Friday, December 30, 2016

Christmas Leftovers

Brooke was incognito or a rock star after emptying her stocking.
These Christmas leftovers have fewer calories than the extra snack mix and cookies sitting on the kitchen counter. And that's a good thing.

I shared the annual Christmas Eve photos of my mom, the grandchildren and the great-grands earlier this week, but I still have some photos I want for my personal memory "box," also known as my blog.

I didn't spend a lot of time taking photos. I spent more time playing with the girls' new toys and Jill's old Barbies. I also read plenty of books to the girls. Uncle Brent was duly impressed when I made it through the nearly 200 pages of the Amelia Bedelia storybook collection he gave to Kinley in one sitting. I love Kinley's full out belly laughs at Amelia Bedelia's misunderstandings, so how could I quit reading?
Grandma hit it out of the park with these favorites. Brooke got a Kitty Surprise and Kinley got a Puppy Surprise. The surprise is that they have puppies inside them. (We are on a farm after all). The box says there could be "3, 4 or 5" babies. The adults were all hoping for the same number. Thankfully, they both had three offspring.
Grandpa was equally impressive with his live cat exhibit. Brooke, especially, was enthralled with Cozy the Cat. Kinley has claimed Cozy as her cat for the past year, but it was Brooke who was more attentive to the four-footed friend this time. 
I was just waiting for Cozy to reach out and take a swipe at Brooke's face when she got up close and personal. But Cozy behaved well with the house guests.
Grandpa, of course, was happy to share his lap with both.
Kinley did eventually take her turn with Cozy.
It was a lovely reunion for a girl with a cat shirt. 
The girls also played their rendition of Jingle Bells.
The girls took a quick trip to the pasture to see the cows. There was a lot of "moo-ing" going on, most from the pickup. 
On Sunday, I spent a little time after the worship service capturing the beauty of our sanctuary.
I seem to take photos at Christmas every year at church.. The decor doesn't change. But I am always looking for new angles to show the Christmas finery at Stafford United  Methodist Church. 
It's a beautiful place to worship - whether during holidays or on regular Sundays.
On Thursday, I packed up the Christmas decorations at home for another year.
Down come the twinkling lights. The treetop angel is tucked away in the shoebox. I'm always a little sad to pack it all away, though I need to remember not to pack away the Christmas' message. But, as Jill says, if it was up all year, you wouldn't appreciate it. I suppose that's true.
Photo by Kim Adair Photography, Topeka, KS
And we have another important event to celebrate anyway. Kinley is 5 today! We are looking forward to celebrating with her on Saturday. FYI: Grandma and Grandpa will not be tumbling or bouncing on the trampoline along with a dozen of her friends, sister and cousins. They won't let us, which is just as well. We don't need to ring in the new year with broken bones.

Thank you to those faithful readers who continue to follow Kim's County Line, year in and year out. Happy New Year to each of you! I appreciate you!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Try, Try and Try Again: A Christmas Tradition

True confessions: I chopped off one head and substituted another to get the best expressions for all nine of these cuties. I don't have Photo Shop, so with my cheaper "photo fuse" feature, it probably won't hold up under scrutiny.

Tradition dictates that we attempt to take my Mom's Christmas Eve birthday photo with all the grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Last year, three of these models had to be wrangled by their mothers. This year, they were able to remain in the photo frame on their own. We take our progress where we can find it, folks!

Desperate times call for desperate measures ... AKA photo fuse. I had 13 frames of this crew on my camera. Since I wasn't the only one clicking away, I figure there are at least 50 versions of this photo residing on camera memory cards and smart phone photo galleries.

Photography of the kindergarten and preschool set is not for amateurs. Believe me, this amateur knows!
Exhibit B: Brooke is turned in a different direction, and we have a Frankenstein grin in this one. We should have positioned Big Brother back a little further so that he could be part of the group. But you know what? When you're talking nine children, aged 6 and younger, we're just lucky everyone was looking relatively acceptable in a frame or two.
Actually, the baby was taking a nap during Grandma Moore's birthday present opening, so we were down one girl in this inside version of the annual great-grandchildren photo.

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 image. It's not about photography's Rule of 1/3s or perfect lighting. It's about family - all the imperfections and all the chaos. The grandchildren have been taking the annual photo for years.

From left: Abby, Brian, Blake, Mom holding Madison, Jill, Brent & Paige
They've improved since the first one with all seven back in 1994.
This year, we siblings also made the annual photo album.
Our Moore family Christmas celebration is now up to 30 people, so this year, we moved the meal to a shed. It gave everyone a lot more elbow room. And, after Madison and her little helpers went around with a mini handheld sweeper following the meal, we realize it probably saved Mom's carpet, too.

