Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Grandparents and Girls.

I don't think people always understand when I say that my family is small on my mom's side just how compact we are. Here are five of the eight members.

We fit nicely at the dinner table. We easily share most Christmas meals including tamales, soup, or lasagna like this year. And pies...they split so evenly into eight perfect pieces.

We also communicate in extraordinary ways. Our size allows us to this. For example, without talking about it first, all of the women showed up wearing cozy Uggs. Even my grandma. (This had nothing to do with the freezing temperatures outside, rather our extraordinary communication.) Another example is my grandpa who tells us so much using his songs. "Blue Christmas" and "Home on the Range" matched my sentimental mood about being home perfectly. And, no surprise to those of you who know us, we tell a lot of stories. It's genetic.

Eight is great.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Oh DEER.

Mom, Lauren and I went to Jewell County to see my grandparents, aunt, uncle and Sasha. As we were coming back yesterday, Mom pointed out a '63 Impala as we pulled up next to it. The Impala was loaded on a trailer behind a pickup truck.

As we pulled up to pass it, we all look in the Impala at the same time and SCREAM.

Can you see it? Not just one, but TWO dead deer loaded in the front seat of the Impala.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Cat in a Hat.

We are westward bound today, headed to Jewell County. Yesterday was the first Christmas day that any of us spent at home in Kansas City which was sort of strange. We didn't really know what to do with so much downtime.

So we dressed up the cat for a bit.

Roary liked it. He is the king of the house.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Blizzard.

We snowbound in Kansas City today because of a blizzard. This is the second time in less than a week that I've watched the tv weather for hours because of blizzard warnings. I will probably never see two blizzards in one week again. We definitely got less snow in Kansas than in Virginia last weekend, but it's still a blizzard thanks to drifting on the roads and blowing snow everywhere.

We've delayed our departure from Kansas City until tomorrow in hopes that the roads get better and the snow stops blowing a little bit. Sometimes Christmas is full of surprises and unplanned events. Seems about right since Jesus was a surprise to the shepherds all those years ago.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. Luke 2: 8-11

Merry Christmas to you and your family!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

What Happens at a Cookie Exchange.

My friend Abbey hosted a cookie exchange for our Bible study on Tuesday. I was super excited to get home early from Virginia to see all of my Bible study friends and trade for some good looking cookies. Abbey's condo is perfect for a Christmas gathering with her collection of decorations, both new and vintage finds.

We put all the cookies around the table, checking out the great stuff that everyone brought. Kate Wallace brought cookies and milk. Apparently Kate was confused on how cookie exchanges work. She thought you brought a few cookies, traded and then sat around and ate them. We did sample a couple, but we were aiming big. Look at the treats we took home with us!

One of the best things about coming home early has been the time with my dear fantastic Kansas friends. Being at Bible study was good for my heart. I've also worked out at Matt Ross with Abbey and Erica, seen a movie, been to lunch twice and run errands with friends. These are things I didn't expect to do until after Christmas and our trip to Jewell County. It's been a blessing to just be with my friends doing these Kansas City things.

Happy Christmas eve to you and your family!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Travel Luck and a Cat.

I think I may have used up all my good travel karma with easy, flawless flying at Thanksgiving and on Tuesday - I flew standby and arrived five hours early on a direct flight from Baltimore. Mom promptly picked me up, fed me my favorite Kansas Mr. Goodcents sub and took me home to southern Johnson County. There I was face-to-face with my two adversaries: an abundance of Christmas cookies and this guy...

Since I'm pretty much allergic to everything, Roary will make me sneeze. He also gets into a lot of trouble. I removed him from standing on the wrapping paper as I tried to finish my gifts exactly seven times.

But I have a new weapon that is keeping him an arms length away: my camera. The shutter makes him jump! I fully intend to keep the Canon Rebel close at hand. Especially when he throws himself against the door to my bedroom and cries in the morning. I'll snap a couple of photos of his crazy cat face, and he'll be scurrying way again.

It's just like the 8-year-old told me during lazer tag at Power Play, "You are no match for me!"

Belle's First Blizzard.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Mentors and Gingerbread Houses.

