Sunday, December 27, 2009

Snow Day

I realized several days ago that I had not seen the sun nearly this entire month. A combination of going to work when it's dark, getting home when it's dark, and long stretches of gloomy, cloudy days have made my exposure to sunlight next to nil. My vitamin D stores have definitely been depleted.

That is why, driving home Sunday morning, even though I was post-call from a strenous night on Trauma, when I saw blue skies, I was determined to make it outside.

Ignore the fact that it was 15 degrees. Ignore the fact that it was rather windy. Ignore that fact that it was 4 degrees with the windchill. We did.

We focused on the fact that the sky was blue, the ground was covered in new snow that glistened and sparkled, and that the entire world looked magical.

We bundled the boys in snow pants, parkas, scarves, hats, gloves, snow boots (after all, it did feel like 4 degrees.)

We then trucked through the glistening snow to the hill at school for some sunshine and snow.

Inner tubing...

Snow angels...

Blaise insisted that he wanted to swing. When I said the swings were covered with snow, he calmly, in his three year old list, reassured me that he could just wipe the snow off.

The afternoon was good for the cabin fever I'm sure was starting to descend on the boys. There was plenty of laughing, screaming, and completely darling children.

After everyone was sufficiently chilled, we trekked back home through the blue shadows for hot cocoa and dry socks.

It is truly amazing that a few hours with a inner tube, a snowy hill, and a blue sky can be thoroughly therapeutic.

This is truly what memories are made of.

Scenes from Christmas

Christmas is hard to write about. It's hard to capture the magic, happiness, and closeness. And there are never enough pictures to portray it either. But this is a start.

Saturday, December 26, 2009


Christmas Eve is full of the anticipation, the waiting, the stories, the candles and lights.

Christmas morning is full of joy, excitement, crinkling of paper, hugs, and laughter.

After opening the presents on Christmas morning, the rest of Christmas Day has always felt a little anti-climatic. An emotional low after the gift-giving high. The presents are what.

Christmas this year didn't feel like that at all.

From our bedroom door being thrown open at 7 am by bright-eyed children, to the present opening, to the cinnamon smells from brunch, to setting up of marble tracks and watching of movies, to the smells of dinner, to the snowman building (and knocking over) in the backyard, to the stories and kisses at bedtime...the entire day felt like Christmas.

This Christmas had a similar feeling to when we watched the train moved away towards the west, carrying my mom and my little brother, who had come to help us move to Iowa. We felt, that truly for the first time, we were on our own.

This Christmas, it was up to us, and just us, to create those holiday memories for our boys. Memories like the ones we all have. Full of magic, and treats, and presents, and happiness.

This Christmas, we had to be the ones to create the traditions.

Opening one gift Christmas Eve...

Reading Night Before Christmas, My Penguin Osbert, The Crippled Lamb, and the Nativity story from the Bible...

Presents early Christmas morning...

Monkey bread, fruit, and juice for brunch after presents...

Games, movies, playing in the afternoon...

Brown sugar glazed ham with au gratin potatoes for dinner...

It's the first time for many of these things, but it still felt comfortable...and traditional.

When Monkey came in from playing in the snow, he hugged me around my legs and exclaimed, "I'm just so happy!"

That, combined with the joy on the boys' faces, and the feeling of happiness so palpable in our home, let us know that Christmas memories are well on their way.

Thursday, December 24, 2009


What do you do when you want a Christmas picture of the entire family, but there is no one around to take it? Well, you put the camera on the tripod, set it for timed photos, and wish for the best.

Wait, Mom's not in that one... Maybe the next one...

Nope, Mom's not in that one either...

Okay, finally, all four of us. Roman, keep your hands down.

Almost. Look at the camera, Blaise.

Ahh, there we go.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Wish List

We finished wrapping presents the other night (all nice and cozy in front of our new fireplace.) As we placed the presents under the tree, we stepped back and looked.

That's when we realized.

We may have gone overboard just a little this year.

At first, Hubster and I looked at each other embarrased. "That's a lot of presents." Yep. And once you realize things might have gotten a little out of hand, the justification instantly starts. We started shopping in October. It's easy to forget exactly what you've gotten when you bought it 2 months ago. It's our first Christmas away from family, so we need to make sure it's a great Christmas.

We are excited for Christmas. It is going to be a wonderful Christmas. I can't wait to see the look on Bug's face when he opens the (can't say yet). I can't wait to hear Monkey's squeal when he sees his new (shhh...not yet.)

Like every parent, I want only the best for my children. It was hard to narrow down what to buy them for Christmas because I want so many things for them.

