Breakfast Routine

I know I’ve talked about how I like change, how quickly I get bored with routines, how I thrive on reaching for dreams. But there is one routine I need. It’s a way to start my day off right.

Time to Eat…

I enjoy breakfast foods of all kinds. I like to try new breakfast ideas. But I have a confession to make. I enjoy experimenting with breakfast novelties for DINNER! When it comes to breakfast, I eat the same thing every morning.

What keeps my interest, you ask? What routine has stuck around for more than 10 years? Well, here it is…

Every morning, I sit somewhere comfy and cozy and eat…6 graham cracker squares spread thickly with smooth “Simply Jif” peanut butter. I take a drink of hot tea with cream (well, that part has changed…it used to be coffee with soy milk), take a bite of cracker, take a drink of tea, take a bit of cracker, and continue until it is all gone.

And while I eat, it is time to think. I ponder what is on my to-do list for the day. I contemplate new ideas, creative projects, and people to meet with. I savor the tastes and I savor the pause before the day really starts.

Time to Think…

Okay…I admit it, sometimes routines are comforting. Sometimes routines are good. Sometimes I like the same-old, same-old; the old stand-by; the reliable things…

Shhh! Don’t give away my fuddy-duddy secret…okay?!

(Photos taken by daughter Celia Emmelhainz — thanks for documenting daily life, sweetie!)


Happy New Year??

Seems like everyone I know went to New Year’s Eve parties a few nights ago. We stayed home. In fact most of the family was asleep long before midnight arrived. I’ve been pondering why I tend to skip this holiday, why it is no big deal, why I don’t get excited like others around me.

Some might say it’s because I’m getting old. But, I didn’t make a big deal out of New Year’s Eve/Day even when we were in our twenties. Maybe it’s because I don’t drink anymore. But, I’ve never enjoyed being surrounded by people getting drunk—even during college days. And our lack of celebration is not because we don’t have opportunities to go to special activities or invitations to parties.

So why is December 31 moving into January 1 not a big deal for me?

I realized it’s because this just doesn’t feel like the beginning of anything new. Yes, the calendar changes. But the dictates of tradition and calendar don’t change the feeling that this is still the middle of winter. It is a time to curl up with a good book and a cup of tea; a time to slog through bad weather and gray days. It is not yet a time for new beginnings.

I realized I DO celebrate each new year. I just celebrate it at a different time:

I love the beginning of new life surrounding Easter. It’s spring – moving from the dead of winter to hints and whispers of new greenery and baby critters. The sky and land are washed fresh and shining brightly. It is a time for family photos with every one dressed up in new outfits. It is also a time to celebrate the new life that is possible through Jesus’ death and resurrection. I love to celebrate the NEW YEAR starting at Easter.

Then comes my birthday at the end of May. Each year I like to look back at the previous year, then look ahead to the coming year. As you know, I have declared this year “my personal year of jubilee” as I move toward a new decade and a new half century of life. I love to celebrate the NEW YEAR that starts on my birthday.

One more new beginning is significant to me each year. Each fall is the start of a new year of school. For the past 20 years that has included getting organized, finding materials, and homeschooling at least some of our kids. I love the new school supplies, the fresh backpacks, and the excitement of new-to-us books and clothes. I love to celebrate the NEW YEAR that follows the school year schedule.

So…I will follow traditions today and wish each of you a happy new year in 2012, one filled with blessings from God and a clear sense of His presence as you walk through good times and difficult places.

If you want to see me excited, however, check back at Easter…and my birthday…and even when school starts in the fall. Then I will truly

CELEBRATE the coming of a new year!

Happy New Year!

Last Christmas of My Forties…

A friend recently pointed out that this would be the last Christmas of my forties. She suggested that I contemplate the season from that perspective, then write about it. So, here goes…

snowman angel

an unexpected Christmas Angel...

Looking back, I realize the most important thing about the holidays to me, is time spent with people. I enjoy gathering my own kids and doing special activities. I like spending time with friends in holiday settings—having coffee, window-shopping, attending a party together, worshipping and singing carols together in church. This year, with “only” two kids home with us, some of this togetherness had to be done via email and phone conversations. A trip back east for Thanksgiving also provided opportunities for spending time with family and friends.

okc light display

Traditional family outing to a wonderland of lights...

Our family has a zillion “traditions.” I’m not sure how many of these are significant to my kids, and I know my husband doesn’t much enjoy the holiday season (although he just might miss some of these activities if we didn’t do them…), but I know that I find comfort and pleasure in some things staying the same, even while so many things change from year to year.

sleeping anna

children tucked all snug in their beds...

