December 21, 2008

Adventures in Sunday Schooling

The setting: This morning in the children's building of our church, 15 of our community's sweetest 4 year-olds are putting together angels made of paper bags, styrofoam heads and glittery pipe cleaner halos. We've just finished reading the Christmas story and are hurrying around the room to ensure that each flawlessly-decorated angel is complete in time for these precious preschoolers' parents to arrive.

Background noise: Stapling, coloring, 4 year-old chatter and the crunching of goldfish crackers.

The action:
Preschooler 1: (Inaudible.)

Preschooler 2: I'm going to knock your teeth out!

Preschooler 3: (Sitting in between the two. Looks simultaneously confused and horrified.)

Ms. Anne: Preschooler 2, what did you just say? (I was absolutely convinced that the marker fumes were going to my head.)

Preschooler 2: Nothing.

Ms. Anne: Predictable talk of being kind to our friends, what makes God happy and how there are plenty of markers to go around. Don't our craft angels look better when we work together to finish them?

One hour later.

Background noise: Clattering of blocks, happy and rowdy preschool sounds, Preschoolers 1 through 3 playing together amicably as if the previously described scene never took place.

The action:
Preschooler 1: Ooh, ooh! My mom and dad are here. Bye, Mr. Bradley! Bye, Ms. Anne! (Pause.) Bye, Knock Your Teeth Out Boy!

Mr. Bradley: Coughing nervously to stifle his laughs.

Needless to say, I was thoroughly amused by the quick change between our loving 4 year-olds telling us how cute their baby Jesus figures are to the (very rare and heretofore unheard) threats of dental damage.

Preschooler 2 doesn't usually come to our class, so his final act of thanks to friends and teachers for a fun Sunday morning was kicking down a house made of blocks he'd been putting together. Better a block than another preschooler!

I've never heard a 4 year-old talk like that and just had to share... I would love to know what would have happened if I'd said something like that in my childhood. Might not be here to tell the tale, friends.

December 16, 2008

Christmas Tour of Homes 2008

Who doesn't love a holiday Tour of Homes? Taking a peek at others' gorgeous Christmas decorations, snagging a few good ideas for next year, enjoying a little hot apple cider while shamelessly marveling at others' abundance of good taste, square footage, intricate nativity scenes and garland-draping skills.... Could you ask for anything more?

You should know by now that anything I can combine with pjs (or gym clothes, as the case may be tonight) and hanging out with my sweet puppy is immediately my very-favorite-thing-on-this-whole-Earth.

So I just had to share this virtual Tour of Homes BooMama has put together. Not only is she absolutely delightful, but she has started a fantastic online tradition. So meander on over to her neck of the woods and see what you'll have hundreds of bloggers' homes to choose from! (And no pressure to find a lovely holiday but not too-holiday-y outfit to wear. No one's looking!)

Enjoy! (And if, in reading BooMama's older posts, like this one, you don't have a giggle or two, I'll give you ten dollars. Seriously, I will. And perhaps invoice her for it.)

Any takers? I'd love to hear your favorites!

Thanks for the welcome!

I'm not super-new to the blogosphere, but in recent months I have been taking baby steps to open up my virtual doors to those who don't share my last name, hometown or strange affinity for mashed potatoes and/or candy late at night. (In other words, folks who aren't related to me or otherwise legally bound to think I'm fantastic.)

Mrs. Newlywed Stilettos has been kind enough to give me a welcome, so I thought you'd want a little look-see yourself.

Welcome the other new bloggers and find some exciting online conversations... There sure are a lot of other talkers out there, hmm?

Candy Cane Survey

1. What is your favorite Christmas Movie? Love Actually or It's a Wonderful Life

2. Favorite Christmas Song? O Holy Night

3. Favorite Holiday Memory? Long long ago, before I had a digital alarm clock, I used a Minnie Mouse watch on my bedside table. I knew that once her hands were on 6 and 12 it was 6:00 am and I could wake my younger brother up for Christmas morning. (This was before the previously mentioned 7:00 am rule was enacted.) I probably woke up every twenty minutes, but when the hands were finally on the 6 and 12 I got him up. Sadly, we were told that it was only 12:30 am and we'd have to wait another five and a half hours to see what Santa dropped off. Longest night of our lives!!

4. What kind of cookie/treat do you like to make? Iced sugar cookies shaped liked stars and stockings. Don't forget the sprinkles!!

5. Have you ever made an igloo? I have! In Quebec City, 2006. It was so fun for the first twenty minutes and then I was just too cold to get excited about it. Let me tell you, that thing took forrrrever to make! Very cool photo op, though. You'll have to ask Bradley about his memories of the experience; he had to pick up my slack and has a slightly different tale to tell. It was memorable nonethless!!

