Friday, December 28, 2007

*Peering out from under the wreckage*

I'm still here. I'm just buried beneath shredded wrapping paper, two dozen cardboard boxes, sixteen pounds of bows and ribbons, and about four thousand sixty even twisty ties - damn Mattel to hell for those.

Christmas was good. I promise to update my blog soon. Sit tight and stay warm.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Twas the Night Before Christmas....In Oregon

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the rental,
All the creatures were stirring, making Amy quite mental,

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
Only a little bit covered in Bailey-dog hair.

And Skippy was bustling in the kitchen so busy,
For his Christmas tacos would make quite a tizzy.

And wrapping the gifts on the floor did I sit,
With a big glass of Baily's, the right spot it hit!

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang up from the floor to see what was the matter!

Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the vertical blinds in a dash!

The moon shone down bright on the Oregon grass,
And I couldn't believe my own tipsy ass.

Surely I thought, this must be a ruse,
For there's a huge wooden sleigh drawn by Oregon moose!

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;

"Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!

To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"

And then in a twinkling I heard on the roof
The thudding and thunking of each huge moose hoof.

And as I was calling for Skippy and turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

While we stood there in shock, with our mouths hanging down,
He reached for my Bailey's and said with a frown,

"Oregon's cold on this bright Christmas night,
Go refill this glass, that should make it all right!"

So I hurried away to do Santa's bidding,
Because a cold chilly Santa surely wouldn't be kidding.

His eyes -- how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
For I think he'd already hit the neighbor's good sherry!

"I'm tired of cookies" he said with a sigh,
You Chicago folks know how to warm up a cold ride.

With a loud hearty chuckle he tossed down his drink,
Then turned 'round and opened his pack with a wink.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,

He looked at us gravely, and said with a smile,
Remember that Christmas knows nothing of miles.

You've made some big changes, and had a new start,
But I know that it's hard when loved ones are apart.

So just remember you're lucky, to have love all around,
Love from so many - that's not easily found.

And with a wink and a smile he popped out of sight,
Back up the chimney into the cold Oregon night.

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.

But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Oregon Christmas to all, and to all a good-night."

Friday, December 21, 2007

The best laid plans......



So I'm sitting here addressing my Christmas cards. At one a.m four days before Christmas. I hope they make it. If not, well you all know that we love ya. But they NEED to make it, because they are crazy cute. I have crazy cute kids.


I bought all sorts of stuff to make all sorts of stuff. Peanut brittle and cookies and fudge and who knows what other ass-expanding goodies. I haven't actually made anything yet.

I had all these plans for while my husband was out of town. I was going to paint the town - or at least paint the living room. But at this point, I'll be happy if I get my laundry done.

I do this all the time. Every room of my house is about 75% clean. Except my bedroom. I'm afraid to go in there. That room is the reason all the other rooms are 75% clean - it's all in there. My tree is about half decorated. But it's up.

More than anything, I just want to have a nice Christmas with my husband and my kids. That's not too much to ask, right?

It is what it is.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Random Christmas Thoughts

1. If your husband ever goes out of town, make sure the tree is up BEFORE he leaves. Do not kid yourself into thinking you can do it.

2. Putting up a tree that easily weighs half as much as you do is damn hard work.

3. No one knows how pine needles got in your pants. Just go with it.

4. Why bake cookies from scratch when God invented break-and-bake?

5. You may or may not piss off your neighbors if you are out on your porch at ten p.m. cutting the bottom few inches off of your Christmas tree. You will feel bad about this, but it can't be helped.

6. When in doubt, drag the whole damn tree inside the house, toss it down sideways on your coffee table on an old blanket, and saw the holy noel out of that baby.

7. Understand that somewhere when your mother reads this, she will laugh at you because when she asked you if the guy at the tree lot sawed the bottom off the tree for you, you lied and told her yes because you needed a minute to cover up the fact that you didn't know what in the hell she meant. (For those of you who read my blog regularly, we decided not to use our Charlie Brown tree that we hauled down from the woods all by ourselves. Our landlord asked if someone left it at our house as a joke. Not funny. But it made a great blog and I'm sure we'll do it again next year.) So anyway, sorry ma - now I know what you meant - and why we always hid for an hour from Dad while he got the tree into the stand every year.