One of our after-school programs at school is a mentoring program. Various teachers and staff members are matched up with a kid who needs some extra attention. My little buddy fits that description. He's quirky, picky about which rules he wants to follow, and very clever. When he gets overwhelmed, he sheds a few tears to release some frustration - we're working on coping skills.

In other words, we're a perfect match.

Last Wednesday we made this beautiful gingerbread scene together after school. It's pretty idyllic really. I'm sad to think that all the pieces of the perfect house and yard that we put together is a cover-up for the sadness that sometimes he feels in his own home.

Don't you love the little SUV? My mentee came up with that all on his own. He put a lot of thought into the construction of our scene, and we laughed a lot while we did it. He even muttered a couple of "epic fails" as we completed our scene. I ate a lot more candy than he did. He told me that he use to have a sweet tooth but "trained himself" not to anymore. I will be getting some pointers from him on this.

My wise friend Lindsay told me earlier this fall that so many middle schoolers just need someone to listen to them. Whenever they are with the adults in their world, the grown-ups are distracted by tv, cell phones, computers and more. So I'm trying to just listen to my mentee. Maybe in 2010, you'll think about listening to a middle schooler. I think that you will like it. They are really funny, offer new perspectives on life, and will be so thankful that you listened.

Monday, December 21, 2009

A Christmas Card with a Picture of Me.

I love the tradition of exchanging Christmas cards and always find a way to use them as part of my Christmas decorations. I've made my own cards the last couple of years, but I'm also a big fan of using a digital photo in store-bought or online cards. My friends' faces are the best kind of holiday cheer for my house.

This year, I designed my Christmas cards using Photoshop, ordered them online and assembled them with some of my favorite Paper Source supplies. The cards made it out of the house just before the snow storm and have hopefully arrived in homes around the country.

It's a Christmas card with a picture of me at the National Tree lighting in DC. It was truly a snapshot Rachel took when we were at the ceremony, not posed for my Christmas Card. Just perfect for the occasion. I know that I am one of my only friends who sends a picture of myself on my Christmas card, and I'm okay with that. Here's how I see it...
  1. My grandparents like to see my face on their Christmas card. Same for my parents.
  2. It seems illogical to me that sending a photo Christmas card is only okay if you have a boyfriend, fiancee or husband. Or children. Chances are that I am going to be the looker in the family anyways, so I might as well brighten your fridge now.
  3. As children we traded school pictures. Because we liked to have current pictures of our friends. I don't see why this has to change.
  4. It's like a postcard of something I did here in DC with BONUS a picture of me on it.
  5. Yes, I am single. Yes, I wouldn't complain if Santa brought a boyfriend for Christmas. BUT this card celebrates that in the last six month I moved across the country and started a whole new adventure full of unknowns on my own. I'm stinkin' proud of that!
Please let me know if you would no longer like to receive cards from me with my picture on them. That's fine with me. I'll just remove you from all future mailings, my cell phone and list of friends.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Venturing Out.

The snow stopped by the time we woke up this morning. Here's the view from our front door this morning. It was beautiful at sunrise.

I promptly went back to bed after taking this photo. I watched church online today, and no one ventured outside until early afternoon. And even then we didn't leave the driveway.

It took a lot of work to get to the end of the driveway. Rachel took this picture of me drudging through the snow up to my knees using my new fish-eye lens (thanks Rach!). We had to shovel the driveway and part of the street. I even helped! Did you know that shoveling is hard work? It's true.

I moped around for a large part of the afternoon frustrated that school wasn't canceled. Seriously. I checked the website, my email, the TV. At least fifteen times. Finally, they canceled. And not just tomorrow. Tuesday and Wednesday were canceled too! We don't have to teach again until 2010. Apparently, this storm really is the capital crippler.

Good news is that I was able to move my flight up from Thursday morning to Tuesday night. Two extra nights in Kansas, a direct flight and ahead of more storms. I'm thrilled! It's like that one famous lady said in the movie about the land that I love, "There's no place like home."

Excuse my corniness. I'm just so excited.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Christmas from Kansas.

Day 1 of the "Capital Crippler" is done. There are about two feet of snow covering our driveway, and we might try to dig out a little tomorrow. I'll put some more photos together tomorrow of our winter wonderland. I haven't seen snow like this (that I remember) except in Colorado. Rachel and I are making bets about when they will cancel school for Monday, but I am trying not to get my hopes up. They have all day to start digging out. It is completely unlikely that I will get to fly home before my scheduled flight on the 24th because the planes will be crowded Sunday through Wednesday from today's shutdown.

