Merry Christmas flavored vegetable soup

I have got to get back into the habit of updating this site more often - every 9 to 10 days just isn’t cutting it. Too many stories back up. Here’s the rundown on what’s been going on around here…

Scrub-a-dub-dub

Remember my clean garage that was transformed into Steve’s Transmission Shop? Progress is being made on the transmission overhaul slowly but surely. When Vicki came over on Sunday for dinner, Steve enlisted her help with cleaning all the parts. It’s become a regular thing - Vic comes over for food and laundry, we get to visit with her and she goes home clean and full. It’s a win-win for everyone. This week she went home full but definitely not clean. Days later she said she could still smell the engine degreaser on her hands and that her shirt and pants would never be the same. I am hopeful that the Breeze will be ready to exit the garage soon.

On Monday (the 17th) we were treated to our annual Band Christmas concert. This year’s concert was once again a full band concert with the beginning students playing right along with the more advanced players. That is always a treat The kidsbut was especially wonderful since all of the kids were out of school the week prior due to the ice storm and no one had used those days off to practice. The annual Christmas concert is also when senior band students and their parents are recognized for their accomplishments. Steve and I usually find this part of the evening very tedious - every student is called to come forward, a long list of their accomplishments and future plans is read, their parents come up and get recognized, blah blah blah. It generally adds at least an hour to an already long evening and truthfully, most audience members aren’t very interested unless they have children being recognized. This year, Steve and I stood in the spotlight smiling as our children bored the audience for quite a long time - both April and Jon are seniors.

Rat poster for Science classTuesday night we spent the evening helping Violet with her science project. She had to do a research paper on an animal. Violet picked rats! She wanted meerkats but someone else had already taken them. So, of course, rats are the next best thing. She did a lot of research, wrote her report, etc and the final item she needed was a poster that had to be “creative and informative”. She came up with a great idea but needed a little help with sketching out the shape of the rat. Her poster turned out very cute, don’t you think?

Wednesday (the 19th) I finished all my Christmas shopping and we finally got theSteve gets the tree assembled and puts on the lights Christmas tree up. That is actually earlier than in some years. Getting the tree and decorations down from the attic wasn’t very easy what with the Breeze being in the way of letting down the attic steps. I had to do this intricate acrobatic, tarzan-swinging, ladder-climbing manuever to get to them.

Holy cow we need a new tree! Our branches are looking a little ratty. There are a few branches that look like we stole them from Charlie Brown’s tree. Our tree deserves to be retired though - it’s quite old. We’ve had it for at least 8 years and Steve’s parents used it for a long time before that (decades!). Time to put it to rest. A new tree is definitely something I should be looking for at the after Christmas sales.

O Christmas Tree

Once we got all the lights, tinsel and ornaments on though, a magical transformation had taken place and the tree looked very lovely.

Thursday morning I was able to get all of the Christmas presents wrapped and/or packaged for mailing. It is amazing how much easier it is to wrap and pack gifts when you can spread all your supplies out on the dining room table instead of huddling in secret on the floor or bed in your room. With the kids in school and me home, a chore I usually dread was actually quite fun. After packing every thing up I headed to the post office where there was NO LINE! I was able to quickly get my stuff off to various loved ones and was guaranteed they would arrive by Christmas Eve! Another chore I usually dread that turned out to be easy and painless this year.

Thursday afternoon was Violet’s Christmas musical. It was very cute. Violet was a snowman and had a small speaking role and a solo. All of the 3rd and 4th grade students had singing parts and/or speaking parts but only Violet and Mrs Claus had solos. I could tell she was nervous about singing alone but she did a fine job. I taped the snowman portion of the program and uploaded it to YouTube for your enjoyment. I really need to get a real video camera instead of using my little digital camera for these type of things. Hope you don’t get vertigo from my camera handling techniques.

