Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas Day

In the morning, the kids woke us up at 7:05. Rob wanted another half hour of sleep, but was outvoted. We woke up Joss too and opened the doors to the living room:
Will with the wind up lederhosen from his stocking.
Joss exclaiming over the candy and toys in his.

We began to open presents, then Rob called us to the dining room table where there was a box at my chair. The box had a skein of yarn in it, and the yarn led to a Scooby Doo sheet down in the basement.
This was under the sheet!
It's a painting we commissioned from our friend Darren Breen of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin The objects in the foreground are all symbolic of things from our experiences there, right down to the snowball (a border skirmish with tower guards while Rob was on his mission) and the Trabi's license plate (the initials and date that our friend Heidi Grathwohl died). John and Tania were graciously letting us interrupt their Christmas downstairs, so I was showing her the other lithographs we had up of Darren's. Then I turned around and saw this:
A piano! Rob bought us a piano! Everyone else was in on it. Parents, aunts, friends were all called in to give advice, help with logistics, run me out of the house when it was delivered, and move it out of a closet Christmas Eve. Turns out that he sold a pocket watch for a very Gift of the Magi Christmas.
The kids also had their share of surprises with toys and games and this aquarium. They've since populated it with five neon danios, two tetras, and one orange molly. It was a big hit and a popular nightlight. We had a wonderful day.
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Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas Eve!

This is what was happening around our place on Christmas Eve: stockings hanging, lights shining, gumdrops missing from the gingerbread -- what!?! What kind of kids are these that snitch candy off the gingerbread house before New Year's Day, the high holy holiday made for demolishing the creation? Kids that aren't afraid enough of their parents, that's what kind. So I removed one of the licorice shingles myself and figured if I can't beat them, I'd join them. It was awful.
For dinner we had stacked enchiladas. Rob began teaching the secrets of making them to Will. We've been trying to fit in our scripture reading in between dinner and dessert lately, so we did it here, with the reading of Luke 2 as a prerequisite to the Mohr im Hemd (I decided it was my Christmas. I wasn't going to torture myself with pies or my kids with steamed vegetable pudding this year). In fact, the whole day was wonderfully low key. We had a great time.
This year, with Joss being so interested in denuding the tree, we didn't put any presents under it. Instead we followed another tradition from the McFarland family: the Parade of Presents. Rob claims that his mother was always wrapping presents up until the last minute, and so on Christmas Eve, they would play Anne Murray's Oh Come, All Ye Faithful and the kids would ferry the presents from the room where she'd been madly wrapping, to under the tree. The kids really enjoyed carrying them all since it gave them a chance to weigh them and check out who they were all for.
We had the traditional opening of pajamas as well and this year I got some too! My only winter pajamas had a huge rip in one knee, one elbow, and both pockets were torn. They were not warm with all of that ventilation. They barely made it to Christmas and now they're out on the curb, waiting for the garbage men. Will got me pj's that are like wearing a stuffed animal, and Maddie got me slippers that are as fluffy as Maltese dogs. I'm pretty toasty now.
We sang carols on the couch and were Christmasy. The Lyons came back from their festivities and helped us reenact the Christmas story. We shined the apple and put out the plate of goodies for Santa. Then I gave the kids Candy Cane foot massages and Rob gave them each a dose of Benadryl (no, I'm not kidding; see above. Once upon a time I looked disapprovingly at Rob's pharmaceutical dabbling. I'm a convert now. The only regret I have is that he didn't give some to Joss too. Joss was up wailing from 3-4am on Christmas morning).
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If You've Got It, Flaunt It

For church last Sunday, the kids pulled out all the stops and wore all their trachten regalia, right down to Joss's lederhosen. We even managed to fit a shirt over Sebi's cast. They all created quite a stir. Something about short pants and dirndls makes church ladies coo.
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Christmas Recital

While Sebi was getting his arm set, the other two had their Christmas recital at a nearby assisted living center. Will played Silent Night.
Maddie played Joy to the World, O Little Town of Bethlehem, and a duet on a Jewish folk song called Hatikvoh. They both performed beautifully and I wish that Rob had been there to see them.
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Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Good Excuse to Watch Bad Movies