But ultimately, the things I really want for them, they won't be opening on Christmas. Most of what I want for them, I have a hard time putting in words. It's mostly this overwhemling feeling that causes an ache in my chest, full of hope, and success, and goodness.

So what do I truly want for my children? I want them to...

-know someone is always in their corner.

-feel the thrill of finding the perfect hiding spot for hide-and-seek.

-know where their food comes from.

-watch a catepillar metamorphasize into a butterfly, and then watch the butterfly emerge from its cocoon.

-always know where home is.

-spend a night wrapped in a blanket, watching thunder, and eating popcorn.

-fall asleep next to someone they love.

-lose themselves in a book.

-to finish first at something, and to finish last at something.

-fill a jar full of fireflies.

-know what it is like to not have everything they want.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Part of the Deal

When I first saw my intern schedule, one of the first things I saw was December filled with the dreaded words. Trauma Surgery.

That is when I knew. I would not have Christmas off. There would be no way to go home and visit family over the holidays. Yes, clinics shut down for Christmas. Why couldn't I have clinic in December? But trauma? That happens every day of the year. Every single day. Just watch some guy in a Santa suit fall off the roof Christmas Eve.

Over a deparment lunch, I was complaining to a fellow intern that I thought I would work over Christmas. She shrugged, non-chalantly, and replied, "Well, we're doctors. That's what we do."

Her statement made me want to shrink into myself and cry. So this is what I'd signed up for. Holidays, weekends, and birthdays away from family are just part of the deal. They don't put that on the brochure for medical school.

But I started thinking about it. Maybe this is what I signed up for. If I have patients in the hospital over Christmas, it's not as if they want to be there either (except for the homeless drunk we admitted two weeks ago. He's as happy as a clam to be in the hospital for Christmas.) And if my patients are going to be in the hospital over the holidays, they still need lab work and xrays and nursing care and food and medication. And the people who provide all that are working on Christmas. I'm part of a system that doesn't take days off.

It turns out that I don't work Christmas. So all the insight and mental preparation were for nothing, right? Well, probably not. I'm not delusional enough to think I'll go my entire residency (much less my professional career) and not work a major holiday. The fact that I got both Christmas and Thanksgiving off as an intern is nothing short of a Christmas miracle. But I remember watching home videos of Christmases over the years, and realized that many of those Christmases didn't happen on December 25th. Many of the videos had the date Dec 24 or 12/26 on the bottom. My dad often worked Christmas. And we adapted.

But I'll work on the acceptance and coping mechanisms later.

When I got my schedule with December 24 and December 25 as days off, I danced for joy. I actually bounced up and down as my schedule printed out. I hugged everyone in the house. I felt like I could finally start celebrating. I've thrown myself into Christmas. I'm more excited for Christmas this year than I have been since I was 9.

It also helps that my co-intern, who is working Christmas, is Jewish. He got the first weekend of Hannukah off. I get Christmas off. We're both happy.

Yes, there will be Christmases where presents are opened the day before or the day after or late in the afternoon. That's what I've signed up for.

But this year? Christmas morning will find me around the tree with my three boys, wearing pajamas and drinking hot cocoa and enjoying the moment.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Popcorn, a la Christmas

It feels that at this time of year, everyone is sharing snacks and recipes. There are blogs with recipes swaps. Even the female anesthesia residents had a cookie-recipe sharing party.

And I really want to participate. I do. But I don't really like to cook (I hope this blog hasn't given you any delusions otherwise.)

And I don't feel that sharing recipes I either make up (with varying success) and can never replicate, or those that come on the side of a Campbell's soup can or the back of a bag of chocolate chips just don't really work (or count).

But to get in the spirit of sharing, and cooking, I will share the recipe to a snack that I make every Christmas.

This recipe actually isn't mine. My very good friend in medical school, who is now doing her residency in California, shared it with me. But I don't always share that detail when people are telling me how much they like this.

Caramel Popcorn:
8 cups popped popcorn (salted)
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup (dark corn syrup gives a richer flavor, but it tastes just as nice with light corn syrup.)

You can also add 1/2 cup peanuts, but we never do.

Heat oven to 350.
Melt butter over medium heat. Add brown sugar and corn syrup. Bring to boil while stirring nearly constantly. You seriously do not want this to boil over. It is very hard to clean up off the top of the stove. Boil until the mixture starts to thicken. I'm sure there is some temperature that this mixture should reach, but I wouldn't even know where to begin. I just boil it until it gets just a little bit thicker and turns from clear to caramelly color.

Pour caramel mixture over popcorn (in a very large bowl) and stir to coat evenly. If you want peanuts, be my guest and add them now. Spread on a cookie sheet.

Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Check halfway through and stir ensure even cooking. Don't let it burn. This will result in frustration on your part and disappointment on your childrens' part.

Remove from over, place in large (heat proof) bowl and let cool.

We always double or triple this recipe. Because it is that good.

If you want to make caramel popcorn balls, let the caramel mixture cook longer. This will make it thicker. Pour over popcorn and let cool just a little. Coat your hands with just a little bit of Pam (or other baking spray. Although I'm sure butter or oil would work fine too.) Shape into balls. Let cool completely. Do not put the popcorn balls in the oven. The result is not good. Just let them cool on the counter.

There will be caramel popcorn in our house to munch on while watching Mickey's Christmas Carol and another bag in the boy's stocking, to enjoy Christmas morning and to buy us a little more sleep.

A Place to Hang Stockings

Home improvement projects have slowed significantly. Okay, they've actually come to a complete stand still. Except for me exclaiming to Hubster that I've finally found the perfect place to hang the Dustbuster.

There are still projects aplenty. The master bath needs re-tiling. The blue bathtub and tile in the hall bath have got to go. It would be nice to have closet doors, stair hand rails, and lights in the living room. Those are all on the list. For later.

There was one project, however, that I was determined to get done before Christmas.

Do you remember when we finished the playroom/family room? There was a large black box in the far wall. Otherwise known as the fireplace.

The one thing I wanted done before Christmas was a mantle. A place to hang stockings. A gathering stop for the bitter cold Iowa winter nights. A focal place in an otherwise rather bland (but always messy) room.

We started by tiling around the fireplace. We chose a beautiful travertine tile (which we could afford to do, since this particular color was on sale, and there wasn't that much to tile.)

After I tiled and grouted, Hubster installed the surround and mantle. Let me clarify. I came up with an idea in my head about what I wanted the surround and mantle to look like. Hubster then patiently listened and examined my drawings. He then made multiple trips to the hardware store and built our mantle from scratch. By himself. With me playing cheerleader and avoiding anything with a sharp edge.

(There were many pictures of all the steps from start to here, but that would have meant subjecting you to dozens of blurry photos. Which I wasn't going to do. Merry Christmas.)

(And please note Monkey's little wooden tool box at the bottom of this photo. He and his wooden hammer, nails, and screwdriver were helpful at every stage of this project.)

After the (surprisingly large) mantle was built, I then painted it the same antique white as all the trim in the house. And painted. And painted. Repeat this step several more times, turning what should have beeen a one weekend project into a two week project.


Two weeks later, instead of this...

We now have this...

And a beautiful mantle like this is just begging to be decked out for Christmas. Just apply stockings the boys decorated two Christmases ago, free pine branches from the local hardware store, and handfuls of pinecones that the boys are always collecting.

I think the result is just magical.

There was still something missing. Hubster rectified this with a trip to a bait-and-tackle shop by the lake, from which he returned with enough wood to fill half our shed.

Last night, we enjoyed our very first fire in our new fireplace.

It feels more like home and more like Christmas than I would have ever imagined.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Day In My Life

Over at Mothers in Medicine, a blog dedicated to exactly that, the most recent topic has been "A Day in the Life of..." These amazing women tell what a typical day is like for them as a mother and a neurosurgeon/cardiologist/obstetrician/pediatrician.

This blog has been a wonderful "support group" for me. It lets me know that there are women who have been through what I have and come out as real people and functional mothers on the other side.

The most recent topic has inspired me to share a typical day for me. The only problem? There is no typical day for an intern. Each month is a new service, a new team, a new job. I can only share what is typical for this month.

A day in the life of an anesthesia intern on trauma surgery...

4:30 am: Alarm goes off. Want to push snooze, but don't.

4:55 am: Toast bagel, pack bag with fruit and snacks to eat later that day.

4:58 am: Run upstairs, kiss sleeping boys and sleeping husband good-bye.

5:00 am: Get in car, drive to work in the dark. Eat bagel while driving.

5:10 am: Catch shuttle in parking lot.

5:15 am: Arrive at hospital.

5:20 am: Get to locker room, hang up coat, put on green hospital scrubs and white coat. Check to make sure I have stethoscope, pager, ID badge, PDA.

5: 30 am: Arrive in SICU for check-out from overnight team. One new admit overnight, 19 year old assault victim, intubated, 2 chest tubes in place. Hemoglobin stable. One of patients on the floor had SVT overnight, beta blocker started.

5:45 am: Pre-round on SICU patients. Neurosurgery taking one patient to OR today; we sign off. Assault victim looks stable, tell SICU team okay to extubate.