8. When putting a Christmas tree into a Christmas tree stand, the tree appearing to be straight and actually BEING straight are two completely different things.

9. The damn tree doesn't need lights. You've done enough.

10. Your children can be kept busy for a minimum of two hours with one pair of safety scissors, a roll of wrapping paper from the dollar store, and seventy six rolls of tape. You just have to make sure you smile excitedly when you open Pinky the fuzzy whale for the eleventy-billionth time.

11. You've bought your kids enough. Stop worrying. No really. Stop worrying.

12. You've bought your mother enough. Stop worrying about that too.

13. Christmas Day in Oregon really shouldn't be too much different than Christmas Day in Illinois. I mean sure you'll miss everyone, but you can make tacos anywhere.

14. It is dificult to balance a twenty one pound baby on one hip and a seventeen pound package on the other while walking through the rain to the post office. It makes me thankful for good friends who watch my girls for me.

15. Christmas lights rock.

16. Christmas movies rock.

17. The squirrel jumping out of the tree in National Lampoon's Christmas vacation will ALWAYS be funny.

18. Your children will never get tired of asking how many days are left until Christmas.

19. There is a damn good reason that numerous holiday treats are made with copious amounts of alcohol.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Dear Husband,

This is an open letter to you, my beloved and hard-working darling. I'm putting it here where you're sure to see it, since I know you get eight bazillion emails a day but that you do take time out to catch up on my blog.

Your children are on winter break. That means they are at home driving their mommy absolutely nuts. The cat threw up this morning. On my foot. And I think I almost killed our mailman when I opened the door this morning and he got a glimpse of my bedhead - at ten o'clock no less.

I understand that you are away from home and that you are probably working hard and that you miss us. I understand that you have a week of long hours ahead of you before you finally get to fly home two days before Christmas.

But if you tell me one more time that you ate Portillo's (AGAIN), I'm getting a lawyer. In fact, I suggest you start experimenting with ways to get of hot melty cheesy beef sammich 2000 miles on a plane without it killing me.

For those of you who live in Chicago, or have visited Chicago, you understand. It's a Chicago thing. For those of you who don't, trust me.

Signed with the utmost affection,
Your loving and devoted wife

Sunday, December 16, 2007

What do *I* want for Christmas?

It hit me today when I was out Christmas shopping with the smallest munchkin. The girls were at a "Christmas is for kids" church sponsored Vacation Bible School Day - or what one lady called the "mom can shop in peace" day so Chunk and I were finishing up some stuff around town. We were having a nice morning, chattering and cooing back and forth while I browsed through the Oregon Beavers shirts in KMart.

People love the Chunk. I mean, my kids garner compliments wherever they go - either because they are beautiful or because they are hellions, it depends. But there was Chunk, sitting up all buckled into the cart, grinning and drooling and da-da-da-da-ing at everyone who passed us by and people just ate him up. Which any mommy loves.

Then this sweet older couple walks by. The gentleman stops and says to his wife, "Honey, come look at this little one! What a cutie!" Of course I grinned and thanked him and answered the run of the mill what's-his-name and how-old-is-he questions and then this sweet old man crouched down to Chunk and around a big old smile he says to him:

"I betcha any old Papa could just spoil you silly."

My whole world just kind of slowed down right then and there. I actually felt like I was underwater all of a sudden. My throat closed up and my chest hurt and my ears got kind of fuzzy but somehow, I managed to keep on smiling and gave an obligatory chuckle and exchanged Merry Christmases and Happy Holidays with this sweet old man who only wanted to compliment my beautiful son and had no idea that with one sentence, he temporarily brought my whole world to a standstill. Papa...that's what my girls called my Dad.

Any old Papa......the words still echo in my head as I sit and type this.

