Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Last Day

Today, I somehow fit in almost everything that I really like. I sewed three projects with the new (old) machine. I made a gratitude wrap for my daughter, a Star Wars pillow for my son, and a "5 Minute Skirt" for me that actually took most of the afternoon. I took our dog on a walk with my daughter, and I made homemade bread. After dinner, the family is watching a movie together. It couldn't be much more perfect than this.

I tend to make resolutions every morning, noon, and night, so New Year's Eve is normal. But, if I have a New Year's resolution, it is to keep doing what I'm doing-- making time for things that are important and things that bring me and others joy. Sometimes, I have to find a balance between them. Sometimes, I am thankful when they intersect.

Happy New Year!
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Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas Cards

And I thought I wasn't going to send out Christmas cards this year! Some mysterious force took over a few days ago, and I was at the kitchen table with the brayer, a Styrofoam plate of a Japanese maple leaf, green ink, and card stock. They are going in the mail today.

After a visit from grandparents/in-laws over the weekend, we have another short visit tonight with another set. But, this last week before school starts up again is fairly free and open with time for making new things, cleaning up old things, playing, walking, cooking, reading, and watching movies. It sounds like the perfect week to me.
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Thursday, December 25, 2008


I hope that everyone is enjoying the holidays and the spirit of the season. We are busy in a flurry of activity, but it is a good kind of busyness-- the best kind of busyness from things that we want to do. The long wait of advent is over. We still have 12 days of Christmas in our house. Let the gift givings, celebrations, and thanksgivings begin!

Merry Christmas!
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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Handmade Holiday Journals

The second birthday party of the season was held yesterday. My daughter turns nine years old soon, and we had five of her friends over for a house party and then went to see the new movie "The Tale of Despereaux." While I had a craft planned, the event of the afternoon was dancing in the den to Christmas tunes.

The journals above are simple hot-dog fold books that were glued together and decorated with a spine of holiday paper. Instructions for making a hot-dog book are here. We gave these little books in the girls' treat bags. They looked so pretty standing up on the dining room table-- like little trees or monuments or a mini Stonehenge.

Today, we are taking it easy. I'm finishing some last embroidered bird ornaments to give as gifts. The children are doing the craft that was planned for the party yesterday-- making beads out of Sculpey clay that will be strung and turned into wreath ornaments.

I think I'll make a pot of tea and enjoy the rest of this inside at-home day.
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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Winter Solstice

We decorated our tree yesterday in preparation for the 4th Sunday in advent and for winter solstice. Today, I took my children to see New Stage Theater's annual production of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. It was amazing, and I am thankful for second chances every day.
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Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Shyest One

Our mother/daughter group went to the Mississippi Animal Rescue League for a service project yesterday after school let out for the holidays. Each family gathered a few supplies or made a monetary donation to the shelter, and we spent time loving, petting, and holding some of the puppies and kittens.

The Australian Shepherd above is still in my mind. She didn't bark. She didn't wag her tail. She stayed at the edge of her kennel and let me touch her, but she was was meek and frightened. When I got a leash to try to take her out into the yard, she cowered in the corner. So, I sat with her in her cage for a while. I pet her on the back and head, but I'm not sure what she really thought. It was noisy as the other large dogs in the outdoor kennels were constantly barking.

The staff said that she had come from the country. She had been running around by herself, and it had been difficult to catch her. In fact, she escaped the people trying to catch her, twice. A woman is going to work with her to help her learn to trust people. I hope she will succeed.

In the kennel with her yesterday, I imagined her running through tall grass, free and happy. She wrote poetry with her amber eyes. Of all the animals at the shelter yesterday, this little lady spoke to me most by not speaking.
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Friday, December 19, 2008

First One Up

Today is the last day of school for my children before the holidays. I finished my school duties yesterday by sharing the Christmas pop-up books of Robert Sabuda with my students. The "oooohs" and "aaaaahs" appropriately appreciated the artistry and whimsy of these amazing books. As time allowed, I also taught the students how to make simple pop-ups like the one that my daughter made two years ago.

I was the first one up this morning-- "popping" out of bed at 4:30 am. More than sleep, I needed some thinking and writing time in the quiet of the early morning before the obligations of the day took over.

What are the plans for the day? One more gift purchasing trip, a "winter party" for third graders, a school assembly of singing and strings, a mother/daughter group outing to an animal shelter for a service project (probably a future blog post), piano lessons, pizza making, and a little embroidery at the end of the day when I finally get to sit down again.

