Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Christmas 09

We had a really lovely Christmas this year. I expected the opposite. We've been moving and remodeling and unpacking and remodeling some more. We've been building for chickens and the dog. We broke ground for part of the garden and planted. Normally I knit for the kids for Christmas. We don't have much of a budget for Christmas and they enjoy getting things made especially for them. But with so many house things going on all Fall, I did almost no knitting, aside from a special project for someone outside the family. And since Gregory got an expensive present for his birthday, he had no money left in the budget for Christmas. However this year we decided as a family to really focus more on giving to others. It is the day we celebrate Jesus's birthday and we know He loves people. We've been so inspired by our friend Bob the Builder, who has given so much to us over the last couple of months. So the kids decided to buy presents for each other from the little bit of money they each had and we spent a good chunk of time baking presents and visiting neighbors.

Their generosity with each other filled the space under the tree with presents.

The kids excitedly gathered in front of the Christmas tree on Christmas morning this year, eager to give their gifts to each other.

Each gift, while not expensive, resulted from a great deal of thought and planning.

Gregory couldn't wait to give Michael a dart gun of his very own. Michael constantly played with Gregory's old gun and the single dart remaining from the original collection. In fact, Gregory spent a good portion of the money he had been saving for a special computer game to give Michael a deluxe dart gun with plenty of darts. Gregory's thoughtfulness really touched me because my kids don't get much money to spend on themselves. They really have to save for a long time for the things they especially want.

My lovely daughter enjoys giving to others more than anything. She started the Christmas present shopping and infected Michael. Gregory quickly caught the giving bug later.

I asked Gabrielle what she wanted for Christmas. For a long time she wanted the last 4 books in a set she'd started reading a couple years ago. By the time she asked, the publishing company had gone out of business and the books were out of print. Fortunately, a few months ago I purchased the last few books knowing they would soon no longer be available. Gabrielle couldn't believe she finally had the chance to discover how the story ended.

We also got Gabrielle a charging station for her iPod. I'm hoping this will keep her from losing it. Now she has a place to keep it.

I stumbled upon a sale at Toys R Us the week before Christmas and found a Transformer toy for Michael. When Michael opened it he told us he always wanted one. How convenient.

Since Gregory didn't get a Christmas present from us, we let him open all of the general gifts.

One of our neighbors sent over a gift and I had picked up a couple movies for the family as well.

Grandma sent gifts to everyone including a nifty multi-tool for Kurt.

Kurt had a tool themed Christmas. I purchased a set of tools when we moved which Kurt has been using during our home remodel. These were an early Christmas present.

Kurt found a lovely vintage cedar chest at his store which he thought to give me for Christmas. However, Kurt couldn't finally decide to get the chest because he wasn't quite positive I would like everything about it. Then one day I visited his store while he was out. As I waited for him to return, I looked around and found the chest, which I bought on the spot. I'd been wanting one for a long time. In the end we decided it would be my Christmas present anyway. It needs to be refinished and I am hoping Kurt will put it in the queue of ongoing projects and get to it soon.

Our home remains my favorite Christmas present by far. Bob the Builder recently brought over another surprise.

I had mentioned I wanted to put up some 2 x 4s along the wall in the kitchen where no cabinets would fit. I told Bob I could use the small shelves for canning jars. Apparently when I turned around he rolled his eyes and started measuring. He told Kurt not to tell me, but he would take care of my canning shelves.

Bob the Builder amazed us once again. These shelves completely outdo anything I could conceive. They are beautiful and the gleaming rows of jars look fantastic in my kitchen. I love being able to see what I have canned too. It helps me plan.

The sun room is very close to being finished.

We still need doors to close the hole between it and our bedroom and we need a new ceiling fan. My warping board still sits under the coffee table stowed until I paint the wall upon which it is to be mounted. Even still, I LOVE my sun room. It reminds me of the lanai in our old Gulf Breeze house. And Michael got me a little table top fountain for the sun room for Christmas, like the one we had in Gulf Breeze. Yes, we had a very good Christmas indeed.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Busy, Busy, Busy

Like always, December rushed by in a whirlwind of busyness. Gregory's thirteenth birthday sprang upon me despite my firm belief he could not possibly have grown so old.

