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Friday, December 31, 2010

Party Animals

The word is out:  it's snowing.  A lot.  And blowing too.  Not an uncommon scenario in our neck of the woods at this time of year.  So we did what everyone else in our neighborhood did and bought a crapload of groceries, made sure the snowblower had plenty of gas, gritted our teeth and threw on an extra sweater in preparation for the impending snowstorm.  The storm blew in with the grit and persistence that North Dakota snowstorms tend to do, and left us with a "snow day" (for those of you in warmer climates, "Snow Days" are those days where you do nothing all day but sit in your jammies and watch the boob tube and eat junk food.  Errr, at least that's what we did today anyway.)  So all this snow meant not going out and about to participate in any New Year's festivities -- but frankly, we didn't really care. 

Traditionally, we have hosted a gathering at our house for NYE, with lots of hors' deurves, drinks, games, and merriment.  But this year, it was just the four of us.  We celebrated New Year's Eve in style:  with a fine and healthy dinner of cocktail weenies, shrimp dip, and Cheeetos.  And we ate it in the living room.  Because only on that extremely rare occasion when a snow day occurs on New Year's Eve would one get to do such a ridiculous thing!

Bad parenting + watching Elf (again) = Cheeto covered baby.  It's just math, people.
 But we had a lovely evening just chillin', no pressure to do anything but snuggle.  So that's just what we did.  And it was the best New Year's Eve I've ever had.  Hands down. When the kiddos both crashed (probably coming down off their sugar high) at about 8:30, and the hubby not long after, I sat here by myself wondering what I might do with my free time!  So blog it is.  Cuz, y'know, I'm never at a loss for words!  And I have been reflecting on the past year today, marveling at how fast it went, just like the year before that, and the year before that, and the year before that...

Because if there's one thing that I consistently seem to be reminded of when the New Year rolls around each year, it's that life goes waaaaay faster than I ever imagined it would.  My baby, my sweet and silly baby boy who has perfected the art of knowing just the right moment to give out one of his melt-your-heart smiles with a giant hug & kiss (usually the moment right before Mommy is going to send him to time out) is nearly two years old.  Not a baby anymore. 

Snuck in to get one last picture in 2010.  My little angelic boy, this is the only time he's ever sitting still!

And my grown-up girl, my beautiful, compassionate and joyful girl with the soul of an artist, the body of an athlete, and the mouth of a sailor will start Kindergarten in this new year.  The lump in my throat gets huge and I blink back the tears when I think about how quickly it's all seemed to go. 

My little punkin. When she sleeps, she looks just the same as she did as a newborn.  Happy New Year, sweet girl.

Just over Christmas break, I borrowed my mother-in-law's DV camera to transfer some of the old video tapes I had of Asha from 0-2 years (my old camera broke over 2 years ago and I was never able to get them off there, so Grama Debbie saved my memories!! Yay!)  As I watched (in fast-forward) my baby girl go from cooing infant, to rolling over, to crawling, to walking, to babbling toddler in a matter of a few hours, it struck me that it did truly seem like the past 4 1/2 years have gone by in fast-forward mode.  Heck, the past 10 years have flown by, and I'm sure it doesn't slow down anytime soon.  Don't blink, right?

But that very thing was one of the reasons why I began keeping up this blog in the first place -- to write down the little things about our life as of now, lest we forget.  I started with a little weight loss journey that I quickly dropped because it was A) boring and B) senseless to worry about petty crap like that.  But don't get me wrong, I'm now 15 pounds lighter than I was at this time last year.  And we made some big changes to the way we eat to include healthier foods and less eating out, so that was that.  The Time Machine Tuesday posts were fun, maybe I'll keep those around once in awhile, and the Techy Thursday was a one-time deal, but I may bring that back around too!  Keeping this blog was so much fun, and I hope to be able to do even more with it in 2011.

So I look back on the 2010 that flew by in a flash and realized I learned a few things this year:
  1. A little girls' excitement about going to the amusement park is almost equivalent to that of her Daddy's once they're buckling themselves into their first ride together.
  2. Raising boys is SO different from raising girls!  Mud, puppies, boogers, poop, destruction, you name it -- I was not prepared for parenting a little boy.  Always surprising, always challenging, always fun. 
  3. What happens at work stays at work.  If you take your stress home, your family pays for the crap that got dumped on you that day, and this is not fair to them.  It also steals away those little moments that are totally worth enjoying instead of stressing about other stuff that's out of your control.
  4. Marathon car trips are a huge pain in the ass, but when traveling to visit family they are more than worth the trouble.  Oh, and portable DVD players are totally worth the cost.
  5. I don't show appreciation for my husband nearly enough.  He is a rock star Dad, husband, and son who does way more than his fair share for our family without so much as a thank-you sometimes.  He is my rock, balances me, and helps me keep my sense of humor in our crazy life!
  6. Sometimes decks just fall right off houses!  Sometimes you back into the babysitters' car!  Sometimes the adorable new puppy will leave unwelcome 'gifts' for you!  Sometimes your days will just about end you!  Sometimes your husband will forget to take the snoose out of his pocket before washing his pants!  But if you don't laugh about it you'll never get through it all, and with enough sanity left over to enjoy the good stuff. 
  7. Sometimes you just need a fresh start.
  8. Playing like a kid is way more fun than playing like a grownup. 
So here's to 2010:  a pretty good year overall.  Thank you so much for reading my stories!  Never a dull moment in our home, so it's been fun recording those moments for posterity, and for future embarrassment of my children. ;)  Happy New Year to all  of you!  Wishing you health and prosperity in 2011.


Friday, December 24, 2010

And a Partridge in a Pear Tree (Habitat for Humanity)

'Tis the night before Christmas...

The kitchen is filled with the smells of coffee, roast chicken, cookie dough, lefse, and red wine. We have been eating constantly since our arrival: caramels, peanut butter cups, sugar cookies, turtles, ginger snaps, krumkake, and lefse, not to mention the enormous 4-course meals my mother has prepared for us 3 times a day...

There's a saying in my family:  "Too many butts in the kitchen"
I'm getting the evil eye from Seth!

Eight of us are gathered in the house today: 1 with a contagious disease, 2 with plain old colds, 2 with stomach flu, 1 with a migraine, 1 with an injured eyeball, and 1 who is strangely calm and serene despite the calamitous racket her home has become for the past two days. But at least we are together. We are giggling and bickering and getting in each others' way and enjoying each others' company. Grandma & Grandpa have taken every opportunity to spoil the grandkids, (who just so happen to be in that "I feel so much better now, that I'm going to be a huge pill to remind you just how energetic I can be when I'm not sick" stage), but we finally managed to get them down for a nap (threats of "it's still not too late to tell Santa to turn back" still work on them at this age). My auntie & her family will arrive shortly, and we will bring Grandma out to celebrate with us tonight as well. We are preparing for tonight's celebration: church at 4:00, dinner at 6:00, rip into the gifts at 7:00, music at 8:00, rowdy card / board games at 9:00, pass right out from all the excitement at 10:00.