Jakob and Anna found little treats in their (wicker) shoes (a gift from my sister from when she lived in Croatia) on St. Nicholas Day. Jakob was sad that we were in a hotel this year so he couldn’t set a trap for Santa Claus (a tradition started by his older brother Rob). Oh well, there’s always next year! I baked a zillion cookies, and I sewed at least some of the gifts for the kids.

mamas gifts

Sewing on Christmas Eve...a long-standing tradition!

Jakob and Anna made gifts for each other, for their cousins, and for their Dad. They opened one package on Christmas Eve – pajamas, of course! And then I forced them to stand beside their trees and have their picture taken. We didn’t have a family tree and it was only two of them this year…but the basic tradition of photo-of-kids-by-the-tree-in-their-new-pjs-on-Christmas-Eve was still upheld.

photo by the tree

Kids in pjs by the christmas tree--another tradition!

So that we could keep the traditions that have developed within our family for Christmas Day, we chose to celebrate on December 24th this year. (We spent the day at a church activity on the 25th.) Kids have to stay in bed until 9 am – but they find a wrapped book-on-the-bed when they wake up, to hopefully keep them occupied until they are allowed to come out of their rooms. We have stocking time, and breakfast, and gift opening. Then everyone enjoys their new toys and books and other gifts throughout the afternoon. Randy usually takes a nap. At some point, the older kids get bored and a card game is eventually started. Jakob and Anna used that boredom-buster technique on Christmas Eve this year.

dealing cards

card game among kids--traditional boredom buster!

And the food, the lovely Christmas spread… No, we don’t have a formal dinner, with dressy clothes, and seven courses. We go the other direction—total informality, day-long snacking, and “fancy” finger foods I don’t fix other times of year: crackers and cream cheese/shrimp/cocktail sauce spread, veggies and dip, broccoli salad, a shrimp ring, and lots and lots of cookies. And don’t forget all the candy in the stockings! There was an advantage to having only four of us celebrating together this year—I bought an entire pint of eggnog for EACH of us! What luxury!

christmas dinner

Christmas dinner---all day snacking!

Decorations change from year to year. I think I would get bored if they looked the same every year! And yet, some things are “always” part of the decorating: we string lights in individual windows. If teens feel up to it, we have outdoor lights on the house as well. (Thanks, Jakob, for this year’s glow!)

christmas lights

house all aglow...

Garland drapes over doors or windows. Stockings are hung early as decoration. And we always set up the nativity set I bought years ago. Kids build the scene, so the specific setting changes each year. This year, we added a Navajo hogan and weaving frame to our set. The little “Celia” spinner and a shepherd looked great in that corner.

nativity set

Our Nativity navajoland this year!

There have been some significant changes to our celebrations since our son James died 3 ½ years ago. We haven’t yet put up a full Christmas tree with everyone’s ornaments on it—what would we do with James’ collection of ornaments? The first year without him there was comfort in being scattered across the world (Ohio, Colorado, and Africa) for the holidays—it felt as if he just might be celebrating with one of the other family groups. We have had two years back together again. This year was the first time of making an effort to gather each summer rather than at Christmas. There are job-related reasons for this decision and hopes to make it easier to deal with (eventual) in-laws. But it also makes it a little less painful to celebrate the holidays without a gaping James-sized-hole in what “should” be a family centered Christmas.

stockings were hung

stockings were hung...with a bright bouquet in James' stocking...

This year was also different because it was the first time in many years that I hadn’t planned a full calendar of activities, studies, projects, and crafts as we home-schooled our way up to Christmas. On the one hand, there was less running and less stress. On the other hand, I confess I was a little bored. I guess next year I will try to find a balance between the two extremes.

The last Christmas of my forties? It was a good one. And I’m looking forward to many more enjoyable holiday seasons in the years to come…

Magical Christmas Memories

Do you remember magical Christmas window displays from your childhood? The ones with moving characters set in scenes, filling window after window in the big downtown department store?lazarus christmas tree

A few weeks ago, we stopped at the Precious Moments chapel near Joplin Missouri on our way home from our trip east. Walking through the store/café building brought back wonderful memories from childhood of enjoying special Christmas displays. The “village” was filled with a variety of moving characters—an artist in his studio, a carpenter on a roof, a chandelier-lit ball seen through a tower window and more. My kids were amused by the scenes. I was taken back to childish excitement.

precious moments village“Look!”

precious moments artist“What fun!”

precious moments dancers“Oh, Oh…look up there! They are dancing!”

