Thursday, December 29, 2011

Brothers and superheros

Let me tell you about my brother.  Or better yet, let me embarrass my brother by writing an entire blog post about him.  I'll refer to him as "Day-go" from here on know to protect his "real" name, and well, because "Day-go" was what I called him when we were you know...its cute. 

Day-go and I are a few months shy of 2 years apart.  He is older. Our birthdays fell in a way that we were only one grade apart in school.  I would venture to say that our relationship is similar to most older brother/younger sister pairs.  He always watched out for me, and I bugged him a bit.  Growing up, Day-go and I were pretty much like night and day.  I had dark hair and dark eyes, he had light hair and light eyes.  I took after my mom's family and he could never have denied relation to my dad's kinfolk.  I was a diligent student, stayed out of trouble, and followed the rules...and he...well let's just say he was different than me.  

I am told that when I was very small and still sleeping in the crib, Day-go would wake up early and crawl into the crib with me.  My parents would get a few extra minutes of relaxing in bed while they listened to us "talk" on the monitor.  Which mostly consisted of him making me laugh.  He was quite the entertainer.  As we grew older, I never remember a time we did not get along.  I can count two times (I am not exaggerating) that we actually got into a real fight.  When we both entered into the horrid middle school years we kept out of each others way and only acknowledged each others existence at home.  But nonetheless, we continued to get along and remain civil.

When we hit high school, we ran with the same crowd, had the same friends, and got into the same kinds of trouble.  All the while, Day-go had his "big brother radar" on high, always keeping a watchful eye.  Day-go was well known at our high school and I was well known as "Day-go's sister".  I know for some folks, being known as "someone's sister" is annoying, but I liked it, I wanted everyone to know who's sister I was, I was proud to have the label.  

A curious thing happened after high school.  Even while going our separate ways, Day-go and I continued to cross paths within the same social groups.  We attended the same parties, hung out at the same coffee shop and most often folks could find one where the other was.  Day-go was as much my friend as he was my brother.  

To this day our relationship continues to be the same, equal parts friend, equal parts sibling.  Day-go has taught me many things and made me laugh many times.  He married an amazing woman who is like the sister I never had and together they made me an aunt to two amazing little boys.  I am lucky they live close to me and I visit them every week.  So, when Day-go suggested that this year, as a gift to our mom, we should take a picture of just the two of us, I was definitely on board.  The last picture we have of just us, was from high school.  Day-go's lovely wife took our pictures one day and we gave them to our mom for Christmas.  

I love these pictures, because they are the still life proof of what we share.  I could not have asked for a better brother or a better friend.  I am so proud to be "Day-go's sister".   

 This is the picture we made larger for my mom.  

The next few were put into a collage

 I told you he always knows how to make me laugh!

These are two of my favorite candid shots.

Yep, it was that funny. 

I saw this quote once and it always makes me think of Day-go...

     "Sometimes being a brother is even better than being a superhero." -Marc Brown 

Not just because he used to dress up in a superman cape and jump off the hearth (sorry Day-go) but because having an older brother like him was like having a personal superhero, someone to look up to and someone who was always there whenever I needed him.  Thanks Day-go!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

Here is the fifth and final installment of my favorite Christmas memories.  You can read my last four here, here, here, and here.  

Merry Christmas!  I hope you all are enjoying your morning!  Christmas morning has always been a special time for me.  As a kid, it was the anticipation and the excitement of seeing what Santa brought and even in to adulthood, I still felt that excitement but it was often directed more towards giving the perfect gift and seeing loved ones.  As I have mentioned before, we spent most of our Christmas mornings at my Grandma Louise and Grandpa Offey's house.  I loved waking up with my other cousins, sneaking in to the den to see what kind of loot we scored!  There are too many memories of the many Christmas mornings to share just one.  It's like a whirlwind of images and if I put them all together it would make the most perfect Christmas!

