Thursday, December 29, 2011

Guest Posting @ Blogging from A to Z April Challenge

Good morning! This is the post that was supposed to go up yesterday morning...but there are days when technology and I don't play well together.

I'm excited to let you know that I'm guest-posting at the new, official A-Z Challenge blog!  If you head over there, you can check out what I learned last year, and then catch what Shannon @ The Warrior Muse has to say about her participation in the challenge last year. If I'm speaking Klingon, let me briefly remind you what that was all about.

Last April, 1282 of us participated in the month long blog party. We posted everyday except Sundays, each day's post built around that day's letter of the alphabet. It was a lot of fun to meet new bloggers (not all writer blogs, by the way, we also had photoblogs, music blogs, poetry blogs, and random other delightful but uncharacterizable blogs. (Open office says “uncharacterizable “ is not a word, but I'm a writer and hereby declare it a real word. Feel free to use as you wish!)

We will officially introduce this year's challenge hosts on January 6, and open the linky-list for participants to register on January 30, 2012. So check back here and meet all the hosts! (Pssst...I'm one of them.)

Of course you don't have to wait until January! Feel free to come back when ever you wish. If I've been too busy sledding with the kids, or hosting sleep-overs, or a house full of teenagers in a 36 hour marathon's of Xbox 360 live, or trying to keep enough food in the house for a multitude of teenage boys, and therefore haven't posted anything new, there are over 260 other posts you may read ;-) You might try April 2011 to see what sorts of posts I did last year.

One last thing! Sign-up to follow the AZ Challenge blog when you're over there reading what I wrote, and if you're here from the AZ Challenge blog, welcome, and of course I'd be delighted if you followed me.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

To Save, or Not to Save

Have you seen the show “Clean Sweep” or “Hoarders”? I'm not quite that bad, but I'm a clutter-bug, a girl with many piles in many places. There's never enough time to finish whatever project I'm working on, but then I need the table for something (say, serving dinner) so I sweep the paper storm into a pile and put it somewhere. This event then repeats itself over and over. Pretty soon all the chairs in the “pretty room” (that's what my boys called it when they were young and it stuck, it's just a living room, but no toys allowed, those go to the family room, or their own room) are stacked with precariously perched piles of paper. Deciding what to save, to what to file, what to shred and what to just recycle seems like a daunting task when you survey the scenery.

The problem isn't so much lack of motivation (because clutter drives me nuts and makes me feel even more claustrophobic) or time (I'm no longer homeschooling {yippee yippee joy joy dance}) it's the deciding. Am I ever going to look at this program again (like the one I got from attending The Nutcracker where my friends daughter was dancing)? No, I'm not. But suppose her mother is making a scrapbook for her when she becomes a prima ballerina one day. She might need it if she lost hers. So give it to her, you say. No! She has one! She doesn't need mine now, but boy would I be the hero if she needed one later and I still had mine!

I'm thinking you're catching on to my dilemma here. Why save that letter from Grandma? It's just taking up space. You know she loves you, and you love her. Now fast forward to her funeral, and you're making those posters of the deceased's life, and there is a letter she wrote to her granddaughter. In fact, it's the last letter she ever wrote because very shortly after that, Alzheimers stole her brain. It's now a precious keepsake, and you're so happy to have it.

What should I save of mine? I have ticket stubs: first time I saw Bruce Springsteen in concert, front row at the downtown historic movie theater where my uncle took us to the premiere of “The Empire Strikes Back.” I know I don't need them. I have the memories. Well, for know. With my medical issues, I don't know how long until someone steals MY brain.

Then I fast -forward to some future relative of mine, sorting through all my piles, and finding those ticket stubs and thinking, “Wow, she was around for THAT!” I know it's not a moon landing or anything of that scope, but it was an occasion that was important to me.

For my last point, I do have a counter-example. I write poetry. Have since I was in about 5th grade. I have journal after journal with poems and rants and raves and excited to just be alive entries when love was in full bloom. Those I'd rather others not see. As a human person, I'm not perfect, and some of the events described in detail aren’t for consumption by family members. Skeletons in the closet, described in the journal.

Ok, just one more example. When my mother was in college, a friend dragged her to hear some poet read his poems in one of the lecture halls on campus. I really wish she'd saved the program. It was in the early 60s, and the poet was Robert Frost.

