Christmas Mememberies

IMG_2710Some moms are good at documenting the special moments of family life with a camera.  This mom…not so much.  I have great intentions, but inevitably I’ve left the memory card in some computer or have run out of batteries or just can’t seem to hold the camera steady while chasing a toddler.  So I snap a few here and there and just hope to capture the rest of the mememberies in my memembery book.  Here are ten moments I’m adding to the pages from Christmas 2012:

1. Christmas Eve Breakfast—For maybe the fifth or sixth year in a row, I enjoyed Christmas Eve breakfast with my friend Ruth and her kids.  There’s something about creating (and keeping up with) your own tradition that makes you feel a little more like an adult.  Breakfast was slow and easy and her kids were comfortable enough to get themselves their own refills on drinks.  They left, and we took a deep breath and said to each other that it was now really Christmas.

2.  Righteous Joseph—That night we enjoyed the Celtic Christmas Eve service at church.  So I thought it was Christmas after breakfast, but it was for real Christmas after Debbie sang, “You may rejoice to hear the voice of the angel, Gabriel.”  That song.  Perfect.

3.  Chinese Food and Sangria—Carrying on more new traditions, we enjoyed an eclectic but relaxing dinner after church.  Thanks to Jay’s work in advance and my sister-in-law’s help, I actually had zero wrapping to do after the crazies were in bed.  (Let’s make sure that gets added to the list of traditions too, okay?)

4.  Waiting in Agony—Jay was able to hold off Chica for about 45 minutes before letting her come upstairs on Christmas morning so that Bubba and I could sleep a little bit longer.  How he accomplished this I will never know.  When they finally got upstairs, he said Chica still had to wait to open gifts until after he used the bathroom. At that moment I had flashbacks of my own dad purposely stalling with the camera and batteries as a kid.  Sorry Chica, but I’m sure you’ll do the same to your kids when it’s time.

5.  The Scarf—Every year there is something that Chica asks for at the last minute from Santa.  I mean like Christmas Eve, last minute.  And her emphatic little heart makes Santa want to go to any length necessary to make it happen.  Two years ago it was Spiderman, last year it was a skateboard, and this year it was scarf.  So Santa, after returning some ridiculously late library books, hit up the Roses Express in the Plaza for a scarf.  The sincere exclamation of, “A scarf…it’s just what I wanted!” upon opening it was worth every penny of that six dollars.

6.  THE tie—Unbeknownst to us, Chica’s nana took her shopping to the Dollar Tree to buy gifts for Jay, Bubba, and me.  She actually did a fantastic job picking out treasures.  Including this:


The picture, in this case, just doesn’t do it full justice; it also plays music.  And as if that wasn’t enough, we found out later that day that Chica’s cousin bought the very same type of tie for his daddy too.   I love it.

7.  Mileage reimbursements—Jay gave me a very extravagant gift that I totally wasn’t expecting.  Upon opening it, I admit I silently waivered back and forth between, “Holy cow, this is cool!” and, “I tried so hard to stick to Christmas budget, and you TOTALLY blew it!”  He knows me well enough to know that this was exactly what I was thinking, too.  So after the craziness had died down (and I think I still hadn’t opened it), he told me that he had saved up his mileage reimbursements for the year in order to make my gift happen.  All of a sudden it was ok.

8.  Nap—I got one on Christmas afternoon.  It’s a highlight, folks.

9.  A Christmas Story—Before dinner Chica and I retired to the basement to try to lower the chaos factor upstairs.  We played pizza delivery man and Nutcrackers go to heaven and all sorts of other four-year-old pretend stories.  The highlight was when one dollhouse doll was telling another the Christmas story.  In case you haven’t heard, you should know that the magi brought Jesus, “Gold, breakenpence, and whir.”

10.  Perfect Ending—We finished out a great day with a movie after the kids were in bed.  I cannot tell you the last time I stayed awake to watch an entire movie…it must have been a good one!

So how about you?  What mememberies did you add to your memembery book this Christmas?  I’d love to hear one!

Somewhere To Be Peaceful

“Are you going somewhere to be peaceful?”

These were Chica’s words as she hugged me goodbye for the third time yesterday.  “Well, yes, I am,” but I hadn’t really thought of it that way.  Turns out she knows what she’s talking about.

Yesterday was time for the biennial Tracy and Taylor’s Excellent Adventures.  Installment one of this sibling fun was Memorial Day two years ago when we climbed Mt. Rogers, Virginia’s highest peak.  That adventure included getting lost in the predawn hours, spotting a just-born wild foal and its mother, and two bear sightings, all before lunch time.  I was pretty sure that this year’s trip wouldn’t leave us with such good storytelling material, but I couldn’t wait, nonetheless.

Based on a friend’s recommendation, we headed to the US National Whitewater Center in Charlotte.  We started our morning off with a raft ride through Class II, III, and IV rapids in their manmade river.  This was one of those times where I tried to force myself to see the bigger picture.  “Open your eyes, soak it all in,” I told myself.  Instead I spent most of the time focused on the paddle in front of me and my feet tucked firmly under the seat.  I really didn’t want to have an “out of boat experience.”

Since we were already soaked, we decided to try out the stand-up paddle boarding next.  Taylor and I were both surprised at just how difficult it was.  If you want to get anywhere fast, paddle boarding is not the sport for you.  If you try to paddle quickly, you’re going to either tip over or veer too far left or right. So unlike rafting, we took in the big picture, stopped twice for a swim, made jokes about feeling like we were floating the Amazon, and just enjoyed each other’s company.  Yes, Chica, we were able to be peaceful here.

