Monday, December 28, 2009

Monday Memory #4: The World Championship

This is the last Sunday in December, but I've had a lot of fun writing all these memories, so maybe I'll have to write some others. For now, here's another memory from Christmastime.

Like a lot of families, we played a lot of games in our house. Monopoly marathons, all-day Risk tournaments, Duck Hunt on the Nintendo, you name it, we probably played it. But the game we played with more gusto and passion has to be Chinese Checkers. There's something about that perfect game board and brightly colored game pieces that brought out the competitive spirit in all of us. But we didn't just play to have fun, oh no, we played for the title of World Champion.

When us three kids were little, we played with Mom and Dad just as competitively as we do now. You would think that we would be allowed to win occasionally, but no, Dad never 'let' us win. If we won a game it was because we actually out-played him and won fair and square.

A lot of trash-talking goes on during these World Championship Chinese Checkers games. One person will block another's perfect move, someone will accuse another of plugging up the board and at least once, someone will be required to show how their across-the-board trek was actually perfectly legal and legit. Dirty looks will be exchanged and revenge will be plotted.

I believe my brother, Kasey, has the longest win streak in the family, but he wasn't in Oregon for Christmas this year, so he couldn't defend his title. Oh, in case you were wondering, I won this year, making me the World Champion. I look forward to defending my title at next year's gathering.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

We are certainly loving our first Christmas as parents. Little Lana has been enjoying her new toys and the endless adoration of her Grandparents. I'll have to post more pictures at a later time. For now, here's our family Christmas card.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

They're Real and They're (sort of) Spectacular!


The fingernails that is.
Remember this post?
Hi. My name is Shelle and I am a recovering fingernail biter.
I quit, cold turkey a little over a month ago and I've been doing pretty okay. I've caught myself with a nail in my mouth a time or two and Dan has caught me too, but I have yet to actually fall off the wagon and bite a nail. I have picked at them more often than I'd like, so I'm still working on that.
I wanted my hands to look pretty for Christmas, so I got a professional manicure yesterday. Don't they look pretty? I know, I know, they're not up to hand model quality yet, but they look decent and they are still definitely a work-in-progress.
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Monday, December 21, 2009

Monday Memory #3: Christmas Bears

This time of year at stores throughout the country, there are bins of donated toys set aside for military families. Usually the cashier at the store will ask if you would like to donate a toy to a military family. Some people say yes, some say no. I usually say yes and if I have a choice, I pick out a big teddy bear to add to the bin, because I remember my teddy bear from the year we were a military family.

See, back when I was 11, my Mom was in the Navy Reserves and she was called up to active duty during Desert Storm. She didn't go to the Middle East, instead she went to work at a Naval Hospital in San Diego. My Dad was working in Iowa at the time, and Kasey hadn't started school yet, so he went to Iowa with Dad. Jen and I were in school, so my Grandpa Pat and Grandma Carol in Utah took us in for the school year. I missed my parents and my brother terribly. My parents both told me how important it was that I be a good example for my little sister and behave well for my grandparents, so I acted tough and didn't let on about how hard of a time I was having.

For Christmas, Dad planned to drive us from Utah to San Diego. We had a lovely road trip complete with a night at Circus Circus in Las Vegas where we played carnival games and ate cotton candy and caramel apples. When we got to the Navy base in San Diego, Mom had moved out of her dormitory into a family apartment so there was room for all of us. Mom had made some friends and we went over to their house for dinner on Christmas Eve. The friends were of Jamaican descent and they had a very traditional dinner. I remember feeling very sophisticated and grown up for trying all these new and exotic foods.

We set up a small fake Christmas Tree in the apartment and I know my parents did their best to make it feel like a regular family Christmas, even though it was the farthest thing from it. I was excited for Christmas, like any kid would be, but I was also a little sad, because we would be leaving soon and I would once again miss my Mom.

Christmas Day was filled with presents and treats and when my Mom left to work her shift at the hospital, we played outside in the warm weather, thinking of our friends back home in the snow and cold. When Mom came back that evening, she had some more presents for us. We each had a box filled with little toys from the YMCA/YWCA. Along with the toys, we each were given a big fluffy teddy bear. At 11, I thought of myself as too old for stuffed animals, but I did appreciate that someone out there cared enough about the kids of military parents to take the time and effort to put these gift boxes together for us.

We had a great visit with Mom that Christmas. We took a trip to the San Diego Zoo and even spent an afternoon in Tijuana, Mexico, but alas, the day did come when we had to pack up and leave. I remember my Mom making sure we were all buckled into the car safely and she kissed us all and said goodbye. We all had our teddy bears next to us, and I remember instead of being sad and crying, I snuggled with my bear and fell asleep. When I woke up later, I looked in the backseat to see my brother and sister both asleep, snuggling with their bears.

