Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Boxing Day Gratitude

Christmas was a success. It typically is so it goes without saying but it is nice to acknowledge when things go right. The presents were all under the tree, wrapped and ready to go by 11pm Christmas Eve so I potentially would have gotten a good night’s sleep if in fact I had been able to sleep at all. The blueberry sauce didn’t bubble over, which meant that I didn’t have additional kitchen clean up. And most importantly, to me anyhow, the Girls loved every second. Granted, I could probably wrap a couple of brightly polished rocks or a couple of packs of funky socks and they’d be thrilled (no joke, those kids love rocks and socks!).

I managed to keep Christmas reasonable and budget friendly by starting my shopping way back in August (in some cases even earlier). I knew what they would like and I started looking for sales and discount and coupons and for the most part found them easily while convincing the Girls that the few things they did asked for were ridiculously expensive.

I’m kind of mean like that.

But on the other hand, I lucked out with my kids because they are so unimpressed with gadgets and technology it is a rare Christmas that finds mp3 players or e-readers under our tree. This year was no exception. Legos, board games and DVDs dominated the top spots. For Cyra the Lord of the Rings Lego set was her big gift and for Ashleigh seasons 1 – 5 of Doctor Who were hers.

I’ve mentioned before that we are a family of gamers. Board games, video games, card game, RPGs, we play them all. Our living room is taken up by DVDs and games. We have two storage ottomans stuffed with all manner of games. My point? We are always looking for new games to play.

And that brings me to some very sincere “thank yous.”

First, to my BFF Sara for marrying such an awesome guy. Geordie introduced Sara to Settlers of Catan and then shortly thereafter, introduced it to me and the girls. Who would have ever thought sheep herding was a fun thing? But we loved it, especially Cyra who quickly developed a knack for the game.

Catan was the first game to find its way under the tree.

Next, for the rest of the board games, I’m going to have to give a huge shout out to a celebrity, something I’m fairly sure I have never done before. But a big thanks to Wil Wheaton.

Yup. Wil Wheaton, awesome actor and avid gamer.

Wil Wheaton who, among other things, hosts a cool web show called Table Top on Geek and Sundry (I’ve mentioned them before too) where each episode he gathers some of his friends around a beautiful gaming table that I so desperately yearn for, and plays a game. Wil Wheaton introduced Ashleigh and I to Gloom, Star Fluxx, and Dixit which all found places under the tree this year too.

There were a bunch of other games that were features on Table Top that I was willing to get but…budget, budget, budget.

I’d also like to thank Ashleigh for insisting that we trade in old Wii games for some new used ones. If she hadn’t I would have never found what is clearly the best Wii game in existence: Dinosaur Strike.

I can barely describe it because words can not adequately explain the awesomeness that is this game. So a very brief description: You get to fight dinosaurs AS A DINOSAUR!!!! OMFG!! This is a game that was designed specifically for me. It is, as Sara said, like a dream come true. Why Dinosaur Strike was not the most heavily promoted game of 2010 I have no idea. Even worse? They’ve stopped making it and while I got it for a song at GameStop, I looked it up on Amazon and the prices for it there range from $50 to $250! Yikes!

Scott and I played it last night while the girls ate dinner (I make a huge Christmas brunch rather than a dinner so later meals are a ‘get it yourself’ deal). He played as a T-Rex (of course) and I was a velociraptor (totally my favorite carnivorous dino. FYI: pachycephalosaurus is my favorite herbivore). And oh how the hilarity ensued! Fun fact: I am horrible at fighting games. In fact I am so horrible at them I tend not to play them at all. But Dinosaur Strike takes the cake! I am pretty sure I will never stop playing this game!

My very last thanks is to my Mom. (Hi mom!) Mom is pretty awesome in and of herself so any gift she gives me is pretty cool. This year she got me a pressure canner and cooker that I’ve been longing for since last spring when I planted my very first garden. While the garden didn’t turn out as fabulous as I was hoping for, that didn’t stop me from reading and researching all the cool things I can make and preserve. Remember that sour orange tree out back? Guess who’s making marmalade this week??

Making marmalade might just be the only thing that tears me away from dino-fighting this week! Or maybe pie-making. Did I mention the awesome lime green Le Creuset pie plate that Scott and the Girls got me to replace the one that broke last March? So. Very. Beautiful.