Christmas has arrived.

This is family.

This is true joy.

This is home.

And I am so grateful for this home. Built by my grandparents over 50 years ago, it kept me safe and warm for 18 years and welcomes me with its familiar walls when I return for a visit. It feels big and warm and loving, like a big hug when you need it most. I know it's not the house itself that makes it feel this way, it's the people in it.

Today, my donation will go to Habitat for Humanity. So that others may find the same kind of joy that I have found with the blessings of a house, which when full of people you love, becomes home.


Thanks for reading my blog, and for coming along on this little journey I set out to write about. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, to those of you who reached out in your own way to help those who were in need.

At times, it was tough to come up with something to write about… there are SO many worthy causes out there, sadly, so many people that need help... It was hard to make a choice. But I started this whole thing because I was so moved by the generosity of the people around me, and realized that it doesn't take a lot to make a big difference. Whether a gift of time, of resources, of money, or of yourself, if we all gave a little bit we would reap so much in return. So I urge you to continue beyond this holiday season. And I will too. Because I had a lot to give, and nothing to lose.

So here's a little recap for you (just imagine me singing this in my Santa outfit while holding my 'nog, belting at the top of my lungs:)

Twelve Drummers Drumming

Eleven Pipers Piping

Ten Lords a Leaping

Nine Ladies Dancing

Eight Maids a Milking

Seven Swans a Swimming

Six Geese a Laying

Fiiiiiiive Goooooldeeeen Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiings...

Four Calling Birds

Three French Hens

Two Turtledoves

And a partridge in a pear tree!

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Two Turtledoves (Childrens' Health Fund)

On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me....


December 22, 2010. 11:00 pm: We have arrived safe and sound at G & G's, with clean roads and an uneventful trip. Well, uneventful in a weather-related sense. Neither child slept more than 10 minutes the whole 5 1/2 hour drive, and constantly whined & bickered and argued about which DVD they would watch, but otherwise, uneventful. We unload the car and then plop into bed, exhausted. The bed is so snuggly warm, sleep has never looked so inviting.

December 23, 2010.  1:00 am: Baby awake, hacking and sniffling and miserable. Big girl half-awake, hacking and feverish. Puppy whining and scared. Daddy sound asleep through it all. Mommy pulling hair out.

3:00 am: Daddy helps get the kids 'liquored up' with nighttime cough syrup, takes the dog out to the garage, and retires to the living room to sleep in the chair. Kids fall asleep. Mommy crashes.

7:00 am: Big girl wants to awaken everyone in the house so they can play "IHOP" with her. No one obliges at this hour, so she heads to the couch where she watches a half hour of cartoons before she complains of "feeling crumbly". Baby wakes up, eyes crusty, cough worse, looks like death warmed over.

8:00 am: Grandpa calls the clinic for us.

11:30 am: Big girl is diagnosed with a plain old cold, which caused some minor complications due to her asthma, but is fine. Prescribed cough syrup, Tylenol, liquids and lots of rest. Baby has double-ear infection, sinus infection, and pinkeye. He is prescribed antibiotic, eye drops, cough syrup, liquids, and to stay the heck away from everyone until he is feeling better. Aaah, it ain't a holiday unless we exchange grody germs right along with our gifts, now is it?!

1:00 pm: Baby takes his dose of the good stuff, and lays down for a nap. Mommy & the Uncles head in to visit Great-Grandma at the nursing home, and work on our Project Linus blankets with the residents. (Success!! We made 6 beautiful blankets and had a really fun time getting them finished.)

"The Blanketeers", working on a Project Linus blankie. 
They turned out great, and we had such a fun time visiting with the residents!
5:00 pm: Baby awakens 4 hours later, a kid with a new lease on life. He rips through Grandma's house destroying everything in his path. There are no bows left on the gifts under the tree. Snowmen are lying in shambles across the floor. Cupboards are emptied of their contents. He's clearly feeling back to his old self.  It's a Christmas miracle…

Back to terrorizing Big Sister.

I know it's kindof silly to say that, but I found myself thinking: how lucky am I to live in a place like this? Where despite being 330 miles from home and in a very rural area, in a matter of a few short hours, my children got in to see a doctor, were diagnosed, given medicine, and are feeling good as new. And I am so fortunate to have great health insurance that covered our visit there so I don't have to make that gut-wrenching decision: take my sick child to see a doctor, or risk it with a "wait-and-see" because I can't afford it? Trust me, unfortunately I have been in that position before and I pray that we see a day where NO parent ever has to make that kind of decision.

I feel so lucky that we live in a place and time where children no longer have to die of common childhood illnesses. Where we as parents are educated about warning signs and necessary vaccinations and how to keep our kids healthy. Where we have access to physicians and resources and medicines and diagnostic tools to help us find the answers. Our system is far from perfect, but consider how much better it is than it was 25, 50, or 100 years ago. We've come a long way, but we still have a long way to go, which is why it's important to support causes like The Children's Health Fund, a group who is "committed to providing health care to the nation's most medically underserved children through the development and support of innovative primary care medical programs; response to public health crises; and the promotion of guaranteed access to appropriate health care for all children."  Wonderful!

Several of my "12 Days" posts have been about organizations that help kids. Since becoming a mother over 4 years ago, I have counted every blessing in regards to my children. I have looked into those sparkling blue eyes and kissed the tops of those angelic blonde heads and thanked God for those two perfect blessings I have been granted. And realize daily what a huge responsibility it is to be the Mommy to these amazing little creatures that have been entrusted to me. I think that's exactly why I'm so passionate about helping those other beautiful little people in this world who cannot help themselves. It's about giving those kids a chance to grow up and become something wonderful.

My world.

For my two little turtledoves (who are at the moment soundly sleeping all snug in their beds while visions of sugarplums dance in their heads) today's donation will go to help kids who are not as lucky as mine are. Kids who by chance were not born into families with access to the medical resources we have, kids whose parents want the best for them just the same, but watch in horror as their children get sick and it's beyond their control to help them. For those kids, we should be able to do more.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Three French Hens (St. Jude's Ranch Recycled Card Program)

On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me….


Here's a couple of super-easy ones for you today. Cuz I don't  know about you, but at this moment, I am in desperate need of super-easy!

The kids have felt crummy this week, and as a result I didn't get done what I wanted to get done in preparation for the trip. Between the sickies and my "Seasonal ADD" (which is just my average run-of-the-mill ADD multiplied by about 3 million because of all the extra stuff I feel the need to do at Christmas time), I didn't think it was going to happen.

But I managed to squeak out a 'win' at the last moment… we are packed and ready to rock n' roll. In mere minutes we will be hitting I-94 West and soon, "We'll be home for Christmas." 5 1/2 hours (and that's on a fair weather day with no potty stops) in the Incredible Shrinking Car with 2 wound-up kids and 1 excited dog and 1 cranky husband and 1 stressed out Mom and 397,000 gifts and an array of other crap that we may or may not need over the next 6 days. The trunk is so full I actually had to sit on it to get it to latch. I'm not even kidding, I seriously had to do that. Good thing I had a couple extra Christmas treats this week, because I needed the extra weight to get it closed!

