December 2007


 

I am currently in Breckenridge, Colorado, with Ned’s family for what will be my first white Christmas. Growing up in South Carolina, shorts at Christmas were more common than snow (though shorts weren’t exactly common — but they did happen, unlike the snow, which did not. ever.).

We took the bus-metro-bus to Dulles after work on Friday. The journey there was fine and the security lines the shortest I remember them being just before Christmas. But we still faced flight delays, slow luggage and a slow drive up the snowy mountain, which put us here at the house and finally snug in our beds at the delightful hour of 4am –which is nearly 6 am DC time.

I was exhausted, but it was hard to convince my body it was time to sleep. We woke up again at 9, still tired. Saturday was spent gasping for more oxygen, trying to fight off a killer high-altitude headache, being  shocked at just how cold 7 degrees plus some crazy mountain windchill feels, and buying a new hat. Preston skied in the afternoon, and I took a nap.

Today I feel much better. We went to bed last night at 9:30 pm (Colorado time) and awoke at 6:30 ish, with only a very mild headache. My lungs and brain are getting used to the thinner air.

Ned and I went to a fourth Sunday of Advent service this morning at the charming mountain church, St John the Baptist. We then ate a tasty doughnut at the famous Daylight Donuts in town and joined his family for a service at Breckenridge Christian Ministries.

The people, sermon, music and Christ-in-a-mountain-lodge feel at BCM were wonderful, enriching and I loved our time there. But during Advent, I long for the traditions of the church. So when they lit the pink candle on the Advent wreath for the fourth Sunday of Advent at BCM and talked about the “joy of Christmas,” I was glad we had double dipped at church this morning and already had a healthy dose of Anglicanism. (editor’s note: the pink candle is for week three, gaudete Sunday. And the wreath is for Advent, which is NOT pre-Christmas.)  When we entered St. Johns, I was SO HAPPY to find the Mary and Joseph figurines hanging out on a windowsill, journeying toward the animals set up in a creche in the front. Jesus was appropriately hiding somewhere — I hope in the sacristy.

It is funny how when you grow up in a church that is rich in symbolism, these things become really important.  Because they are not just empty symbols, but point to something beyond. Mary and Joseph are still on their journey and so are we, and I need to be looking at myself and asking if I am ready to celebrate the anniversary of God’s coming to the world as the incarnate God of love or His final coming as judge. Instead I am thinking about wrapping Christmas presents — sigh. Lord, have mercy.

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From multiple friends who have recently given birth, I have learned:

1) Initial contractions can be easily mistaken for constipation.

2) Later contractions can not. They are “much worse than running a marathon.” Ouch.

3) The contractions are actually worse than the delivery (I assume this isn’t true for everyone, but those I surveyed all agreed on this).

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The BIG news in my family this year is something very tiny: a new baby boy! My sister gave birth to this little guy, James Michael, on Saturday. He is the first grandchild and everyone is bursting with excitement.

He was 6 pounds 2 ounces and 18 inches at birth. He has big hands and feet — like a puppy! — so we think he will grow up to be a basketball player/swimmer/piano player, depending on who is talking about him.

I am headed westward for Christmas, so it was going to be mid-January before I had a chance to spend any time with the babe. I couldn’t wait that long to see him or his parents, so Ned and I took a day off work Tuesday to bring love and food to the new family. [Note: I would like to personally thank the farm bill for getting itself passed in the Senate last week, thereby making a day off work possible. God bless you, United States Senate.]

Ned and I spent about 9 hours in the car (so much for our carbon footprint) and 3 hours with little James. It was totally worth it. He is so sweet and tiny and … helpless. Heart-melting. My sister and her husband are great parents already.

I have never met a baby so closely related to me before, and it was surprising that even at such a tiny age, he looked familiar.

I must also note the excellent timing of the baby’s arrival (besides waiting until after the farm bill, way to go, Jimbo). Friday was my sister’s last day at school (baby was due on the 18th). She loves teaching and loves her students, so she wanted to stay with them as long as possible. Her labor actually started during school on Friday, but she taught the whole day and even went to the staff Christmas party after school (admittedly, she wasn’t sure she was in labor at that point; she just thought she felt weird).

