Eva is talking a lot.  So when we were done decorating the tree and she said, Me no like, I thought she meant that she hadn't enjoyed decorating.  So I got out tinsel-she's a tinsel kind of kid-and she helped Aidan and I put it on the tree.  Then she stood back and said, Me no like.  I asked her why, and she said that she liked our youngest grandson's tree.  Aidan said he did too; those grandsons have trucks and firetrucks and things like that for ornaments.  So I guess next year our tree will undergo a transformation to primary color, youthful ornaments.
The weekend before Christmas we returned to the Santa Train but this time with Eva.  Here are the two kids making out their list, surrounded by hot chocolate cups and butter cookies.  Santa joined the train at a crossroads where the reindeer were taking a break so they needed to have the list done before he got to our car.
On the last day of school, the kids had a concert in their multi-purpose room with some pretty great music provided by a band just a few years older than themselves.  I sat with RB because Aidan is too cool for that (although he desperately needs hugs and kisses, and appreciates them, he doesn't want a lot of them) and Eva is just very happy and independent, so she waves, smiles, and comes over to tell me when she needs to go to the bathroom.  RB, on the other hand, has sensory processing disorder and what is music to some people can be clanging noise to him, especially if he's too close to the instruments (he's in kindergarten, so he was in the front row).  So we rocked together.

Oh, and do you remember the song about only wanting two front teeth for Christmas?  Eva pulled out the front tooth that was loose and pestering her but she wouldn't let me take a picture, so this is the best I could get.
 
 
Last weekend we went to the Shrine at La Salette, Eva's first trip there, and enjoyed the lights as well as the dining hall :)
This weekend we picked out our tree-the perfect tree takes a while to find, of course.
But with the kids helping, we prevailed.
 
 
My next sister up would have been 63 on Thanksgiving Day but we lost her to a stroke in 2004.  She loved Thanksgiving. She was also an artist-talented in many mediums.  This is our first Thanksgiving without Mom, and she was an expert seamstress.  So this post is about arts and crafts and the holiday all rolled into one.

Still, it was a day of celebration.  We met at our daughter's house and our grandsons had made these adorable placemats.  MB broke his left arm so the turkey print is his right hand and then his brother, RB, wrote our names on each card.
After the meal we came home and after a nap for me (I'm sick with a cold) the kids and I made new Christmas stockings for them.  I bought blanket material years ago and cut out several, making each one unique, but once sewn they were too small.  These two will have plenty of room!

Here are the before photos:
Here are the finished products:
So the kids helped with cutting the pieces out, pinning them, and ripping out the basting.  Each chose the ribbon they wanted, both wanted jingle bells, and Aidan really wanted his name painted on, but I have no paint for cloth so I surprised him with the A, which made him just as happy.
 
 
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Here are the boys in their "space ships" talking long-distance about all those things boys talk about.

Last night I took Aidan and Ricky to the community center where they have a Christmas shop for kids-all items priced at less than $5-the kids are taken into the shop by a helper (parents not allowed) and buy for the people on their list.  They come out with a bag of wrapped and tagged presents.  It's the best.  They were both really excited by their purchases.

The community center also had Santa Claus waiting upstairs to hear kids' wishes and give them a candy cane.  He was a really good Santa.  Ricky sat on his lap and chatted a little, but Aidan knew it wasn't the "real" Santa because he is busy getting ready for Christmas, so he just watched.

During the day Aidan and I put up our first fake tree.  G has been bugging me for years to get a fake one and I refuse, but I did agree to a fake one upstairs.  So about three years ago I bought the bows; two years ago the lights (purple too, though you can't tell in these shots); and last year Aidan picked out the star.  Little Baby won't let him put the star on the big tree because we have always had an angel there.  I have to admit that I like the look of it when we got done.
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In the afternoon I started addressing Christmas cards.  Normally we buy cards that are personalized, but after Christmas was over last year I bought a few boxes on sale and have decided to use them this time.
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Sorry, no photos; while downloading a Microsoft upgrade our computer crashed and the hard drive is being reformatted, so we can't upload any photos right now.  Here is the scoop on  our three days of Christmas, anyway:

Day 1-December 24-Christmas candlelight service at our church followed by dinner and a tree at home with the big kids and their sons.