I can finally post this! I went completely Mrs. Weasley this year. I guess last fall I'd made half of one of these sweaters before I had to return the book to the library, and this year I found the pieces and finished it for Joss. It was so much fun I wondered who else I could make them for. I decided that my brother and sister-in-law's children would be best because they're not as humungous as mine so the sweaters would go faster. I hadn't realized until doing this project that Jeff and Saydi's kids' initials spell "Che". Very hip, those folks.
While I was knitting, I watched every movie I could get my hands on from the library. Some were great (The Visitor). Some were just fluff (The Wedding Date). One was so bad I had to turn it off (Along Came Polly with Jennifer Anniston. I should have known better. It is a rule of Rob's that you never watch movies starring any of the actors from Friends. Good rule.)
But knitting the sweaters was fun. I can only hope that they fit! Now that they're done, I only look longingly at the TV during nap time. I'll have to come up with another project.
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The Littlest Treehugger

Rob and I were very happy to forgo a tree this year (I mean a big tree in the bay window -- we have a small artificial tree in the basement and that was just about our speed). But we knew that no gift can compensate for the failure to have a Christmas tree; that if we skipped it, this would be remembered in perpetuity as The Year With No Tree.

This little guy is a big part of the reason to have no tree. He rips down the ornaments and no matter what sort of time out he has, he just says "ball? ball?"
We brought in the tree and he hugged it and sat on it and loves it. Now there are no decorations below 36". Oh, well.
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Same Time, Next Year

Sebi had first class treatment at the hospital. Dr. Macarthur put a note on his chart to make certain he got to go home. Then he put a pin in his elbow. Rob said that coming out of anesthesia wasn't pretty (Rob has some pretty strange reactions to anesthesia, and I think that our kids may have them too -- I remember delirious boys smacking me after getting tubes in their ears).
Sebi's nurse was from Rob's ward in Orem. She was marvelous too. She told Rob that she would have given them good care anyway, but they got excellent service because once upon a time she'd had a six week old baby with pneumonia and then her washer broke. Her visiting teacher, one Sandy McFarland, had come over and taken her laundry, washed it all, and brought it back. For weeks.

Sebastian got discharged in the early afternoon and came home to take a nap. He woke up and watched "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" which he'd remembered borrowing from Tomas last year with his broken arm. It was his only request this time around, and I think he's seen it at least 8 times in the last three days?

He started to whimper like clockwork as the pain medication wore off. He told me "It hurts inside this time!" I'll bet it does. He's got a pin this time around.

Then he bravely put on a coat and went out to buy a Christmas tree. His brother and sister rolled him around on a dolly at Lowe's and they found a nice big fat tree and celebrated at Krispy Kreme.

Our friends Curtis and Chloe made us the most fabulous dinner of salsa verde chicken enchiladas, apples and caramel, rice and beans, chips, salsa and cookies. To the head meal planner and cook of the house, it felt like Christmas had come early! Thanks, people, it was scrumptious, and we've eaten it every day since!

Sebastian didn't go to church the next day. But his brother had been assigned a talk in Primary. Here is what we came up with:

“I think of Jesus Christ while I partake of the sacrament.” This is a hard topic. I think somebody was spying on me during the sacrament when they assigned this talk. I don’t think about Jesus Christ while the sacrament is being passed.

"Mostly I poke my brother and sister. I try to get out the paper and pens even though it’s a rule in our family that we don’t bring those out until after the sacrament is over. I whine and I flop over on the pew, pretending that I’m tired and need a nap. I think about what’s for dinner when we get home. I think about how long it’s going to be until we say the closing prayer. I wonder why they don’t ever have kids give talks in sacrament meeting; why we never sing Primary songs. I don’t think much about Jesus Christ during the sacrament.

"But I should.

"Here is why: the sacrament is an ordinance all about Jesus. He started it when he fed his disciples at the last supper. He gave them bread and told them “this is my body” and then he fed them wine and told them “this is my blood”. The disciples didn’t understand it then, because he hadn’t died yet, but we understand now. The bread and water are his flesh and blood that he gave up for us. Eating those reminds us that Christ takes away our sins and that he can clean us. The sacrament is a present that Jesus Christ gave us because it can be like getting baptized over again every week that we take it. We eat the bread and water and Christ forgives us of whatever sins we have that week. Like pushing our little brother off the Love Sac and breaking his arm. I can have that forgiven today if I just sit there and think about Jesus Christ!

"I think it’s a pretty good deal. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen."