I don't have a lot of Christmas decorations out this year, but the ones that are out are important reminders of Kansas' Christmases. The skinny tree looks a little bit like Charlie Brown's, but I have had it since Christmas 2004 when I lived with Nanette, Andria, Tara, Rach, and Katherine. It's been decorated in four different houses and (most) of the lights still work. I love it because it is skinny, fits everywhere, and holds all the ornaments I've collected so far.

Abbey painted the window and added wire for pictures. She's so crafty! I cleared it off after Thanksgiving and now it is covered with all of the lovely Christmas cards that have arrived from Kansas, New York, West Virginia and even Jamaica.

And the wreath is beloved. It's not fancy, and Martha might be embarrassed to hang it in her house. But I made it when I lived on Juliette during my senior year at K-State, and it brightens the front door. I have considered replacing it, but not now. I like having Kansas on my door. And in the living room and on my wall.

I'll be home for Kansas Christmas in less than a week!

A Camel at Christmas.

We are snowed in. The cul-de-sac is covered in at least eight inches of snow already, and from my window I can see even more falling. We are stuck in our cozy home with the doggies and the baby and plenty of food (and diet Coke!) to last for the whole weekend. I'm thrilled! It's perfect.

I'm so glad that Mom made her trip last weekend because we were able to enjoy DC with no inconveniences of weather. I have one last photo to share with you from last weekend. It's George Washington's Christmas Camel.

Mr. Washington was fond of exotic animals, and in 1787 he paid 18 schillings to have a camel live at Mount Vernon over Christmas. They are keeping the tradition alive with Aladdin, a camel from Virginia. And they use it for marketing too by selling stuffed camels, ornaments (I bought one) and camel trinkets in the large gift shop.

I loved the idea of a Christmas camel. It was historical to Mount Vernon but also a lovely reminder of THE Christmas gift. Doesn't Aladdin's home look just a manager for baby Jesus? He would fit right in at any nativity scene. We've been reading Finley this adorable book, Who is Coming to Our House? It's all about the animals in the manger getting ready for someone special to come.

Is your house ready for baby Jesus?

Come, Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s Strength and Consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Barter System.

Rachel and I really want to make it big. We brainstorm on a regular basis ways that we could become famous or at least millionaires. What's ironic is about this is that Rachel is usually my reality check. She likes to tell me when my ideas get out of control or I am over dramatic.

But she is taking this business plan for RV Designs really seriously. We have business meetings weekly, and we are going to make it big on our creativity. Last night, we made our first attempt at expansion. You can read about it over at Rachel's blog.

My buddy Kenneth is getting his MBA at UCLA. I'm pretty sure he would say that the next step in our business plan should be abandoning "barter" and switching to "pay pal." Read carefully - we have NO complaints about the lovely gifts we have received in exchange for blog designs. They have proved pretty tasty!

Christina mailed each of us these fun cookbooks from the Cayman Islands.

Rhonda mailed us these yummy cherry pie pops all the way from Lawrence. Just like her blog title, it was delicious ridiculousness to get them in the mail!

Look for information over on our design site, RV Designs, this weekend about future plans for payment that include paypal. We're expecting like 18 inches of snow here in Virginia and will have plenty of time to plan expansion.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Profoundly Good Waste of Time.

Do you notice anything out of the ordinary about this photo of my square bookshelf?

It's sort of a trick question. There are multiple answers that could be acceptable. They include but are not limited to...
  • the beautiful handmade toolbox on the top. Tom D. made it for me out of reclaimed wood, and it keeps all the love letters people mail me neatly in compartments.
  • the little jewelry box Er made me when she asked me to be a bridesmaid.
  • rows of earrings. I love earrings. I have NO idea why I waited until I was 21.5 to get my ears pierced. Thank you Rachel for holding my hand. And thank you Jennie for sending me my first pair of dangly earrings that I still have.
  • the bulky dresser next to it. You may not make any comments about the pointy drawer pulls. It's my daddy's from when he was a boy, and it has grown on me. Plus it hold my tv. Super important.
  • my beautiful paisley sparkly ugg boots. Don't judge unless you have spent thirty minutes in a pair. I heart my ugg boots. Especially because they are paisley and sparkly.
Really I wanted you to see what happened to my books. I got inspired by this lovely blogger featured in Better Homes & Gardens, and I decided my books would be happier arranged by color. I think they are radiant. I don't exactly know where each book is because I mixed fiction, nonfiction, borrowed, Christian, and educational.

