Bittersweet Symphony

Last night at three in the morning, the car alarm that has been turned off for a year and a half, the one held within John's car that hasn't started for a week and a half, suddenly awoke and wouldn't stop shouting. Using the electronic thingamajig didn't quiet it nor did turning it off manually. Finally, John had to the disconnect the car battery, the same battery that is too weak to start the car but is evidently just strong enough to give the alarm a thrill for an hour or two.

John's had to use the van, so I've been out of the house twice in two and a half weeks, to a party and to church, which were not on the same day, lest you think we party wildly at church. (That makes it sound like we partied wildly at the party, though, which also is not the case. It was a cookie and adoption party day, for Pete's sake!). Christmas shopping is undone, Christmas ingredients for baking are unpurchased, and, until John blessed me by going to the laundromat after work last night, laundry piles haunted my dreams.

Ebay auctions are going swimmingly, though, and today I drew a Christmas card! The root of Jesse, the lion lying down with the Lamb, O Adonai, and the Lion of the tribe of Judah all mixed together. It's not as straightforward as last year's, and I was about to give up on it, but I haven't doodled in a very long time. I needed the excuse. I don't have a way to scan it yet, and I don't know how I'm actually going to print out the cards, but I optimistically hope to send most of them out tomorrow. If you'd like a card but are unsure about whether or not I have your address (feel free to request a card even if we've never met), then please email me your mailing address at my Internet-sticky-business email: fridgefame at gmail dot com.

More to come another day.
Come what may.


The Root of Jesse

A confused pine tree that smells like citrus sprouts from the living room rug, out of place at any time of the year but this; we hardly wonder at indoor trees and needles now. Our tree is not yet a Christmas tree, though it does get decorated each day with a new paper ornament. It serves as our Jesse tree until Christmas Eve, when, anticipating the next morning's fulfillment in a baby's form, we'll deck it out in lights and a tacky array of hodge-podge. We'll also move the shepherds from their hill, take the baby from the box, and a trio of wise men will begin following the star-- a treacherous journey taking them from the upstairs of our house to the nativity scene under the tree.

We've celebrated Advent since Millie was a baby, starting with a pauper's quintet of mismatched candles and, with the extra space provided by last year's move, moving our way to a bonafide advent wreath. This year, we've added a Jesse tree to our celebration of Advent, along with daily scripture reading and ornament-making on top of the nightly scripture and liturgy.

I am so thankful for this. I grew up in a renegade family. We celebrated Christmas but were part of the Meeting in which other brethren viewed it as a pagan holiday. The disparity between sacred and secular was keenly felt by my parents, especially my dad, and Christmas morning always brought with it a solemn scripture reading and prayer after breakfast, to balance out the eventual stocking upending and gift opening. Without a framework in which to properly approach Christmas Day, it was difficult not to be swallowed by the excitement of all the pomp and circumstance and forget the Child for most of the day. Celebrating Advent has unified the two for me. It's hard enough for adults to properly wrap our minds and hearts around the singular happening of the Virgin Birth and what God as Man signified; how can we expect children to properly celebrate it if we distract them for an entire month with nearly everything but that?

We spend the weeks before Christmas refreshing our memories of Jesus's ancestry, the men and women from whom He came, which focuses our attention and points toward one thing only--Christ Himself. Of course, the holiday season is still full of cookies and confections, music and decorations, and there's nothing wrong and everything right with that. The girls shriek to draw our eyes to every decorated house we pass in the night, and we bellow Christmas carols loudly enough for people in China to hear. It's part of the celebration, after all! This is an important distinction, though. It's part of the celebration. These peripheral ways to celebrate Christ's birth sometimes become the only thing we celebrate in practice, though our words speak otherwise.

I am thankful for Advent today. I'm thankful that the excitement building in us is not just about the coming eggnog (!), the tree decorating, and the gift-wrapped mysteries, but about the greatest Mystery this world will ever know. So, yes, let's look forward to fun and family, bright red stockings with oranges stretching out the toes, and eating our once-a-year sugar cereal in fancy, holiday bowls. Yet more, let us look forward to Christmas Day and the birth of Jesus, and greater still, let us look forward to His coming again!