My Chunk doesn't have a Papa. I mean, he DOES, and he always WILL. But not really. Not here. Not the one who was supposed to bounce him on his knee and give piggyback rides and teach him to fish. Not the one who would email me child recall notices religiously like an old mother hen. Not the one who would tell me everything I'm doing wrong...and then in the next breath tell me everything I'm doing right.

It just hit me all over again. Every so often even after almost three years it just slams home. My Dad adored my girls. He was the peanut butter to their jelly. And no matter how tough he was on me, he was just a big old teddy bear pushover softie with them. Kbear was just a baby herself when he got sick. They look at pictures and they know who he is, but they don't know him anymore. That hurts. There wasn't enough time. No amount would have ever been enough but we really got cheated. How does a man become a Papa at only forty two years old and only get to enjoy it for three years? How is that fair? How is that RIGHT? Nothing anyone can say can convince me that somewhere in the great cosmic universe there is some great good that balances that out.

I miss him so much. No one is perfect. He wasn't. Far from it. But he loved us and he only ever wanted what was best for us. I hated that he always worried about us so much, and I miss having him around to worry. I miss that he was good and he was tough and he was loyal to a fault. I even miss that he was always right. I miss hearing his voice on the other end of the phone when I call home. After all this time sometimes it still surprises me that he's never the one to pick up. I miss him badgering us about whether or not we've had the tires rotated recently or the oil changed. I miss my Dad.

But today, even more than any of that stuff, I just miss my kids' Papa.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Do the happy dance with me!

We officially have our own Christmas miracle!

After three hundred and three days of agonizing, emotional, gut wrenching, disappointing, and frustrating days.....


We countered back and forth with a buyer this week and just when I was starting to think that maybe it wasn't meant to be, we all agreed on a price.

It's not perfect. We're actually losing a little bit of money in the deal. But with the market the way it is, I think we have to file this under "win some, lose some" and cut our losses and move on.

So anyway, I just signed the sale contract!

It's not a done deal yet. He still has to confirm his financing. So say your prayers - we are so ready to cut that last material Chicago tie. If all goes well, we will close on January 15th. Cross your fingers - I'll keep you posted!

Off to find a fax machine!

Monday, December 10, 2007

The adventures of Amy and an axe.....

Yeeeeeeeeah......we have all this wood out by the garage that was too big to fit in the fireplace when our "cord" was delivered during the fall. Remember that fun blog? I mean, it's not a mess or anything, it's just sitting out there collecting dust. And spiders. And in the meantime we are slowly but surely working through the pile that is already stacked up against the house. So tonight we ran to Home Depot and bought an axe (an ax? axe? You know what I mean) so that we can split the rest and be warm and cozy.


Not so much.

I figured, how hard can it be? I'll go work off some pent up aggression from not getting my kitchen clean and dealing with my sassy four year old all day.

Now my shoulder hurts and my arm hurts and there's still a big old pile of wood out in the backyard. Unsplit.

In completely unrelated news, today is December 10th. That means that my birthday is in exactly one month. So I officially have only one month left to be in my twenties. Thirty is looming over the horizon and I'm not sure yet if it's friendly. But as long as Jacquie remembers who turns 30 first (she does by a whopping 16 days) then it's all good. I can be the baby for a little longer.

However it appears to be inevitable. I'm getting old.

Where's my advil?

Sunday, December 9, 2007

I do this every year; a holiday rant

<------- first of all, cool picture huh? That's a pear tree. I think.

Anyway, I do this to myself every.single.year.

The obsession begins around August. I start to worry. I worry about the kids having enough for Christmas. I don't know why I do this. We really do make a HUGE effort to focus on family and the spirit of the season. It's not all about the presents. But it gets into my brain and won't stop pecking at me somewhere before Labor Day. So I start to buy little things here and there that I find on sale. I feel oh so proud that I'm shopping early. I am a Christmas frickin' goddess. I stash my early purchases away and then get caught up in fall. Halloween costumes and turkey take center stage while my gifts gather dust in the top of my closet, away from prying kiddos.