But it makes me ridiculously happy to look at my bright books. Never mind that the Christmas cards aren't finished and there are yet more cookies to bake, the books and I are happier with this new arrangement. Try it. You'll like it.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

More Thoughts on 72 Inches.

George Washington was 74 inches tall. That's two inches taller than me. No, I did not research the height of American presidents, though I am sure someone has. It was one of many facts that they shared on our candlelight tour of Mount Vernon. He had to duck when going down the back stairs from his bedroom to his dressing room. I did too.

Most days of the week I like being six feet tall. It comes in handy while teaching eighth grade because it can be intimidating. A teacher asked me to watch his class the other day, and as I stood in the doorway it was about twenty seconds before the students started saying "Whoa, she's tall." They proceeded to quietly discuss how tall I was. I cut them off.

"Six feet," I interrupted, "now back to work."

I answer this question at least five times a week.

The other morning at church, I was walking away from the cookie table and almost collided with a four-year-old. He was about to run into my legs, when he stopped and yelled "WHOA!"

Yeah, I am that tall. Those were my kneecaps you almost ran into, little buddy.

At least I'm in good company with George.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Kansas Postcard from the Ellipse.

Before the Santas came along and crowded the Ellipse, Mom and I took some Kansas pictures. You see, she is a sixth-generation Kansan, and I am a seventh-generation Kansan. We were excited to see the Kansas tree complete with adorable ornaments full of the little Kansas state shapes. And it was sponsored by the Kansas Museum of History. Would you believe we went to that museum frequently as kids? Yeah, I thought you would.

Bringing Kansas to Washington DC...a couple of Luhrs at a time.

Some Sort of a Miracle.

It's December. There is a shortage of good, fresh vegetables available right now. I miss the days of Farmers Markets and abundant local produce at my grocery store. Winter is here and the freshest veggies are gone.

But Friday night, Mom and I found some real treats in the vegetable world. We ate at Farmers & Fishers in Georgetown before the Kennedy Center, and it was vegetable-tastic.

I ordered the "Drag-Through-the-Garden-Salad," seen below. Only vegetables - no fillers or distraction with nuts, cheese, chunky croutons or meat. A light vinaigrette and I was set. In the summer I might have been bored. But definitely not now when greens are scarce.

Mom had a yummy (and sort of spicy) tomato soup, and we split a rustic pizza with artisan meats, hand-stretched mozzarella and huge slices of heirloom tomatoes. I have no idea what hand-stretching the mozzarella does, but I liked it.

And I don't know if you have gotten into the hype about agave nectar, but I'm 100% sure when added to iced tea and hand shaken it is good for you. See it foaming up in the upper left hand corner of my picture? I had two.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Spontaneous Santas on Parade.

Mom and I headed out to see the National Christmas Tree on Saturday. We wanted to see all the little trees around the big one, and the weather was really nice for December. After wandering through the White House Visitors' Center, we walked over to the Ellipse. We snapped a few photos of the tree and White House (more on that later) and were admiring the different state trees when we noticed a crowd forming.

And not just any crowd. Instead we saw a mass of Santas and other assorted winter characters gathering just south of the big tree.

There didn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to the Santa parade. Everyone was very merry, united in spreading Christmas cheer. They sang a couple of rousing Santa songs and some passed out little candy canes. We are pretty sure that they didn't even know each other.

Hurray Santa!

I've tried to find out online what could bring this many Santas together, but I was unsuccessful. I do know that it was awesome, that we stayed for a long time until the parade continued on towards the White House.

Someone could write a Christmas song about spontaneous Santas on parade. It's that awesome.

UPDATE: Erin (a fellow Wildcat in the Washington area) shared this link with the full details. It's awesome. I kind of want to do it next year.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

On Patience.

