Monday, December 31, 2012

Who's On First? Or Second?

The ornament we gave Kinley says it was her first Christmas.
Her shirt said it was her first Christmas.
But this was technically Kinley's second "Christmas" with us. She was the best party crasher of all time.

Kinley was supposed to arrive in January 2012. Instead, she arrived on December 30, 2011. She crashed our little family Christmas that was supposed to happen that evening. Instead, we opened our family presents on January 1, the day she came home from the hospital. (Yes, she already had presents under the tree and plenty of "stuff" in her stocking without Grandma having to do a bit of last-minute shopping.)
Her stocking originally had a sonogram photo. By the time she opened her stocking last year, we had already substituted a photo with pink Powercat stocking hat.
It's amazing to see how much she has changed during the past year. She's definitely bigger than her stocking now.

She is walking ...
... and "talking" (now if we just knew what she was saying)  ...
... and discovering new things every day - such as liking stuffed Santas much better than the mall version.
So, whether this year was her first or second Christmas with us, we're sure glad she arrived.

She's a gift and a blessing.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Christmas Bloopers

Christmas Eve at my parents' house is both a Christmas celebration and a birthday bash for my Mom. Since the first grandchild was born in 1982, we've been taking the annual snapshot of Grandma and the grandkids.

My brother had the right idea. Instead of trying to capture the moment with a still camera, he was shooting video. I think there were eight cameras in the room. From seeing what the other people have posted on Facebook, I don't think anybody got the perfect posed photo of four great-grandchildren under the age of 2 1/2.
This cast of characters was in perpetual motion. Well, I think maybe Benson sat still. The 3-month-old didn't even get upset when 20-month-old Neelly got right up in his face. 
Neelly is going to have a little brother or sister next month. Do you think that her Mommy will have lots of help? I do. She will be glad to make sure the baby has all its eyes, ears and other important features and do a careful examination of said parts.
Kinley, almost 1 year, wasn't sure what to think about the whole process. And Braden, at 2 years and 4 months, was glad to help us sing the Happy Birthday song.
This is the best one I got. Sad, but true, right?
The seven grandchildren were better behaved. Of course, they've had lots of practice. And it's taken awhile for them to perfect the annual photo.
1994 - The first year with all seven grandchildren
My Mom has had a little practice with posing for her Christmas Eve birthday photo, too. Didn't she do a good job?
Our annual Christmas Eve birthday shot isn't going to make it onto a photo website, showing the "how-to" to create the perfect holiday photo. It's not about photography's Rule of 1/3s or perfect lighting. It's about family - all the imperfections and all the messiness. There's a lot of beauty in that - if you just know where to look.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

For Unto Us A Child Is Born

Stained glass window at the Cathedral of the Plains, Victoria, KS
For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder. And His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9: 5-7

May you have a blessed Christmas with family and friends! I saw this video, The Cross in Christmas, on another blog. It has beautiful photos and the song When Love Was Born performed by Christian artist Mark Schultz, who is a native Kansan and K-State grad. Enjoy! It's definitely worth the listen to put you in the Christmas spirit!

Christ the babe comes in Christmas as Christ the Savior comes on the cross - seeking only our embrace. 

I'm taking a few days off from the blog for the holidays. Enjoy your time with family! 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Santa Babies

Love is what's in the room with you at Christmas 
if you stop opening presents and listen.
-- Anonymous
This Santa's helper was extra special to our family. It was typecasting for Melvin, Randy's Dad. Nobody had to twist his arm to don the red suit and beard each year for Stafford's Santaland.
It gave him the perfect opportunity to keep adults guessing and interact with his favorite people - kids.
In some ways, it's hard to believe that it's been 10 years since he passed away and 16 since Marie died. We're thankful for the memories. And we're still making new ones, though the celebration has changed - and the people might look at little different these days, too. We picked up Brent at the airport last evening, then met Kathy, Dave and Emily at Hangar One. Amanda was sick, and Jill, Eric & Kinley were traveling back from Iowa. And that's OK. Next time, it may be a different combination of faces and places. But it's not the day or the location that matters: It's family - whether all the different puzzle pieces are together or just in our hearts and minds and memories.

The changes are evident on my side of the family, too. Today is my Mom's birthday. The annual birthday photo with Grandma and the grandkids was first complete in 1994, the year Madison was born. It was tough to capture all the faces in the photo. That hasn't gotten any easier.
Last year, there were two great-grandchildren to add to the family photo. This year, there are already two more. But that photo snapshot will be obsolete next month, when my niece has her second baby.
Braden, Neelly and Great-Grandma
Today, I'm thankful for family and making memories.