Desert Storm ended and military families were once again reunited. Our family was together again by summer and in the whole scheme of things, our family's sacrifice was far smaller than what others went through. We kept our teddy bears for several years. I got rid of mine when I packed up my room to leave for college. I'm not sure what happened to Kasey's bear, but Jen's bear has made it's way to her kids' toy pile. I hope Clint and Sandy keep it for a while and when they're older, I hope Jen tells them the story of how she got the teddy bear the year we had Christmas on a Navy Base.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Linus gets it.

Thanks Linus. I needed that.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Christmas Memory #2: Excited Kids

Sometime when we were kids, my brother, Kasey, and my sister, Jen, and I decided to all sleep in the same room together on Christmas Eve. Sometimes it was Jen’s room, sometimes my room and sometimes it was the big room in the basement. We’d set up sleeping areas for the three of us. Mom and Dad were okay with this arrangement and gave us very specific instructions. We were not allowed to sneak into the living room in the middle of the night and we could only check out the Christmas Tree and see what Santa had brought once Mom and Dad were awake and in the living room with us. They also told us we could not wake them up until 6:00.
We would usually try to go to bed earlier than usual on Christmas Eve. I suppose we must have thought that the sooner we went to sleep, the sooner we could wake up and the sooner it would be Christmas. This plan never worked. Oh, we would try to sleep, but then we’d get to talking, then laughing and before you knew it, we were wide awake and sleep was the last thing on our minds. We’d watch the clock and try to stay quiet. We’d play quiet games like checkers or we’d try again to fall asleep, but mostly, we watched the clock.
Eventually, we must have fallen asleep, because inevitably, one of us would wake up at 3 or 4 in the morning and, because of boredom or excitement, wake the others up. This did not make 6:00 come any sooner. We’d do our best to stay quiet so we didn’t wake up Mom and Dad. We feared that if we did disturb them, we’d have to wait even longer, and waiting even a few extra minutes would be absolutely agonizing for three very excited kids.
Finally, the appointed hour would arrive and the three of us would chase up to our parent’s room and happily wake them up. We waited patiently as they put on slippers and robes and finally let us into the living room where we could see that indeed Santa had visited.
We kept the tradition of all three of us sleeping in the same room for several years. I think we stopped doing it when I was in high school. It really is more of a little kid thing to do, but the first year we didn’t do it, I missed it. My brother and sister and I are pretty close compared to other siblings we know, but I never felt closer to them than the Christmas Eves we’d spend watching the clock together.

Memories are funny things really. Two people can experience the exact same event, but remember it in two very different ways.
Here’s my sister, Jen’s version of that same memory:
Oh, here's a memory for you!! Remember when we would all sleep in the same room and some years we would sleep in Jen's room. Even though it was HER ROOM - we would still kick her out of HER BED and make her sleep on the floor. Don't you remember that - wasn't that sooooo funny!!! (Insert thick layer of sarcasim)
(Note: I actually don’t remember ever kicking Jen out of her bed.)

And here’s my Mom’s version:
I remember when you kids were told you had to wait until a certain time to wake us up on Christmas morning. We would hear you get up trying to be quiet, and arguing quietly about who had/got?? to wake us up. We would pretend we were still asleep. We would hear you sneak down stairs to check out the tree and then come back upstairs to wait for the wake up time, all the while trying to be quiet. But really, how quiet can three excited kids on Christmas morning be?
(Note: I thought we were quiet. We tried so hard, I promise.)

Monday, December 7, 2009

Monday Memory #1: Santa Claus

Over on the Stuff Christians Like page there is a debate going on about Santa Claus. It's interesting and all sides certainly have valid points. So the big question is, is your family a Santa Claus Family?

Growing up, oh yeah, we were a Santa Claus Family. I had no reason to believe that Santa Claus wasn't real, after all, he wrapped presents in different paper than Mom and Dad and his handwriting was different (he wrote in all capital letters and everyone knows moms and dads don't do that). Some argue that Santa Claus promotes greediness and consumerism to small children, I think he promotes generosity and innocence and those are the traits I want Santa Claus to embody to Lana when she's older. All this talk about Santa Claus brings to mind my very first Santa Claus memory.