6:00 am: Pre-round on floor patients. No further SVT seen on telemetery. Patient reports she had this before, but has been off regular medication. Start home medication back up. See orthopedics team, taking another patient to OR to fix tib/fib fracture. See ENT service, thank them for suturing ear laceration on patient.

6:30 am: Return to team room. Write notes, adjust some orders.

6:45 am: Go with team to cafeteria for breakfast. I don't eat any. I had a bagel when I left home. Sit at table with surgery residents. Can't wait until I'm doing anesthesia. Conversations re-affirm I do not want to be a surgeon.

7:00 am: Head to conference. Topic is interesting: angiography to identify vascular injury in trauma. Still can't stay awake. Doze off in back of auditorium.

8:00 am: Conference is over. Head back to team room to check on chest x-ray for assault victim. No evidence of pneumothorax. Labs back on floor patients. No electrolyte abnormalities on patient with SVT.

8:30 am: Call neurosurgery regarding patient with lumbar spine fracture. Injury non-operable. Order patient back brace.

9:00 am: Meet attending trauma surgeon in SICU to round together. Assault victim has been extubated. Remove one of chest tubes. Put in orders to transfer patient to floor.

9:30 am: Get page to clarify order.

9:35 am: Get page to let me know patient's IV infiltrated. Patient taking good PO. Stop IV fluids.

9:37 am: Get page with update on rehab placement for patient.

9:45 am: Return to team room. Finalize notes, finish orders. Finish discharge summary for patient going to rehab.

10:00 am: Try to read ICU textbook. Read blogs, check Facebook, check e-mail, check weather. Try to read. Check Facebook.

11:34 am: Trauma pager goes off. Activation. Self-inflicted gunshot wound. Go to ER Trauma Bay. Get on lead, gowns, face shields, gloves. Hear helicopter land on roof. Team ready when patient rolls in. Patient intubated. Take report from AirTeam. Listen to mid-level resident call out primary and secondary survey. Enter orders. Call CT. Call Neurosurgery. CT calls back, ready for patient. Neurosurgery comes, says injury is non-survivable. Transfer patient to SICU to wait for family to arrive. Contact social work. Go to SICU to talk to SICU resident. Write trauma note. Feel numb.

12:45 pm: Grab bag from locker room. Eat apple, drink Coke Zero. Wish I could finally lose the weight. Team members eating pizza, hamburgers.

1:00 pm: Answer more pages. Feel exhausted. Day only half over.

1:40 pm: Trauma pager goes off. Alert. Fall from roof. Go to ER Trauma Bay. Get on lead, gowns, gloves. No face shields this time. Ambulance team rolls patient in. Patient awake, talking, groaning from pain. Order fentanyl. Order labs, xrays. Go with patient to CT scanner. Sit in reading room while patient's scan comes up. Lumbar burst fracture. Call Neurosurgery again. Admit patient. Neurosurgery will operate tomorrow.

2:00 pm: Go back to team room. Finish trauma note. Answer more pages.

2:15 pm: Code pager goes off. Code Blue on Neurosurgery Floor. Run up stairs. Think about how I should exercise while I run up stairs. Get to room. Room full, chest compressions already going. Senior resident asks for rhythm check. Monitor shows asystole. Chest compressions restarted. Mid-level resident places femoral line. I do nothing. There are so many people in the room. Feel numb.

2:30 pm: Return to team room. Text Hubster. Feel tired. Try to read. Blog instead. Return a few more pages. Wonder why I can't pull my life together like other people seem to have.

3:00 pm: Go to surgical skills lab. Play MarioCart on Wii. Lose every race. Still have fun. Pause game to answer pages.

5:45 pm: Head to SICU to sign out to night team. Let them know the SICU is going to withdraw care on gunshot patient later tonigh.

6:00 pm: Go to locker room, change out of scrubs, grab coat.

6:15 pm: Catch shuttle back to parking lot. Drive home.

6:30 pm: Pull into garage, door opens. See boys waving and smiling at me. Help with dinner, start laundry. Sit around table as a family every night I am home. Ask about school for boys and Hubster. Feel tired.

7:30 pm: Bath boys. Give them their Advent calander chocolate. They never forget. Help them brush teeth. Hubster studies for test in morning.

8:00 pm: Read to Monkey. Tuck him in bed.

8:30 pm: Read to Bug. Give him piggy back to bed.

9:00 pm: Fold some laundry. Watch whatever is on DVR: The Office, Survivor, Chopped, Mythbusters.