6. Do you love Starbucks? I don't. I do love Diet Cherry Coke, Diet Dr. Pepper, Diet Coke and (my latest addition) a delicious honey vanilla chamomile tea. Not a coffee girl, but I'm glad to avoid the pricey addiction!

7. What makes the perfect Snowman? Snow! Around here we don't usually get it - especially around Christmas. You never can tell, though.

9. Best gift you have ever received? I have to say Bradley. Santa didn't leave him under the tree exactly, but we started dating in the fall and got engaged before the holidays the next year, so Christmas has always been a really wonderful time of year for us. Our first Christmas as Mr. and Mrs. was fabulous and I don't doubt this year will be the same. Having Blue as part of the package makes it even better.

10. What is the snowman's name on Rudolph? Ooh. Don't remember.

11.Silver or Gold? I like both in jewelry and decorations, but silver looks better on me.

12. What is your favorite Christmas decoration? A big wreath and a tree

13. What's your Christmas decorating style? Simple and traditional.

14. Do you hang stockings? Believe it or not, we haven't. We have stockings hanging at my parents' house, but Bradley and I haven't gotten our own. I think he'd prefer to wait 'til we have kids, because it feels like it's a relatively little-kid tradition. I, however, respectfully disagree and wrap all of his "invisible stocking" stuffers instead. It's such a fun tradition!

15. How many days do you celebrate Christmas? As many as possible! I love to listen to Christmas music just before Thanksgiving all the way to New Year's.

16. What was your favorite ornament on the tree as a child? A beautiful Clara from the Nutcracker.

17. Where will you be spending Christmas this year? Christmas Eve with Bradley's family, Christmas morning in our house and the rest of Christmas Day with my parents. So excited!

18. When do you open presents? This year will be a little different, as we're exchanging gifts with B's family Christmas Eve. So I'll have two back-to-back days of present-opening. The ten year-old in me is super thrilled.

What about y'all??

December 9, 2008

A Christmas Conspiracy

Everyone seems to struggle with the balance of a traditional family Christmas focused on the holiday's real meaning and the frenzied, cultural Christmas that promotes irrational consumerism and meaningless "things" in place of true celebration and generosity.

We saw this video in church a few weeks ago and I loved it. When Brooke included it, along with her own thoughts on the subject, on her blog today I had to snag it. (I even figured out how to post video for this very reason. FINALLY!)

Take a look:

How are you working to make your holiday more meaningful this year? In the economic crisis our country faces, I'm hopeful that people may begin to look for more significance this Christmas than just a pile of presents. I'd love to hear your thoughts! Enjoy the video - and here's wish you a Christmas focused on the holy-day, not just the holiday bustle.

December 6, 2008

My Christmas Quirks

Emily at One is Not So Lonely tagged me to list six holiday quirks, which would have been a lot harder to think of before I finally got into the Christmas spirit this morning with Bradley and Blue. All I needed to do was crank up the holiday tunes, put up the tree and unbox our ornament collection - it's always a walk down memory lane. Now I have plenty of holiday traditions to share with y'all:

Six Random "Holiday Facts" About Anne:

1. There is a definite ornament hierarchy on my tree. My favorite and more memorable ornaments are gingerly placed at the top. Pretty but slightly less meaningful ornaments stay in the middle of our tree. Less valuable and more Blue-friendly ornaments are hung towards the bottom.

My very favorite ornament is a beautiful Clara ballerina I got after a performance of the Nutcracker in elementary school. She's always the first ornament to go up and the last to come down, still kept in her original box. When we got engaged, Mom and Dad sent us up a number of family ornaments "on loan" until we could put together our own collection. Clara, however, is one that will be staying with me!

2. My mom makes an amazing hot holiday punch every year that makes the whole house smell like Christmas. I always try a batch or two a year myself, if just for the scent of it. It tastes delicious, but mine is never quite the same as hers. Mom's perfect proportions of apple cider, cranberry juice, orange juice, cloves and cinnamon make all the difference.

3. Christmas Eve candlelight service is my favorite of the year. The hymns and carols, the candles, the completion of the Advent story, the Scriptures read, the excitement of everyone. When I was old enough to hold my own candle, I knew I'd really grown up.

Because we travel and aren't at my home church each year, I don't always get to attend. If I had my way, though, we'd be in that pew every year. Such a meaningful service to me.

4. Growing up, my family read the Christmas story out of Luke every Christmas Eve before we went to bed. I loved how quiet everything was, that no one in the world seemed to be out doing anything else but spending time with their families. I always remember Dad's voice reading it, but when we got older he would ask us to read as well. It felt like such an honor!

After we read the story, which we could probably recite by heart, we would place baby Jesus into the nativity scene our family had made. My brother and I rotated who got to put the figure in the nativity scene (of course) to keep it fair. Another small tradition that felt like such an honor as a child.