Then a few weeks before the big day, I completely panic. I become CONVINCED that my children are completely and totally neglected. They are terribly deprived. I am positive that the magic of the holidays will be dashed by my horrible procrastination.

So out I go, pushing my cart through the stores and avoiding other bleary eyed parents through my half closed sleepy eyes, tossing My Little Ponies, Barbie convertibles, and art supplies willy-nilly into my basket. Then I get home and decide that DAMMIT I AM GOING TO WRAP because I am not going to get stuck wrapping at two a.m. on Christmas Eve, no matter how FUN Skippy seems to think that is. Hot chocolate with Bailey's in front of a fire while LAUGHING at Skippy wrapping is way more fun.

So I gather my wrapping supplies and then suddenly, I begin finding little caches of presents all over the place. There's a tinkerbell purse under my sweaters and six books hit me in the head when I reach for the DVDs on the highest shelf. I come to the realization that my kids are spoiled rotten.


I mean, they really aren't. They pretty much only get new toys for Christmas and on their birthdays. I'm a mean mean mommy the rest of the year. But every year it's the same song and dance. I don't know why I do it to myself.

Anyway, I haven't blogged in awhile. We've been busy. Only one more full week of school before a Christmas break that lasts almost THREE WEEKS. I'm already frantically jotting down ideas for things to do while the kids are off school so that we don't all end up drooling on the couch watching seventeen Spongebob reruns. (Not that we EVER watch Spongebob. Nope. Not my kids. Nope.)

To make it all even more interesting, Skippy is going out of town this week and he won't be back until the Saturday before Christmas. While all the other googlers are getting sent to Iowa and Oaklahoma, my darling husband gets to fly into Sweet Home Chicago. Color my jealous. I'm mostly annoyed that he gets to eat Portillo's and go holiday shopping at a real mall. And see my Mom. And eat Portillo's. And see our friends and eat MORE Portillo's. So I figure I'll comfort myself by letting the kids stay up late, eating junk food and watching movies in our pajamas, and spending too much money. That's what we used to do with my Mom when my dad travelled and I always thought that was a pretty good system. Plus it takes away from the Portillo's pain.

Anyway.....let me ramble some more. Why not right? I haven't blogged in a week and it's 11:20 and I wrapped presents so I feel like I accomplished enough to sit here for a bit. Plus I knocked my shin on the toolbox that is in here and now my leg hurts. And the baby is snoring and that's just about the cutest sound in the world.

Friday we had the school carnival - totally exhausting, and I didn't even do the bulk of the work. Yesterday I took the girls to a Christmas fair and we had so much fun - they made me the cutest ornaments. Then last night, Skippy and I went on a date. A real date. I know - that makes two in a matter of weeks. We've officially hit our date quota for the year. Let me just say that Google throws one hell of a holiday bash. We had awesome food, strong drinks, a mock casino, music, singing, raffles, and NO CHILDREN. The party was fantastic and the company was even better. I dressed up. I even wore MAKEUP. I know. Wow huh? I honestly am in awe of the two gals who did the majority of the footwork because they know how to throw a major bash. It really made me realize how many terrific friends we have made since we moved. I miss every one in the Midwest so much sometimes, but I feel so blessed to have all of these wonderful new people in our lives. And as a stay-at-home Mom, it feels so good to see Skippy in his element - I don't think he ever understood the GUILT I felt when he worked for FTD. He worked there because he had to. Things like food and heat and clothes are good. They require money. That requires a job. FTD was a job. This is job but it's so much more to us. He is surrounded by people who he respects and who respect him and he gets up every day and genuinely enjoys going to work. That makes me feel so good about the choices we've made in the last year. It's one thing to do a great job supporting your family - it's another thing completely if you're lucky enough to be able to do something you love in the process. A lot of that hit home for me last night, and it wasn't just the Bailey's talking.

So yeah. Good party.

Today we hung up Christmas lights. Ok. *Skippy* hung up Christmas lights. I decorated the inside of the house. I'm annoyed that I haven't found our box of ornaments in storage yet, but everything else looks great. Outside Christmas lights have long been a point of contention in our marriage. Skippy has a thing for all blue lights. I think they I just don't like all blue lights. Then last year my mother-in-law Dixie found forty six boxes of blue lights on sale and she bought them.