Looking at the day ahead, no wonder I got up a early.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Days Like This

The day started with making gingerbread cookies and reading stories about gingerbread run-aways in my son's 3-6-year-old class at school. The day ended with children's choir and bell choir rehearsal at the Cathedral. In the middle, I almost finished Christmas gift shopping (98.4% done), took a walk in the foggy air with my dog, and helped two third graders prepare for their semester math exams tomorrow. Days like this are such gifts, and I love them.
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Tuesday, December 16, 2008


As the Christmas cards start to arrive, I faithfully put them in a pile on the chest in the foyer. I am reminded that I haven't sent out any cards yet. Then, the empty Japanese maple branches against the chilly, December sky lure me to take yet another photo of its arms and fingers sometimes wet with raindrops or sometimes glowing in the sunlight. My house is full of piles of things in the office. Work stuff, home finance stuff, sewing and knitting projects in progress, and stacks of returned papers and artwork from the children's work at school. At least, I'm keeping up with the laundry.

After my son's birthday, the children really wanted to put up the Christmas tree. We resisted the urge, and I convinced them that we wouldn't be able to enjoy it with all of the other things that had to be accomplished on Sunday with church activities, getting ready for the work week, and reviewing for exams. Instead, we put up one of our many nativity sets and wreaths on the front and back doors. The tree is something we can look forward to for this weekend.

It is sometimes hard to stay in advent when businesses, friends, neighbors, parties, and school programs have passed it by. For now, for me, the most beautiful tree decorations are the raindrops, berries, and dried seeds on the tree branches. We'll stay here a little longer. . . waiting.
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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Six Years Old

Happy birthday to my six year old son. Crazy day. Crazy party. Running, screaming, squealing. . . so much energy! Being six is so wonderful. Playing with action figures with many, small, movable parts. Learning to read. Loving the "100 board" at school. Eating as much sugar as possible on a daily basis-- or at least as much as Mom will allow. Listening to Dad read the 5th Harry Potter book each night. Loving music-- especially the Police and the Who. Dancing like no one else can. He is my crazy boy, and I love him so much.
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Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Snowy Day

It so rarely snows in Jackson, Mississippi. Today was a glorious reminder that all is possible.

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Monday, December 8, 2008

Second Sunday in Advent

I'm having lots of fun creating collages through Picasa. They look like little quilts of photos and tell stories in different ways from single shots. Yesterday at St. Andrew's Cathedral, I took photos of things that struck me in their simplicity and beauty-- clay figures of Gabriel and baby Jesus that the children made in Catechesis, children playing music and working in the atriums, panels of the Aids Memorial Quilt that were on display in the parish hall, banners of St. Nicholas and the Tree of Life, and the light shining down through the courtyard onto the last remaining leaves of the pear tree.

I'm sure that folks "out-there" have already done this, but wouldn't it be interesting to make a collage for each day of the year to create a quilt-like photographic journal? This may be my new project for the coming year. . .
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Saturday, December 6, 2008

Happy Feast of St. Nicholas!

Photo collage from St. Nicholas Day activities: Saint Andrew's Cathedral celebration and bell choir rehearsal from Wednesday night; making paper miters with my students at St. Therese; Saturday morning presents for my children; little birds for some special people; and hearth and home.
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Friday, December 5, 2008

Lunch with friends

It was a "day-off" kind of day. I didn't leave the house except to pick up children from school or piano lessons. I did some tidying-up, made some chocolate chip cookies, cleared the dining room table from my sewing projects, and had some friends over for lunch.

I meant to do some Christmas shopping, but I never got out the door. Part of the problem is that I'm still trying to decide on what to give. I did a lot of online browsing and started more than one shopping cart, but I didn't make any commitments. I must be still in process mode.

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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Our Advent Calendar of Mini-Books

This is the advent calendar that we worked on over Thanksgiving. First, we folded little hot-dog books out of half sheets of 8.5 x 11 size paper. The instructions to make these are here. Then, we used pencils to carve Styrofoam from recycled take-out sushi trays. These became our blocks from which to print the numbers. (Numbers and letters must be carved in mirror-image. How many times did I get that wrong? Several). Then, we printed the numbers on the covers of the books. On the first Sunday of advent, we strung up the books with sisal twine and mini clothespins across the kitchen windows. Everyone in the family is encouraged to write reflections or daily happenings or draw pictures for each day. On some days, I'll put a clue in the book for a mini treasure hunt.

The light this afternoon was so beautiful, so I'm starting a new set of photos around the theme of advent light. The Japanese maple is almost done shedding it's brilliant, fiery leaves. Look who joined me to marvel in the carpet of drying leaves.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Making Way for Advent

Advent starts today. I can feel the tension building knowing how much needs to be done between now and Christmas-- for work, for home, for church, for friends. But, I'm going to resist the craziness with every fiber of my being.

Thanksgiving week was good practice. We spent most of our time in the house. Almost every table was always covered with an art project, craft, sewing, or food. This is how I would like Advent to be this year with lots of time for making homemade gifts.

Done alone, sewing and knitting are primarily quiet activities perfect for contemplation or just thinking about stuff. If done with others, sewing and knitting bring people together in a common endeavor of creativity and community. The children certainly experienced this. My sister and I did, too.