It was really important to me, too, that Jesus not be in the nativity scene until Christmas Eve. I mean, isn't He what everyone was waiting for? It didn't make sense to see him in there the day after Thanksgiving. So our family's wise men, angels, animals, Mary and Joseph were gazing at hay until Christmas Eve.

5. After some creative lobbying from my brother and me, we were allowed to open one present on Christmas Eve. And it was always pajamas. Brand new pjs wear on Christmas morning.

On Christmas morning, we had a very specific routine my parents created to prevent 5am chaos. We couldn't come out of our rooms and go downstairs, where our tree and presents were, until 7am. Even then, my brother and I had to make our beds, brush our teeth and put our robes on before we came down together.

That drove my brother crazy when I got old enough to want to fix my hair before Christmas morning photos. Poor kid. I can't decide if my parents were trying to prevent wide-open kid craziness or just torture us a little bit.

The Christmas pjs did come in handy, though, as I always had cute candy canes or Merry Christmas in six languages written across my new Christmas morning outfit. Just in time for a photo op.

A few years ago my mom handed me my Christmas Eve gift and, as I was about to open the box, snatched it away in a panic. I guess her system for subtly labeling gifts isn't entirely fool-proof. :) She handed me another box and held her breath that it was, in fact, the correct Christmas Eve present. It all worked out the second time around and I still have the flannel snowflake pj pants to prove it.

6. In our first Christmas together as Mr. and Mrs., Bradley and I decided to start a tradition of our own. We're fortunate enough to have both sets of parents within driving distance, so we decided to have time with just the two of us on Christmas morning.

We spend Christmas Eve with one family, have time Christmas morning to exchange our gifts for each other, then drive to the other family's house for Christmas day. It worked perfectly in 2007 and I'm excited to do it again this year. Why wait 'til you have children to have "family time" on Christmas Day? Bradley, Blue and I have a fun mini family Christmas and then get to spend time with the bigger group - it's perfect.

I'd love to hear your favorite Christmas traditions! Feel free to share. And I'm tagging Kristen, Elizabeth and Ashley.

December 4, 2008

It's really Christmas!

I got my very first Christmas card of 2008 today- and from one of my favorite people on Earth, Kristen. Their card is unbelievable and the photo sets the bar insanely high. Hopefully she'll post it on her blog so you can all marvel at the gorgeousness of the Watsons. (And their ability to get two dogs and two humans to look great all at once!)

How behind am I on Christmas, you ask? Well, so far I've put up a wreath and a Christmas garden flag. No tree, no gifts under it, no ornaments on it, no batches of cookies or punch, no indoor decorations at all. (If I was reading this aloud, I would pronounce it "uh-tall" just for effect. FYI.)

Shopping, however, I am clearly all over. Of course. I feel great about the buying - it's the wrapping and placing under the (currently invisible) tree that's got me a little concerned. Thankfully it's only the 4th, right?

So the game plan for this weekend is to put up a tree, decorate it, take a phenomenally beautiful picture of all three Smiths and pick out a card. Oh, and collect addresses. Wow.

I'm going to stop the list now...I do enough of that at work. So I'm off to enjoy some "holiday" breakfast for dinner with my husband. Ahh, the things we eat when work wears us out too much to cook a grown-up meal.

Hope your Christmas preparations are coming along a bit better than mine! While I'm bonding with my grits and eggs, feel free to brag about how far ahead of the game you are in Christmas preparations. I can't wait to hear how woefully underachieving I am in that department.

Love y'all! 'Night!

December 2, 2008

The first 500 days as Mr. and Mrs.

1 doggie surgery

1 new job

1 chipped plate

1 case of food poisoning
(That'd be today, folks. Poor, poor Bradley.)

2 football seasons
(With 2 different football coaches!)

2 trips to the animal emergency room

3 broken wine glasses
(Subsequently, 6 unbreakable wine glasses purchased solely for my use)

3 birthdays
(Mine, his, mine again...does that make me 2 years older in 500 days? Math is crap.)

3 trips to a doc in a box
(Why do we always get sick out of town on weekends?)

4 other couples' weddings

4 months of teaching 4-year-olds each Sunday
(Too many funny stories from those Sundays to count...remind me to tell you about Bradley playing the donkey in the Good Samaritan story. One for the ages.)

6 formal uses of our fine china and crystal
(Not bad, right?)

6 business trips

500 groggy morning I-love-you-have-a-good-day-grab-some-breakfast-call-me-later-goodbyes

10,327 thank you notes written, addressed, stamped and sent out
(All but one written by me, hence the 0 hours of yard work I have done since becoming Mrs. S.)

All in all, not such a bad deal. Love him!


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