Ok, it was really only nine boxes but you get the idea.

So now I have blue lights on my house. And I actually LIKE it. Banana was so tickled when Skippy finally let us come outside for the big reveal - she has been begging for Christmas lights since last year when I was pregnant and by myself and wasn't about to get up on a ladder. I promised here that wherever we lived this year, we'd have lights and Skippy delivered beautifully. Now I just have to find the ornaments for the tree. They are probably in a box somewhere labelled POTS AND PANS sharing space with an old bike seat or something, but I'll find them. Eventually.

So there you go. Ramble over. I think my coffee has worn off sufficiently for me to go crash. It's been a long and busy week. We're ready for Santa and Ho Ho Ho and presents and friends and food in the coming weeks but the next few days will revolve around getting Skippy to PDX and off to the windy city. Where he's going to eat Portillo's, the horrible brat.

Good week. Good party. Good shopping. Good lights.

Good night.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

An Oregon Christmas Tree, part two

So anyway, a permit, a chainsaw, and a small bit of holiday insanity are your Oregon Christmas tree prerequisites. Here's how it works:

Step one:
You get up much MUCH earlier than you normally would on a Saturday to make sure that you have all of the necessary gear to go Oregon Christmas Tree hunting. This includes boots, coats, hats, mittens, scarves, and extra mittens and warm socks for everyone, including two small excited little girls who have no idea what's going on but are sent into peals of excited laughter at the mere sight of their snow pants. You also have to find the baby's carrier and snowsuit, the dog's leash, and an ear/headband thingy that is big enough for your husband's bigass head. Is it any wonder that *I* forgot *my* coat?

Step two:
You get in the car and drive towards a mountain. Preferably a mountain with trees. Because that's the whole point of this whole expedition. Any big ol' snow covered mountain will do, but because we were really looking for an AUTHENTIC Oregon Christmas Tree Hunting Experience, we of course headed for Mt Hood.

Step three:
Communicate with friends and apologize because you are running late. They are waiting. You of course apologize profusely, and then realize that everyone KNOWS that you are on time 99.9% of the time and after all, you do have three children. And a dog. And Skippy. It's all good. Continue driving. Very soon, it begins to look like this.

Step Four:
At this point, you finally meet up with your friends. You are in the tiny town of Parkdale, Oregon - pretty much right in between the civilization that is Hood River, and the wilderness that surrounds Mt Hood. The snow is deeper here, and it's soft powdery stuff - a skier's dream snow. You're here because in order to go cut down an Oregon Christmas Tree, you have to have a tree cutting permit. For five dollars, you get a nice neon orange tag for your tree, a map, and two pages of instructions. It's actually more complicated than it sounds. For example, you can't cut within 100 feet of a trail. You can't cut within 200 feet of a water source. The tree you cut down must have another tree within eight feet of it. And so on and so forth. Kind of fascinating really. You read while your husband drives and your kids draw funny faces on the fogged up back windows. When you finally reach your destination (for us, Little John Sno-Park), you realize that this ain't your Daddy's tree farm.

Step Five:
You get your family out of the car and get everyone bundled into their snow gear. This includes stuffing your annoyed baby into a snowsuit like a sausage and then stuffing said baby-sausage into the snuggli carrier WHILE wiping his nose and getting two little girls into snow pants. All of this takes approximately four and a half days. Thankfully, you have very patient and wonderful friends.

Step Six:
You take a headcount, strap the baby onto your chest, and start walking. This begins as a rather rowdy and cheerful event, with all sixteen members of your party throwing snowballs, exclaiming over the beauty of the scenery and making some funny although horrible Donner party jokes. You are immediately thankful that the event organizer's father has a chainsaw strapped to his back. Thus begins the quest for the perfect tree.

Step Seven:
You look at trees.

Step Eight:
You walk some more.