But when we get there…. Aaaaahhh. Christmas will have officially arrived. I'm sure my folks will be up waiting for us, Mom will probably have some food sitting out for us ('just in case') and we'll be ready to kick of the holiday celebration. And we are EXCITED! So the next time I post, it will be from my parents home, probably written in my PJ's and drinking Bailey's & coffee while my folks work on spoiling the kids and feeding us until we need to be rolled out of there in a wheelbarrow after Christmas Day.

So in a matter of a few hours, I got all packed, wrapped & rounded up the gifts, and finished up my last couple Christmas cards. A great way to keep in touch with friends and family across the globe. One of my favorite parts of the Christmas season is going to the mailbox and finding ACTUAL MAIL, from folks that I may not keep in touch with as often as I'd like, but I certainly love hearing from nonetheless and enjoy seeing what they've been up to the past year.

Which reminds me, I'd like to send out a very special thank you to a dear friend who had a fantastic suggestion for a donation that is 'super-easy', because like I said, sometimes we all need a little "easy" amidst the hectic rush that Christmas can be. We need to take a little break and remember what Christmas is all about. To calm down and count our blessings. So thanks Georgia, for reminding me of that!

You can save the greeting cards you receive at Christmas and pass them along to the St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital. They 'reuse' them by creating new cards which are then sold and the proceeds go to their very worthy charity. It's a VERY quick & easy thing to put on your "to-do list" that can make a big difference to lots of abused & neglected kids who really need a program like St. Jude's Ranch in their lives.

So though my project for today may just have to be done after these 12 Days of Christmas have already passed, I'll be rounding up all the beautiful greeting cards and sending them to:

Recycled Card Program
100 St. Jude's Street
Boulder City, NV 89005

See ya on the flip side (aka, North Lemmon!)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Four Calling Birds (Cell Phones for Soldiers)

On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...


The charity I have chosen today, Cell Phones for Soldiers, was started by a 13-year old girl and her 12-year old brother. They were motivated to action when they heard a news story about a soldier who ran up an $8000 phone bill while calling home to speak with his family while deployed overseas. Shocked by the expense of such a seemingly simple, everyday thing like a phone call, they immediately rose to action. The teens were driven to help soldiers, men and women who were torn away from their wives, husbands, children, parents, friends, and communities to do their jobs: putting themselves into harms' way to protect all of us from harm. They just wanted to help these soldiers and their families cope with the stress of a deployment. Talk about humbling.

These kind and noble children felt so passionate about this cause that they selflessly gave what some might call a meager amount, but was likely their entire life savings: they literally emptied their piggy banks...for a total of $21. When they took their money to the bank, the manager was so impressed by their thoughtful act that he anted up $500 to help. Their project quickly snowballed into a huge effort to collect phones and prepaid calling cards for troops stationed overseas. It was a simple idea, with lovely intentions. Since it's inception in 2004, these two "kids" who started with $21 have raised almost $2 million in donations and have distributed 500,000+ calling cards to soldiers who are serving our country.

Who doesn’t have an old cell phone lying around the house? I personally have two that are in fantastic condition, and 3 or 4 more that are older than dirt, just sitting in a box in the basement taking up room. So why would I NOT give my old phones to this very worthy cause? It's just too easy. The Cell Phones for Soldiers website even has an easy-to-use eraser tool that will remove personal data from your phone before it gets shipped or donated (in case you don't want your personal phone book flying around out there). Besides that, it's a good "go green" effort too! The phones don't even have to work -- the phones collected for this program are sent to Re-Cellular, which in turn pays CPFS for each phone. That happens to be enough for about an hour of talk time for a soldier who are oceans away from their family and friends, fighting for our nation. Just a little thing that could mean a LOT.  Especially during the holiday season when they may be feeling lonely and so far away from our world of stockings and decorating trees and gift shopping must seem so irrelevant compared to what they encounter on a daily basis.

Whether you're for or against the politics behind the wars our nation is currently fighting, these men and women are sacrificing so much for your right to voice that opinion. So let's give them a voice in return… so that they may find some comfort in hearing familiar voices, while working in unfamiliar lands far away from home and under conditions that most of us could not even imagine. 

So two items of action for me today (and I hope you too will at least take the time to do #1)

1) Take my old cell phones to a local dropoff point (Any of the Wells Fargo Bank and Liberty Tax locations for you Fargoans) Collect your friends' & neighbors old phones too! (Let's just make sure they're not currently using them… that could cause some family brawls at Christmastime!)

2) Make a donation at

For Nate, for Donnie, for Josh, for all the friends and family you & I have who are serving in the military:  THANK YOU.  Thank you and your families for your sacrifices so that we can continue to enjoy freedoms like having cell phones, and reading blogs, and celebrating Christmas...


Monday, December 20, 2010

Five Golden Rings (Child's Play)

For today's verse of the LONGEST CHRISTMAS SONG EVER…
I sat here all day, stumped about what to write. So many worthy causes, almost too many to choose from. I had complete and total writer's block. This is my favorite verse of the song, cuz I can sing it long and loud. And I like loud. But 5 Golden Rings, huh? What on earth… the Olympics have rings for a symbol… Gold is lovely… Symbolically they could… ummm....ugh. I got nothin'. All I can think of is my golden wedding ring. Beautiful and meaningful to me, but how can I work it in to the blog and contribute to a cause I believe in? Completely befuddled!

As the ultimate nerds, "Brad & Janet"
in the Rocky Horror Show, FMCT, Feb '03.
Then, as my hubby emerged from his man-cave tonight to get a glass of iced tea, it suddenly hit me: this will be HIS day. We don't really exchange gifts at Christmas anymore, but this could be my little 'gift' to him. He means the world to me, so why not give to a charity that means something to him? Besides, he often complains about how my blogs are "a little light on the Jordan", so I figured why not sprinkle some "Jordan" into a post! So I asked him cause he really believes in, and before I had even finished my sentence, he got all excited and blurted out, "Child's Play!"

"Child's Play? Never heard of it. Tell me about it."

So he went on to explain what the organization does, and how he found out about it. He visits a website quite regularly, called "Penny Arcade", where he finds some dork-tastic comics and blog posts and other things that make absolutely no sense to me. But on this site is also something created by its founders that is really quite incredible. It's a video game charity. Created by gamers. Just some regular dudes who happen to love video gaming decided one day that they were tired of getting a bum rap and about how they kept hearing how video games were the root of all evil and blah blah blah. So they set out to make a difference, partly to prove folks wrong, but mostly because they truly believed in a cause and wanted to help. So they got together with (their local) Seattle Children's Hospital and to help some really sick children who had the misfortune of spending their Christmas in the hospital, have a very special Christmas.

