Saturday, December 31, 2011

Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real: Christmas Vacation Edition

round button chicken
~Capturing the context of contentment in everyday life~ Every Thursday at Like Mother Like Daughter
(...though far from the everyday this week!)

The jig is up: we went away for Christmas!  Since the house is no longer vacant and vulnerable to attack it is now safe to say so.  We went away with my parents, sisters, brothers-in-law, nieces, nephew and grandmother.  Sixteen people.  All in one house!

A house situated on a 500-acre farm in the middle of pretty much nowhere.  Driving there required navigating the most treacherous road I have ever had the misfortune to traverse: unpaved, narrow, perched on the side of a mountain...but more on that later...

As you can imagine, it was a big house.  A big log (mostly) house.  We chose West Virginia because of its somewhat central location to all parties involved.  Dharma and Vance (as the farthest flung family members) have grown understandably tired of making the long trek from Tennessee to NJ/Pennsylvania every year and so we decided to arrange it so we all had somewhat of an equidistant drive.

Several horses ran free on the property.  This is what sometimes greeted us when we stepped out the front door.  Hello horseys!

The owner told us they sometimes come right up to the house and peer in the windows but I think the five dogs we had brought along with us may have prevented that from happening.  One of the dogs actually went after this one and almost got a good kick to the head for her troublemaking.  She was lucky these horses are used to dogs!

They're also very used to people which delighted the children to no end.  It was the first time some of them had ever touched a horse.  This is how we found out that Calvin is pretty badly allergic to them and that Benadryl is wondrous thing.

Caught in a few moments of quiet time with her Bible

This was the view from the kitchen sink.  Not the best vantage point on the property, but I was trying to capture the fact that I could see chickens and turkeys (to the left of the big tree--if you look closely) and horses (on the right near the drive) whenever I looked up from washing dishes.

A very frosty Christmas morning.  Does this count as a White Christmas?
The owner was kind enough to have the tree decorated for us when we arrived
Sweet Pea, the youngest of the bunch

Fidget and Sweet Pea, waiting patiently to be called to the feast.  Fidget loves "playing" the guitar.

She sang us a song that her Sunday school class sang in church.  And she sang it perfectly and in tune.  She has a great ear, that kid.  And doesn't she look more like she's playing a steel guitar?

If you look carefully, you may notice the "coffee table" she's sitting on is a round of wood cut from a massive tree.  It filled many roles during the week, including dinner table, stage, stool, foot rest and forehead bruiser.

The Viking and I kept saying we felt like Ma and Pa Ingalls in this house.  Yes, that's a real, live wood-burning cookstove in the kitchen!  It came in very handy on Christmas day while we were preparing many dishes at once and again when we lost power and the electric stove became useless!

This Hoosier provided the only cupboard space in the entire kitchen.  There was quite a good-sized pantry, but space for things that needed to be kept at hand was at a premium.  It was nice that the space we had was so charming.

Redheaded Snippet and Fidget dressed for dinner and waiting for the call.  These two have a special relationship; Fidget kept bouncing up to Redheaded Snippet and grabbing her hand shouting, "Let's go have some GIRL TIME!"

And Girl Time they had.  On Christmas Eve they made cookies.  They were supposed to be for Santa, but with that many people in the house, poor Santa's cookies were doomed never to make it to the plate.  Fortunately, the children had also made gingerbread men that no one liked the taste of so those were foisted off onto Santa.

Little Man eventually sidled up to the table in curiosity, but remained content to watch and wait patiently.

Happy (did you think I'd forgotten about labeling?)

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care.  Only one Mommy managed to remember to pack stockings.  Fortunately, the rest of us have children who are either too old to care or too young to notice.

Rosebud with Gram and "Stawberry Cake Cake"
Dharma (stove side) and Lobelia (at sink) busy with finishing touches for the Christmas feast
Many hands make light work.  Feeding sixteen people is no easy task, especially for three women who are used to feeding families of four!  But we divided the work and combined our talents and conscripted husbands and children when needed and everything was delicious!