10:30 pm: Turn off Christmas lights. Unplug Christmas tree. Plug in cell phone. Shower. Standing in shower, feel sad for the first time today. Sad for what happened at the hospital. Sad for only seeing my family for 2 hours a day. Sad for missing so much. Sad for myself sometimes.

10:50 pm: Kiss sleeping boys goodnight. Every night I am home I do this.

11:00 pm: Fall into bed exhausted. Asleep before I know it.

This is my everyday. The pager goes off at different times. The traumas are different people, different stories. But one day feels much like the same. Until next month.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Holiday Confession

I guess every holiday deserves a confession.

Here's mine.

Our children don't believe in Santa Clause. And it's our fault.

We decided, long before we had children, that we would not do Santa Claus in our family.

I could say it is for religious reasons. I could say it is because we want to focus on Christmas being about Jesus's birth. I could say all those things and more. But that's not the real reason.

I don't ever remember believing in Santa Claus. Hubster doesn't either. And maybe missing out on those memories made our decision easier.

The real reason we decided not to support the idea of Santa Claus was due to watching friends stop believing.

I had friends who described the devastation they felt when they realized Santa wasn't real.

The other reason was the whole idea of lying to my child. I have friends who, even now, go through complicated charades and set-ups to keep their children "believing." Setting out cookies, then eating part of them after the kids are in bed. Addressing presents as "From Santa." Even getting on skis and taking a loop around the yard in the snow to make it look like Santa's sleigh had been there. Or using Santa as a way to manipulate children into good behaviour.

It feels dishonest.

I don't want to lie to my children. I'm not saying I tell them everything about everything. Sometimes I omit (How did the baby get in her tummy?), sometimes I simplify (What is blood made out of?), sometimes I just tell them I can't tell them (Why is that person on the news?). But I'm not going to go out of my way to support what amounts to a lie.

I recognize these might be rather strong feelings. Maybe overly strong. And I don't want anyone to think I'm condemning parents who do promote Santa. We've just chosen not to.

There's another thing about Santa that I don't like. The concept of Santa makes me sad. I always wondered how people explained that Santa only came visit children whose parents made money, but that he didn't visit children who were poor, or homeless, or sick in hospitals.

I desperately wish that there was a Santa, and that he brought new computers and PlayStations and puppies to every child. I wish there was someone that made sure everyone had something to open Christmas morning. I wish there didn't have to be children who only got one pair of socks, or a piece or candy, or nothing.

But wishing doesn't make it so.

So my children don't believe in Santa.

Watching their eyes light up this time of year, I don't think this has decreased the magic that surrounds the season. Or given them any less to believe in.

Holiday Baking

Why is it that every holiday seems to revolve around food? All the holiday treats weaken my will power and tempt my sweet tooth.

Not that I'm really complaining. I do love treats.

Despite the fact that I tend to avoid the kitchen, there is something about holiday baking that draws me in.

I love having Roman and Blaise standing on chairs on either side of me, taking turns dumping in ingredients (occasionally missing the bowl.) I love the floury hands, the attempts to be subtle while picking at the dough, the delight on their faces at placing the cookies in the oven, and their excitement when taking them out.

It also doesn't hurt that there are now cookies in our house.

In the past, we've done sprinkles. Which are not the most child friendly way to go cookies. As it usually involves incredibly vigorous sprinkling and then several weeks on clean up.

This year, we "painted" cookies.

I can't take any credit for this darling idea, as I found it here.

The boys created their masterpieces without needing my oversight. The mess was minimal.

The delight was endless.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Makes My Day

Gina, over at Namaste by Day, gave me the Happy 101 award.

This award, meant to be gifted to bloggers who make you smile, has two requirements.

1. List 10 things that make you happy
2. List 10 bloggers who brighten your day.

I'm not sure I've been the "brightening others' day" type of blogger lately, but nothing like a good award to get me back on my optimistic track.

Things That Make Me Happy...

1. Sleeping in. Any day that I don't wake up and have it still be pitch black outside is a great day. Even if it means that there is occasionally a little three year old snuggled next to me. Especially if there is a little three year old snuggled next to me.

2. PhotoShop: I don't have nearly enough time to spend doing this, but it is so satisfying to see some of my less than perfect pictures be transformed into living room wall worthy pictures. And being able to remove the evidence that I didn't wash faces prior to taking pictures is priceless.

3. Christmas: I don't think this one should actually be this far down on the list. Everything about Christmas is so contagious to me. The lights, the trees, the treats, the music. I'm pretty sure I'm the most obnoxious one as work with all my excitement.

4. My house: Even after having lived here for six months, I look around and am so incredibly happy that we have our own home, without downstairs neighbors, with space to put things. I love our house. With apartments, from the day we moved in to the moment we moved out, the feeling of discontent and dislike grew every day. With our house, we fall in love more every day.