Several years later, these same dudes are the authors of an increasingly popular gaming site (Penny Arcade - that's Jordan's favorite site and how he came to find out about their project) and their charitable idea has since become a huge non-profit organization called Child's Play that raises money and gift donations to sick kids in hospitals around the country. It's a little like "Toys for Tots", but while some of the items donated are given to the children to take home, other gifts stay at the hospitals for all the kids to use (things like game consoles) so that being sick doesn't also have to mean missing out on being a kid.  Their charity proves that you don't have to be large in number or rich and famous or even "cool" to drive change.  You can do a whole lot with very little.  I greatly admire that.

The day I became his Mrs. - June 7, 2003.  As another
'5 Golden Rings' reference our vows stated, "This ring
is round and hath no end, so is my love unto my friend."
While I usually scoff at his gaming nerdery, and I certainly don't cut him any slack about his hobbies, I actually think this is a pretty darn amazing cause. Recommended by a pretty darn amazing guy. So my gift today is on behalf of my husband: a video-gamin' guy who is hard-n'-crunchy-on-the-outside but soft-n'-chewy-on the-inside. He is compassionate and thoughtful and giving in ways that take my breath away every day. He is a kind and honorable man. I totally get his completely inappropriate humor, and he gets my doofy cornball humor and we have both learned that the key to happiness is keeping a sense of humor at all times. Laughing holds us up through the low points in life and gives us so much more joy through the high points. We couldn't be more different, but we work because we complement each other so perfectly.

Besides all that, he gave me the two greatest gifts I could have ever imagined: my children. I thank God every day for these two healthy Jordan-Mini-Me's who make our lives so much richer and so very worthwhile.  When I rocked my booger-nosed baby with a hacking cough and a cranky attitude to sleep tonight, (as I am feeling completely sleep-deprived from the marathon rocking session we did last night) a thought struck me -- this kiddo has a simple cold and I feel awful for him.  When big sister was about his age, she landed in the hospital with complications from pneumonia, just overnight, but it was purely awful.  What would it be like if they got really sick?  I don't even want to think about a "what if" like that - and I'm glad that I don't have to think about it right now.  It made me marvel at how parents of really sick children survive it.  How do they conquer their own fears and become a pillar of strength so that their children don't become frightened too?  How do they manage those long nights and scary doctors' offices?  How do they handle all the medications and the machines and uncertainty?  My heart goes out to their families and I consider how lucky we are that our kids aren't the ones who are stuck in a hospital on Christmas (or any other time of the year), and I pray for the kids and parents who are.  And how I hope that we never find ourselves in a situation like that.  Again, I count my many blessings.

Some of my many blessings. (Photo courtesy of Milestones Photography)

So although my husband won't be getting any Cosby sweaters or grilling tools or neckties from me this Christmas, I hope he knows how much he is loved and appreciated by me. I don't say it often enough, and certainly take him for granted far more than I care to admit. But this Christmas he will get something given in his honor, and with more love than he will ever know…

My 5th day of Christmas gift goes to:


How's that for "light on the Jordan"? (Careful what you wish for, my love…)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Six Geese A-Laying (Project Linus)

I'm a bit late with the post tonight, but hey, it's the weekend!  I've just spent the afternoon hanging with my babes over at the skating rink.  It took the past 3 hours before I could feel my fingers & toes again, but we had a BALL!  I warmed up with a little hot cocoa and some snuggling with my little dude before bedtime, while he clutched his blanket (aptly named "Stinky") as we laid there, reading stories and singing lullabies. His blanket reminded me of an upcoming project, but I was stumped how to work it in to my blog post for today's verse.... So this one's for the children who will be 'laying' down with a very special gift from a unique organization.

On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me....


As noted in my first post of this project, my little Bam Bam had a bumpy entrance into this world. Born right at 37 weeks (technically "full term"), he experienced some breathing problems and subsequent health issues and spent 17 days in the NICU getting some help breathing, then eating, then gaining weight… as a mother, it was torture watching my child go through that. So different from what you expect when you learn you will welcome a new life into the world. You don’t get to enjoy those first moments of his life in the way you always dreamed it would be, you don’t get to bring him home from the hospital in the way you imagined, and you spend so much time worrying about your sick child that a lot of the little things – some of the simple joys of being a new parent – are taken away from you.

And yet we were lucky. We only spent 17 days there and our son made it out perfectly healthy; so many of the other little ones in that room surely had a much longer road ahead of them. Noah was the big brute of the bunch at 7lb. 10 oz, compared to his teeny 'NICU neighbors' who ranged from ~3 to 6 lbs.  We were fortunate that when he finally came home he didn't require monitors and daily/weekly checkups to ensure his safety and health. And once we got him home, he thrived and shot up to the 80-90 percentile for weight and height within just a couple weeks. (With his gene pool, both stubbornness and the tendency to eat constantly certainly helped him out there!)

Within the first day or so after his birth, our favorite nurse brought a bright orange fleece blanket over to the incubator. She explained that it was a gift, and pointed to a little patch sewn onto the blanket corner as she described the program that sent it, "Project Linus". You know, Linus, as in the kid from the Peanuts comics?  What a unique and wonderful gift!  Noah’s blanket from Project Linus was the one thing he had with him those first few frightening days of his life that didn’t look like a hospital-issued item. It was a bright spot amidst the tubes and machines and incubators that surrounded him. It provided warmth and comfort and felt just a little bit like home. We wrapped him in it when we did kangaroo care, it laid over his "cooker" while he gained strength, and placed it over him to keep him warm in the car seat when that moment finally came that we got to take him home with us. The blanket was a simple gesture that made a big difference from someone - a complete stranger - who cared.
Taken right before he moved to the "Graduation Room", about 3 days before he got to join us at home.  His blanket is on the shelf behind him.

So now, as a bright, energetic and healthy 20 month old toddler, the bright orange fleece is his favorite “bankey” and a must-have accessory for sleeping, snuggling, and just dragging around with him! To this day, it provides him with comfort and a sense of security when he is sick or sad or scared or when he just needs a familiar 'friend'.  It now goes with him to daycare, and rumor has it that he has laid the smack down on any other children who dare try to 'borrow' it for naptime!
Snuggling up on the couch to watch 'Elf' (or as he calls it "Buddy!") for about the 19th time today.
As you can tell by the shiner on his right eye and the gouge above his left  he is a rough & tumble typical little boy who has been one tough customer right from the start!

After we got home from the hospital, I looked up the Project Linus organization, and was really touched by what they do. It is a group comprised of volunteers who hand-make these beautiful blankets children suffering from all kinds of illness or injury. Their mission is to "provide love, a sense of security, warmth and comfort to children who are seriously ill, traumatized, or otherwise in need through the gifts of new, handmade blankets and afghans, lovingly created by our 'blanketeers'." Project Linus accepts all kinds of donations, but my personal favorite is the fleece 'no-sew' blankets (because I'm sure as heck no quilter!!) because they are soft, warm, and hold up well to countless launderings and the abuses of a rowdy toddler...

That's his "I'm about to be up to something" look...  his blanket follows him on many of his adventures.