Step Nine:
You look at some trees.

Step Ten:
You pull your five year old out of a snowbank for the thirty seventh time. Thankfully, she still thinks it's fun.

Step Eleven:
You walk some more.

Step Twelve:
You shake some snow off of some trees.

Step Thirteen:
You fix your four year old's gloves, AGAIN. Then you repeat steps 9 - 13 several more times.

Step Fourteen:
You realize that your feet are cold and you can't feel your butt. Oddly enough, you are having an absolute blast.

Step Sixteen:
Finally, at long last, the chainsaw fires up. The snow is falling in huge fluffy flakes and the trees start coming down to the jubilant cries of TIM-BER and "No Skippy, that one is too big babe." It was actually really fun. The first thing you realize is that these trees....they are different. They aren't like Christmas tree farm trees, all perfect and full and shaped like a first grader's green construction paper triangle. These suckers have character. And when each family/couple/group found their tree, it was really pretty neat. There was a great sense of accomplishment. I mean, it's not like we walked along a clean paved path, surveying the available trees the way one would check out the cereal aisle at the grocery store. Nuh uh. There was no trail. We used a "path" of sorts that some snow mobiles had created earlier and we were hiking up and down hills wading through snow that sometimes came up past my knees. It was AWESOME. Can you blame Skippy for looking proud?

Of course, then you realize that not only must you walk all the way back, but now you have to drag a tree along with you. And your kids are tired. And now you REALLY can't feel your butt anymore. Which of course brings us to step seventeen.

Step Seventeen:
You walk back. Let's just leave this step as it is okay? You really don't want me to elaborate.

Step Eighteen:
You prop your tree up against the car. Your very own real live OREGON CHRISTMAST TREE. You realize that you're not done yet. Somehow you still need to tie that puppy up there. You still have to drive all the way home.

But right now, there is a monster hill waiting, and there's more important things to do. You're going to go sledding with your kids.

So. There you have it. How to get a REAL OREGON CHRISTMAS TREE WITH FRIENDS WHILE YOUR BUTT IS NUMB, in eighteen easy steps. Pretty darn neat huh?

A HUGE thank you to all of our friends, especially B&Y for putting it all together, and Y's folks for letting us all tag along and putting that chainsaw to good use! Tonight after our kids went to bed, Skippy and I were talking about the day and we agreed that even though it was a hell of a lot of hard work, it was one of the best and most memorable things we've done with our kids since moving out here. This is a beautiful place to raise a family and we're so happy to have you all in our lives!

I'm going to get a bunch of pictures up on Picasa - AmyM took a million great shots, and I got a few as well - when I get them up I'll update the blog with a link!

And before you ask, no we haven't gotten it into the house yet. It's snowing outside and we've got an awesome fire going tonight. And my butt just thawed out.

An Oregon Christmas Tree, part one


That's really all I have to say.

Today we went and got our first Oregon Christmas tree. Getting the Christmas tree was always a big deal when I was growing up, at least until I went away to college which was about the time my folks got a fake tree, LOL. Every year, a few weekends before Christmas, we would all pile into the car and head over to the local Christmas tree farm, which was just a few miles outside of town. We'd collect our farm-provided saw, and then we'd tromp around until we found the perfect tree, which my Dad would then cut down with the farm-provided saw.

Then the guys who worked at the tree farm would drag the tree down to the car and help my Dad load it up, but only after they gave it a ride on the tree shaker, which would basically vibrate the holy CRAP out of the tree to shake off any loose pine needles, small branches, and nesting squirrels. For some reason, I think the tree shaker was always our favorite part.

Slightly chilled and very cheery, we'd drive home and all hide from my Dad for an hour while he wrestled the tree off of the car and into the tree stand. We'd hide because well, this usually involved swearing. And sawing. And adjusting. And a little off the top. Or the bottom. And some more swearing. Poor Dad.

Then we'd decorate the Merry Christmas out of that baby.

Getting your tree in Oregon is different. It requires a five dollar permit, a chainsaw, and a mountain.

More to come. It's dinner time.