My kids, as usual, humored me. Some times they just don’t really understand…

These moments took me back, way back to my childhood. To the long drive in the dark, all the way to down town Columbus, filled with overwhelmingly tall buildings. We got out of the warm car and walked, all bundled up against the nipping cold, looking into each display window along the sidewalk at the Lazarus department store. We walked from window to window, all the way around three sides of a city block, oohing and aahing over the scenes, each more wondrous that the last: elves in Santa’s workshop, classic stories (such as Alice in Wonderland) come to life, winter forest scenes, or scenes of polar bears and seals. (Were there penguins mistakenly in the same scenes? Or is that just a faulty imagination?) Tinny Christmas music was playing from speakers. Other families enjoyed the spectacle in front of and behind us. It felt like Christmas, looked like Christmas, and sounded like it, too. lazarus christmas window

Eventually, it was over. We had seen all the windows. We had oohed and aahhed until we were sated with wonder. We piled back in the car, then dozed in the warmth until we finally got back home and tumbled out of the car to head to our beds, with visions of window-scenes dancing in our heads.

Memories of “we always…” (Did we really? How many times did we actually make that pilgrimage??) Memories of wonder, and color, and movement. Memories of special family times at Christmas.

A few weeks ago, it was nice to be taken back, to be reminded, of the simple things that become magical when seen through the eyes of a child…

Some Things Never Change…

Much as I delight in change, there is comfort to be found in tradition, in “we always…”, in little things that can be relied on. The kids and I recently took a trip back to Ohio. My mom fixed a traditional dinner while we were home. And this time I not only enjoyed the little “always” things, but took a few photos as well.

Mom fixed a ham, and I snitched a few bits of the dark, crunchy bits of skin. There were also olives and 5-cup salad. Olives are enough of a family tradition that my little sister made a special hand-crafted fired-clay olive holder in art class one year. And 5-cup salad? It is a tradition handed down from my mom’s mom. “Salad” is really a misnomer—I’m not sure there is a single healthy thing in the dish. It is made from one cup each of mandarin oranges, crushed pineapple, mini marshmallows, coconut, and sour cream. Yum!

cranberry relish

Yummy "red stuff"

And no family dinner is complete without “red stuff” as my kids used to call it. Cranberry relish is a sweet and tart addition to all special meals throughout the year. Mom makes up large batches of it each year: grinding up fresh cranberries and oranges in her hand-cranked counter-mounted meat grinder then adding sugar to taste. Dinner sized batches are frozen for later use. To my mind, the relish must still be half frozen. To my little sister, it should be thoroughly thawed. She wasn’t present this time…so I got my way and enjoyed the icy taste!

Another tradition is using the “roly-poly glasses” for special occasions. Years and years ago, my Dad’s little brother worked in West Virginia and my mom bought a bunch of these special glasses at a glass factory in the area. I always get to use the pink one—and have fended off my sisters for years.

roly poly glasses

"my" pink roly-poly glass

I share most things with my kids, including tastes of bridge mix and starbucks frappucinos. I share food and books. I share shoes and clothes. But…I do NOT share “my” pink roly-poly glass. Sorry, Anna! Some things I just won’t share!

After all, traditions are traditions, and some things are not meant to be changed…

“Miracles” DO Happen


A miracle happened here last Friday night. I went to use the bathroom…and the roll of toilet paper had been changed! (Now maybe you have your family so well trained this occurrence is mundane at your house…but around here it is a miracle!)

The new roll was NOT just sitting on the edge of the sink. It was NOT propped precariously on top of the holder. The empty roll was in the trash can and the new roll was “clicked” firmly into its proper place. It was put in backwards (which really does make a difference when you have one of those fancy floor-stand holders.) But that’s okay—it was put ON the holder!

Now you may think I’m over-reacting. Yes, my husband does change the roll when the old one is completely empty. And I’m sure my older kids do the TP change-over themselves now that they live on their own.

BUT…my “baby” did this. The next generation has begun to take over the task…

You see, for years my mom and I have a running challenge going. If I change the TP at her house I get bragging/teasing rights. Same for her if she changes the roll at my house. Sometimes she has even “cheated” and moved an almost finished roll to “her” bathroom when she knows I’m coming, just so I won’t end up having to change it.

This has become both a running joke…and a way to do something little to help the other. And, last Friday night, Anna joined the party.

Thanks, Mom! And, thanks, Anna!