Day 2-December 25-Stockings and a tree at home followed by a tree at my mother's house with the 40+/- people in attendance (just family, though, and with my two oldest siblings not there, my third sibling in Heaven, and some nieces and nephews not there-still a crazy population of people)

Day 3-December 26-Stockings a tree at G's mother's house with his sister and her family, our kids and grandsons.

Aidan loved Christmas this year!  He understood enough to feel the anticipation, to be upset that making a list doesn't mean you get everything on the list, and to already be asking why Santa isn't coming again soon even though it is currently snowing outside.

The best gifts are those from God, of course, and they include G's sister being just home from open heart surgery and recovering well, and all of the loved ones that we shared our holiday season with.
 
 
Aidan loves to cook and Little  Baby loves to play house, so you put the two of them together and you have a mess, not to mention a good time.  First they colored Christmas pictures, then they decorated the tree and the living area, and then they made gingerbread men and a gingerbread tree.  After that they walked to my mother's house to deliver some of their cookies, came home and had hot tea together (it was about 0º outside with the wind chill factor).
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I'm not a knicknack person, except for papers and books-I have reams and stacks of those.  Although I do have some knicknacks and figurines, if there is no nostalgic or personal value to them, I toss them.  Christmas is my one exception, but even then I find that almost everything has some memory attached to it.
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One of several Christmas decorations made by my second sister, Kate (1948-2004)

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G loves Christmas, knicknacks, decorations, Christmas (did I already mention that?), and dogs.  So when I was at a fair a couple of years ago, I couldn't resist getting this little thing for him.

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My niece and her mother (1951-2005) made this for me several years ago.  It was accompanied by a beautiful wreath made of straw that was stuffed with little squares of this plaid fabric, all cut with pinking shears, and accented with gold.  My niece was probably about 10 years old at the time.  The wreath has long since gone, but not the ornament.

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Pretty Baby had a collection of fat-bottomed soft snowmen, and she loves the Misfit Toys so much that we bought her a collection when she first moved out, then bought some for ourselves.  So everything in this row reminds me of her.

 
 
I have a very early memory of being at my grandmother's house on Thanksgiving Day.  We were leaving to go home for Thanksgiving, so I don't know if that means that when I was small we would have two meals, or if we were just there getting or having pie.  My grandmother made both chocolate cream pie and mincemeat pie, so we might have been there to get a pie for my father-I'll have to ask older members of the family if we ever ate there. 

My grandparents were born in 1883, 1891, 1894 and 1897, so this grandmother was the only grandparent alive when I was born and she was 70 then.  She lived next door to us-I grew up in my great grandparents' farmhouse, called The Old Plantation-we could literally walk through the pasture to my grandmother's house.  Any time that I smell fresh baked bread, homemade soap, peonies, lilacs, or apple blossoms, I think of her.  Any time that I hear a rousing gospel song, I think of her.  When winter nights are filled with the smell of wood smoke, I think of her. 

She was a very tall woman, almost six feet tall, and at night when she got ready for bed she would take down her coronet of white hair and kneel beside her bed to say her prayers.  Her hair touched the floor.  She wore a flowered wrap-around apron, the kind that covered your top and bottom, and I loved her hugs.  She played the piano but could only remember a couple of hymns by heart.  Her television was only plugged in two or three times a year, when she knew that Billy Graham was going to be on. 

Her "settin" room was unused, and all socializing was done at the dining room table.  She kept aluminum cans, washed out, in a storage area beside her kitchen window seat, a window that was framed with the longest English ivy I ever saw.  We would take the cans out and stack them like bowling pins, then play bowling on the kitchen floor, which was a trick because there was a hump in the middle of the floor so you had to really get your roll down to hit the cans. 

She and I would spend hours together making scrapbooks and ornaments for missionaries and the children they cared for, and we made patchwork quilts and rag rugs.  Grammie had playing cards in the drawer-Crazy Eights and Go Fish, stuff like that-and coloring books and crayons with them.  Every week or so she made homemade doughnuts and we got to help.  Every week she made homemade bread and sent a pan of rolls over to my father.

I am so thankful for having had this woman in my life.  Her name was Ruth.  My little sister is named for her.

