the briefest of recaps

Well, if this isn't under the wire I don't know what is. It's just a good thing I live on the west coast so that when I post this I'll still have two hours till the new year.


2013. You were pretty good to us. We survived sleep training and several bouts of teething. We saw first steps, first words, first foods, five haircuts, and a ton a personality. 2013 is Asher's first full calendar year in our lives, and so that's been all sorts of wonderful. We bought our first home, and I've jotted down a list of improvement projects to tackle in 2014. Asher and I took three roundtrips to Denver, one to Utah, and the shortest of roadtrips to Seattle.

{Asher a year ago}

I read 20 books, thereby meeting my GoodReads goal. And if I can buckle down and finish rereading The Hunger Games tonight, that final number will be 21. I read three memoirs, and five other nonfiction books. A couple of my nonfiction reads were read out of necessity (like Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child), and the others out of sheer interest. I reread only one book, and that was via audiobook. For 2014 I have a fair mix of fiction and nonfiction books on my docket. My favorite read of 2013 was probably Where'd You Go, Bernadette, and I was surprised to realize that I didn't read any deep, soulful book during the year. My reading goal for 2014 will likely stay the same: 20 books.


On this space, I documented the year I lived across the street from a rockstar, mine and Josh's love story, and that time I was kicked out of a restaurant. I examined what it means to be an introvert, the impact of sorrow on the heart, and why summer should be shorter. My biggest blogging feat of 2013 was Gracious Living: 31 Days of Refinement. I've received some of the kindest and genuine comments from friends and strangers alike, and I plan to keep this piece of the internet alive and well this year.

Well if I'm going to power through the last third of The Hunger Games, I'd better sign off stat. Happy new year, and tomorrow I hope you enjoy a leisurely day of movie marathons and stretchy pants. Heaven knows that my way to ring in the new year.


reliving some highlights

We flew back from Colorado yesterday, a journey which included running up and down the security terminal searching for a lost shoe and a mid-flight toddler temper tantrum. Our return to real life hasn't been much smoother--think thrashing fit in the Costco cart for the entire shopping trip. Goodness.

So I think right now I'd rather relive some of last week's highlights, as the end of December is not proving to be a positive harbinger for the January gloom.

:: Asher and Moosey the dog became fast friends, thanks in large part to Asher feeding Moose every chance he got. He quickly learned to scan the room to ensure secrecy before handing those crackers over to the dog.

:: Asher loves clementines. He ate at least five daily.

:: On Christmas Eve we all sang Christmas carols, and I loved it. Everyone was singing in parts, and it was easily my favorite moment of the evening. (Meanwhile, the baby Jesus was taken to a safe house while the rest of the manger scene sustained several casualties.)

:: We got to see and talk to John in Brazil. Best Christmas gift ever. Obviously.

:: Asher's flannel robe ended up having this samurai look to it, and it makes me giggle every time.

:: We played plenty of rounds of Bang! and the renegade even won a time or two. No matter what my role ends up being in this game, I always secretly root for the renegade.

:: Mom and I started watching Call the Midwife, per the recommendations of a few different friends. It was a little raw at first, but now we're both hooked.

:: My Christmas outfit made a second debut (the first being the Sunday before we left town)--silver houndstooth pencil skirt with pale mint silk charmuese blouse, both garments handmade. The shoes were the inspiration for it all, as well they should be.

:: Asher perfected his horse sound. And his camel sound. (A camel says pt!, in case you were wondering. Just ask the boy.)

:: When left to fiddle on the piano, Asher intuitively knows not only to turn the music pages but also to applaud himself.

Currently I'm having a bad time of the last-week-at-this-time game, and I'm pretty blue about it. I'm dealing with the melancholy by watching more Call the Midwife, reading through some new sewing books, and drinking lots of cocoa. I think I need to commission a private bullet train from Portland to Denver, and then this wouldn't even be a problem. Excuse me while I charm my engineer of a husband to take on this task. . . .


December's liminality

Liminal space is a term I learned as an English major, and I'd use a different word to avoid sounding pretentious, but there really isn't a different word to use. So I'll just describe it to you. Liminality is the point in between two other spaces. In my literature classes it was used to describe the point of a character's transformation, or even as a physical space that separated one world from another. (Think that place in the Deathly Hallows where Harry goes when Voldemort curses him at the end.)