How do you handle this issue? What do you save? What never makes it home? How do you store the treasures? I'd love to hear what you do.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Swedish Christmas Part 3 ~ Advent

One of my strongest memories from childhood Christmas celebrations is the advent calendar. Farmor (“father's mother”) spent an inordinate amount of time each year making this tradition really special for her grandkids.

Advent is from the Latin adventus which means “coming”. Scandinavians (if you're new around here, you need to know I'm Swedish, immigrated here when I was 9) have celebrated this tradition for centuries, and it's becoming more well-known in America as time goes by. Our church's denomination (Evangelical Free Church, where evangelical means our main goal is to let others know about the saving grace of Jesus, free means that though we're affiliated with our denomination, we answer to no higher authority. Well, besides God. He's a big authority ;-) has Swedish roots, so these churches have celebrated advent much longer than most folks in this country. Ok, history lesson over.

The advent calendar is only one facet of the advent celebration though, so if you want to hear more, remind me about the candle-lighting and the the fire that resulted. (Wood burns, by the way.) Back to today's programming: The advent calendar Farmor used was hand-embroidered. There were tiny Christmas pictures numbered 1-24 (tree, presents, santa – see this post  for more on Swedish santa) and 24 little brass rings, one for each day. (I would of course take a picture, but this is Swissie's year to use it so I can't.) Farmor shopped for or made tiny gifts, wrapped them, and attached them to the embroidered wall-hanging by those rings. Since we lived very close to Farmor and Farfar (by now, you should be able to translate those – but I'll give it to you one more time: father's mother, father's father) (Which just gave me a great idea!   In your comment, tell me what maternal grandmother and maternal grandfather would be, and I'll {not kidding} send you a Swedish prize) we just hiked into the forest at the end of our street, climbed the hill, and then back down on the other side, and we were at their house.

It was very exciting to get a small gift each day. Sometimes it was a candy, 
sometimes an ornament, and sometimes it was a tiny decoration, some that I still use today as in the above photo.  (I have NO idea why editing it counter clockwise, though successful in the iPhoto file, does not translate to the uploaded-to-blogger-file. I guess you'll have to turn your head)

Cherishing this countdown to His birth as a child, I wanted my boys to have the same wonderful experience as I had. This American piece,

 a gift from Aunt Risky, has the boys as excited about opening those doors each morning as I was. The gifts have varied over the years, but Saturday's surprise is always a bit more than the rest of the week. Lately, what they look forward to are the privilege cards. Skip a chore. Stay up an hour more. Go out to breakfast with a parent. Choose what's for dinner and who has to clean up. Jake cracks me up, because he has from time to time handed me one of those cherished cards in say June, but from two Christmases ago, and I've had to follow through. He's a saver. YellowBoy, on the other hand, “spends” most of his right away.

I appreciate you sticking around for these posts. Preparing for the celebration of Jesus' birthday takes many forms and family traditions. I'd love to hear yours.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Swedish Christmas Part 2

This post is a sequel to Swedish Christmas Part 1.

Swedes celebrate Christmas for three days in a row. What kid wouldn't love that? My parents did a great job of each sharing their family's favorite traditions. What resulted was a wonderful and unique combination of celebrations. Now we've come to the next iteration of that plan. Our boys have the chance to celebrate Christmas with two sets of grandparents, in two ways, while each of those celebrations are in turn derived from what their parents, as in me and The Engineer, celebrated as children. Are you following? Today I'm going to share a bit about the Swedish version of santa – Jultomten. (Jul is Swedish for Christmas.)

As parents, The Engineer and I decided that we weren't going to tell our kids about Santa, The Tooth Fairy, The Easter Bunny, or The Great Pumpkin. Since we were already teaching them about Jesus, we didn't want Him to be lumped into the category of, “My parents said these people existed, but I now know that {insert fake holiday icon here} isn’t' real, then why am I to believe that Jesus is true? I mean, all the rest of that pack is pretend. Jesus must be, too.” We did our best to “let them in on the secret” since we didn't want them to go around spreading any “heresy”, or spilling the beans and in turn cause trouble for those kids who were taught differently. My boys were told not to share what we believe to be truth, and to just let those kids have their fun. I'm not so silly that I believe they never told anyone, but I do believe that what they took away from the whole situation is that their parents are truthful, and sometimes it's fun to pretend so we don't hurt anyone's feelings.

