before that happens!

God is good and we pluck on. I am blessed to have so much love and support from my dear husband and family and friends, it’s overwhelming.

We shall do well.

Until next time… What’s your life looked like for the past few months? Can you sum it up in 10 things? Please share!

a ten in the bucket

I hear a lot of people talking about their bucket-list.

Well, not being one to be willingly left out of a conversation, I want to talk about it too.

It was one of the things Alex and I first discussed when we started to court last year, “What’s your list?”

I guess you can learn a lot about a person by hearing what they want to do before they die, and I also suppose that he liked whatever it was I said because he answered, “Well, I’d like to do all those things too, with you.”

*awwwwww*

I also feel like I should mention that we have pretty tightly wrapped-up my bucket list, having done most of the things that were on it in the past year. True, I didn’t have anything really crazy like “skydive over the grand canyon”, but it’s still been a wild year of incredible happenings. Skinny dipping totally, absolutely and completely included.

I’ve had to write up a new list.

Here it is.

Babe – you getting this?

 

1) Go to the West. By plane, train or automobile, it doesn’t really matter. I just want to see West.

2) Have a baby. Yup. It’s on the list and now that I have a husband, we might actually be able to make that happen. Wowsers.

3) go to hear a symphony orchestra

4) learn to make pastry

5) whale watching

6) learn archery

7) learn to fly fish

8) write a book

9) try snowboarding

10) create a home-based business that actually works

Ok, so a little odd, slightly lame, I get it – but these are the things I want to do. I actually had a hard time coming up with this list because really, before I got married my secret bucket list was simply to find someone to share every day with, and now that I have that, my list remains just as simple; Live every day, sharing it with my best friend, perfect lover and husband. What better adventure could one ask for?

How about you? What’s on your List?

Confessions of a former Wool SNOB

“Former” as in, last night.

I *am* a wool snob. I have violently hated acrylic yarn since I was fourteen years old and  was given a garbage bag full of it by a sweet neighbor who heard that I liked to knit. It was ugly and had the feel of strung-out plastic and I knit a horrible, beginner cardigan with it that sat in my closet for several years before finally being thrown away during a move. Although I was rather thankful for the yarn and the thoughtfulness of my friend at the time, I was deeply scarred by the finished “plastic bag sweater” (could you tell?) and have been a hard-core, no-going-back, dyed-in-the-wool, wool snob ever since.

I don’t like acrylic fabric in clothing. I sat on the sidelines of the world and watched in disgust as my fellow Crafters fell head-long into the fleece frenzy of several winters ago. I haunted the edges of the fabric store looking for wool- any wool – and found none. “It’s just not that popular anymore”, the attendant said, and I felt as though the libraries had suddenly decided to stop putting Charles Dickens on the shelf in favor of the Twilight series…

So, there you have it. I knit with wool. I wore a wool coat for many years and had many a wool sweater. No fleece. No acrylic. And of course our pocket books would never allow for alpaca or cashmere, so that left us with good old sheep fur.

And then, when I was about 17 years old, I realized that I was terribly allergic to wool. How did this come about, you ask? Everywhere my favorite wool jacket touched skin turned bright red and the skin grew hard and flaky and extremely painful. I had to give up wearing it.

My “disadvantage”, which honestly seemed life-threatening at first to one such as I, has saved me from becoming an opinionated, crabby, snobby old woman someday. I don’t think we are nearly thankful enough for the things in life that keep up supple, at least I’m not.  I can thank God for the best things, and I have learned to see His hand in the worst, but what about all the little things in between that seem like random annoyances or plain old ‘bad luck’? What about the things that keep a spring in our spine and save us from atrophying too soon? Gotta be thankful for those things too, yup, I do.

I started wearing fleece, which was soothing for my angry, vengeful skin, and if there is wool in anything I put on it is usually blended quite generously with acrylic or alpaca, and yes, even cashmere or silk or cotton. I had to drop the illustrious title of ‘Wool Snob’.

Things shifted, but I never stopped knitting with wool yarn and that seemed to be the saving grace – at least I didn’t have to stop knitting with wool, my hands never seemed to mind it – there was one spot I didn’t have to give up, and I treasured it. I have a modest, but lovely collection of wool yarn that I have toted across this wide land, adding to it with gifts from friends and loved ones and a scattering of clearance sales at JoAnn’s.

