More Jake

Here's another photo of Jacob:

I love this picture. It almost looks posed, although anyone who knows Jacob knows that it's next to impossible to get him to pose for anything.

Another friend's blog

As Josh (a friend from work) pointed out, I neglected to add him to my list of friends' blogs. So I added him.

One more thing

Another quick note about my Christmas gift from Dad - he says, "every time you use it, you'll think of me."

This makes me very uncomfortable.

Christmas report

This was the first year I've ever woken alone in a house on Christmas morning. That was a little strange, and it was stranger still to get dressed and head out without talking to anyone but Dakota. Still, it was a wonderful day.

I went to my church's service in the morning, then ran home to pick up some things (including gifts, Dakota, and baking supplies) for the day and headed to Mom and Dad's house. We had brunch, then opened gifts and got ready for dinner with the rest of Mom's family. I stayed up late and did a lot of nothing, which, I think, is one of the best ways to spend Christmas.

I think my favorite gift was the KitchenAid stand mixer, from Mom and Dad. It was totally unexpected, and one of those things I just figured I would get when I got married and could register for it. After all, it's a luxury - a hand mixer works pretty well for most things you make. Oh, but it's nice.

The award for the most surprising and unexpected gift, though, would have to go to my dad -he bought me a toilet. His reasoning? The plumber said I needed one (the plumber really said I needed to use less toilet paper) and it would increase the value of my house. (He bought Katie and Mike a railing for their house, for the same reason - it will increase the value of their house. It will also make it much easier for him, and others, to get in their house).

So, I have to admit I was pretty surprised, and didn't know what to say (I had absolutely no idea that was coming. None. I'm pretty sure my mouth actually dropped open when I saw it). So, I need to decide which toilet I'm going to replace (either put the new one downstairs, or put the new one in my master bathroom upstairs and move that one downstairs - I need to find more about exactly what Dad bought me). Dad said he and Jon would help me, and I think I'm probably going to take advantage of it and replace the flooring in one or both bathrooms as well (both projects I had planned to undertake, at some point). Getting a toilet for Christmas definitely surpasses the hair-on-fire as my funniest Christmas moment.

I've got to go - Dad and I are going to see the Chronicles of Narnia. This will be my third time - really, it's that good.

Funny Christmas moment

I'm hesitating to post this, because I know I'm going to get teased about it at work.

But, it's just so ridiculously funny, I'm going to post it anyway.

Tonight, at the Christmas Eve candlelight service at my parents' church, I set my hair on fire.

I'm fine, you can't tell to look at my hair, I can't even find the burned strands, and no one noticed. Though my sister Kelli could smell it after I pointed it out to her.

I'm pretty sure, when it happened, I said, "oh, crap." Since no one heard me, I must have said it quietly - this is a good thing.

Friends' blogs

I've added link to several friends' blogs on the right.

The Thinking Padre - Nick used to be, until recently, the youth pastor at my parents' church, as well as a really good friend and an adopted member of my family. His wife Heather is one of the people in this world who knows me best. Nick and Heather, and their son Nathan, are planting a church in Virginia.

VBerg - Steph was my best friend when we both lived in Chicago. She moved to Grand Rapids shortly before I moved back home to Maryland.

sarah magda - Sarah is a friend from Taylor. We reconnected a couple years ago, when we joined several other college friends on a cruise to the Bahamas (even though she lived in DC, an hour away from me! go figure!). Sarah is moving to Lithuania soon.

This is creepy

Here's the weird thing about blogging, and having people you see every day read it - you forget that they actually know things before you might tell them.

Case in point - at work today, Jillian asked me how last night's dinner party went. I started to tell her, and Josh filled in with details. Josh wasn't at the dinner party - he just read the blog post I wrote last night, before this conversation.

This has happened before (Josh was involved then, too - hmm). I still do a double take.

It's kind of like, when you start to tell a story that you've forgotten you've already told, and someone finishes the story for you.

Domestic? Me?

I've been in a domestic mood lately.

Maybe it's the Christmas season, and all of the wonderful opportunities to cook and entertain. Maybe it's the Pampered Chef catalog party Kelli had recently, and all the inspiration I've gotten from that. Maybe it's just that I'm paying more attention to my finances, and trying to cut back on my more expensive hobby (shopping).

Tonight was our small group's dinner party, here at my house, and it went pretty well! We had some small issues. A few people came late, either because they had other plans or because they didn't know what time we were starting. And Bethany and I both experimented with two new recipes. My spinach and artichoke dip turned out really well, and the chocolate dip was decent (though not very much was eaten, since we also had apple pie and ice cream). Bethany's cheese fondue was good, but didn't work as well without the sterno, and the Spanish rice didn't turn out so well. But everything else was really good! We should do this more often.