Now I hope to be as good a grandmother as my own grandmother was.
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Aidan's Thanksgiving Day decoration

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We all ate at separate houses, and then Pretty Baby brought over the pie.  She made blueberry for G and apple for the rest of us.  Her favorite is pumpkin.  My favorite is custard.  Pie is one of those things, isn't it, where everyone has a different favorite?  Pretty Baby is great at making pies! 

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Our daughter in-law and first daughter, above, with MB; our son in-law and first son, below with Aidan and RB
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The little cousins playing together.  MB is two months younger than BB, so he will end up a year behind him in school due to birthday cut-offs, and three years behind his brother even though they are just over two years apart.  It is such an arbitrary thing-when we were young they would have been in the same grade together.
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Today I got MB to myself for a while.  He is such a sweet baby, easy to love and easy to watch.  He smiles just like his mother when she was little, has a thick head of hair like her, but his eyes remind me of his aunt every time I see him.  Overall, he bears a strong resemblance to my three biological children. 

I am sure that when Aidan has children, I will be looking for features and expressions that remind me of him as well.

 
 
Aidan came home on Halloween night, 2008.

He had no idea what he was in for.  We could not have asked for anything more.

Here are the boys and Little Baby-dinosaurs, Avatar, Mickey Mouse, and goth.
 
 
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The boys catching rain with their shovels.  What else was there to do this week?

After our week of rain, the sun came out enough for us to watch the parade in the next town.  Then, just as we were heading to our car, the pellets started falling, and just after we started the car, the skies opened up with a vengeance.  By the time we got home it was tapering off.  A couple of hours later we went to G's parents' house for the annual cook-out and the rain held off long enough for us all to eat and play for a couple of hours, then the thunder came again.  Most of the week we just had rain without thunder or lightning, but it sure would be nice to see a break. 

Normally my brother is haying at this time of year.  Normally I've gone to the beach just once.  Normally I have not had to put a hat and coat on the kids.  This just isn't normal.  We had one summer like this in the mid-1990s and prior to that we had two like this in the 1970s.  The difference between now and the 1970s, though, is that back then we didn't have the extreme heat and humidity (90% humidity and 100º + temps) that usually follows.  So I'm hoping for a gradual transition over to summer weather when the rain finally breaks.

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Aidan, enjoying some of G's onion rings, just before the parade got started, and wearing the Sponge Bob hat that G bought him at the vendor tables.

 
 

Today we dedicated two new monuments outside our church.  We've had a large monument there for several years with the roll call of veterans who served in the Revolution, Civil War, World Wars I and II (that one includes my father).  Today two new monuments were christened for the veterans of the Korean and Viet Nam conflicts.  I have cousins on both of those.

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Here is the original monument and people waiting for the ceremony to get started.

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Aidan, amusing himself during the wait.

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My great nephew getting in on the action.

PB has a beautiful voice so my cousin (our cemetery sextant and organizer of these new monuments) asked her to sing the National Anthem for the event and then to lead the crowd in singing America, The Beautiful afterwards.  We both lament over the fact that the anthem we have was chosen instead of Columbia when Congress made their decision between the two, since Columbia is so much prettier and easier to sing.  But here she is, anyway, with motorcycles and passing cars for background noise.
(Sound to be inserted if YouTube ever finishes uploading the file)
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And then here is my little flag bearer.  He really is quite fascinated with flags-he points out every one he sees on the ride home in the afternoons-so he was excited to get one of his own.

Last, here is a story that just has to be shared.  G was mowing the lawn this week and Aidan plopped himself down on the picnic table to watch.  When I asked what was up, he said, "This is for baseball".  Since he goes to daycare at a high school, I figured he was referring to the mowing that they do on the athletic fields. 

A few minutes passed and he came into the house to get his ball and bat, returning to sit with them on the picnic table and continuing to watch G mow the lawn.  Apparently G had told him that they could practice after the grass was cut.

A few minutes passed and he again came into the house, this time telling me that he wanted to wear his baseball shirt.  I didn't know which one he meant-he has lots of shirts with balls-so I went and grabbed one that I know is a favorite and brought it out.  He gave me that big boy disdainful look and said, "Not that one.  I want to wear my  Bib Papi shirt!"  So he is, without a doubt, pretty well Americanized now.