American kids grow up with Santa dressed in red and white, big white beard, sleigh, flying reindeer, and presents to everyone in one evening. Swedish kids of yesteryear grew up with santa looking more like the (completely annoying) Travelocity gnome. (I used to watch The Amazing Race and the worst product placement ever was making them carry around that &*^% gnome all over some country.) Swedish kids today are exposed to a Santa closely resembling the commercialized “American” version. I'm a history buff and was just fascinated with the story (which is most easily accessed at wikipedia) of the “evolution” of the Norse santa. Since I know all of you have time to spare this season, here's the link to Wikipedia if you care to explore. 

There's a lot more to tell, including The Swede's dad dressing up as tomten when I was a kid. However, I tend to get long-winded, so I'll pause the story here and share some of my favorite Swedish tomte decorations.  I inherited these from Farmor (“father's mother”) and am proud to display a piece of my heritage.

These little ones are hand-knit by my Farmor.  The guy jumping out of the candle holder is knitted and stuffed with scraps.  The short little guy is like a hat, and slipped over a cardboard toilet paper roll.  She made a lot of these, all to be donated to the church's yearly craft fair.  Remind me to post about that.  You crafty types might enjoy that.  The runner and the wall hanging you are seeing a piece of were made by my Farfar ("father's father")

This tomte is hand-made glass.  I have him hanging from my (hideous and I'm dying to replace) dining room chandelier as seen in the following picture.

This whimsical little fellow looks more like American santa.  A good transitional piece from history to what we have today.

This little girl is my favorite.  I have no idea how old she is, but she and her brother (who lives at Swissie's house) decorated Farmor's childhood home.

What Christmas objects are special to you?  Did you believe in santa as a child?  Did you tell your kids about santa?  I enjoyed the comments on my last Christmas post.  Always nice to hear how others celebrate.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Magic Maxalt

Why the sledge hammer,
in my head?
Spotty vision,
I'll go back to bed.
Sleep so elusive,
light too intrusive
Magic pill, do your best
ease the migraine
so I can rest...

It's Sunday 160, hosted by Monkey Man.  He's taking a break, so go visit him and say "come back soon!"

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Failure to Yield

Rude, selfish behavior makes my blood boil. It's a virus, quickly spreading, and parents are teaching it to their children by their example. I'm not going to talk airplane travel, because that one is so obvious. No, I'm talking about carline. Pick-up and drop-off of kids at school. There you'll find even more rude, selfish behavior, and done in plain view of a multitude of children. It's gotta stop.

I realize some of you are blessed with never having to experience this ritual. For your sake, I'll fill you in on the “courtesy guidelines” provided by YellowBoy's middle school. Those of you who do have to endure this torture, please chime in. Knowing that there are others out there also outraged by their particular version of this situation will make me feel a bit better. I hope.

Like many schools, his has a long, circular driveway/loop dedicated to the purpose of making it easy to drop or pick-up your child. You enter this single lane and inch forward as those in front of you pull up as far as they can, discharge the student, and go on their merry way. It's a lovely theory, and quite easy to understand.

Along come the special parents. They are the ones who instead of crawling towards the drop-off, single file, squeeze their vehicles past all the politely waiting parents and zoom to the open place that the car now behind them can no longer pull into. At least the kid gets out on the sidewalk.

Not all parents are so rude that they'd sneak forward in line like that, so they just pull up next to you, discharge their child to walk in front of your car so that you can't pull out and go on your merry way because you're waiting to not drive over their child, and you can't get going anyway because they are still beside you blocking you in. If you've been trapped a while between the “get out here” and the “I'm moving to the front of the line” folks, then there seems to be some sort of conspiracy to leave you trapped there. It's as if they're saying, “Oh just ignore that Volvo, she hasn't moved for 5 minutes, must be staying a while.” Chicken? Egg? As you can tell, by now it's a traffic jam, kids everywhere, parents hurrying, holding their Starbucks in one hand, their Blackberry in the other, driving like idiots.

You think the kids don't notice? They do. YellowBoy decided that he's not wanting any part of the pick-up in that “death-trap”. (That's an exact quote, by the way) Instead he walks through the pedestrian tunnel to the other side of the two-lanes each way major thoroughfare, and then three blocks to my waiting car. I park at a nearby park. Not another parent in sight. He makes it there eventually, and my blood pressure is in much better shape.

So why not do this in the mornings, too? I would. Except YellowBoy is a procrastinator, and even though we have a five minute timer and final buzzer, he still manages to make us just off schedule enough that he no longer has time to walk from the park. Set the timer earlier you say? Maybe. But look at all the fun we'd miss.