Remember at the end of October when I disappeared from my blog for a few days and spent my time watching Veronica Mars for countless hours on my laptop? I had to choose Veronica over my blog because I didn't have a DVD player.

Not that I didn't try to get a DVD player.

On the Thursday before that weekend, I ordered a DVD player from Amazon and paid extra to get it delivered Saturday.

Then it didn't come on Saturday. Or Monday. Nor Tuesday. I was steamed! I paid extra for that Saturday delivery, and my blog readers had to suffer because I wanted to finish Season 1 on my computer and couldn't blog at the same time.

Tuesday I complained. Amazon apologized and sent another DVD. It arrived Wednesday.

And the original DVD player arrived Thursday. Whoops.

Here's the funny part: I haven't opened either of them.

They sat unopened by the front door for a couple of weeks and then I moved them to this shelf by the laundry. I can't bring myself to open them because there might be cords involved. Or rearranging the things precariously balanced on the top of my TV. And there's two of them, and if I open one what will I do with the other one? It's overwhelming.

So they still sit. I've finished season 2 of Veronica Mars, also on my computer. Sometimes I am a little impatient without reason. Whoops.

Monday, December 7, 2009

About Bread.

Over Thanksgiving I asked my grandma Mary to teach me how to bake bread. I've always admired people who bake homemade bread, but the recipes always seemed overwhelming. Yeast, timing, temperature...yikes! My grandmother has always made bread and rolls (which I have always eaten), so she seemed like the person to teach me. I asked her on Thanksgiving, and the next day I woke up to find that she had found three easy recipes to use to teach me.

Grandma supervised combining the ingredients together and gave me a science lesson about how yeast works. She taught me about different types of flours, and eventually I might have to search some of them out here in Virginia.

I read ALL of the Little House on the Prairie books about eight times each as a little girl, so I was most looking forward to kneading the bread. That's what Ma and the girls always seemed to be doing. Grandma Mary let me try for a little bit and then showed me how it's done. (Thanks Lu for this awesome shot!)

Like she said, she's been doing it for sixty years, so she's got it figured out.

We followed all the steps of letting it rest and rise, and then we baked it. Forty-five minutes later we had this beautiful loaf that my sister and I declared delicious. I made everyone try it just because I was so proud.

The real trick was whether or not I could do it again on my own. So Saturday night, I followed the same steps and made a loaf on my own. I don't think I baked it long enough because we found a tiny little doughy part in the middle. But the rest was delicious.

I've got my eye on a couple of holiday breads that involve that scary word - yeast - but I'm feeling considerably braver. I also learned the very important lesson that it won't always turn out right and that it can vary, so I won't be so hard on myself as I keep trying it on my own.

As for your lesson in all this, you should know that "bread" is slang for money. I learned that teaching in the inner-city.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The National Christmas Tree.

We had a great time watching the First Family light the National Christmas Tree on Thursday night. Besides the Obamas, we also got to see Jordin Sparks, Sheryl Crow, Randy "Dawg" Jackson from American Idol, and a cute kids chorus from the New York Public Schools. Sol, Rachel and I are big American Idol fans, so we were definitely surprised when Randy was the emcee. You could tell the whole thing was scripted because he didn't say "man" and "dawg" enough times.

Finley went with us in his very trendy Baby Gap hat.

You can see the tree behind us below. It was very green this year because all of the lights are LED for the first time. How very sustainable! There are also smaller trees around the bottom from each state. The Kansas tree is sponsored by the Kansas Museum of History, a place I frequented as a kid. We didn't get to see them Thursday, but I hope to get back and see them soon!

At times the music and the president's message made me a little sad. They were filled with words of hope and wishes for peace, but that hasn't been the climate in the DC area for the past week. The rest of the week was full of debates, announcements and plans related to the war in Afghanistan. A lot of families will still be separated by the war for more Christmases.

All that being said, my heart definitely feels like Advent. I'm waiting...for the celebration of baby Jesus and the day when his promises will come true, when people hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Look Mom! I'm on TV!

Okay, so I won't exactly be ON tv. But I'll be at the National Christmas Tree lighting tomorrow night with Rach, Sol, Finn, my friend Katie and several other thousand crazies. We had to win tickets, and even though Katie and Rach also entered, I won! I guess it makes up for all those times I haven't won on Pioneer Woman.