**Can we just pause here for a moment to think about how awesome my sister is? Thank you. While we’re at it, I would like to salute all mothers. Thank you for your pains.**

Back to the story: it was at the party that she actually figured out what was going on and left abruptly. After a long and painful night, baby was born on the 15th, which is also my parents’ anniversary. Happy anniversary — a grandson! My parents are currently en-route to N.J. (via DC — yea!) to spend Christmas with the babe. I wish I could be there too — I know my dad is just going to be eating up the cuteness of this little guy.

How to win a neighborhood bake-off in 8 easy steps:

1. Ask awesome friends for recipes. Keep in mind that chocolate always wins.

2. Stay late at work with the farm bill. Dash home. Run out of time to make planned recipes. Turn to the easy, delicious Black Russian Cake.

3. Take cake mix, add vodka and chocolate. Put it in a cathedral-shaped bundt pan and wait for the magic to happen.

4. While cake is cooling, walk across the street to neighborhood party for a little egg nog.

5. Return home. Sprinkle beautifully-shaped cake with powdered sugar and douse with kahlua. Remember that plate-ing works wonders in fancy restaurants. Put cake on a nice platter and a cake stand. Bring the silver “happy holidays” pie server you bought at a junk shop.

6. Return to the party, as people “ooo” and “aaah” at your cake, which is towering above all the other desserts on its cake stand.

7. Eat yummy treats. Note that people really like a little booze on their cake.
8. Win the prize for “prettiest” dessert and tie for first-place for “overall best: queen of desserts.” Call it good. H-block rocks the house.

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The DC police parked a light truck on our street throughout early December. (Note: by “light truck” I do not mean the category of SUVs and other vehicles that do not have to meet the most stringent fuel economy standards in the new energy bill. I mean a generator with humongous lights on it. It looks nothing like this picture, but wouldn’t it be great if it did?)
The police bring the truck in and shine its big lights on the street to deter crime. It seems people are less likely to shoot eachother when under huge spotlights. I think it “worked,” in that there was no major crime during the light truck’s stay on our street, as far as I know. But I don’t know that it helped actually solve any problems. (Although, hey, what if we put light trucks on every street? Would there be world peace and harmony?)

It seems the light truck also scared off two potential buyers of my neighbor’s houses. Said neighbors told me that some people had a contract on the house, but then pulled out when they saw the light truck.

Potential buyers, are you still out there? Come back. Our street is nice! The light truck is your friend. It’s a holiday light truck! If the bright lights shine through your blinds and curtains, never fear — you can just tape brown paper shopping bags to your windows to help you slumber. Or who needs sleep when you can go out and celebrate under those big crime-busting lights? They are kind of like film lights, so you can feel like you are on a movie set right here on your own street! And when the blue police lights bounce around and fill the windows of the houses on the narrow street with their glow, it’s like a disco party! You can go out in the street and dance in front of the light truck. Your husband may say, “You look drunk,” but the police will take no mind. Embrace the light truck.

My friend, the bug, wants me to write a song for Sufjan Stevens. But my songs are generally of the goofy-make-up-words-to-the-tune-of-an-existing-song ilk, and I think Sufjan might want something a little more pro. My silly song skillz are perhaps more appropriately suited for the commission I received from the bug’s husband, who asked me to write a song to the tune of “Doctor Feelgood” for his med school graduation (which is still way too far away, but he actually asked this of me before med skool ever began).

I am not the only publicly-bursting-into-song woman in DC, though. Not in the least. Perhaps the woman on one of my crazybuses who wrote an original composition, “The More You Cry, the Less You Pee,” would like to take a stab at the Sufjan competition. Crazy bus woman, are you out there? Someone actually found this blog the other day by googling, of all things: “the more you pee the less you cry.” Was it the bus singing woman, looking to see if anyone else had stolen her awesome song idea?

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The Barney cam is up! (It has been up all day, I assume, but I am just getting around to it, as I have been engaged with the farm bill, which has entered my life again in our ongoing tumultuous relationship.)

In this year’s annual holiday video, Barney and Miss Beazley go on a quest to become Junior Park Rangers. It is fairly cute, especially the scenes where the pups dash through the corridors of the White House on their adorable stubby legs. But, hellooooo, where is the White House Prop Team? What is the point of becoming a Junior Park Ranger if there is no hat? Nary even a badge!? This is a stunning oversight and, indeed, an incredible disappointment. Just imagine, if you will, the cuteness of the pups beneath a cap like the one pictured below –now, that would be good theater!

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