The Moore family Christmas isn't the only one with traditions. On Monday, Randy & I went to Rose Hill for a celebration with Randy's sister, Kathy, and family.

Kathy continues a tradition that their Mom began years ago. After Marie died, Kathy wanted the Christmas sleigh. Marie always used it for the Christmas centerpiece and filled it with small gifts for everyone at the table. Then, as the adults were cleaning up, the children could open their "sleigh gifts." They had to wait for the bigger presents until the dishwasher was loaded and all the pots and pans were drying by the sink.

I'm not sure Marie would think lottery tickets are a viable sleigh gift. However, I'm not complaining. I won $3 yesterday. The point isn't the gift anyway. It's gathering around the table. And I'm thankful that happens on both sides of the family. We may have a new family tradition after a rousing game of Scattergories. For the record, the team of Kathy and Amanda won. Amanda says it's all about picking the right partner. She doesn't know how true that is.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Being the Light: Radiate the Glow

Taken at Evening Aglow at Stutzman's Greenhouse, Pleasantview, December 2, 2016

A Time to Act

Radiate the glow of Christmastime.
I opened the email devotional and read the words. I saved them for later, thinking I'd use the tidbit somehow with some Christmas light photos.

But several days later, as I read the words again, I thought maybe there was a deeper message there. I don't think the devotional is talking about the "glow" I get as I stand over the stove making even more Christmas treats.

Honestly, as the days get closer to Christmas, I'm probably not "glowing" ... unless it's a little sweat or (I hate to admit it) from that little dose of bad temper. I have a hard time meeting expectations, especially my own.

Do I have the right number of gifts? Does everyone get their favorite Christmas treat? Have I given enough to the plethora of good causes? For someone who already struggles with perfectionism, Christmas is the ultimate stressor.

Instead of celebrating hope, joy, love and peace, too often I'm frazzled. So, maybe I ought to take a little time to enjoy the Light - the true light.
One of my first stops for the day is turning on the Christmas lights in the living room. After my devotional time, I take off my glasses and sit there a few minutes. My nearsightedness comes in handy at that time: There's a fantasy quality to those blurred lights.
From the archives when the tree actually was "pre-lit" and uniform!
But my other "nearsightedness" is not so attractive. Sometimes, in my focus on getting things done, I let the pressure build up to boiling. Nobody wants to be "near" me then.

This was the devotional in its entirety:

Glory to God in the highest, 
and on earth peace, good will toward men. Luke 2:14

A Time to Think

May peace be your gift at Christmas
and your blessing all year through!
–Author Unknown

A Time to Act

Radiate the glow of Christmastime.

A Time to Pray

Lord, help me to find the place where You can use me best.
Hmmmm ... good will toward men. That doesn't sound like a short temper or an exasperated sigh, does it?

Sometimes, the peace may mean coming to a stop. It's usually worth it, like the other night on the way to Hutchinson. Sometimes, the prettiest Christmas lights of all are au naturel. 
Watching a sunset is a natural lesson in not letting moments pass you by. The sky changes - practically in 30-second intervals as more light leaches from the horizon.
We were on our way to watch a magic show in Hutchinson. I didn't really think I had time. But I knew Randy wanted to go, so we did.
The Fox Theatre seemed all dressed for Christmas, but it didn't have to do anything other than celebrate its natural beauty. I think there's a lesson there, too!
Our kids arrive tonight for our little family celebration tomorrow. Soon, the packages will be unwrapped. The treats will be consumed. It likely won't be perfect. But may I radiate God's love rather than my perfect agenda. Then it truly will be tidings of great joy and peace on earth, good will toward men.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Passing the Torch ... Or the Star

It's all about passing the torch ... or, in this case, a tinseled star.
I sat near the front of the Stafford United Methodist Church sanctuary on Sunday, looking forward to the children's Christmas program. This year, I wasn't nervously wondering whether kids would remember their lines. I wasn't concerned about little girls and the etiquette required when wearing dresses. I didn't have giant lyric poster boards prepared to help cue the singers or actors. 

For a dozen years or so, it was my job to worry about such things. How do you choose who gets this part or another and keep everyone happy? What would happen if one of the actors came down with the flu? How would I shuffle the lines?

I was just there to enjoy and to click the camera shutter for the church's newsletter and Facebook page updates. 