It's blurry, but it's the best shot I got.  This is the wood slab serving as kids' table.  There's Little Man, Fidget, Rosebud and Calvin wearing their paper crowns (well, most of them) and pretending to eat their dinner.  It's such a blessing that all of the cousins not only get along, but look forward to spending time together!

Funny (with a good dose of leftover Happy)
Christmas afternoon storytime
I almost included this in the purely Happy category and then I caught Fidget's face.  Perhaps someone is being very naughty in the story Dharma is reading.

Sweet Pea sure does seem to be enjoying one of her Christmas presents, though, perhaps, not in the way the manufacturer or giver intended!  

We were told there was a newly installed hot tub on the porch but that we wouldn't be able to use it because the pump was not yet connected.  Little did the owners know how much it could be enjoyed without water!  The kids lined the bottom with pillows and cushions and played in it almost the entire time we were there!  There were also curtains that enclosed the whole thing--they thought that was just the bees knees!

One of the amenities of this house was the opportunity to go shootin'.  The menfolk love to go shootin' and rarely get the chance.  Here, The Viking and Calvin are breaking in the airsoft gun Calvin got for Christmas.  Don't worry, it isn't loaded.  But I think perhaps his father needs to review those gun safety rules with him?  As in NO POINTING GUNS AT PEOPLE?

The Viking, Calvin and Vance
They didn't stop at airsoft guns either.  They brought along a few shotguns and The Viking's pellet gun as well.  Apparently there were quite a few cans and cow pies that never knew what hit them!


We decided to treat ourselves by going out to lunch one day.  Which translated to the womenfolk taking all of the children to one of two restaurants in town while the menfolk blasted cow pies to smithereens.  But it was better than cleaning the kitchen again!  As you can see, things got a little silly.

Redheaded Snippet's sunglasses were a great favorite of the younger set and got passed all around the table.  Everyone had a turn.

And I must say, no one worked them quite like little Miss Fidget here...

A tree house on the property.  Apparently it's being made ready so it can be rented out.  I think I will stay on the ground, thank you!

Speaking of remaining firmly on the ground, here's Calvin all harnessed up for the zip line.  He didn't like it all that much but now he can say he did it (and maybe I'll stop hearing about how great it would be to have one in our backyard).

And that, my friends, though maybe you can't tell, is The Viking stuck in the middle of the zip line, 30 feet in the air.  As he himself said, perhaps there are some things you need to give up on once you hit the age of 40.

Not sure what the story is here, but this shot sure makes us crack up whenever we see it!

Real (in its many forms)

Lenny, enjoying a few moments of real relaxation on the side porch.  Sunshine, coffee, a good book, an apple, a faithful dog at your feet, a game of chess at your side, ready to be played: I felt mellow just looking at him out there.

I decided to share this real photo of the feast tables in the process of being set but I wonder if I may also have captured Lobelia returning from ending Lenny's solitude with a call for "All hands on deck!"

The kitchen table was just a smidge too small for all of us to fit around comfortably and besides that we needed it for a prep area.  So we decided to set up card tables in the living room.  We had no tablecloths so we used sheets.  In the interest of saving time later we used paper plates and cups.

See what I mean about the kitchen table?  I don't know how we would have gotten everything ready if we didn't have this space!  This is also part of the very real mess we had to clean up afterwards!

Finally, the most real part of the trip: as I mentioned, the road to the farm was a treacherous one, especially in the dark and it was after dark when all of us arrived.  When The Viking and I were still about three hours from our destination, I got a phone call from Daria.  Apparently, Dad and Grandmom had been making their way up the farm road when Dad misjudged a sharp turn.  The car slid off of the road on a curve on the edge of a ravine with no barriers.  That's right, off the road.  The only thing that kept the car from tumbling like a log to the bottom of the ravine was a slender tree.  We got the call after Dad had called 911 but before any of the rescue vehicles arrived.  Dad and Grandmom were trapped in the car, balancing precariously on the very edge of serious injury or even death.