I was probably four-years-old and my family was at my Grandma Carol's in Utah for Christmas. Grandma Carol and Grandpa Pat were spoiling us on Christmas Eve. I remember my cousins Zach, Daniel and Cody were there. Jennifer must have been there too, but she was probably only a year old. Zach and I are similar in age and Dan is a few years older. Grandma and Grandpa told all us kids that Santa Claus might be coming to their house, so if we're good and play nicely together in the basement, they'd call us upstairs when he arrived. Zach and I were so excited. Santa Claus! Really! At Grandma's House! We both were about to burst. Then cousin Daniel did the unthinkable. He looked right at us and said, "Santa isn't real, it's just one of our dads dressed up." I looked at cousin Zach in time to see his face fall and I'm sure I looked just as broken-hearted. Before we could fully discuss this new information, Grandma yelled down the stairs that Santa Claus was here. We tripped over each other to be the first to the top. Even though we were excited, Zach and I were very suspicious. Was this Santa Claus real? Was cousin Daniel right? I looked at the man in the red suit. He didn't look like my dad and he didn't look like Daniel and Zach's dad either. In fact, there were our dads, sitting at the table, watching us and smiling. I ran up to Santa Claus and gave him a big hug. Of course he was real. He was right here and I was hugging him. How could I have ever doubted? That night, a child's faith in the impossible was was not only restored, it was strengthened.

Thanks Grandpa and Grandma. That night has always meant a lot to me.

A few years ago, I was laughing about this story with my Grandma Carol and I just had to ask. "So Grams, who did come over and play Santa Claus that night?" She answered perfectly, "I don't know what you mean. You thought it was the real Santa Claus, so of course it was."

So, what's your best Santa Claus story? Screaming at the creepy mall Santa when you were a kid? Pulling off his beard because your friends dared you to? Are you now making Santa Claus memories with your own kids? Please share and leave a comment.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Lamest. Santa. Ever.

And I mean that in the nicest way possible.
We went to the Walmart today to pick up some groceries, household items, diapers, you know, all the stuff you get at the Walmart. It happened to be the first day of 'Pictures with Santa' so we decided to stick around and get the necessary picture of Lana with the Walmart Santa Claus. First off, they were running late, so we got to witness the chaos of the Walmart employees hollering at each other about who had the Santa suit and who needed to run to the bedding department to grab a pillow for Santa's belly. Then said Santa came out of his dressing area to run into the nearby restroom, but not in the full costume. Now, Lana is so little that she doesn't know what's going on at all, but what if there were 4-year-olds waiting and they witnessed Santa Claus, sans hat, beard and belly, run into the men's room? Would the mystique surrounding the jolly old elf be ruined for them forever? I suppose that's a discussion for another time.
Despite the lameness, the Santa was a nice young man and Lana was happy to sit on his lap and suck on her fingers. The picture turned out pretty cute and we have successfully recorded another 'first' for Lana.

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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Happy December

Well, we had a fabulous Thanksgiving in Lynden. I brought my camera, intending to record all holiday moments for posterity. Of course, I failed to take even one picture. I fully expect to be chastised severely by all my scrapbooking/photographing friends.

Lana was our little traveling champ and did fine on the drive both directions. While there, she got lots of snuggles from Grandma Sue and plenty of play time with her cousins. Dan and I caught up with family and friends. On Thursday, we enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving meal with Sue, Dean and Lyndsey and their little girls. We ate turkey (raised by Dean – oh so delicious), stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie, pretty much as traditional as a Thanksgiving meal can get.

Around here, we’ve been keeping more than busy. We had six trees cut down and Dan and Dwayne have been giving their chain saws a good workout cutting the trees into useable-sized pieces. Removing six very large trees certainly has changed the way it looks around the house. Here’s a nice before-and-after for you:
Actually, it should be called before-and-in-progress because it will be some time before it’s all cleaned up. And really, this is not even a very good in-progress shot. I’ll have to get out there with my camera this weekend.

We got our Christmas Tree up and finished decorating it last night. It is the first time since we’ve been married that we have a real tree. Our apartment was just too small. I was so excited when Dan brought it home. Our house now smells like Christmas. Lana likes the lights and will probably like the ribbon and bows on gifts too. Speaking of Christmas, I’m been following an on-line class from Jessica Sprague about recording special memories and events from the Holiday Season. I’ve been having so much fun with this that I decided to extend it to the blog. For the next four Mondays, I’m going to post a ‘Monday Memory’ and it will be something I remember about Christmas when I was a kid. I’ve already jotted down a few, but committing to post every week will force me to really think about them and write them down. Feel free to leave a comment or email me about a Christmas memory that I should write about.

If you’re wondering, it’s now been over two weeks since I decided to quit biting my finger nails. So far, so good. I have caught myself picking at them, so I followed my friend, Leslie’s advice and grabbed a file. It works pretty well. I’m thinking if I make it an entire month, I’ll reward myself with a manicure, and then I’ll have pretty hands in time for Christmas.

Oh, and just because she's cute and adorable and our little sweetie, here's a bonus picture of Lana. Yeah, I didn't think you'd mind : )