After lunch we attempted their 40 foot climbing wall.  Feeling quite confident and cocky, I stepped right up to tackle climb number two, a climb the guide described as medium difficulty.  I was struck right away with just how small the handholds were.  Since we were using an auto belay, there was no stopping to take a break like you can do if a person is belaying you.  If you let go, you’re coming down, pride and all.

Right there on the wall I thought of Chica.  I get frustrated when she chooses a puzzle, game, or book too easy for her abilities.  I always try to push her to the next challenge.  This medium wall was definitely the next challenge for me, and I was crumbling under those feelings of “it’s too hard.”  I’ll try to have a little more grace next time when she wants to sit comfortably with what she knows she can do.

Our final two adventures were the Mega Zip and Mega Jump.  Possibly the most exciting part of this was watching the rafting from up above while we waited in line.  We saw at least four rafts tip over, giving everyone on board a chance to practice what they had learned about the out of boat experience.  “Lay back, point your feet downstream, and absolutely do not try to stand up.”  Watching it happen so many times in a row actually made a tiny part of me wish it had happened to us.  Spilling out of a raft in a Class IV rapid might possibly be more exciting than a bear sighting??

Though physically tiring, this day was oh-so-peaceful.  I had one mouth to be responsible for instead of three.  The questions I got were easy ones like, “Where are you from?” and, “Have you done this before?”  There was no one to fight over naptime.  Being a mom is awesome, but sometimes you need some time away to remember just how awesome it is.  Spending that time away with great company makes it even better.

Oh, I almost forgot.  Want to hear the joke about pizza that our raft guide told us?

Ahhhh….nevermind….it’s too cheesy.

Make You Fall in Love Pasta Salad

Our family is big on food traditions.  Friday nights mean dinner at the Yellow Sub.  Breakfast at Grandma’s house means chocolate covered donuts.  Christmas morning means oyster stew, and any good picnic most definitely needs pasta salad.

Jay’s birthday is next week, and he chose a family trip to Peaks of Otter picnic area tomorrow to celebrate.  Since a picnic means pasta salad, and it just wouldn’t be right for Jay to do all the work for his birthday lunch, I had to make it.  Tonight as I boiled, chopped, and mixed, I couldn’t help but think about how Jay won me over with this pasta salad 9 years ago.

See, I lived a pretty sheltered food life growing up.  When half of your family members refuse to eat all but one fruit or vegetable (and I’m not even exaggerating, folks), there are a pretty limited number of meals that can be served in your house.  I came to college never having tried pretty normal things like pineapple, spinach, mushrooms, Chinese food, and baked beans.

I started dating Jay the summer before my senior year of college.  He had yet to learn that I had some pretty strange and picky eating habits when he planned and prepared a fancy dinner for me one evening.  I’ll never forget his momentary look of disappointment when I told him I wouldn’t be trying his shrimp cocktail that he had slaved over.  (He wants you to know that he double seared the shrimp, and the cocktail sauce was not from a jar.  He was really trying to impress me!)  I say momentary, because then he realized that meant more for him, and he got over it pretty quickly.

Luckily I didn’t hold the shrimp against him, and I gave him another chance to cook for me.  He planned a picnic for us and again prepared everything himself.  He brought us cracked pepper turkey sandwiches and pasta salad.  I can’t say for sure whether or not I had ever had pasta salad before that, but a turkey sandwich was definitely more my speed.  Let’s just say, I think I ate enough pasta salad that day for at least four people.  It was amazing.

There’s that saying about the key to a guy’s heart is through stomach, but I think this has got to be at least partially true for girls too.  He won me over that day in a big way.  The lunch and then a walk down by the train tracks…it was all perfect.  Sure, there are other things he did that summer that made me know he was a keeper like washing my dishes, taking my car to get it fixed, and playing countless hands of cards.  But the memories of that particular picnic are a little less fuzzy than many of the other memories.  That clarity is definitely thanks to the pasta salad.

So, nine years later he still does the dishes, takes care of my car, and makes a mean pasta salad.  I know the bowl I made for tomorrow is nowhere near as good as that first batch, but it has brought up lots of good memories just the same.  Happy Birthday, Jay.

In case there’s somebody that you are trying to get to fall in love with you, here’s the recipe.  Don’t make it unless you are serious about that person because it really works.  It goes best with turkey sandwiches on a paper plate.

Make You Fall in Love Pasta Salad

1 box of mini shell pasta
5 green onions
1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
1 small cucumber
1 bunch of cilantro, stems removed
grape tomatoes
1 Italian dressing seasoning mix pouch
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
apple cider vinegar

Cook the pasta according to the directions on the box.  While it cooks, dice up the onions, peppers, and cucumber.  Chop the cilantro.  Mix the Italian dressing by following the directions on the package with one exception:  use half apple cider vinegar and half balsamic vinegar.  When the pasta is done cooking, drain it and cool it off using cold water and/or ice cubes.  When the pasta is cool, add the chopped vegetables, cilantro, and about ¾ of the Italian dressing.  Mix well.  Add salt to taste.  Refrigerate for a few hours.  Right before serving, cut the tomatoes in half and add them to the pasta.