Let it be so.

Some Shoots

Here are some of my favorites so far. Moses in the pineneedlerushes and Joseph in his many-colored coat.

And Millie's take on Isaac. He's stretching out his hand toward his father, she said. If he did so, how Abraham's heart must have broken.

Sadly, I Have a Degree in English

After the following run-on sentence strung out in paragraph form, you'll find the pathetic collection of snapshots taken since the week before Thanksgiving. They're sparse and twiggy like Charlie's tree. Please embrace them with as much goodwill and lovingkindness as he did his twig.

I apologize for the lacking pictures of the entire first half of December. Though not documented, we did indeed live during this time, enjoying lots of moments and even whole days! December gave us a holiday cookie party that would have made Martha jealous, an adoption party to welcome a sweet girl into her earthly family and into the family of God, lots of ballerina-elves (yes, that's what the girls call themselves now), soggy mittens, hats pulled low, apple cheeks, cookie-making and snitching, icicle eating at the kitchen table, Perfect Porridge and other recipes made from this book, pink eggs, AND I MOPPED THE FLOOR FOR THE FIRST TIME IN...wait. I've never been one to spill my darkness or inner turmoil on a public blog. Never you mind how long it's been.

Mostly, though, the things done are only there to distract myself from things undone, which far outnumber the rest. Yet to do: ALL of the Christmas gift-making (I'll be lucky if I finish two. Or one.), Christmas gift shopping (for our L.I. Owens, you wonderful people who are so stinking hard to shop for!), truffle and candy making, learning to keep an even temper, ebay shipping (if all goes well, we'll have 40 packages to mail off next week. What in the world was I thinking?!?), Christmas card doodling and mailing (hopefully you'll get yours by February), and, yes, thank you for being too refined to ask about Millie's schooling and the state of the house apart from the sparkling kitchen floor.

Yes. Snapshots. Onward, ho!

False Promises

Here are the warm and savory smells of Thanksgiving in photographic form.

Oh, that's right. I didn't take any pictures of Thanksgiving. Instead, here's part of Millie's schooling the week before Thanksgiving. For a day or two, when we reviewed the stories and timeline, she called the Vikings "Hikings" or "Bikings," but by the week's end, she had it down pat.

We also made hand/foot construction paper turkeys while sitting at the laundromat and corncob dolls at the kitchen table, but there are no pictures. They do still cart the overly decorated cobs about, each cob missing a twiggy arm, so maybe there's still hope for corncob doll photos.

On her square of white, Millie replicated the original Thanksgiving Day spread, only she added more gourmet food than the Pilgrims ever imagined existing. Pumpkins and apples were fine, but then she went on to draw a cherry-strawberry pie, a mound of key limes (!), a pile of oranges, and a birthday cake, shaped like a rocket ship and with candles a'flame, for "a little Pilgrim child who is turning four." (When asked, Annika said that she had drawn "the snowy winter" in her square.)

I do have one picture from our Thanksgiving vacation on L.I. A blurry representation of Anna and Susannah. I took an evening picture of Alex and Annika in a leaf pile, too, but they just looked like small dark blobs on a larger dark blob. Cheers to amateur snapshotters!

Half-Dozen More

The week after Thanksgiving, I finally rousted myself outdoors to clear the garden before the next round of snow arrived. The second day that I spent hauling stones, the girls snagged wheelbarrow rides after each unloading. They also ate apples.

I'm partial to this one's apple-eating, so she gets two snapshots.

Annika was showing off the glow of her hair in the sunlight, but all one sees in the snapshot is her grimy face. (Still cute, though, eh?)

Then they made dozens of cookies that baked on stone slabs. A day and a half later, the still-baking cookies were buried in snow, but Millie said it's okay. A fairy gave her some magic, and she can command those cookies to bake as much or as little as she'd like without fear of them burning or being underdone. Since the snow hasn't melted since then, and we're due to get ten inches today, I think they'll have to bake until April.

And here's Annika at my sister-in-law Wendy's cookie party. Everything was perfect, from the decorations to the food, from the company to the cookies, and what did I take a picture of? Annika's bellybutton.