5. The end of the day. It doesn't matter how much I've enjoyed my work for the day, I'm so excited to go home. My drive home is mostly along the river, which is pretty at all times of the year. There is very little traffic, and only two traffic lights, so I don't arrive home stressed out from the commute like I used to. And absolutely nothing beats pulling into the garage and seeing the door open and two blonde-headed, blue-eyed faces light up at seeing me.

6. My new turquoise sweater. I love this sweater. It's my favorite color. It's super warm. And I get compliments every time I wear it.

7. Pancakes! I try to make pancakes (from scratch) at least once a week. I'm not sure anyone else in my family likes them as much as I do, but that isn't going to change Saturday or Sunday being pancake morning.

8. Panera Cinnamon Crunch Bagels. I had these for the first time on a call night in the ICU. And I've been hooked ever since. It's a good thing I don't pass Panera on my way home or we would be eating these a lot more. These are seriously the best bagels I have ever had. And now I want some...

9. Reading with the boys. Every night, I read with Monkey, and then with Bug. With Monkey, it's usually Bear Snores On, or A Color of His Own, or The Very Hungry Catepillar (or all of the above.) With Bug, it is a chapter from the book we are making our way through, currently The Shores of Silver Lake. I love this time with my boys that I fit in no matter how crazy the day, no matter how long the to-do list, no matter how tired I am. I will not miss this time with them.

10. Very silly, but anything related to weddings. I love the colors, the flowers, the decorations. I almost always flip through wedding magazines while I wait to check out at the grocery store. I'm still trying to convince Hubster that we need to have a second wedding, because it would just be so much fun. He apparently has different recollections of wedding planning.

I have to tag all my IRL friends.

Emma Lily
Trina Bug
The Boy and I

I love these three girls, and they've stuck around with me for years. I love that they have started blogging and we can stay in touch more these days.

Then, people that make me happy every time I read their blogs. If you haven't read these, you should.

Karen at A Peek at Karen's World
Jennee at Cheap Therapy
Christian at Modobject at Home
Tia at Clever Girl Goes Blog
Stephanie at Steph in the City

Let me know what just makes your day.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Real Deal

A Christmas tree is not just a decoration in our house. It is a family outing, activity, and tradition.

The first week of December, we load everyone up in the car. We drive to a Christmas tree lot that looks just right, the kind that have a light-bordered sign, a hand-warming station, and rows upon rows of trees. We try to avoid stores. Then everyone tumbles over each other out of the car and spreads out to look for the ultimate goal. The perfect tree.

This was true when I was a little girl, a teenager, then a college student home to visit. And it is still true now, with my own children.

There is usually some debate about who has found the perfect tree. But after seeing them all, everyone tends to fall in love with the same one.

The tree is then tied to the top of the car roof. Everyone piles back in, chilled, but excited. The tree is taken home to be covered with lights, popcorn garlands, baubles of all colors, and a variety of ornaments made at school. Everyone gets to put something on.

The tree fills the house with woodsy freshness, soft light, and a natural gathering place Christmas morning.

Our very real tree this year

Seeing a Christmas tree from this point of view, I'm sure it is not surprising that I am not a fan of artificial trees.

My stand point on artificial Christmas tress is well known. And it isn't just the ridiculous papery overly bright green look of the things.

It is the loss of the entire event that surrounds getting and setting up the Christmas tree each year. To have the Christmas tree lot replaced by the basement. To have the smell replaced by a cardboard box. I have resisted this every way I know how.

When Hubster mentioned a fake tree in the past, I pointed out that we lived in a two bedroom shoebox, and where was he planning on storing the thing for the 11 months of the year it wasn't being used. I've ridiculed fake trees. I've clung to my real tree snobbery.

So, I can't believe I'm going to say this.

Next year, we're going to get an artificial Christmas tree.

I've lost my "lack of storage" excuse, now that there is both a basement and a garage. And Hubster has shown me some trees that look pretty amazing for fake ones. Ones that have realistic needles and pinecones.

Ones that don't shed needles on the floor everytime Monkey throws a ball at it. Ones that already have the lights on. Ones that don't turn into a crispy brown accident waiting to happen.

I've fought and resisted for a very long time. The dark side has finally won.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Oh, Christmas Tree

I love Christmas trees. I could capitalize, bold, and underline the word love, then add two dozen or so exclamation points, and it still wouldn't be an exaggeration.

Putting up the Christmas tree, more than putting up the lights, baking cookies, or completing laps around overflowing store parking lots, marks the official start of the holiday season.