And then I saw the star. It's probably been a quarter of a century since I carefully taped and stapled a thick rope of tinsel to yellow poster board. Back then, I added a dowel to the back so little angels could make it appear over the Holy Family in the church's Christmas pageants.
It guided Three Wise Men (People) to worship the newborn King with foil-wrapped packages.
In 2016, the same star still shone as little voices sang the timeless "Away in a Manger" and recited Christmas poems. And I thought about passing the torch ... and passing the star.
Kristen Knight has been director of our children's Christmas program for the past few years. But when I see her, I sometimes don't see the grown up wife and Mommy of three. I see the little girl who wore a shepherd's costume one year, was an angel the next or played some other part in one of our full-blown Christmas musicals as she and her contemporaries got older: The Missing Magi, A Star Is Born and Gettin' Ready for a Miracle, to name a few.
More often than not, that tinseled star made an appearance during the Christmas program. It was used downtown when it was our church's turn to provide the Living Nativity during Christmas Wonderland.
Brent & Jill at Christmas Wonderland, downtown Stafford
It's not the only prop that survived the test of time. A shepherd's crook also made repeat appearances in church productions. Brent was holding it in the Living Nativity in the photo above. And, if you look closely, you can see Kristen had it in her hand in the photo of our long-ago Christmas program.

On Sunday, one of Kristen's sons held the same shepherd's crook that belongs to his grandpa, while a friend held another.
For most churches, we'd rather hear these little voices than have the Mormon Tabernacle Choir unexpectedly show up to give a Christmas concert.
Jill - circa 1995 or so
You see, it's not just about a cardboard star or a shepherd's crook or cardboard box We Three King gifts that just need a new layer of foil every few years. It's about sharing the story of Jesus' birth with that next generation of believers. 
Brent - Christmas 1991 - age 3
It's about teaching those centuries-old songs so that they become as familiar to the next generation as a warm and cozy blanket on the coldest day of the year.
This December, one of my church jobs was finding families to light the Advent candle, and I've tried to pick those with young children. I remember lighting the candles with Jill & Brent when they were small and trying to teach them the lessons of the Advent wreath: hope, joy, love and peace. 
Last year, it was a privilege to watch Jill, Eric and the girls light the Advent candles at their church. 
Even in the hustle and bustle of Christmas, we see those lessons being passed along. Families pull gift tags from an Angel Tree and carefully select and wrap gifts to give to another little boy or girl who may not have a Christmas without our help. Children gather around the church's Mission Wagon and pray for the people who will receive the gifts - whether for the school, the Food Bank or UMCOR health kits.
Last year, I watched Kinley add gloves and a hat to their church's giving tree. My heart swelled that our daughter is now teaching the same lessons to her girls that she learned as she made another little girl's Christmas dreams come true in the toy aisle at Wal-Mart.
During Advent, we wait for Emmanuel, God with Us. And as the tinseled star shone last Sunday morning, He arrived yet again.

"And a little child shall lead them." Isaiah 11: 6

 Thanks be to God!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Baby, It's Cold Outside!

Kansas must be like a super model right about now. You know those chiseled cheek bones and protruding hip and spine bones from the runway's strutting models. If artist Andrew Wyeth was right, Kansans were feeling "the bone structure of the landscape" Saturday and Sunday in super model style!

Sunday marked the coldest recorded lows for December 18 in Hutchinson, Dodge City, Garden City and Medicine Lodge, according to the National Weather Service offices in Wichita and Dodge City.
Hutchinson had a record-setting low of -13 degrees, which beat the 1996 record of 8. The storm also brought some snow, maybe 2 inches. It's always a little hard to tell when the snow has danced around the fields and into the ditches.

Today, the thermometer begins its climb out of the cellar. However, we have another cold day in store. Today is expected to hit 29 degrees, with wind chill values as low as -10. However, highs the rest of the week are expected to be in the low- to mid-40s.

At the height of the snowfall Saturday afternoon, we drove to Hudson for a funeral gathering. 
The Peace Creek bridge scene looked a bit like an Andrew Wyeth painting.
The cows were huddled behind the trees, getting out of the wind. The guys had fed them plenty of silage and hay earlier in the day to keep their bodies fueled.
On the way home, the snow had nearly stopped, but it was no less cold. Peace Creek at the Zenith Road was also dressed in its winter finery.
So what do you do when the temperature is -12? You have a giant bonfire, of course. Randy was waiting for a calm day to burn the wood piles from the demolition of the granary and barn. Sunday, the wind was down, which was good news for the wind chill and for burning, and the snow cover provided yet another barrier. The wood and debris from the granary took off quickly. The other pile from the barn may require another burn day. The fire really did feel nice and toasty - even better than our old farm house.
Before the snow and cold on Saturday, the guys got holes dug for the new fencing at the corrals. Thanks to our neighbors Keith and Hendrik for the loan of the bobcat loader with the post hole digger and the help with the project!
There was some debate about canceling church due to the cold weather on Sunday. But, in United Methodist fashion, our "hearts were strangely warmed" by the children's program directed by Kristen Knight. (Since I started this post with a quote from Andrew Wyeth, I'll give a little equal time to John Wesley with the warm hearts quote.)
I don't think any of us felt as cold after listening to their Christmas carols! (More thoughts on the program later this week here on The County Line.)