{In Renaissance literature, forests were often employed as liminal space}

For me, the end of December is always liminal. It's not Christmas anymore, and it's not the new year. It's just in between, a place where we're still on vacation but not caught up in the whirl of Christmas preparations. It's usually relaxing and sometimes melancholy. It's a time to wind down and recharge.

Our Christmas was lovely and fun and gracious. Asher has pulled out all the stops on cuteness and has everyone in the family completely charmed. I've been spending time with my sisters and got to Skype with my missionary brother on Christmas day. We've been playing with new Christmas toys and eating pie in between servings of cinnamon rolls. This year's liminality has been quiet and unadventurous, just the way I like it. January can hold off a little longer if I have anything to do with it.


woes of Christmas packing

Think I can pull off packing two pairs of boots?

That was a real text message I sent my mom and sister. Such are the hardships of Christmas packing. Winter clothing is bulky and puffy, as opposed to the light, flowy pieces of summer. And then there are all the presents. I sent many of our presents via Amazon, but I still have gifts to transport, and all of this is just making me glad that Southwest gives you two free bags per ticket, so that's four bags for this family.

And then there are the carry-ons to consider. We have the diaper bag that I plan to pack full of diapers, extra clothes, snacks, books, toys, and Benadryl. But should I bring another one with my own flight survival tools? So. Here we are, 10:00 at night, unshowered, and blogging instead of packing. Maybe it's time for some cocoa. Obviously. 


a gracious holiday

Ever since my 31 Days of Gracious Living I haven't been able to shake graciousness from my mind. I think about gracious living often and pray for a gracious heart. Then on Monday we watched It's a Wonderful Life, and I was reminded of how gracious this season can really be.

{You can buy your own copy of It's a Wonderful Life here --it's a film worth owning}

Think of George Bailey. See how many lives his one life affected? See how his inadvertent graciousness blessed his life and the life of everyone he knew? See the effect of a gracious life, even when it's lived unintentionally? George never wanted to stick around Bedford Falls. He wanted to see the world and build things. But because the core of his heart was gracious, he stayed in Bedford Falls and built a beautiful life.

Then there's Mary, George's wife. One of the most touching parts of this story is when George leaves his house after blowing up at his family. George is scared and confused about the missing money, and he feels very alone. Mary was initially defensive and upset with George, but as soon as she realizes the state of his heart, she encourages her children to pray and takes action to find George the help he needs.

I wish we could watch what happened when Mary left the house to rally the town. What did her pleas sound like? What was her response when she saw how willing and eager the neighbors were to help George? What was Mary's journey that night? I wish I knew. What I do know after watching that film is that a gracious life is never wasted, a gracious heart is always needed. Christmas is a holiday primed for gracious living, and I hope we can all take a moment to soften our hearts and our calendars and make room for gracious living.


for when I need a Pensieve

If you don't know what a Pensieve is then you need to read Harry Potter right now. But really, bookmark this post and get on Amazon. Right now. And then you'll have thorough knowledge of the Pensieve.

So, you're back from reading all of Harry? Great. So by now you know that the Pensieve is that nifty tool of Dumbledore's that he uses to guide and organize his thoughts. As Dumbledore himself puts it, "One simply siphons the excess thoughts from one's mind, pours them into the basin [Pensieve], and examines them at one's leisure. It becomes easier to spot patterns and links, you understand, when they are in this form."

If I had a Pensieve hanging around my bedroom, I would take a moment and extract all my half-collected thoughts about what I still need to do for Christmas: what I still need to buy, to make, and to send. I think it would be so much easier to make decisions about what projects to abandon and which to stick to if I could gaze at them all in the Pensieve.

Then I would tackle everything related to our Christmas trip. Last night I spent a solid hour making to-do lists and packing lists and figuring out the calendar this week. Then Josh surprised me by taking Friday off as well, so now I'll have a minion husband to help me with cleaning and toddler duty. Every time I travel now, I'm overwhelmed by all that I have to remember to bring for the boy. It's insane. Pensieve, where are you when I need you?

Then I'd siphon off all my 2014 resolutions so I could examine them when my world calms down a little. I think I'll actually have a list of goals this year, and I can't remember the last time I approached a new year that way.

If I had time after all that rigmarole of Pensieve-ing, I'd revisit some old Christmas memories, remembrances of what it was like to believe in Santa, that year we announced we were pregnant, the year we spent in Canada, the year we were snowed in, the last year with my Grandma. That would be nice.

So. Clearly I need a Pensieve stat. And whoever gets on that, can you figure out apparition too? That would be great.


feverish revisions. so.