So as a second part of this project, I'm going to reach out to another group to help me 'create' my donation: the residents at the nursing home where my Grandma now lives. My brother had emailed me last week, mentioning that Dad wanted us to brainstorm some ideas for a project to do while we are home for Christmas - a way to spend some fun time with my Grandma too! Grandma has never been much of a seamstress, but she can ALWAYS be found where people gather together -- whether to have 12 cups of coffee, gab about the latest happenings, or especially to show off her grandkids (though I doubt ANY of us can technically be called "kids" anymore!) But I immediately thought of this as a possibility: 1) because I've been wanting to do this for months and 2) because the blankets are pretty simple to make, and even the folks that have difficulty with hand dexterity could help out. It could be a daunting task, as my bro pointed out (and he'd know, he worked in the Alzheimer's unit of a home throughout his college years). Besides, they are often looking for some fun and different activities to do, especially during these long, cold winter months where the residents may not be able to get out and about. And even if it doesn't end up being a success, finishing the blankets will give me something to do on our 8-hours in the car on the way back home!
The mountain of fleece, soon to become blankets!
 So while the project won't be finished today, I will be making a donation to the Fargo Project Linus chapter for today's "give back" gesture. As a very small way of saying “thank-you” for the warmth and comfort that my son’s blanket provided to us at a time when we needed it the most:


Saturday, December 18, 2010

Seven Swans a-Swimming (FirstLink)

On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me….


Both my hubby and I grew up in very small towns, and we lived and worked in small towns our whole lives. We loved the close-knit, neighborly feel of small towns -- a place where even though everybody knows your business, everybody was also willing to lend a hand when times got tough. So when we moved to Fargo in June of 2008, we were a little tentative about the city. I know, I know, Fargo isn't what I'd call a "city" either, but compared to Hulett or Beulah or Deadwood… it was a HUGE metropolis! We had a few friends and some family in town, but it just didn't feel like "home" to us for the first few months. Sure, the people were nice enough and there were plenty of opportunities for us here. But still, it didn't have that neighborly feel that we were used to. We struggled, wondering if we had made the right decision to uproot our lives and come out to this bitterly cold and isolated community out in the middle of the northern plains. Had we made mistake?

Then, March 2009 hit.

It had been a hard and snowy winter, and the flat land East of the Missouri just couldn't hold all the runoff once the weather warmed in the spring. If you paid attention to any 24-hour news channel during that time, you would have seen images and heard stories of how a devastating flood was about to wipe out the Fargo-Moorhead area. So the citizens were called up to help with the waters that were quickly headed our way...
And my goodness, how they responded! People came in droves to help sandbag - in the wind, the snow, the cold, and at all hours and even from other towns - dedicated to saving this town. Farmers, doctors, teachers, businessmen, adults and children, people from all walks of life quickly forgot their differences and banded together with a common goal: to accomplish something that seemed so daunting and unattainable. Strangers helping strangers with no motive other than to HELP because help was needed. It was simply astounding. In a matter of just a few short days, these everyday heroes showed up to fill millions of sandbags, save hundreds of homes, and touched thousands of lives. They quite literally SAVED FARGO.

It was a terrifying couple of weeks. The sound of the national guard choppers flying overhead and sirens wailing through the streets 24x7 made the city sound like a war zone. The local news channels ran flood coverage day and night. Nobody knew if the dikes and contingent dikes would hold. The city shut down while the citizens held their breath, preparing for the worst but praying for the best. I remember watching the 9 o'clock news one night and watched in amazement as one of the anchors held up a photo of her own home to the camera -- it was nearly underwater -- and yet, she was still in front of the camera doing her job because her community needed her.

Being 7 months pregnant at the time, I couldn't do much more than "woman the fort" while my colleagues went out and sandbagged and helped where they were needed. My husband was one of those able bodies out in the trenches who saw some pretty miraculous things happen during that time. I watched him day after day go to work for a few hours in the morning, then head out and bag until midnight. The exhaustion on his face after two weeks was nothing compared to the emotion in his voice as he described the people who were in the trenches with him. Like the elderly woman who refused to stand around and watch while strangers put up a fortress around her home - and stood out there helping folks 60+ years her junior toss the 40-pound sandbags up onto the dikes. The inspiring stories he came home with are something we will never forget.

I still get a lump in my throat when I think about it. About how lucky we were to not have had a drop of water in our home. About how lucky we were to be surrounded by friends and neighbors who made sacrifices for the benefit of others. Seeing that, being touched by that kind of selflessness, left an impression on our family. We realized that whether the place you live in has 1,400 or 140,000 or 14,000,000, there are people that can and will make a difference when they are called to action. It was a turning point -- we knew we had found "home".

FirstLink organized a veritable army of volunteers for the flood-fighting. Their organization trained volunteers to man a call center hotline for folks who wanted to give their time, but also a place where those in danger of losing their homes could place a call for help. They worked with community leaders to determine where need was, and coordinated efforts to get the resources where they were needed. It was incredible how quickly and efficiently this organization pulled together enough volunteers and resources to accomplish the huge feat of holding back the raging Red River. I was impressed by FirstLink to say the least, but after researching more about their group and what they do, I feel even more strongly about supporting their cause.
So on this 7th day of Christmas, I give my support to FirstLink because they kept us all from "Swimming"

Friday, December 17, 2010

Eight Maids A-Milking (Boys & Girls Club)

I'm singing this one loud & proud, 'cuz it's Friday, I'm running on minimal sleep, and I might have had a little celebratory drink with lunch:

"Ooooon the eeeeeighth daaaaay of Chriiiiiistmaaaaas, my truuuuuue love gaaaaave to meeeeee...


I am one year older today. I don't feel any older than I did yesterday, let alone any different than I did at age 12. Except my knee hurts, because it's snowing. And I found a completely white hair on my head last week. And I can't stay up past 10 pm anymore. And I nearly pee my pants when I sneeze. But other than that, I feel just like a kid!

Every time my birthday rolls around, I can't help but remember fondly the "olden days", back when we really knew how to party. Since my birthday is so close to Christmas, my Mom always made a concerted effort to give me a birthday celebration that didn't get lost in the shuffle of the busy holiday season. She always made a huge to-do about my big day, bless her kind and thoughtful heart! There were adorable invitations that I excitedly handed out to my girl friends at school. There were beautifully crafted birthday cakes in the shape of a Smurf, a Cowgirl, a Cabbage Patch Kid, a Popple, or the famous hot-air balloon cupcake, painstakingly decorated by my Mom in the wee hours before my birthday. There were huge birthday party shindigs hosted at our house, usually in honor of my friends Mary Jo & Abbey and myself, who all shared birthdays within a few days of each other.