Friday we made fudge and delivered it to all of our neighbors with an invitation to an impromptu Christmas Eve Open House. I made an incredibly delicious cinnamon chocolate walnut fudge and I also made a batch of Ernie Burleson’s yummy peanut butter fudge. Turns out one of my neighbors is allergic to peanuts. I never even thought about that. I guess next year I’ll make something less likely to cause someone to end up in the emergency room! Maybe I’ll make this peppermint bark. It looks like something Violet would like to help with and looks yummy too. Or maybe I should make something like this spice cake which is completely anti-allergic since it is gluten, dairy, egg and nut free and yet apparently still tastes good. After cleaning up the mess from all that fudge making, I was so glad we had plans to eat dinner with friends that night. Baking and cooking is something I really like to do - cleaning up, not so much.

On Saturday morning, I drove Amber and April to the airport in Springfield. That was really weird. In the past, the girls have always traveled with an escort from the airline. This year, though, we agreed that April wouldn’t need an escort. She’s 18 and is traveling with Amber (who is 23). Here’s the weird part - I wasn’t able to go through the security gate this time. Usually I get to have a gate pass. Now, I have to stand on the wrong side of the glass and wave to them from afar. Just another one of those milestones that reminds you that they are growing up and away.

Sunday we spent the day baking for our Christmas Eve shindig and for Christmas day dinner. We got kind of a scare that morning. On the way home from Mass, Steve noticed a huge black smoke cloud hanging over our neighborhood. Steve was sure it was from a house fire. The closer we got the more it looked like the burning house was on our street - I was really nervous that it was our house. We had left Jon sleeping in his room in the basement. I know how soundly he sleeps and was afraid he would not have heard the smoke detector if it had gone off. It turned out to be a house fairly close to ours but not on our street. Garage fire. Gutted most of the living space before it was finally put out. What a horrible thing to happen anytime but that family’s Christmas was certainly ruined.

Later that night we celebrated the last Sunday of Advent. I love celebrating Advent - it sort of spreads out the anticipation of Christmas and keeps everyone focused on the real reason for the celebration. Our family does a calendar as well as an Advent wreath. We light the candles, read a passage, and then sing carols while eating cookies and sipping eggnog. Mmmm.

Violet, Sara, Kayleigh & Miley playing dressupMonday started at 5 am and was crazy hectic what with last minute preparations for Christmas and our open house. Nothing new there - we’ve always had very full Christmas eves. When we lived by my parents we spent the evening with them. When we lived in Green Bay we spent the evening with Steve’s parents and always stopped by Grandma K’s open house extravaganza. Even when we’ve lived far away from relatives, Christmas Eve was always filled with lots of laughter, music, munchies and fun. When you have 6 kids you always have enough for a party. This year, though, we didn’t have all the kids. Steph and Alex went home to be with Eric. Amber and April were in Georgia to celebrate at May’s. Vicki doesn’t live at home any more and wasn’t sure what her plans for Christmas Eve were going to be. That left only the four of us (me, Steve, Jon and Violet) home for the holidays. Not very festive. So we decided to throw open the house and celebrate with our neighbors.

I wasn’t sure how many would be able to come what with the short notice and their own holiday plans but amazingly most of them were able to come. It seems like there are a lot of people out there who don’t have a lot of relatives close by to celebrate with. Originally the open house was supposed to be from 7 to 10 pm but we ended up shooing out the last of our guests after 11 o’clock came and went so that we could get to midnight mass on time. In fact, one of our neighbors stayed and went to mass with us.

More singingThe evening was a blast. We had tons of food, mounds of sweets and plenty of liquid cheer. Everyone just kind of milled around laughing and chatting. Late in the evening we sang carols accompanied on the piano by my neighbor Donna. Everyone said how much fun they had - we’ll definitely have to do it again next year.

Christmas day was absolutely perfect even though it started way too early. After staying up until 2:30 in the morning, I was not ready to get up when the kids piled in at 7 am. Too few hours of sleep. We got up anyway - it’s hard to resist their little pleas. We opened gifts, chatted with relatives on the phone, had a wonderful meal in the afternoon and enjoyed lazing about and taking naps the rest of the day.

Gift opening

I hope your Christmas was as wonderful as ours was this year. Merry Christmas to all!