So people here are on the mend now. We thank you for your prayers, your comments, your phone calls, and your help. We've appreciated it all!Posted by Picasa

Making Gingerbread Houses

In a fit of ambition, I decided to break away from the one true gingerbread pattern. For future reference in all areas of my life, I need to lie down until the fits of ambition pass. In specific, the one true gingerbread pattern (the one we used every year at my house growing up) is true because it all fits in one pan! I realized this four pans later, and that was in spite of cutting down these row houses to 2/3 size.
Rob wants to try Casa Batllo next year. I may have lost the one true gingerbread house pattern forever.

Nevertheless, they were a big party to decorate, and with so much surface area, we all got to try something. Maddie and Chloe each had a different take on Hunderwasser, Rob did a roof like the jagdhutte, I got a Casa Batllo facade, and Katie made an entire mural out of Nerds (reminded me of Felix the wall artist). We enjoyed it so much that we even decorated the backside, and who sees that but the garbage and recycling guys?

Ah, dinner!

A pretty sweet neighborhood.

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St. Niklaus Abend

Don't tell Lois, who hates celebrating foreign holidays, but the kids had a great St. Niklaus haul in their shoes on December 7th. Rob and I posted a sign at the top of the stairs that read "If it isn't 6:00am, go back to bed!" It is such a bummer having old, sleepy parents!

This holiday was brought to you by Haribo gummis, Milka chocolate, Almdudler soda, Lego, and Holz puzzles.Posted by Picasa

Advent! Advent! Ein Lichtlein brennt!

We've been falling behind on the blog, but only blogospherically speaking -- we're still celebrating, and right now, we're celebrating advent. You can learn more about it here. We imitate the German and Austrian cultural traditions and skip the vestal purple and liturgical readings.

Here's the advent wreath.

Here everyone is getting ready to dive into the bunte teller. We also attended the annual Adventsingen at the Provo Tabernacle where Rob and kids performed. I'm ashamed to admit I didn't even get any pictures of the kids in their trachten. They looked fantastic and they did a wonderful rendition of "Kling, Gloekchen Kling" and "O Kinderlein Kommet" with friends Hanna und David. Curtis has a complete report. You can see it here and admire the handsome couple in their dirndl and jacke. Time to light your candles and eat your lebkuchen!

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Saturday, December 12, 2009

An Old Testament Week

We're starting to feel chastened like the children of Israel around here.
It began with our heater, which hasn't worked 100% yet this year. Despite having thrown $1,200 and several hours at it, only 3/4 of the house has heat. The other quarter is, of course, the one we live in all day.
On Wednesday I started a load of laundry and dropped Sebi off at school. Then Joss and I went to B##%*$ and No$#&*! to buy a couple more things for my packages. I had 9 (count 'em!) ideas and that loathsome excuse of a bookstore had one -- ONE in stock. So I went to Pier 1 looking for something "cute". I noticed that neither of these stores have carts, and I hadn't brought the stroller, so I was reduced to either chasing Joss around as he pulled books and knicknacks off the shelves, or putting him up on my shoulder. As to the former, has a predilection for the vampirical books (like everyone else) and as to the latter, he was a very loud and abusive hat. I gave up and I'm sending y'all a gift card. That's why.
We came home to find the laundry room floor flooded. The washer is on an exterior wall, and when it gets really cold, the drain freezes. So you don't know you're in trouble until you're halfway through a wash cycle, and then even if you turn it off it is still spewing gallons of water out the pipe. I probably came home 20 minutes after it had happened, because it had already begun to drip down into our cold storage closet. Which would be where we keep our food storage, luggage, decorations, toys, camping gear, and a lot of other homeless items.
I mopped up the laundry room with towels, but I had to call Rob for some weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth before I could face the damage downstairs. He was a superhero and came home. He emptied out the closet, dried off shelves, set out the damp things and threw away the ruined stuff.
We managed to pull it back together over the next two days, and then it flooded again on Friday morning. Rob opened the window and shoved the steaming tube outside, spewing soapy water across the driveway. Then he decided to get even. He started coaxing boiling water down the drain, emptying it out when it got too full. As he said "You think that if you start the day sucking soapy water out of a tube, it can only get better from there. You would be wrong."
He dealt with a neurotic colleague for an hour. I dealt with a child who has now lost every single bathing suit and cannot go to swim practice (and the usual toddler who wants to scribble on the furniture, break glass, and play in kitty litter, though that is simply the leitmotif of my days right now). Then at 5:00pm, the kids were roughhousing and Sebastian broke his arm. Same kid, same bone, same orthopedic surgeon, same month as last year. He breaks his falls with his left elbow.
I loaded him up in my trusty van and made my third trip to the ER with a little broken-armed boy. I met Rob there and he took over as hospital advocate while I fed the other kids dinner and tried to put Will back together. He had pushed Sebi off a bean bag and was inconsolable. Dr. Macarthur decided it would be more humane to set the bone in the morning, so we brought him home, doped him up and fed him peach soup.
He and Rob are off now having surgery so he can get a pin and a bionic arm like his cousin Hazel. We'd appreciate your prayers on his behalf. And as for the rest of us, pray that we are able to escape the snakes, toads, or hemorrhoids that must already have our name on them.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Holiday Update 2009