The first of these many sleepovers kicked off in 1st grade, consisting of a group of about eight rowdy, sugar-charged, giggling, squealing 7-year old girls who took over my parents' basement. And I don't believe I fully appreciated the significance of this until I had a giggly little girl of my own. It must have been pure torture for my poor parents! There was a lot of Mountain Dew consumed. I mean a LOT. We ate pizza and Doritos until we could barely move and chatted & gossiped & laughed until milk came out of our noses. Over time the party activities may have changed… from dancing rambunctiously to records at full-blast, to truth-or-dare, to making our own videos, to prank-calling friends (or a teacher or 2!), even cow-tipping (I kid you not), and of course the tried & true "undies in-the-freezer" gag. Aggravated by the sheer racket we created, my dad would storm to the top of the stairs at least three times a night (and usually in his underwear, just to try to embarrass me into shutting up - never worked) to get us to pipe down so the rest of the household could get some sleep. We were such nerds. But WOW, we had a blast and made memories that have withstood the test of time (and increasingly old age)!

Taken at one of the last of these crazy gatherings (my 15th birthday):
Abbey, Buffy, Amber, Shanna Mary Jo, Stacey & Baby Bro Shad
**More pics to come after I get home tonight - I'm digging through my archives for more embarrassing photos.  There is REALLY embarrassing video footage that exists too, but we'll save that for some other day.  Mwah-ha-ha!!!**

We kept up the slumber party tradition with those crazy girls, (though some of the crew came & went for various reason)  year after year, our last one being Freshman year. That's when, sadly, we started to drift our own ways… new groups of friends, new activities, new busy teenage lives.  In short, we grew up.
But I will never forget those birthday parties. Because they gave me something more than a sugar high and a boatload of birthday presents to play with. They gave me an appreciation for the friends that I have in my life. I may not have appreciated them at the time, but after living some life and taking those roads less traveled… I do now. I especially cherish the select few dear ones who have stuck by me and put up with me for coming up on 30 years!!

I am so thankful to have had a happy childhood, where I felt secure and loved and spoiled by my loving family. A family who allowed me to share some great moments with some delightful young ladies whom I still consider friends to this day. Since I was given a strong and healthy home life as a child, I realize the value that unwavering nurturing and loving environment has given me in my adult life. So for those kids who aren't as lucky as I was, to have the stability and character-building that I was given. For those kids who don't have the opportunity to meet the kinds of friends who make you laugh so hard you spray milk out of your nose (aha, there's the "8 Maids a Milking!" - it's a stretch, I know!), friends you can count on through thick and thin and reach out to for support in this crazy world we live in. For those kids who need a friend:

My 8th Day of Christmas donation will go to:

The Boys & Girls Club:

Who provides "A safe place to learn and grow...
Ongoing relationships with caring, adult professionals...
Life-enhancing programs and character development experiences...
Hope and opportunity."

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Nine Ladies Dancing (YWCA of Cass Clay)

On the 9th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…


I am one lucky lady.  Now, my life isn't perfect -- far from it.  But I have the things that truly matter. I have two loving and supportive parents who encouraged me to reach for the stars. I have two brothers who continually demonstrate what it means to be a respectful and honorable man.  I have a patient and kind hearted husband who adores me and tolerates my crazy ideas and has helped me grow into a confident, strong, and much more composed woman than I was before we met 10 years ago. I am the mother of two amazing, healthy, smart, funny, and adorable children who motivate me to be a better person so I can be the best role model I can to them.  I have colleagues who challenge me to be a better professional every day, and teach me more than I ever thought I could learn about this business! I have loyal and compassionate friends who show me all the time that wonderful people really do exist in this world that is sometimes not as wonderful as it should be.

My motivation.  Photo courtesy of Milestones Photography.
For these reasons, and for countless others, I am going to give back. Sometimes giving of yourself can make as much or even more of a difference than your dollars can. During our company 'Give' campaign this year, I heard a speaker describe the desperate need they have for volunteers are our local YWCA shelter. I thought, "Wow, I'd love to do that, but I'm just too busy". I said it last year, and I said it again this year. 

Well, you know what? That's a crappy excuse. Busy? So are the other volunteers that show up there to give of their time. So are the women and children whose lives are interrupted by abuse and poverty and loss of jobs or their home.

So hoping that my ever-supportive husband would fly solo with the kiddos one night a week (he has done this on multiple occasions, and for far more ridiculous reasons) I rolled the dice and made a phone call this morning, to our local YWCA.  The volunteer coordinator asked me, "what types of things are you good at?"  *Crickets*  After what seemed like 3 solid minutes of silence on the line, I finally managed to utter, "Um, I guess I'm okay with computer stuff.  Got anything for nerds?"  She chuckled, and then told me about their Education and Employment program.  Essentially, the YWCA provides education and assistance to women in the areas of financial management, parenting, customer service, basic computer skills and other job skills.  I thought, "hmm, okay, I think I might actually be able to do a couple of those things".
Like... I supported Microsoft Office for two years, I should be able to teach others how to use it!

And my current job is entirely customer-service based.

And I know how to balance a checkbook. In fact, I can pinch a penny so hard it'd make Lincoln toot.

The parenting thing is debatable (see any number of my previous blog posts)… but I can read bedtime stories and change diapers like a rock star.

So I can do this! I can and will give of my time so that other women can have the opportunities that I have been given, and take for granted every day of my life. So I will go home tonight to my big warm house full of nice things, occupied by my kind and loving husband and beautiful children… and I will give thanks for everything I have been blessed with in this world.

As their mission says, "The YWCA Cass Clay is dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women, and promoting peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all." So today, to help envision a world where all ladies are 'dancing' to their fullest potential, my donation of time will go to:

The YWCA Cass Clay

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Ten Lords a-Leaping (Farm Rescue)

Again, MAD props to all of the supporters of my crazy blog idea.  Big or small, you have reached out and made a difference and that's exactly what I set out to accomplish with this little project.  Thank you!

"On the Tenth day of Christmas, my true love gave to meeeeeee…."


A year ago at this time, my Dad had surgery on his foot which left him unable to put any weight on his foot for 6 weeks or so. So during our Christmas visit last year, he was not a "Lord a-Leaping" to say the least. As an active farmer who works 18 hour days and has never sat down for more than 20 minutes in one shot (and usually that's to shovel some grub in before heading out to the next task), being on crutches kind of slowed the ol' fella down. Like when last year's White Christmas dumped 18" of snow on us, he sat impatiently watching out the kitchen window as my husband and brother tried to remove the snow with his loader tractor to get us dug out. He cringed and flung his arms in the air and grumbled words that made even me blush. He may have even muttered "they aren't doing it right", and we may have retorted "stubborn!"... but we all know it was his way of showing that he needed to be out there himself, pushing the snow in the yard into neat piles and making sure his cattle were fat & comfy as always. 

But the situation got us all to thinking: what would happen to them if he could no longer take care of the farm?  We had a neighbor and close family friend who lived and worked on his farm until almost the very day he died, at the young age of 93. He was clearly an exceptional man, in great health, but he was the exception, not the rule. Certainly my dad is an incredibly healthy guy, but what if?