Yesterday was the advent day I was most excited for: "Rock around the Christmas tree." That's what we were supposed to do. We'd put on Amy Grant's version and dance around our tree and then pull up She & Him's cover and dance some more. That was the plan, and I was so excited. Then Asher woke up in the middle of the night with a fever that was pushing 103.

So. We changed our day's plans to include stretchy pants, Curious George, and alternating rounds of Tylenol and Motrin. I thought that this morning the fever was gone, but right before we packed up to go to a play date, it spiked past 102.

So. We're staying in stretchy pants, and I may have forced Asher to part from George briefly so I could catch up on The Sing-Off. We're sticking with the Tylenol/Motrin regimen and adding some brownie batter in there for good measure. I have some final touches to put on my Christmas ensemble, and unless the fever persists to Sunday, I'll be posting some pictures. And maybe those damn molars of the boy's which are likely causing this feverish week will finally finally break through.

So. This week hasn't gone as planned. But that's okay. Because while we didn't rock around the tree, we did snuggle. And that's always great, even when it's not in the advent calendar.


that night he met Santa

We met up for dinner with Karen at Jimmy John's.

And it's a good thing Grandma's good at sharing.

Because he ate at least half of her sandwich.

Then we found Santa's house by the Christmas tree.

And we waited in the cold.

Santa was not met with great enthusiasm. But we expected that. Obviously. #parentaltorture

Then we warmed up in J Crew while we checked off some Christmas shopping.

The franken-baby walked like a drunkard all around the store and wrapped those salesgirls around his mittened fingers.

And even though Santa himself wasn't a hit, the night was. This boy has my heart lock, stock, and barrel. If you ask me, the boy has been oh so good this year, and I'll do absolutely everything I can to make Christmas magical for him. 


a celebration for the believers, and even for those who only want to believe

What were those days like before Christ came to the earth? What would it have been like to live then? Today we have the Bible, which gives us an account of Christ's birth, life, death, and resurrection. We can choose to believe in words already written. In one sitting we can read the prophecies of a savior and see them fulfilled. We're on the other end of this story. But what would it have been like to live in the beginning?

For centuries before Christ's birth prophets prophesied of a redeemer, God promised to send a messiah. For generations and generations the people of the world heard promises and had to hold fast to them. These people didn't have any proof that Christ would actually come, no due date to mark on the calendar, no app to count down to His arrival--they believed because that's all they had.

{Mary Kept All These Things, Howard Lyon}

For a long time I wondered about the deep spiritual significance of Christmas--I know that sounds really bad. And here's the thing: usually when we talk about the miracle of Christmas, we talk about what the Christ child went on to do after He grew out of the manger. We talk about His sacrifice, His miracles, His redemption. And to me, those pieces of core doctrine--while paramount--are more suited to Easter. Redemption is what I celebrate in the spring when I celebrate the Savior's resurrection. And I know that it's never a bad time to reflect on Christ's grace, but something in my heart always told me that something was different about Christmas. So I ask again: What makes Christmas so special? Because we celebrate the rest of Christ's life on a different holiday.

What would it have been like to finally see the new star signifying that Christ was born? What would it have been like to be the shepherds who welcomed the angel? What would it have been like to be the wise men who traveled miles upon miles to meet a babe whom they merely believed would actually be in Bethlehem? What would it have been like to have been a believer when Jesus was born into this world?

Christmas isn't necessarily about redemption itself--it's about the promise of redemption, the promise of peace. For centuries--centuries--God promised His children a Savior, and for centuries those children had to believe that it would happen. Millions and millions of men and women died without seeing that promised fulfilled. Some probably even lost faith as they waited. The miracle of Christmas is that God keeps His promises. God keeps His promises. He promised us a savior, and in His own time He sent His own Son to be born among farm animals in a stable. He sent us prophets and signs. It might have been easy for some to doubt Heavenly Father, but He followed through anyway.

Even when we fail, Heavenly Father remains steadfast. His promises are sure, even if they're a long time in coming. Christmas is faith realized, belief proved. Christmas is evidence that our believing is never in vain, not if we anchor our belief in God's promises.

Christmas is a celebration for the believers, and it's a beacon of hope for those who don't believe, but who desperately wish they could. Because it's never too late to believe--that's the message the Christ-child brought with Him. That's the message we can hold to when we don't know what else to believe. Believing is sacred, believing is living. It's never too late to believe.