There was the year where Santa left clues and a scavenger hunt to find where our presents were hidden.  The year my cousin got a Barbie mansion that we played with for hours.  The year "Santa" forgot to put out the presents before we woke up (to credit my parents, we were all old enough to know who the real Santa was) and we had to wake up our parents, go back to bed, and wait for "Santa" to come and leave our gifts.  Oh, and every year my aunts and uncles and other cousins would stop by in the afternoon and we would have a big meal and more presents.  Every Christmas Day seemed to last forever, there was always one more gift to open, one more family member to see.

Now that I am an adult and some of these traditions have changed I am making new memories of Christmas.  I look forward to spending time with family, sharing memories of Christmases past, watching the younger generation's excitement over Santa and the season.  I have enjoyed making gifts this season, each one made specifically for a special person.  The past five years, I have enjoyed spending Christmas with my husband and his family.  This year my family visited on Christmas Eve.  We ate homemade Brunswick Stew and pimento cheese sandwiches.  This evening my hubby's family is coming in to town for a few days.  We are cooking a pork butt on the smoker today, a nice relaxing activity on a cool Christmas Day.  This Christmas, I wake up to a quiet house with just me and my husband.  I miss the hustle and bustle of a house full of family, but I cherish the time we get to spend together on the wonderful holiday.

I hope you and yours have a wonderful Holiday Season.  Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The stars

Here is my Christmas Eve installment of my favorite Christmas memories.  You can read my last three here, here, and here

First I would like to tell you about a long standing tradition on my dad's side of the family.  Every Christmas Eve, my dad's entire family (now, when I say entire, I mean entire...aunts, uncles, great-aunts, great-uncles, cousins, 2nd cousins, 3rd cousins..well you get the idea) would get together and celebrate.  It was just like a family reunion, just on Christmas Eve.  There would be pot-luck style grub, Christmas carols, a Christmas play, and even a visit from Santa Claus!  Now, the Christmas play was all the youngin's dressed in various robes and white trash bags, acting out the birth of Christ and Santa would be some unlucky uncle dressed in a Santa suit.  But we all had fun and everyone looked forward to the festivities each year.

This tradition dates back as far as my dad can remember and it has continued to happen every year since.  Although this tradition in and of itself provides a wonderful and lasting memory, it's not the actual event I remember, as much as the ride home.  Almost every year we spent the night at my Grandma Louise and Grandpa Offey's house on Christmas Eve.  After the get together, we would head to their farmhouse.  

Now, you have to keep in mind, that at the get-together we had just had the privilege of seeing Santa with our own eyes.  We didn't know he wasn't the real deal.  He showed up with presents in a bag, with OUR names on them!  I mean, it had to really be the Big Guy.  Our parents were very good about reminding us that he was "in the area" and that we better get ourselves home quickly and in to bed, so as to avoid the inevitable "kids who are awake get skipped over by Santa" conundrum. 

So even though seeing family, acting out a play, and sitting on Santa's lap was more than exciting for this little girl, it was always the ride home that lulled me into the proverbial sugar plums and candy canes trance.  I remember sitting in the back seat of the car, my head tilted against the cool window, gazing out at the stars, hoping for a quick glimpse of Santa's sleigh.  I know there is a pretty good chance my parent's encouraged this behavior as to further their plans to get us in bed soon after crossing the threshold of the farmhouse.  But, alas I found myself mesmerized by the stars. 

The years we did not stay at the farmhouse, we took the hour long journey back to our house.  I still remember the same feeling of wonder while searching the skies for Santa.  Now, I would like to say that this behavior slowly waned as the years passed, but that is simply not true.  I remember one year, as an adult, I was riding back from the get together with my parents.  I was sitting in the backseat of the car with my Grandma Louise.  I remember leaning my head against the window and seeing the stars twinkling in the sky.  Of course, I was not looking for Santa that night (I swear I wasn't!).  But that night, as the stars rushed by and we headed home, I found myself in a kid-like trance, dreaming of what joy Christmas Day would bring.  

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Gift wrap please!

This is the third installment of my favorite Christmas memories.  You can read my first two here and here

I have always enjoyed wrapping gifts.  As a kid I enjoyed picking the perfect paper and ribbon, tying bows and placing the tag in the perfect place.  I loved a DO you wrap a basketball so it doesn't look like a basketball?  And, I was queen of wrapping little things in big boxes to confuse and excite the receiver.  Not to mention, a tree just looks too bare without gifts underneath.  There is nothing short of pure joy then when you put freshly wrapped gifts under a twinkling tree. 