You can watch the ceremony live here. I'm very excited to get so close to the White House and hear Sheryl Crow sing some Christmas music. That's good stuff. It'll be live on the web at 5 pm ET (4 pm Central) and is also airing on some national public radio stations.

Unrelated but not really, this is Jill M. We team teach English together. It's a really good time especially when we multitask and make Christmas wish lists, eat Hershey's Kisses and teach all at the same time. She likes to laugh at me when I yell random things during staff meetings. I deserved it yesterday. I had a couple of good outbursts. The kind that get you on TV...

We took this photo at the school fundraiser last night. Part of the sales from a local restaurant went towards our school, and there was a competition to see which department would have the highest representation. The English teacher turnout was amazing, and we're still waiting to see if we beat out electives - we had over 75% of our department! The prize is a catered lunch, and our department (all ladies) loves a good lunch hour.

And after the tragic loss at the bake-off, my heart can't handle another letdown at school.

Drama.

Raise your hand if you know someone with the last name Luhrs who is dramatic.

Pretty much all of you should be raising your hand right now. Lauren and I are pretty dramatic.

Now, meet Spencer Luhrs.
I took all of these pictures at the breakfast table in my grandmother's house first thing in the morning. The lighting was perfect and these are all straight-out-of-the camera. No photoshop. Just Spencer. He showed all these sweet little dramatic faces within a five minute window. Plus a couple more that didn't make the cut for the collage (inspired by Rachel.)

Now you know another dramatic Luhrs. Seems about right.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Say What?

Reasons why I blog...
  1. I love to write. In high school, I won an award for writing a couple of creative pieces. They were ridiculous; I probably wouldn't let you read them today. I didn't write much for pleasure in college, which killed my creative writing fire. I started to blog earlier this year so that I could share my journey from Kansas to Virginia and along the way remembered that I LOVE to write. It's fun to write words down, rearrange the words and hit "publish."
  2. I like photos. I've always been the official camera person in my group of Kansas friends, and blogging allows me to share those photos quickly. I also found that photoshop is the best and that my Canon digital rebel without the flash takes far better pictures than I remember. I met my new 50 mm lens too and tripled the number of things I want to share with photos (including FOOD!)
  3. Teachers are natural reflectors. Every day we have to decide what worked and what didn't. Some of my school stories come from own reflection but are also for the benefit of other educators who read the blog.
  4. It's faster than scrapbooking. Since 1998, I have diligently scrapbooked every little detail of my life. I'm really proud of these books, and they line up neatly on bookshelves in my mom's house. There were scrapbooks for friends, family members, graduations, and BOTAR. I am always behind, but sometimes get close to caught up. My new goal is to get caught up to the beginning of the blog. And stop.
  5. Yeah, that's right. You saw it correctly in number 4. No more scrapbooking for a little while. I found out that you can make your blog into a book. I think I will do that for a bit. I have almost 11 years of scrapbooked memories. That's a lot of dances, football games, Christmases and weddings. Blogging allows me to get the stories and the photos but it is much more current. And quite possibly a little less expensive.
  6. I blog to tell you the stories that could happen only to me. Remember that label for "only Victoria?" Sometimes things happen to me that are just plain ridiculous. Some days you will need a laugh at my expense.
Sometimes I write for a reaction. I love the feedback, comments, facebook messages and emails . And sometimes, I just write because this is what happened. In ten years, I'll have a little book full of these stories that I can thumb through and remember this crazy time. It will look very nice on the shelf next to all those oversized scrapbooks.

And isn't Spencer hilarious?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Kids Crafts for the Holidays.

Besides football and their normal shenanigans, the kids did a lot of crafting on Thursday. They made these adorable stress balls.

They took little balloons and used a small funnel to fill the balloon with flour. After they got a good amount of flour in the balloon, they tied off the top and knotted string around the top of the balloon. Then they added faces with permanent marker. These stress balls had personality! Each little guy was a little different.

I remember making these before in my past as a hard core crafter. But never with the cute faces and hair. I was impressed, and yet concerned. I think I need to talk to the teachers of my step-siblings and cousins. If they already need stress relief, they are getting too much homework.