TGIF: a photo essay

Smotherhood defined

Reorganizing the kitchen

Homemade ice cream

All bundled up with socks for mittens

Stocking up at the library

Abandoned snack

Christmas tree play

Pizza night


Brownie batter

And now I'm holing up in my sewing room until bedtime. Breathe.


chilly willy

I use many childish expressions these days: silly willy, chilly willy, cozy warm, chilly cold. I also speak in the third person not infrequently. I clap exaggeratedly and jam to Curious George. Asher introduces a whole new form of I-don't-care-what-others-may-think into my life.

All that to say that it's chilly willy around these parts. Not as chilly cold as Denver, but plenty nippy for Portland. We bundle up every time we leave the house, work that heater, and down that cocoa. No snow, which makes me a little blue, but I'm crossing my fingers for legit snowfall for our Colorado Christmas. And I guess no precipitation right now is all for the best, because then we'd be left with icy roads and that's not good for anyone--especially Portlandians.

I like the cold. Homebodies are primed for cold weather. We like to bundle up in sweaters and capitalize on any excuse to marathon on Netflix. I like to give the oven a workout, and I like to see my breath when I walk outside. Cold clears my lungs, my head. I like wearing coats and scarves, hats and gloves. Before I know it the brisk chill will be replaced with coldish rain, and though I don't mind the rain, I prefer the freezing cold.

So here's to chilly cold days and all those wonderful things we do to stay cozy warm.



I'm easy to please. I can get really excited about unimportant things.

:: red and gray flannel for the Christmas robe I'm making the boy
:: the boy's dancing--dancing
:: hot chocolate in my $4 Anthro mug
:: the Mindy Project Christmas special that left me simultaneously cheering and lamenting
:: two hours of real, down-to-earth catch-up with one of my top-tier friends
:: an easy slam-dunk dinner
:: two and a half weeks until we jet to Denver for Christmas
:: this week's letter from the missionary brother
:: handmade Christmas gifts
:: the advent calendar
:: Josh coming home before 6:00
:: Sawbones
:: toddler time at the library
:: FaceTiming with my parents and sister
:: Asher's kisses to my parents and sister via FaceTime
:: my Christmas skirt turning out exactly as I wanted, zipper installation and all
:: Pentatonix Little Drummer Boy

Like I said, it doesn't take a production to make me happy. I'm easily content, and I think that's a really good thing. Even on not-great days, my contentment is still there. Life is good, life is full.


advent arrival

Yesterday, we started the advent calendar. Because it's already December, you know. Can you believe it?

Every year Silhouette comes out with a limited edition advent calendar set, and they're usually more pricey than I'm willing to spend. Through this blog, however, I used a 40-percent-off coupon code and nabbed this baby for a steal. The kit included the frame, clips, and a download card with all the exclusive envelope and holiday designs.

I spent hours on this. The Silhouette machine is pretty amazing, but it doesn't let you off the hook entirely. I had to keep track of what element needed to be cut in which color and then re-cut the elements that the machine messed up. Then there was the sewing and gluing. This calendar demanded much of my time and patience, so it's a good thing I'm thrilled with the outcome because this little guy will be gracing our walls for many Christmases to come.

I filled each day with a small activity. Some of the cards coincide with our calendar and most of them are things we'd do anyway: the church Christmas party, drinking hot chocolate, watching the Mormon Christmas devotional, turning on It's a Wonderful Life. Seven of the days correspond to chapters from 
A Christ-Centered Christmas, a book that helps you and your family infuse more Christ into your Christmas calendar. I think my favorite card is "Rock around the Christmas tree." I don't remember which day I assigned that activity to, but I can't wait.

If you're interested in buying your own Silhouette machine (I love mine--Josh gave it to me for Christmas two years ago), troll these blogs for giveaways and coupon codes (this is not a sponsored post--I'm just trying to help you find deals if you're interested!):

Little Miss Momma
Eighteen 25
I Am Momma, Hear Me Roar

I think one of the things I love most about Christmas is the anticipation. I love the music, the outings, the buildup. What do you do to anticipate Christmas? Do you have an advent calendar?


popping in

It's been almost a week since I've posted anything, and especially since my 31 days of gracious living, that's felt like a long time. Josh has used some vacation days, so we've been enjoying him being home all week. And Josh's sister and her husband came into town for Thanksgiving, so we've been spending lots of time over at my in-laws' lazing around, eating leftover stuffing, and playing Bang!