I got to expand my table to the full 60-inch square, and I set it up with plates and all the night before. I even saw these cute little Christmas stockings on sale, so I bought several, filled them with candy, and placed one each plate. It looked really festive - I wish I had taken a picture before everyone arrived.

Need a stress reliever?

Here's something fun to check out:

My sister Katie, who works in retail, says she wanted to keep this site open on her computer all day and shake it whenever she had to deal with an annoying customer.

Christmas shopping - done.

I finished my Christmas shopping last night. The only things I have left to buy are some boxes, but I made a final list of those things, so I could easily take care of that this afternoon.

I also finished wrapping a huge number of presents, so there's only a handful left. I'd like to get those done tonight, but I also need to do some baking and cleaning in preparation for our dinner party tomorrow. I'm going grocery shopping and buying everything I need for the dinner party, Christmas Eve at my house, and Christmas brunch and dinner at Mom and Dad's. I'll need to go shopping again before my friend Kate's going-away party a week from today, but I haven't finalized the menu yet and need to do that first. I want to see what kinds of food I have left over first.

Christmas stuff

This morning our family had our annual Christmas breakfast at a local restaurant. But, because plans and reservations were made at the last minute, I had to be at my parents to go breakfast at 7:30. This means that I got up earlier today than I have any other day this month (and yes, you could probably extend that through another month or so, too).

After a bit of shopping, I headed home for my Christmas baking marathon. My friend Bethany came over to help, and it was good to just spend time with her. There were some successes and some failures, but as those were mostly with cookies I had never made before, I didn't feel too bad. The candy cane sugar cookies turned out kind of weird, so I'll only be sharing those with my family. :-) The stained glass cookies were a complete failure (I didn't even keep them), but the rest of the stuff turned out well. I took a bunch of it to the Young Life Christmas party tonight, and will package the rest into cookie/candy baskets for people at work.

Christmas gifts are going well, almost done, and if I force myself to finish my lists and spend a couple hours one evening this week, I should be able to take care of what's left.

The biggest thing still to do is my Christmas newsletter and cards. I have the notes I've made throughout the year, so writing the text will be a snap, but it's the layout of the newsletter that's slowing me down. I could just use a similar format as I did last year, but I'd really like to change things up a bit, and I can't decide what that looks like, exactly.

Blessings in disguise

It's Thursday night, and outside it seems that everything is one big sheet of ice. My normal Thursday plans, praise team practice, were canceled because of the weather, and also because of the weather, I'm basically stuck here. I could go out, I suppose, but as I'm not a big fan of driving or even walking on ice, I'm staying put. The rest of the evening stretches before me, and I'm trying to decide how exactly I want to spend it.

Being snowed in, so to speak, is a good thing, as otherwise I'd probably be hanging out my parents' house with the rest of my family, or out shopping (which I need to do sometime, but I don't need to do tonight). There's certainly enough to do around here that I don't need to be bored.

I could avoid using this time to get things done that I need to, but frankly, none of those usual time-wasters appeal to me at the moment. There are no books in my house that I want to read right now, I can't think of anything I really want to do online, and the first floor is so cold that watching a movie has no appeal, either.

I'm going to work in my office, I think, getting it decluttered and cleaned up and set up the way I want it. It's ridiculous, really, that's it's been in this state for so long. Hopefully, I can blitz through quite a bit of it.

Edited 8:50pm: Well, an hour later, the office looks a lot better - not nearly as much stuff on the floor. But, not yet done. And what have I been doing for the last 30 minutes? Playing around online, including downloading Narnia wallpaper for my computer. Back to work!

Edited 10:30pm: I can finally say that I'm done. All of it - everything is where it's supposed to be. The supplies on the shelf in the closet need to be sorted through, and possible reorganized, but they'll still end up on that same shelf. There's both a bag and several boxes of trash that need to go out, and a pile of stuff in the hallway that needs to go to Goodwill, but as far as clean/sorting/organizing the office, it's done. All that's left is the decorating. Boy, this feels good. I'm going to head downstairs and have a marathon gift-wrapping session, while I watch a movie and eat chocolate chip cookie dough.

The office project. Again.

Katie came over last night to help me set up the bed in my guest room and move my new desk into my office. We moved a few other things around, too, and I'm hoping this will be the kickstart I need to really get my office finished. It's not that much work, really, if I would just get off my butt and work on it. Not that I worked on it for very long after she left.

She brought Jacob with her, who fell asleep in the car and woke up the second she layed him on the sofa. When he wasn't asking us to go "all the way downstairs" to dance to the music I was playing through my DVD player, he was climbing up on his pirate ship (otherwise known as the bed we were trying to set up) and looking through his spyglass (otherwise known as a roll of wrapping paper). I love his imagination - I think my conversations with him are usually the best ones I have all day.

A follow-up from the unexpected...