I love my wool yarn. I really do – it’s probably the second thing I would grab if I had to run for my life. What’s a life without knitting, right?  (And if you’re interested, having no children or pets, the first thing I would grab is probably our personal records and an emergency survival kit – how unromantic we become when we reach real life!)  Not that I could easily grab the lot and run for my life – I would probably end up succumbing to whatever godawful horror was at hand.

Then I noticed the skin on my hands hardening slightly. “Oh look,” I thought, “I have calluses from knitting!” The skin continued to harden, deep down, and then it started to ‘chip’ off when I bent them and the pain was very intense. The fingerprints and feeling dissolved into hard flakes of shiny skin,and the cuticles have disappeared from around my nails as the skin swelled and cracked around it. Yup.

I know I have sensitive skin – ok, I have extremely sensitive skin, like, can’t use handsoap sensitive – but wool yarn has never bothered my hands so I didn’t even think of it. It’s just been getting worse and worse and I’ve been clueless and knitting up a storm. So I started praying about it and last night the answer came and knocked the wind out of me.

I’m allergic to wool.

I know, I thought we already covered this ground, but I had to walk it again in order to see. I’m allergic to wool. Even my hands. The End.

Yes, I was sad. I still am a little bit, but you know what – I’m feeling kind of free today. I can’t keep any of my lovely hoarded wool yarn and my heart wouldn’t stand for selling something I have treasured that much, so it’s being given away to friends and loved ones. It’s still going to be knit into wonderful, creative things, things I couldn’t have thought up, I’m sure. And my hands are going to heal.

I’m going to buy yarn that won’t hurt me – and that’s OK. Seems so simple to everyone else, I suppose, but I’m an odd duck – never denied it – pretty dense up top and rather set in my thoughts.  And – I’m also pretty thankful. I’m thankful for the Lord giving me  the lovely yarn in the first place and I’m thankful that He is giving me the opportunity to give it away to others. I’m thankful that He works through my dense dimness. I’m thankful that He is keeping my spine lubricated and pliable. I’m thankful for His answer to my silly prayers and that my hands have a chance to heal. I’m thankful that He gave me a sweet husband who says, “Have I denied you any good thing I have the power to provide? You will get more yarn… good yarn.” I’m thankful that his estimation of ‘good yarn’ is that it be the kind that won’t hurt me. I’m thankful that he doesn’t measure my value by how dyed-in-the-wool I am, as I often do. He doesn’t care how old fashioned I am, how hard-core, as long as I am “healthy and happy and loving him”.

So – it really isn’t that tragic after all, is it?

 

10 Things on Tuesday

…no, this isn’t me…

Firstly, I would like to thank you all for coming to this week’s smashing edition of 10 Things Tuesdays. We (El’Blog and I) appreciate your continued support and ardent admiration.

*cue polite applause*

10 Goals

1) To continue on with my meal planning efforts until I am actually able to do it.

As I have often heard Mr. Darcy himself say, “I WILL conquer this.”

2) Make all of our own cleaning products and be using them by the new year. And I mean ALL, people. Laundry detergent to hand wash – I wanna make it ALL. Have any good recipes to share?

3) Join the yoga class in town. Yeah, it’s not like I’ve been trying to do this for the past three months or anything…

4) Actually sell things on Etsy.

5) Learn how to put in a zipper. Oooooooooo.

6) Be less of a hermit and work on developing relationships with the people in my actual geographical location; fellow townsmen, church folk, store clerks, random citizens – face to face contacts – like a real human being.

7) Enter the Holiday Season with a PLAN. As shocking as this will be to *most* of the people who know me, I am actually planning out Christmas *now* because I don’t want to be caught unawares. I’m making lists and checking them twice, researching prices and developing a strategy. I feel so corporate. Everybody gets a card. Everybody.

8) Cut out caffeine and fried foods. ACK – the horror, THE HORROR!

9) Read more. Because I am becoming shamefully illiterate. Ugh.

10) Dance more with my husband. Because I get so fiercely involved with all my goaling that I sometimes forget to Dance. And that’s a real shame.

So there you are, speak to me.
Tell me of all your hopes and dreams and goals and how you clean an oven without that god-awful toxic spray they sell at Wal*Mart…