This year the McFarlands went to Vienna again. We know, you've heard it all before, but from this end, that's all we can really manage. We don't enroll the kids in soccer; we don't attend BYU football games. We don't even get our car registration in on time. So that's what we did in 2009. Here is what the kids have been up to:

Madeline (11) has continued to grow without pause. She's 5"5' and says her goal is to make it to 6". She may well reach it! She is currently in her Aunt Betsy's class at Wasatch Elementary and loving it. She's involved with choir, still swims on the UVRays, and has continued violin. All of that, however, has taken a back seat to her afterschool Shakespeare classes. She and 13 other sixth graders (mostly girls) will be putting on Henry V next April. In preparation, she's read Hamlet, Macbeth, Measure for Measure, Much Ado About Nothing, Romeo and Juliet, and Henry V. Her plot comprehension is astounding, but she confided "If I don't understand what's going on, it's usually a curse." She's become an independent student and a burgeoning babysitter.

Will (9) insists that "sosmic" is a word, as in "a sosmic blast". Despite the correction, cajoling and insistence of his parents, it remains in his personal dictionary. He just spent last Saturday at a birthday party where they went to Cabela's sportin' and huntin' emporium and attended a basketball game in the luxury box with shrimp and lobster. It showed him the sort of life he could have, and the one he's aiming for. He explained the other day that he wants to go to M.I.T. to design a better toaster oven. I told him that M.I.T. was a really ambitious goal; but the toaster oven? Not so much. He is involved with violin and scouts, and about to start skiing, but he lives for playing on the Wii, with Legos, and with friends. He's a hard worker at his homework and chores.

Sebastian (5) is the tallest kid in the first grade. Problem is, he's only a kindergartner. He manages to live up to the too-high expectations in nearly all areas of his life, though. He trekked up towers and ruins and through ice caves and down salt mines with the other kids and students this summer and loved it. He is reading and taking creative dance, and has started violin this year. Just last night I saw him in deep conversation with his best friend and an older man coming out of dance class. When they got in the car, they reported that the man looked like Hundertwasser so they told him so. He said "I don't know who that is. I'll have to look him up!" I'm trying to imagine what I'd think if two kindergartners came up and told me I looked like an Austrian modernist architect/designer/inventor. And I wonder what that man will think when he finds out Hundertwasser used to strip down naked "to protest rationality in architecture"! Sebastian is still a gentle soul and a great companion on errands.

Josiah (18 mos.) has just entered nursery at church (cue the hallelujah chorus)! He does everything he should and shouldn't at this age, but that isn't enough for him. He wants to do everything that his siblings do: sit on stools, use glass dishes, and eat with a spoon. He lives for Thomas the Tank Engine. He entertains us all with his dancing, kisses, prayers and enthusiasm.

Rob and MA are so grateful to be alive, healthy, employed and solvent this year. Though that's more than our share, we had a wonderful time sneaking off to museums for dates and visiting Spain for the first time since MA's mission. We are excited to be celebrating Christ's birth once again. We're also thankful that we were able to see so many of you on at home or away visits. We are so happy to have you in our lives and we wish you a very Merry Christmas and a happy and peaceful 2010.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

A Mother's Book of Secrets

by Linda Eyre and Shawni Eyre Pothier. I just read this book a week or two ago (see it on my Shelfari?) and thought it was great. The format is perfect for a busy mom (short chapters, practical ideas, beautiful photos by Shawni). Now Linda and Shawni have got a deal with their publisher: you get 20% off if you order it online (go here and click on the publisher link) and all the proceeds go to curing blindness (check out the website to understand why). Great gift, great price, and you get to feel philanthropic too!