I am sure my mother loved my gift wrapping excitement.  There were even years when I wrapped my own gifts, under the ruse that they were for a cousin or a friend's little girl.  I was none-the-wiser, as long as I got to put a pretty bow on it, I didn't care who it was for!  I remember years when mom and I would set up a wrapping station in the guest bedroom.  I am sure I bugged her to death, wanting to wrap things that were not ready to be wrapped and searching for new things that needed festive wrapping paper.  

I remember one year when I was probably 8 or 9, during a wrapping session, I wrapped a clock radio for my Grandpa.  We had put batteries in the radio so it would be all ready to go when he opened it on Christmas Day.  As soon as I put the last piece of tape on the radio, and flipped the box over, we heard music coming from inside.  I must have hit the button when I was putting it back in the box and now we had a singing Christmas gift.  Well, instead of carefully opening the package, I frantically ripped off the paper as if I was opening my own gift from Santa.  Mom looked on in shock and then explained that we could have just opened one end carefully, but now we will have to re-wrap the entire thing!  Imagine my disappointment...muwahahahaha...wrap it again?  Oh what a shame.  So I proceeded to wrap the gift again, secretly wishing I could wrap presents forever!  

Nowadays, I still look forward to wrapping gifts.  I try to find interesting ways to wrap gifts for other occasions, but Christmas gifts are in a category of their own.  I still like to get the festive holiday paper and bows, wrapping each gift slowly, savoring the perfection of a neatly wrapped box.  Now, I am sure you are all clambering to call me over to your abode to wrap your mountain of Christmas gifts...but I would never want to rob you of the joy...I mean it is Christmastime after all :-)

The Manger

Here is my second "installment" of my favorite Christmas read yesterday's post about the Birthstone Ornament go here!

As a kid, I always loved to listen to the Christmas Story.  My Grandpa Horace would read the story from the Bible every year.  We talked about it in church and my parents reminded me each year that Santa was not the only important person at Christmas.  We always had a Nativity scene as part of our Christmas decorations and one of my favorite parts of decorating the house was setting it up.  I am a little embarrassed to say that as a child it was not because of what it symbolized, I just loved setting up those little figurines and putting them in the perfect spot.  It was kind of like playing with my Barbies, but more special.  

My brother and I both had a Nativity scene.  When the time came to set up them up, I would find the perfect spot on the shelf.  I would slowly unwrap each figurine, gently placing them to the side until they were all free from their storage cocoons.  Then, I would place each piece in just the perfect place.  I loved the fact that my Nativity had animals too, they were my favorite part!  (I know, I should have like Baby Jesus the most, but hey, I was a kid who loved animals, can you blame me?)  And the years my brother did not want to set his up was like an early Christmas present!  You mean I get to set up TWO Nativity scenes?  Score! 

Even as I grew older, I still looked forward to setting up the Nativity scene each year.  Every year the same excitement would wash over me and I would be like a kid again.  My old Nativity scene is packed away in a box at my parents house.  It makes it out every so often at Christmas, but I am not usually around when my parents decorate.  The first few years, when I was no longer living with my parents and I had my own Christmas decorations, I often missed setting up the Nativity scene. 

Then, after Hubby and I got married, his Pop and Nanny gave us the most beautiful Nativity scene as a Christmas gift.  I was so excited to have a Nativity for my own house.  Although this one will never take the place of my childhood Nativity, I still have the same excitement each year when I drag the Christmas decorations down from the attic.  I slowly open the boxes for each figurine, unwrap them and place them in the perfect spot.  I still feel like a kid when I set it all up and step back to admire the scene.  Not to mention, this Nativity scene has animals too!  As an adult, I now truly cherish the meaning of the Nativity scene and what it represents...but I have to admit that the animals are still one of my favorite parts!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Birthstone Ornament

With Christmas quickly approaching (only 4 more days!), I find myself thinking more and more about what I love about this time of the year.  The memories I have collected over the years are priceless, but there are a few very specific memories that make Christmas special for me. 