That farm is Dad's life, his passion, and my parents' livelihood.  It has been in our family for over 50 years, a family business started by my Grandpa John and painstakingly maintained by my father for over 35 years.  The land where I grew up will always hold a very special place in my heart.  See, around here, land isn't just land:  it is a passion.  It is a part of history.  It is a way of life.  We only know work.

Asha on "Turtle Rock Mountain", which overlooks the Christman family farm.
My father is the hardest working man I have ever known. His pride in the land and integrity in his business and love for what he does humbles me.  He has instilled in his children a work ethic that cannot be taught in schools anywhere.  He comes honestly by this kind of dedication, and is in the company of generations of people who chose this profession. My great-grandparents, grandparents, uncles, cousins, and even the little bro who has put so much into his FFA career -- all of these people loved the land we live on.  They were the first environmentalists.  They were "green" before Green was cool.  They were tough, hard-working, conservationists who never gave up despite hard winters, dry summers and equipment breakdowns.
The work ethic that folks in our part of the world possess is something that often leaves me astounded and awestruck. But no matter how hard they work, no matter how stubbornly they protest that they don't need help, things happen. This land we live on and tend to is unforgiving and temperamental. Drought, raging winds, hail, prairie fires, floods, and unseasonal heat or cold can wipe out a family's income for an entire year. Considering that farmers are self-employed, and their spouses are often part of the family operation, many families do not even have health insurance. So when disaster hits it is more than devastating to families who depend on their crops to provide food, clothing, shelter, and other basic necessities. As if the economy and big business "competition" weren't bad enough, sadly, many farmers are forced to hang up their feed store caps and give up their farms when catastrophes like this occur. And no matter how hard they fight, as a result, many of these 3rd- and 4th- generation farms are disappearing right before our eyes. 

A North Dakota farm boy who grew up to become an airline pilot saw a need for help and started an amazing program called Farm Rescue, based right here in our backyard, Jamestown, ND. Farm Rescue is an organization which lends a helping hand to farmers in need in North Dakota, South Dakota, western Minnesota and eastern Montana. It provides labor and farm equipment to provide planting or harvesting assistance to farm families who have experiences major illness, injury, or natural disaster. Volunteers work long, exhausting days, in the heat or the cold driving rain just to lend a hand to a family in need. It is a simple concept based on neighborly generosity and pulling someone up when they're at their lowest. It takes care of those farmers in a "what if" circumstance.

So on the 10th day of Christmas, as a tribute to my Dad and all the hardworking family farmers of yesterday and today, my contribution goes to:

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Eleven Pipers Piping (Global Music Project)

WOAH. $90 raised for the March of Dimes (ND Chapter) in less than 12 hours. I am blown away by your responses. I am truly blessed to have such incredible friends and family! THANK YOU, from the bottom of my heart for your contributions, whether it be monetary, paying it forward in other ways, 'spreading the word', or just supporting me in my efforts to do this! You guys are amazing!

As a friend pointed out, traditionally the 12 Days of Christmas begin on Dec 25th and end Jan 5th. However, I did a bit of Bing-ing (it's much more fun than Googling) and found that it's contemporary media's fault that I erroneously believed the 12 days of Christmas started when they did. So, yeah, blame the media! (Haha!)  Meh, no big deal. Because as my mother can attest, if I don't particularly care for a rule, I will just "bend" it a bit 'til it fits my liking. And I'll do it with a smile. [*devilish grin*]

So I'm sticking with my original plan. Because by the time New Year's rolls around, aren't we already a little sick of the Christmas music anyway? Right? Right.  I hope you will join me in paying it forward this Christmas season by contributing to your charity of choice:  give time, give money, give support in any way you can.  Everyone has something to offer, so share it with someone less fortunate than you!  Without further ado:


"On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…"


It's no secret.  I am a big old music geek at heart. I am actually sad that I no longer fit into my old blue and white band uniform, with the sparkly silver cummerbund and plastic side-tilty cowboy hat, because I would seriously love to put that sucker on and march up & down my street with my flute, busting out my marching-band rendition of "Eye of the Tiger". But I'm afraid my husband and children would die of embarrassment, so I'll save that little routine for when the kids are in high school.

Surprised that I am wearing such an awkward hat.

As my brothers can verify, I used to (alright, let's be honest, still do this) twirl across the living room floor as the musical number in my head played out. To anyone who says, "musicals aren't realistic because no one actually breaks out into song and dance randomly", I say, "au contraire." I frequently sing my monologue/dialogue. To keep things interesting at work I even try to type rhythmically, to whatever song is playing on my Pandora station at the moment. Sometimes when people speak a sentence that contains part of a song lyric, I will bust out into my own rendition of said song (this can be awkward in some situations. I can't help it. I think I have musical Tourette's…)

My first musical - "Bye Bye Birdie" (I played Rose Alvarez, I think I was cast in the role because of my Hispanic appearance.... hahaha) my senior year at Lemmon High School, May 1997

I think my love for music is partially genetic. At a young age, I could be heard singing into the cassette recorder's microphone at the top of my lungs (my fave tune: Juice Newton's "Queen of Hearts", which coincidentally is one of the songs I just sang with our band that played at the company holiday party). Both sides of my family include many musically talented individuals so the love for music was instilled in me at a young age. My mother herself has a beautiful singing voice, but she would sooner poke herself in the eye with a fork than get up in front of anyone and speak, let alone sing. So I'm pretty sure I get my love of performing from my father (yeah, the 57-year-old guy who did cartwheels at Parents' Night when my baby brother was a senior!), who also happens to have a beautiful singing voice.

My mom made me go up in front of everyone and pretend to play my song
so she could get a good picture of me at my first piano recital. 
So to spite her, I decided to close my eyes just as she snapped the shot.

But that true desire for all things musical was fueled by some really amazing music teachers I've been fortunate enough to have encountered in my schooling. Their encouragement and dedication to their art is something rare and inspiring. They taught me discipline and persistence and that even when something isn't perfect it can still be pretty darn wonderful. I was certainly no virtuoso, but man, did we ever have fun!

The Lampheads (don't ask) at one of our "big time" gigs - a high school dance

In high school, music kept me out of trouble. In college, it kept me motivated. In my current life, it keeps me from going insane with the day-to-day pace of a working mom. Music caused me to forge friendships that would never have happened otherwise. Because of music, my world was opened up to infinite possibilities and exposed me to cultures I never would have had the chance to explore from my little small town out in the sticks. To this day, and hopefully for the rest of my life, music calms me when I'm stressed, energizes me when I'm tired, makes me think harder and makes me feel more. Music is the language of the world. It knows no boundaries of race, religion, age, gender, geography, and economic status.

I'm a Drummer Drumming here, instead of a Piper Piping... but for the record I did play the flute.

And isn't that a wonderful thing?