I've often heard Brad quote statistics from a National Census Bureau survey that claims that 1 in 3 high school students has thought about killing themselves, and 1 in 10 has actually planned out how to do this. I believe this statistic - I've talked to enough high-schoolers (and remember high school well enough) to remember how whatever you're in the middle of always feels bigger than anything else, and often bigger than you.

Still, the number is really staggering to think about, especially when you start applying the statistic to people you know. For example, you're sitting in a room with 30 high school students, and you realize that if the statistics hold up, 10 of them have thought about killing themselves, and 3 have planned out how they would do it. For all of my attempts to realize just how staggering this is in my head, it has still felt a little abstract to me.

Until Friday night, when I'm out to dinner with several friends, and we're talking about this high school student who just took her own life. There are eight of us there, and two friends are sharing about how they were those 1-in-10 when they were high school. It was a good conversation, as I got to pick their brains a bit about what they were thinking (did they think no one would care? did they just not care if anyone else cared? how did their family and friends' reactions play into their thoughts, or did it at all?), I realized, this is really true. There are far more high school students who actually think about killing themselves than anyone realizes, and since by nature it's such a private, deeply-held secret, the problem just seems overwhelming.

Anyway, I don't know what to do with all of these thoughts, or this new-found awareness.

Hooray for snow days!

Here's one perk they didn't list in my benefits package, but probably ranks among one of the things I most enjoy: they (whoever they is) will actually close Army posts during snowstorms, and since I happen to work on an Army post, I sometimes get snow days. It's a wonderful thing, and I'm oh-so-glad it's not limited to students and those who work with them as a career.

So, my teacher friends (I have a lot of those) and I, plus one other friend who has yet to find a job, went to see The Chronicles of Narnia.

By the way, the movie was absolutely amazing. I'd heard it was amazing, and still surpassed my expectations. Definitely the best movie I've seen all year.

Heather says I should dedicate a blog to all of the crazy things my family does. I would certainly update it more often than my own, recent entries not withstanding. But, here you go, proof that crazy people attract crazy people for friends. I was telling my family about the movie, including my 16-year-old brother's friend Chris, and in particular I was going on and on about the amazing graphics, and I said, "If I didn't know for a fact that lions don't talk, I'd be tempted to believe it." Chris says, "How do you know lions don't talk?" I had no answer for that.

Introducing Secret Agent Picklehead

I'm pretty sure I have the cutest nephew ever.

Jacob's latest thing is to run around wearing sunglasses and calling himself "Secret Agent Picklehead" (his name, honestly - he came up with it completely on his own). He puts his hand out and says "You'll never get the key!" (This is from a Backyardigans episode). But, since Jacob is two, this sounds more like "You'll never det da dee!"

This photo was taken with Katie's camera phone on Sunday.

The unexpected

On Monday, one of the teenagers who attends my church took her own life.

I didn't know her, and though I know who her parents are, I don't know them well. I can't even begin to imagine their grief and confusion. I know there are lots of people who are really from this. I don't know that you ever expect suicide (because then, wouldn't you be doing something about it), but when it's someone who everyone says to have been happy, healthy, and well-adjusted, it just seems that the questions are unending.

I'm thinking a lot of Doug's death, almost two years ago now, and watching Nick and Heather walk through that. And mostly, I just find myself thinking about it, with no way to put into words my thoughts or feelings.

Mostly I think it's so overwhelming because I can't imagine ever being at that place, that place where you literally feel like there are no more options, where the fear of death and dying is less than the fear of living. Is that mental illness? Is it spiritual?

I don't know.

Hi, Dad

My father has found my blog. Or, to be more accurate I showed it to him.

He says I shouldn't be allowed to write about him on the Internet (see the blog below, Strange Christmas music). I say, if he can talk about me to the old people in his classes, I can certainly post about the ridiculous things he does. As a matter of fact, that would be a blog in itself.

Good quote

I spent some time today reading my friend Nick's blog. I knew he had one, but had never read it. Now I have.

Anyway, I think this is my favorite post:

Nick, your dad is a wise man.

Strange Christmas music

I'm a huge fan of most things Christmas, including Christmas music, and yet even I am surprised by this one: Pokemon Christmas CD. Am I the only person that finds this a bit odd?

I'm just sitting here working, listening to AccuRadio's Holiday Pop station, and out of nowhere, this craziness comes through my speakers.

A couple more stories that make me just shake my head..
  • Did you know that you can make angel Christmas ornaments out of tampons? And that people actually do this? And hang them on their tree? And give them as gifts?
  • A few days ago I was helping Mom clean out her front room, and I carried two hot chocolate machines down to the basement. At first, I assumed they were gifts. But no, they're not. They're back-ups. Dad wanted a couple extra ones around in case the one he has in the kitchen, that works, stops working. Seriously. Two extras.