As an adult, I notice each year how things evolve and change.  How traditions shift to the new generations and how hard it is to let go of the traditions you held as a child and allow them to change with growing families.  So, in honor of making and keeping memories at Christmas, I thought I would share with you for the next 4 days, some of my cherished memories from this wonderful season.

From the time I was a wee little one until later in my teenage years, Grandma Edith and Grandpa Horace (my mom's parents) would give each of us grandchildren a gift at Christmas.  Since most of us were girls (except my poor brother who was the only boy for many years until he was joined in ranks by my youngest cousin "N") Grandma Edith and Grandpa Horace often got us all the same gift.  We were all aware that our gifts were likely to be the similar and so when it came time to open them, we would count down and everyone would open their gifts at the same time.  We were clever, weren't we?  This way, we could avoid any "spoilers".  We were always grateful for the gifts given to us by our grandparents.  We knew they took lots of time to find the perfect gift that we would all love. 

The truth is, I don't really remember many of the actual gifts they gave us over the years.  Except one.  The Birthstone Ornament.  Grandma Edith loved the Christmas Season.  After she passed away, Christmas was always very hard for my Grandpa and the entire family.  We would get together and follow all of the same traditions from years past, then when we would sit down and Grandpa would read the Christmas story from the Bible, tears and sniffles would start.  We were all missing Grandma Edith.  But, for the years following Grandma's passing, Grandpa was always determined to keep up with the gift giving.  

One year, we all happily opened our packages.  This year the gifts were the same but also special, precious, and unique.  You see, when each grandchild was born, Grandma and Grandpa had bought a Birthstone Ornament to hang on their tree.  That year, Grandpa gave us each our ornaments.  There was a note tucked inside the box....
          "Dear Melissa, Grandma and I bought this ornament when you were born and each year we hung it on our tree, and later Grandma put all 8 of them on a ribbon and each year at Christmas we hung them on the hall clock.  I want you to have it now and each year when you hang it on your tree, do as in memory of Grandma.  Love Grandpa."

Now that Grandpa is no longer with us, each year I hang this ornament in memory of them both.  Each year, I unfold the note, and admire Grandpa's words.  The note tucked inside the box brings tears to my eyes every Christmas.  Each year, I open the box and on the label, written by my Grandma the year I was born, is my name and birthday.  Each year I hang this ornament on my tree and think of the precious memories I made with both of them.  I always make sure to find the perfect spot, safely hung on a sturdy branch at the top of the tree.  

Although this ornament sometimes makes me sad to think I wont spend another Christmas with Grandpa Horace and Grandma Edith, I cherish the happy memories it brings.  And, every time I walk past my tree, the glittering red ornament catches my eye and makes me smile.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

An army of snowmen

On Wednesday nights I work at a local center in a program for high school juniors.   Tomorrow night is our last session until after the holidays.  I wanted to make something sweet and festive for the kids in the program, so I made these...

The snowmen are made from marshmallows and "glued" to ginger snaps with icing, the hands are pretzel sticks, the face and buttons are icing and the hat is made from two spice drops.  I saw the idea here.  I will have to admit that they were time consuming, constructing each snowman individually was a little tedious.  But nevertheless, I enjoyed it!

Of course, after all that work, who could resist playing "Army of Snowmen"?  Hubby suggested I line them all up for battle...and the foolishness continued from there...
 "Freedom!"  (Hubby thought I should have painted their faces Braveheart style)

Hubby suggested I use "parts" to depict the dead snowmen already lost in the battle, but I decided, in the observance of Christmas Spirit, to just show the stand-off...

then to imagine, they all made up and enjoyed a nice soak in a hot tub full of cocoa...

Are you making any fun treats for the holidays?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

I love this...

These made me think of Kyra-dog, she loved her little Octopi (as we so lovingly called her Blue Octopus).  What a quick and easy gift one of these would be for a little person.  I think I know the perfect little niece to make one of these for!

Check it out at Grosgrain