The tree gets put up (with only a little disagreement about what "straight" actually is). I wrap branch after branch with white Christmas lights. At that point, I think I like it best like that, and maybe this year we will only have lights on our tree.

But then I open the boxes filled with ornaments (all non-breakable, of course.) And then I let the boys decorate to their hearts delight.

Giant silver balls, small shiny gold ones, sparkly pears, glittery pine cones, copper wire stars, red and white (non-peppermint) candy canes.

Pipe cleaner wreaths, construction paper frames with smiling school pictures, a zoo of animals made from clay, puzzle pieces, paper, and Popsicle sticks.

Now, it is complete.

Well, almost.

All the ornaments are hung as waist height or lower. After Roman and Blaise are tucked in bed and sleeping, smears of Advent calender chocolate still on their faces, I rearrange and spread out the ornaments.

Our glittery, gold and silver tree is beautiful.

But then again, that's what I thought about our tree last year too. Poor little thing.

The glow of the lights fills the living room and twinkles through the window at me when I come home from work. The fresh smell of pine is subtle, but refreshing and homey at the same time.

And every 30 minutes or so, a Tonka truck, sword fight, or football reminds me of why I'm grateful for shatterproof ornaments.

Oh, Christmas Meme, Oh, Christmas Meme...

1. Have you started your Christmas shopping?
I am DONE! This is truly miraculous. Usually we are still shopping the day before and feeling frantic because we still have not been able to come up with an idea for one of my brothers-in-law or my grandmother. But this year is different. No rush. No panic. All done. It is wonderful. And strange. Mostly strange.

2. Tell me about one of your special traditions.
On Christmas Eve, my family would put on the Christmas pagent. Most of the time, this involved everyone actually being in the play and no one in the audience. But that never mattered. My role, being the oldest, was usually to be the donkey. Now, when we have Christmas with my family, I get to watch, as Bug and Monkey are in the pagent. After we do the pagent, we light candles and sing Christmas carols. I known it sounds incredibly Norman Rockwell, but it is completely true. I guess to make it sound more modern American family, I should add that Hubster hates singing as a principle, and he usually sneaks out and plays poker on the computer.

3. When do you put up your Tree?
Usually the first week in December. Sometimes earlier, sometimes later. We usually aim to get it up before Christmas. We've cut it pretty close some years.

4. Are you a Black Friday shopper?
I went shopping on Black Friday for the very first time this year. In the past, I've been oblivious to Black Friday shopping. I have gone out before, and wondered why so many people were also out. But this year, we actually were thinking about shopping at this time of year. So I ventured out. I actually posted the entire adventure here.

5. Do you Travel at Christmas or stay home?
Every since we got married, we haven't spent Christmas at "home." We alternated Christmases between my parents' home, 1 hour south of us, and Hubster's parents' home in Montana, 8 hours north of us. For the last 8 Christmases, we have packed suitcases and slept in guest rooms. This year, we are staying home. Because family is 1200 miles away. This will be interesting.

6. What is your funniest Christmas memory?
One Christmas, when I was about 9 years old, I was more excited for Christmas than I ever was before. My brother and I stayed awake nearly all night long, whispering and talking about what we might get and how excited we were. My parents told us we were allowed to come upstairs to open presents when we heard the grandfather clock chime six. We waited and waited. Finally, we couldn't take it any longer and we snuck upstairs, thinking we were being naughty because we hadn't heard the clock. It was 7 am. My parents had turned off the grandfather clock chime so they could sleep in.

7. What is your favorite Christmas Movie of all time?
It's a Wonderful Life. Classic, perfect. I get choked up every single time.

8. Do you do your own Christmas baking?
I do some baking. Just because it's not really Christmas without some baking/cooking. I usually focus on one thing per year. Some years I make candy. Some years I make cookies. This year, it's going to be cookies, because I saw the cutest thing on Modobject at Home.

9. Fake or Real Tree?
Real, for now. Complete post on the topic coming soon.

10. What day does the actual panic set in to get it all done?
Usually the week before Christmas. But this year, everything is already pretty much done. Boxes are to be mailed this weekend to family. No panic this year.

11. Are you still wrapping presents on Christmas Eve?
Most years, I am. But they are usually my mom or my mother-in-law asking me to wrap presents for them. This year, I plan on being done, well, this weekend actually.

12. What is your favorite family fun time at Christmas?
Singing Christmas carols as a family on Christmas Eve.

13. What Christmas craft do you like the best?
Making paper snowflakes. For as long as I can remember, we have made snowflakes. We make them almost every day. We hang them from the ceiling, tap them to windows and wall. They are everyhwere. I did it as a child, and now Bug and I do them. Bug would like to, but lucky for us, he doesn't know how to use scissors.