For Mrs. Johnson, Mr. Schimke, Dr. Geston, Ms. Pearson, Mr. and Mrs. Raber, who have touched my life and kicked my butt and inspired me to keep a song in my heart throughout life, this is in your honor:

Today's  "11th Day of Christmas" contribution goes to the Global Music Project, an organization that believes in "the power of music to attract, educate, and inspire humanity to participate in making a better world."  So that people across the world can have the chance to enjoy music as much as I do.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Twelve Drummers Drumming (March of Dimes, ND Chapter)

The Twelve Days of Christmas

We had our holiday wine & cheese party on Friday (a total blast, btw!) In recent years, the tradition in the days leading up to the party is to have a contest amongst several teams across campus to raise funds for the Great Plains Food Bank. This year, our little ol' campus in the middle of a corn field raised over $30,000 for our local food bank. $30,000. In less than 2 weeks. I happen to think that is pretty darn incredible! And the company I work for, regardless of what you think of our products / services / image… is an incredibly generous and community-minded company. For every dollar we raise, for any 501(c)3 charity, they match it = dollar for dollar. That means the GP Food Bank now has $60,000 which can help feed who knows how many families who are going through a difficult time in their life. Amazing!

And although my personal contribution may have been relatively small, when combined with all my colleagues and friends, it added up to something very big. Which made me realize:

It doesn't have to be much.

It doesn't have to be far-reaching.

It just has to be something.

So I decided to try a little fundraising of my own. Each day for the 12 Days of Christmas, I'm going to post a brief blog about the charity I choose to contribute to that day -- what it means to me and why you might consider giving to the cause as well. But please don't think you have to give to my causes… these are charities which support causes that are important to me.  What I would LOVE to see is for you to give, if you can, to someone who has less than you do - support a cause that you believe in. There are thousands of wonderful charities out there! Cuz heck, if even 10 of my readers give $1, $10 toward a charity is better than a kick in the pants, right?

And I do this because I have a LOT to be thankful for…

A lot.

So I think it's appropriate that at Christmas, the season of giving, I try to give back a little. I may not be a big celebrity, I'm no hero, I certainly don't make the big bucks, and I don't know much of anything about anything. But I do know this: a little can go a really long way. So help me out if you can!  But if you can't - pay it foward any other way you can!

*ahem* [sings, at the top of her lungs, and with flair, jazz hands & all]

"On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me..."


Everyone who knows my little Bam Bam knows how much he loves making noise. He loves playing my pots & pans with a spoon, and his favorite toy is the drum and shaker set he got for his first birthday. He beams with pride when he plays them and waits anxiously for us to applaud his, uh, "music".  Such a little character.  He fills our house with joy and giggles and keeps us on our toes with his destructive typical-toddler-boy behavior!!  He has come a long way from that very sick little boy who spent the first 17 days of his life in the NICU.

Thanks to the March of Dimes and the research that they have spearheaded and funded, doctors and hospitals have come so far with medical advancements concerning preemies and newborns with health issues.  Besides that, their NICU Family Support staff was incredible - they helped bring me through an extremely difficult and stressful time, because like any Mommy would, I struggled seeing my helpless tiny little newborn have to fight so hard. I am still in awe of the work the amazing doctors and nurses did during Noah's stay, I will never forget what they did for him and for our entire family.  Today we have a perfectly healthy (no kidding, the kid  is rarely sick - he just had his first dose of antibiotics 2 weeks ago, and he's 20 months old!) and smart and funny and loud and wonderful little boy who loves books and kitties and puppies and dirt and gives the BEST hugs and "hi- pive" (hi-fives).

So in honor of my little drummer boy, my 12th Day of Christmas charity is:
March of Dimes, North Dakota Chapter
Click here to donate to this cause:

Sunday, December 05, 2010

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

We tackled our first (I say 'first' since Noah was really too little to participate last year, and Asha had no interest) Christmas decorating project last weekend. And when we decorate, we don't mess around.  Holiday decorating is serious business.

It is a tradition that has been passed down to me from my mother.  Every year, usually the weekend after Thanksgiving, Kerr-Bear would trot out her 41+ boxes of holiday decor from the basement.  It was our duty to ensure that our home looked like it was darn good and festive! There was not one hall undecked: each shelf filled with Santa figurines, each wall plastered with snowman hangings, each candle held by angels, and every bit of extra floor space covered with stuffed reindeer, Santa Bears & of course that Christmas necessity, Santa Kermit & Mrs. Claus Miss Piggy. 

And the tree.  Aah, the tree.  Up until about 10 years ago, when they switched to a artificial tree (much to the chagrin of my little brother), Dad would bring home a real live Christmas tree for us to decorate and admire every night until Christmas.  We'd be "asked" to help decorate the tree (read: get your butts in here and help me with this or you will find nothing but a rock in your latch-hooked stocking this year!)  So Mom would pass out the garland, crack open the boxes upon boxes of ornaments, and crank up Vince Gill's "Let There Be Peace on Earth" album.  An ironically titled album, as generally there was not peace in the living room as we loveley'd up thy branches. Tensions ran high hanging those sequin-studded kitten-in-a-stocking ornaments from the branches while getting stabbed by its prickly needles until your hands turned red & blotchy.  Every year at least one of us would end up storming off, vowing to "never, ever do this again", only to sheepishly return a few minutes later so as not to miss the unveiling:  that "aaaah" moment when finally the lights were turned down and that beautifully decked Christmas tree stood glimmering in all it's pine-smellin' splendor!  All in all, pretty precious memories.  Usually these memories were captured by the ol' Kodak, the results of which were frequently used as our family's Christmas card photo, like so:

As you can plainly see, yes, we are HAPPY about this season!
This may or may not have been taken following one of the storm-off meltdowns I described earlier.
Now that I have a family of my own, I thought, "hey, I'd love to start that tradition too."  Rookie mistake: my kids happen to be too young to have enough attention span to last through my digging through boxes to find the "non-breakable" ornaments.  I'm not gonna name names here, but someone was far more interested in playing dressup than helping Mommy as she so sweetly promised.  And another someone kept trying to pull the decorations off the tree faster than we could get them on, and got sent downstairs to play with Daddy.  So I ended up doing most of the decorating myself.  But I did get a few brief but sweet moments of decorating assistance from my little friends...

So this is what our own little family decorating tradition looks like.  We dress up like Santa to get in the spirit of things...

We sing carols while we hang the ornaments...

And everyone, big or small, pitches in (except Daddy, because, as Asha recently asked him "are you like the Grinch or somethin'?")

We revel in the beauty of the shiny ornaments...

And then we take a bite, just to see if they taste as good as they look.

We show how angelic we can really be... 

And now it seems that I might be passing the decorating spirit torch to the next generation.  Asha got her very own little tree (thanks, Grama Debbie) which now lives in her room, cuz' you know, every 4-year old needs their own tree, or so I've been informed.

So thanks, Mom, for starting this tradition. And um, sorry about all those times we fought and whined & complained and "ruined the Christmas spirit". Our first annual tradition may not have been perfect, but it most certainly was very memorable time spent together. And I guess that's really what it's all about now, isn't it?  


 Through the years we all will be together,

If the fates allow

Hang a shining star upon the highest bough.

And have yourself A merry little Christmas now!