However, I could have used a stress ball when my cousin Molly beat me at Scrabble. Yep, she's a fourth grader. In my defense, I got stuck with a "Q" and was in the game until the last round. I was kind of a sore loser because I didn't get to use all the scrabble two-letter words I normal score with in a game.

Her cuteness makes up for my defeat. Isn't she precious? I remember when she was born. And the first Christmas she walked. And I think she looks just like her daddy, my daddy's brother. She sticks it out with my four brothers and her brother and is a tough cookie. I heart Molly Faye.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Inside and Outside Views.

My aunt and uncle lived on the farm for most of my life. But now they have a custom built home in Imperial that overlooks farmland and the golf course. My uncle is in heaven.

The house was designed to fit their lifestyle, and we fell into it pretty easily on Thanksgiving. The first floor is big and open with a kitchen floating gently into the living room. This came in handy on Thanksgiving when the turkey took over six hours to finish. We could rest comfortably in the living room watching football, snacking and checking the turkey.

Towards the end of the night, my aunt, uncle, Dad and Tracy tested the temperature about ever twenty minutes. That bird took his sweet time, and it was so worth it. It was maybe the best turkey I have ever had. No exaggeration, I promise.

Eventually the bird was done. We gathered in the kitchen and said grace with my grandma, four step-siblings, one brother, one sister, my dad, step-mom, aunt and uncle.

With a sunset like this, it is hard to not be incredibly thankful.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Friday in Imperial.

In Imperial, Nebraska on Black Friday there isn't a lot of special shopping. Instead, we watch the "Black Shirts" of Nebraska play Colorado.

Seriously. That's what people do here on Black Friday. And it's serious stuff.

My grandma didn't want me to post this picture because she is afraid that no one will ever want to visit Imperial.

I disagree. People like to have their photos taken in the middle of main street. You most certainly cannot do this in southern Johnson County or Fairfax County.

And it is beautiful and flat. Lauren and I ran yesterday and today, and there is no change in the elevation. If you get lost (hey, it happens to us city kids), then you find the grain elevator or the Imperial water tower and get unlost.

I spent a lot of days as a little girl walking down this same main street to the stores with Lauren. We felt amazingly independent and like pretty big deals. There were exactly four stores we would go to downtown. The fabric store, the drug store, the gas station, and the dollar store. Sometimes if we got really adventurous we would go to the library. All by ourselves.

It's nice here on main street. Relaxing and full of reminders about the lessons we learned about independence as little girls walking down main street. The same lessons that take us all over the world on grown-up adventures.

Thanks main street.

S is for Spencer.

My little brother Spencer turned four earlier this month. And he knows what he likes.

For example, right now he is a jersey fanatic. He likes to wear them every day. Thankfully his brother Blake is about the same size so Spencer thinks that they should share jerseys. This doubles the different number of teams that Spence can wear on any given day. Widens the rotation, if you will. And Spencer will.

Blake came home from school one day to find Spencer in his "Raisins" (Baltimore Ravens) jersey. Indignantly he told Spencer to take it off.

"Nope," Spencer told him matter-of-fact. "It's mine. See? It says S right here."

He was pointing to the bottom of his jersey.

Size small. Whatever. Spencer was darn sure that "S" was for Spencer. And off he went, shaking his little head that his poor brother Blake could be so clueless.

Thanksgiving Day Spence was Tom Brady (another of Blake's jerseys). He wanted to be Brady the day before but some cunning older brother talked him out of it by persuading him that Tom Brady stinks. Today he felt differently, and if you merely mentioned that Tom Brady stinks you were likely to provoke tears.

Because Spencer knows what he likes. And on Thanksgiving he liked Tom Brady.

It's clear in this picture how he felt about taking a photo with Lauren. Clearly not on his to-do list at the moment.

Like I said, Spencer knows what he likes. Photography might not be on that list.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

To Grandmother's House We Go.

Living in Virginia makes getting to grandma's house a lot more challenging. Especially because my final destination was in rural western Nebraska.


And it was no easy task getting here. Two trains (metro), two cars, and two airplanes. I was really blessed to have zero delays and smooth travels.

It's helpful when your dad is the pilot on the last leg of your trip.


No complaints here. In fact, if you are going to spend 9 hours getting somewhere, it's nice to end up a place where the people welcome you with hugs.

Happy Thanksgiving!