Friday, December 21, 2012


OK, I'm going to be one of those cooks today. Yes, I am that annoying cook who didn't measure. It's very unlike the very precise, perfectionist me. But I promise it will be OK.

At a discount store, I saw a snack mix that had rice squares and mini pretzels. Some of the pretzels were coated with white almond bark and some were left naked. Yes, naked.

It was packaged in snack-sized little bags, so I bought one. There really wasn't much to it. So I decided to make some for a few homemade gifts from the kitchen.

I purchased the micro-mini pretzels at Glenn's Bulk Foods. They are the perfect size for this mix. Of course, it seems everyone has rice squares in their arsenal at this time of year when party mix is prevalent. Likewise for the almond bark.

I simply melted a whole package of almond bark. (I use my microwave, taking care not to burn it. I usually melt it at 70 percent power for 1 minute at a time, stirring well after each microwave session.) Then I poured in a little more than half of the one-pound package of the mini pretzels and added rice cereal until I thought it was just about right. I wanted enough to give a nice coat to all the pretzels and cereal. This is not an exact science, people. After stirring well, I poured in a little more of the rice squares. Obviously, it's easier to add cereal than take it out.

I poured it out on waxed paper to set up. After it hardened, I broke it apart as much as I could without crunching cereal into bits and then stirred in the uncoated pretzels. Just for fun and color, I added an ingredient not present in the purchased mix - a bag of Pretzel M&Ms.

I packaged the mix in holiday bags and delivered the goods.

There are a couple of differences between the homemade snack mix and the purchased version:
  • The packaged snack mix was less "clumpy" than mine. From watching shows on the Food Network, I suppose they had a machine that shook the excess almond bark off the dry goods and gave it an even coating. Since I don't have one of those handy-dandy machines, the clumps don't bother me.
  • My version is less costly. I bought the tiny bag of snack mix for $1. A comparable amount of my homemade version would have cost just pennies to make - even with the addition of the pretzel M&Ms.
So, just in case you need it in written form, you'll need:
1 package of white almond bark
Micro-mini pretzels
Rice cereal squares
Pretzel M&MS

You could use colored candy discs for melting. For example, I'm thinking that using purple for part of the coating would be a good substitute for a Fiesta Bowl snack mix. I could keep part of it white, and use purple with some of the rest. Then, add in some purple, white and gray M &Ms, and you'll have a party.

You could also use different kinds of M & Ms or different cereals. Make it your own. The possibilities are immeasurable - kind of like this recipe.

For those of you who, like me, are usually very conscientious about measuring, try these snack mixes. They really do make speedy - yet tasty - gifts from the kitchen.

 (This one is from my dietitian daughter, and it's better for you than my other versions.)

(There's also a recipe for Cinnamon Chex Mix at the same link.)

for a refreshing, non-chocolate snack mix

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Magic of Winter

Sunrise through a snowy fence - December 20, 2012
The magic of winter is coming
No matter how tight we hold onto fall

With each passing day

Autumn drifts further away

And in its place is winter's embrace

Lighting the path

to snowmen and sleighs

And sweet candy canes

Bags full of toys

And songs full of joy

To brighten both hearth and home.

The anonymous poem was posted on Facebook a few days ago. The illustrations are mine. For so little snow overnight, the wind certainly made for big drifts. Miraculously, some even stayed on the fields, despite blustery winds. We are thankful for any moisture we get!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Praying for Puddles

The county cleaned out the culverts along our south road on Friday morning.

They burrowed into our wheat field on one side of the road and, on the other, dug next to the electric fence where some of our cattle graze. The holes were sunk at least 3 feet into the ground.
Maybe they were expecting a deluge. The weather forecast did call for some rain last Friday.

We got less than 0.10 inch.

Snow is in the forecast today. We appear to be on the border between a trace and some measurable snow. But, with the wind howling, I doubt much stays on the fields anyway.

So, the drought continues. Maybe I'll get some good photos. There's always an upside, right?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Hail, Hail, Hail, Alma Mater!

Some of the best of Brent's college education took place in this press box.

On Saturday, it came tumbling down. The Dev Nelson press box at Kansas State University's Bill Snyder Family Stadium was imploded to make way for the new west addition. (My Facebook friend, Jeff Sutton, posted this video of the implosion. Thanks, Jeff!)