And there you have it. I hope that your holiday (which every flavor you like) was shiny like mine! And a happy Boxing Day to you all…whatever that is!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmasy Stuff

DISCLAIMER: The following post contains frank discussion about my beliefs and feelings regarding religion. I don’t often discuss serious things here and I’m sure I’ll go back to posting silly stories soon. Please read with caution.

I knew in elementary school that my family was different from other families because if a sleepover at a friend’s house ended on a Sunday morning I would be dropped off at home early so my friend could go to church. Sometimes though I tagged along; I sat on the hard backed benches and watched the people around me. They were always dressed up like they were going to a wedding. It made me uncomfortable because I was not and I knew that I was the odd one out. I stared at the stained glass windows in awe at the beauty of them. I followed along with what my friend did. If she stood or sat or kneeled, so did I. But I didn’t understand a thing.

I knew who Jesus was. We celebrated his birthday every year. And I played with the Nativity every year. I loved the little sheep and donkeys. I loved moving baby Jesus around, trying him out in different places before finally putting him back in front of Mary. I knew the basic story – I watched all the Christmas specials each year and Linus explained it succinctly every single time. I loved Christmas time. It was the only birthday party I knew of where the guests got all the good presents! And boy did Santa bring me great gifts.

I started paying a bit more attention in middle school. My friends talked about church and I listened. They went to Sunday school and confirmation classes. They spoke of accepting Jesus as their Lord and Savior. I wanted to understand. I wanted to belong. One night, I took my mom’s old King James Bible with its fancy thou’s and ye’s and I read it. Well, I skimmed it to get the general idea.

But I was skeptical about the whole Jesus is God thing. Actually, I was skeptical about the whole book. None of it made sense to me. Right about that time I was big into archaeology and paleontology. I was dumbfounded that the bible made no mention of dinosaurs. That it didn’t explain cave paintings and artifacts from civilizations that came ten thousand years before. I put the King James Version away and left it at that. It didn’t make sense and therefore it was of no use to me.

By eighth grade I knew. Well. I didn’t know, know. I had an inkling, a tickle in the back of my mind that I was somehow different from my friends. I didn’t know there was a name for it but I knew. I was a nonbeliever.

In college many of my friends were quite open about their religious beliefs and after learning about my skepticism, encouraged me to attend church and mass with them. I willing went along. I wanted to understand and maybe, back then, I wanted to believe. I mean I believed in aliens, Bigfoot and the possibility of a Loch Ness monster so why was it so hard for me to believe that an all powerful, all knowing, all loving being watched over us? Why was it so hard to accept that Jesus was the Lord and Savior? There wasn’t any real proof of aliens yet I readily jumped on that bandwagon. So what was the deal? It wasn’t until I dropped out, pregnant with Ashleigh and moved home that I really started looking at my beliefs.

Maybe I was searching for a meaning. Maybe I was confused by my sister’s sudden interest in the church when we were raised to look for answers in ourselves and in facts. I tried to understand. I went to midnight mass at St. Joseph’s on Christmas Eve that year thinking that I would find something in the pomp and circumstance of the night. And though I was near to bursting with excitement over the holiday and Ashleigh’s impending arrival, I felt more awkward then ever before. I didn’t belong in this building, I thought, with all these believers. It was hypocrisy. I didn’t…couldn’t…wouldn’t believe and yet, there I was.

When Ashleigh was three and I went back to college I decided to study religion, philosophy and history alongside with my English curriculum. Maybe, I thought, if I understood religion from a factual sense, then I…I don’t know what I expected. But the more I learned, the more I questioned and the more I questioned the more I realized that religion would not be something I would ever benefit from.

History showed too many problems sprouting from religion, too many misunderstandings, too many battles, too many deaths. It didn’t matter what religion or beliefs one espoused the end result was bad. Philosophy introduced me the Euthyphro dilemma – is something good because it is inherently good or because a god says it is good? My religion professor, a deeply religious man himself, made us dig for the historical aspects of the biblical text and asked us to question each verse.

Studying made me question all over again but this time it wasn’t about finding faith it was about how I was raising my daughter.