Thank God emergency crews were able to pull the car back onto the road without incident and Dad drove his car away from the accident without a scratch on him or Grandmom.  But we girls had a frantic time of it and nothing throws everything into sharp relief like the possibility of your father plummeting to his death at any moment!  Lobelia and Lenny arrived on the scene shortly after the fire department (they took the above photo--Dad's car is visible in the center) and were able to escort Dad and Grandmom to the house, fortify them with bourbon and plant them in chairs next to the fireplace wrapped in blankets.  And as the rest of us arrived, we all greeted each other with hugs that were a little harder and longer.  It is always sweet when we're reunited, but this time was extra special!

Dad didn't have much to say about the incident.  He was happy he was able to drive away from it without having to deal with a single mechanic!  But he did say two things of note: when I texted him to tell him I loved him and we were praying for them, he responded with, "Thank you.  I am completely calm.  I love you, too."  And when he asked me if I'd seen the tree that saved them he pointed out, "You know, that tree wasn't there by accident."

I can't think of anything more real than that.  To have the assurance that your life is in the hands of the Creator and that He is trustworthy!  And at Christmas, too, the time when we celebrate the birth of the One who came to spare us all from certain death!  O, blessed assurance, indeed!

I hope your Christmas was a very blessed one as well!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

In lieu of crafting...

I don't craft. I'm just not that kind of woman. Okay, I knit, but that's about it. And, so far, I only knit long, rectangular things. But I digress...

It seems everyone and their Moms' Group is crafting to get ready for Christmas. To that I say, "FIE!" I have enough to beat myself up about without having to worry about getting glitter out of the carpet, dealing with hot glue burns or doing something weird with a scary-looking elf doll while the children are asleep (what is the DEAL with that all of a sudden?)!

Instead, I try to stay showered, keep everyone clothed, buy a few Christmas gifts and clean a thing or two that hasn't been cleaned in probably at least a year and clean it within an inch of its life. And I bake pies. More on that later. Maybe.

So, while you may have made 100's of adorably poignant star ornaments for your entire neighborhood, I have cleaned our desk. It took me three days and it looks brand new. A magazine could have a photo shoot on this desk. I would sleep on it if I could.


You may be smugly wondering why it took me three days to clean this area.  Well, you haven't seen the inbox yet.  This is the inbox overflow pile.  It started out as the stuff-that-needs-our-more-urgent-attention pile.  It became the curse-under-your-breath-while-you-frantically-look-for-that-important-piece-of-paper pile.

Ooooh, but look at it now.  I decided to remove everything from the desk, including the glass, and wipe it all down (even the back of the monitor--GROSS).  And I found what seemed to be an entire pack's-worth of hairpins in the sifter/pencil can.  That was weird.  I have no explanation for that whatsoever.

THIS.  Is the inbox.  Isn't this scandalous?  It's been like this for over a year.  We've had people over and everything with this pile looming in the background.  You know a pile like this would have required several hours just to sort, right?  Well, imagine opening your file drawer to find all the files stuffed full and needing to be sorted themselves!  Sigh.  It was clear this job would require retrieving the basement file boxes.

But lo! after I'd made quite a substantial addition to our burn pile and cleared room in both the basement boxes and the file drawer, the last part was almost easy!  I spent lots of time with boxes and files spread all around me, watching Miss Marples on Netflix and then at the computer listening to Christmas songs on Pandora (and I've decided: in the contest between Dean Martin and Burl Ives as to who sounds drunker, the answer is, it's a tie.  I wish they had done a duet).

Did I also mention I cleaned out the fridge?  Oh yes I did.  But then, I usually do that right before Thanksgiving and Christmas (have to make way after all) but does lend a feeling of accomplishment when you lie awake at night trying to keep track of all of the days you've skipped math in school because of this errand or that chore or this pile of lists you had to finish.

That's all for me tonight.  I have a braising roast to tend to, mounds of laundry and a history book to read.

I return you to your holiday crafting hijinks...