14. Christmas music? Yes or No, and if yes, what is your favorite song?
Yes! Although I don't own a single Christmas CD. Strange, I know. But I do set my Pandora station to Christmas music, which works almost as well. My favorite song to sing would probably be Oh, Come all Ye Faithful. But I really like new takes on old songs, like Sarah McLachlan and Barenaked Ladies' version of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. I'm also incredibly partial to Carol of the Bells.

15. When do you plan to finish all your shopping?
Like I said before, Done! Although one box from Amazon did just ship earlier this week, and has not arrived yet.

Do you want to play along?Just simply copy and paste the questions into your blog, and then answer them. Then tag 5 or more of your favorite blogs, and leave them a comment telling them they’ve been tagged.

I am going to tag
Emma Lily
The Boy and I at Speakinathat

And anyone else who would like to do it, feel free! (And let me know if you do it.)

When you post on your blog, please spread some Christmas Cheer, and leave a link back to the blogger who started the meme: Heather at Top Ten Christmas.

I wasn't actually excited about doing this meme at all, but decided to do it because I didn't have the energy to think of a "real" post. But I actually had a lot of fun doing, and it made me think about a lot of other things I want to post about. So look forward to extending answers and more stories at a later date!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince came out of video today.

(Or whatever we call it these days, since nothing really comes out on video anymore...but on DVD and Blu Ray. But that's irrelevent.)

Yes, despite the fact that I've been essentially living in a trauma team room for the last two weeks, I know that Harry Potter is now available to own.

This may because that's part of what Hubster is getting for Christmas. (And he already knows this, so it doens't spoil any surprises. )
I have made my love of Harry Potter obvious. I have read these book more times than I have read Pride and Predjudice or The Hobbit.

The amazing thing is, I also like the movies.
It's a hard thing to do, to take a book that is adored and make a movie that is equally loved.
When making a movie from the book, so many different elements need to be considered. First, there is the overall feel, mood, and tone of the story. There are the characters, and how the reader pictures them compared to what they look like on screen. And then there is the plot and storyline. How closely should it be followed and what deviations and variations are okay, and which are simply just wrong?

We all know I love lists. So here is my list of best movie based on a book. I'm not saying best movies ever, or best books ever. But best interpretation of the book into a movie.

1. Harry Potter:
Okay, obviously this was going to be number one. The characters are extremely well casted. When you re-read the books, how can you not see Daniel Radcliff or Robbie Coltrain? The magic of the stories is present at every turn.

All except Prizoner of Azkeban. I dislike this one. I felt that the change of the plot to let you know that Peter Pettigrew was alive in the middle of the movie was a let down and took away all the suspense. Also, what is with the shrunken heads and the singing frogs?

2. Bourne Identity:
I really mean all three movies. This is one of the best triologies out there. Because don't you feel that most trilogies are excellent...until you come to the third movie (Think Spiderman, The Matrix, and X-Men.) However, the Bourne Trilogy doesn't disappoint from Identity to Ultimatum. I loved the movies so much, I decided to read the books. The books are terrible. Horrible. Okay, the first one is okay. The second two...ridiculous. The movies are only loosely based on the books. So this movie makes it on the list by being the rare time that the movie is better than the book.

3. Pride and Prejudice (BBC Version):

If you didn't see this one coming...well, then I've done a terrible job of proclaiming my love for all things Austen. I do like the Kiera Knightely version as well, with all it's beautiful cinematography and heightened sense of romance. But that version fudges over some of the subtleties of character and plot that I feel are essential to understanding Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy. Which is why the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice wins out. Yes it is long. But it so well captures the characters and plot that you can almost (almost) get away with not reading the book. (Almost.)

4. Lord of the Rings Triology

Yep, another triology made the list. Peter Jackson's attention to detail, amazing casting, and mind-blowing special effects and sets make this hard not to put on this list. Any variation from plot is easily forgiven by the adventure and magic that fill this epic.

5. Angels and Demons:

As far as books go, I like Da Vinci Code more than Angels and Demons. But as a movie...Angels and Demons wins out. This movie makes it on my list because it captured the beauty of Rome, and the horror of the events. And honestly, I'm pretty sure that if you hadn't read the book, finding out who the true villan was would be just as shocking watching the movie as it was reading the story.

There are movies based on books I read that I want to see. These include The Time Travelers Wife, Revolutionary Road, Where the Wild Things Are, to name a few.

I'm sure that I should include a list of worst movie interpretation of a book. I'll work on that.

What do you think? Anything I missed?