I gave a few brief thoughts about not celebrating Christmas anymore. I thought if I could eighty-six it when Ashleigh was young, she wouldn’t feel like she was missing out on anything. But then I thought about all the fun that Christmas is: the decorating, the celebrating, the presents. Sure there is a religious meaning behind it all, but Christmas is a conglomeration of different traditions that early Christians adopted to get the so-called pagans to convert. What farmer leaves his flock out in the fields on a winter night? Where in Luke does it mention an evergreen tree lit with candles or a Yule log? Guess who else was begot by a god: Hercules, Helen of Troy, and Julius Caesar.

Once I started thinking about Christmas in that sense I felt better about celebrating. In fact, I probably celebrate Christmas more enthusiastically now then I did before I got a degree. I decorate the house, I make ornaments and gifts, I love giving presents and spend a good part of the year thinking about and planning for Christmas. I start singing carols as early as August and despite my very vocal complaints about stores putting Christmas displays earlier and earlier each year, I secretly love it.

My sister a year or so ago shook her head at my while I was decorating my house, making room on the shelves for ceramic Santas that my mom painted. I was singing, giggling and just about spazzing out with joy that Christmas was coming - something that I have never outgrown.

“What?” I asked.

“You.” She said. “I don’t get how you can love Christmas this much and not believe in Jesus.”

I’m not sure how I responded. Maybe I made a witty comment or just shrugged but as the years have passed I have come to terms with my love of Christmas. Christmas isn’t just about Jesus anymore. Not really. It's about hope. The story of Jesus offers people hope. You don’t need faith to have hope. And in the middle of winter when nights are long and cold it is good to remember hope.

I will never claim that Jesus didn’t exist. There’s factual evidence. And I will never claim that I know all there is in the universe because really? It’s just too big for us to understand. And that’s alright. Besides, who am I to pass up on Birthday Cake? Yes, I celebrate the commercial side of Christmas and next to my beautiful Nativity are Santa Claus’s, nutcrackers, mistletoe, a decorated tree and many other things associated with Christmas that actually predate Christianity. When the girls ask about them meaning of Christmas I explain to them the religious and the secular, the biblical and the incorporation of other beliefs. I may not believe that Jesus was or is the son of God, I may not believe in an omniscient god and my point with this post is not to spark religious debate; in fact, I’m pretty sure that this post has moved entirely too far away from my original point I wanted to make which is:


Wednesday, December 12, 2012


So I've figured out the issue.

Fine print. It all comes down to the fine print that we always say we've read, but do we ever really read it? Nope.

Apparently, to make the most of my blogger, I needed to resize my photos. Guess who has never resized a photo ever. Blogger is all: "post all the photos you want forever! As long as they are smaller than 3 microns. But Hey! Post all of them you want!! Yay, Photos!" And I was all like, "Yay! Photos! I love taking pictures and I will post all the pictures and the internets will be complete! Me and Blogger are BFFs!"

Maybe I took Blogger for granted. But maybe Blogger took advantage of my internet innocence. For all computer abilities, I am really not a tech person. Hell! I don't even use shortcuts in Word!

So, it's a fixable issue, but then I wonder if I need to go and resize all the photos I've already posted and that is a daunting thought so I walk away from the computer in frustration and bearing the slightest grudge against blogger even though technically it is my own fault since I didn't read the fine print.

Crap! I can't even really hold a good grudge.

Beside with all the craziness of Christmas preparation, I really haven't spent too much time online anyway. That's how it goes in December. I craft until my fingers are caked in paint, glue and glitter. I wrap until I have scraps of ribbon and pieces of tape in my hair. I blast my Christmas playlist until an intervention is called. I menu plan and bake until there is a haze of deliciousness floating over my house.

So words will be it for the time being. Which stinks because boy have I got some crazy, awesome photos to share! Like the one where I'm surfing and there's a school of sharks right underneath my longboard. And the one where I reached the summit of K2 - I don't want to brag, but the view was pretty amazing. And the one where I had to use the emergency eject chair because my experimental FJ-X465 was crashing into the Mojave desert. Oh and the one with Ashleigh cloning dinosaurs in her bedroom and Cyra photo-bombing her!

Good times!