For more than a year, Gregory wanted an iPod Touch.

But he dared not hope for one. They are out of our budget. Little did he suspect I found a good buy online. Of course, we didn't want to be too obvious.

I'd sort of suggested Gregory could expect a new computer game for this birthday. After all, an iPod plugs into the computer and you do play with it.

Gregory's last iPod died after being sent through the washing machine no less than 5 times. Either Apple makes an amazing product to survive 4 washings or my front load washing machine cleans marginally, if at all. Unfortunately, I suspect the latter.

Gregory swears there is no way this iPod will go into the laundry. I suspect he may be right because he never puts it down long enough to forget about it or wash it. In fact, I told Gregory I would need his iPod on Christmas Eve so I could put it under the tree. The iPod is also Gregory's Christmas present. At first he wanted something under the tree, but now he is not certain he can part with the iPod even overnight on Christmas Eve. I'm glad he is happy, though I'm not too happy about seeing him constantly wired to the thing.

Despite all the distracting work of moving and renovating, I had a hard time wrapping my head around the idea of having a teenager in the house.

Nevertheless, I had to put 13 candles on his cake. Unreal. It really seems like he was just a little guy not that long ago. I realize all parents say that, but it is really true.

And my little fellow, who once could not blow out the few candles on his cakes, easily blew out all 13 this year. Happy birthday Gregory.

Squeezed in between the holidays, our friend and hero Bob the Builder and his mighty son Adam spent a couple of days helping us with a couple of tiling projects.

This time I got to use the wet saw so now I think I could tile by myself if I had to tile by myself. And since we have some tile left over and there are no floors in two of the closets, I anticipate tiling by myself eventually.

Kurt also got a few lessons in tiling.

Kurt worked with Bob in both the master bathroom and the kitchen. Not only is Bob amazing when it comes to building and installing stuff, but he is a good teacher as well.

Bob also taught me how to do the grout part of tiling. Grouting isn't hard in itself however, being hunched over freezing cold tiles in the dead of winter in a room without insulation when one is no longer young can be a bit of a challenge.

After grouting and incidentally after Bob left which is generally when things are likely to go wrong, I tried to seal the grout with a couple different products. The grout never actually sealed according to the descriptions on the products. Kurt and I sought help and we couldn't actually find anyone who had successfully sealed their grout to the place where it wouldn't absorb water afterwards. I now suspect grout sealing is not real. I think someone is making a lot of money with an idea that just sounds good. However, if someone has actually sealed their grout to the point where it is no longer absorbent, I'd sure like to hear about it.

Gabrielle and I decided to continue our Christmas baking tradition this year despite not being very moved in yet.

So we spent a couple of long days making candy and cookies.

And we piled the goodies onto 25 plates, which was the number we thought we needed.

Kurt brought a couple of the plates to work and the rest went to our new neighbors and friends at church.

The kids and Kurt were relieved to find plenty of left-overs. We ate them pretty fast though.

Gabrielle decided to participate in the Christmas program at church this year.

The kids were all so cute.

At first Michael said he wouldn't participate. He has never liked being in front of a crowd.

Everyone wanted him to be the donkey.

They didn't have anyone to play the donkey role.

But every day, Michael refused, until the morning of the production.

Finally, Michael agreed to be the donkey. (I think he had such a great time meeting our new neighbors the day before when we brought our Christmas goodies around the neighborhood that he finally decided people were fun.)

Although Michael told us he would be in the Christmas production, he told us he would NOT sing.

And he didn't. Gabrielle did a great job in her angel role and sang beautifully, which is not a normal thing in this family. We really don't have good voices in general and mine is absolutely terrible.

While Michael looked bored and sleepy. (I love that Michael still fits into the Dale sweater I knit for him a couple years ago. However, this will be the last year he will be able to wear it.)

I don't know why he refused to sing.

Since he sings all the time at home.

But that is my quirky little guy.