As a student intern with K-State Sports Information during his undergraduate years, Brent probably spent nearly as much time at the football stadium and in Bramlage Coliseum as he did in the classroom. In truth, the K-State Sports Information job was the biggest classroom of all. He got to be on the front lines when ESPN's College Game Day came to town (a thrill for a guy who lives and breaths college sports.)
He had a birds'-eye view from the press box during K-State football games for two years, where he got to see his childhood hero, Bill Snyder, return to the stadium that bears his name.
The west side stadium construction at a game this fall.
It was there Brent discovered that he wanted to make collegiate sports his career. Last May, he earned his master's degree in Sport and Entertainment Management from the University of South Carolina. And, since September, he's been sitting in a press box at Morehead State University's Jayne Stadium during football games and running the video board at their Johnson Arena during basketball games. He'll be the main media contact at Allen Field during MSU's baseball season. He's been developing graphics and marketing materials for the Morehead State Eagles.
It's all practical knowledge that he first discovered while spending Saturdays in that K-State press box and every day working with the people at K-State Sports Information.

As I read news reports about the implosion and saw the photos from my nephew, Brian, who was one of some 1,500 people watching in person, I was struck by this one sentence in a press release:
It was also fitting that following the initial blast, the 600-plus fans watching from the east side of the stadium could read only three words on the collapsed press box: "Bill Snyder" and "Family."
Family: Yes, that's what it means - whether it's the Dev Nelson press box or the new version that will rise up from the dust of the old one.

My parents, my brother's family and one sister sit on that side of the stadium, too. I'll have to use a different landmark to find them with my binoculars next fall. I've always started at the "K" in Kansas and worked my way downward to find their row. 

I know a spot that I love full well ... No matter what it looks like now or in the future.

Monday, December 17, 2012

When the World Makes No Sense ...

I went to school last Friday night for a middle school Christmas concert. It's the same school where Jill marched into the kindergarten classroom with a silly book bag so many years ago without a glance over her shoulder ...
... and where Brent proudly served a Mother's Day tea with his kindergarten classmates.
On Friday night, our school's commons area was packed with parents, grandparents and friends who came to watch the concert. It was an unusual Friday night. During most Friday nights this time of year, it's the gym that's packed with cheers as high school basketball players run up and down the court. The referee's whistle blows and the ball pounds the wooden floor, and cheerleaders lead the chant for "Defense!"

But, for some reason, there was no ballgame scheduled. Instead, with a December school calendar packed to the brim, it allowed the music department a chance to squeeze in a concert.

As I walked into the school Friday night, I saw the brightly-painted Christmas backdrop and the glittered snowflakes, and I thought, "This is what a school is supposed to be about."

This is what school is supposed to be: It's about three girls in reindeer antlers. It's about the three boys in full elf regalia who couldn't make it through their trio without cracking up. It's about a diminutive, 80-pound-soaking-wet Santa who didn't need the old guy's heft to flawlessly deliver the rhymed patter during the Cool Yule program.It was about those kids who weren't the stars of the show, but who just stood on the three-tiered risers and sang and danced along.

That's what a school is supposed to be on a Friday night.

It's not supposed to be a place for a candlelight vigil, mourning the deaths of 20 innocent children and six brave educators.
It's not supposed to be that way.
It makes no sense.
It will never make sense.

Those little children likely wouldn't have sung "Away in a Manger" at their school's Christmas concert. But I'm guessing that some of them would have dressed in cardboard angel's wings or pulled on their Dad's bathrobe and become the vigilant shepherds surrounding a short, blue-robed Mary and staff-bearing Joseph as they gazed down at a baby doll Jesus in a crude manger at their church's Christmas pageants this weekend.

These words come to mind as I try to wrap my head around this tragedy:
Be near me, Lord Jesus,
I ask Thee to stay
Close by me forever,
And love me, I pray.

Bless all the dear children
In Thy tender care,
And fit us for heaven
To live with Thee there.

On Sunday at our church, two grade-school-aged boys, their parents and their cousin lit the third Advent candle. Here are some of the words they spoke:
Rejoice in the Lord always. And again I will say, rejoice.
Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 
Philippians 4: 4-7
 We light a candle to help us remember that Jesus is near. The peace of God will keep us in Christ Jesus.
Prayers for Sandy Hook Elementary School ...
Prayers for Newtown, Conn. ...
Prayers for the heroes, some of whom lost their earthly lives ...
Prayers for the grieving families ...
Prayers for the survivors whose lives will never be the same ...
Prayers for the first responders and all the helpers ...
Prayers for our country ...
Prayers for the world in which Kinley is growing up ...
Prayers for us all ...

Today, I am linked to Michelle DeRusha's Hear It on Sunday, Use It on Monday feature. You will be blessed to visit there and read thoughts from bloggers of faith from across the U.S.