{Martinelli's in a mason jar--obviously. Leftover Thanksgiving is maybe even better than original Thanksgiving}

I hunkered down at home for Black Friday, and Asher rewarded me with taking a three-hour nap (cue the Hallelujah chorus). The only shopping I did was taking advantage of some great online deals with some favorite shops. I've been making Christmas lists for parents and in-laws and eating pie like it's going out of style.

Last night we hired our first-ever paid babysitter so we could go see Catching Fire with the gang, and can I say that that movie was amazing? I loved it. And I'm kind of crushing on Jennifer Lawrence. We still have a couple of days left of vacation, and I think we're going to live it up. I hope that your Thanksgiving was lovely and that you got even just a little bit of vacation.

And remember, eating pie for breakfast is not only acceptable but encouraged. Obviously.


because it's what we do

Right now, church is the hardest thing I do every week. I'm almost not kidding. We dress up and try to keep Asher occupied for three hours. Three. In our church when kids turn eighteen months old they can go to the nursery for the second two hours. But Asher? He just turned fifteen months. So, three months to go. And from what other moms tell me, I'm in the worst part of pre-nursery days. And it's hard.

Asher is curious, restless, and loud, which is no surprise--he's a toddler. And it's not like church clothes are conducive to baby-wrangling. Every Sunday there's one moment when I wonder why we do this for three hours. Whichever of us has the boy doesn't really get to enjoy lessons or anything spiritually uplifting. When I have the boy during the last hour, I pretty much run out of the building, with Josh trailing behind swinging the diaper bag. So, again I ask, Why do we do this?

And I guess the answer is simple: we endure those three hours of baby chaos because it's just what we do. We go to church because it's what our family does on Sundays. Attending church isn't even really a conscious decision every week--it's just what we do. And even though it's really hard sometimes, I'm really really glad we do it. Because if I had to consciously decide every single week whether we would go or not, I think I might choose not to go more weeks than not. And I think the consequences of phasing out church in my life would have a much more lasting and negative effect on my heart--and on the heart of my sweet boy--than the consequences of crazy baby-chasing. I believe that in our family, consistently choosing church makes small impressions on his soul every week. And maybe those impressions will mean something big for him later, even if it means I'm crazy-eyed for a bit. 

Good things are often hard things, and sometimes doing good things don't produce immediate results. So we have to remember that they're good and that we should be doing them. Going to church every week is a hard thing right now. But it's also a good thing--a really, really good thing.


this week

This week I bought silk charmuese to sew into a Christmas blouse. And I promise I'll show you the finished product this time.

Asher started taking only one nap a day. It's bittersweet, but mostly okay by me.

I've been a little lonely. Josh has been working extra long hours all week and my mom is out of town. And even though Mom lives thousands of miles away, I know when she's out of town because we don't talk on the phone. That combination is sometimes a recipe for mild melancholy.

My sewing room has exploded in Christmas projects. It's a danger zone for babes. So he never goes in. Except when I need to finish a blog post. Obviously. And then he plays in the thread bin.

I made my final trip to Joann's for the Christmas season. (Knock on wood--I do not want to go back to that holiday madhouse until January.)

I caught the first signs of a cold. And then I bought Airborne.

I've been listening to Christmas music all week. Yes, I'm one of those people. But I think we all knew that.

I have a few favorite months of Asher's life, and month 15 has been one of them. This morning I caught him dancing to the Curious George opening song, and I about died.

Chocolate sugar cookies are waiting downstairs, and I think it's about time that Asher and I have an afternoon snack.

Happy Friday.

PS Don't forget about the CampusBookRentals.com giveaway open through next Tuesday! Even if you aren't a college student yourself, I bet you know someone who is!


remember that time I was a college student?

Four years ago I was in the tail-end of my second-to-last college semester. Four years ago. Sometimes college seems a world away, and it kind of is. I mean, I hardly know anyone there anymore. And the people I do know are in the throes of graduate school. How did this happen, this out-of-college Charlotte life?

Sometimes I miss college. You know what's so great about it? It's a delightfully selfish time. And that's not selfish in a bad way, just selfish in the way that you're not responsible for anyone else. Selfish in the way that you worry about you and your education and if you don't want to make dinner you don't have to. College was such a wonderful independence for me.
I majored in English, primarily because I love to read. The theory discussions muddled my brain, but all those literature classes? Almost entirely blissful. The further along I progressed in my major, the more novels I bought, and they never threatened to break the bank. College textbooks are usually a drag, and so I was lucky that my upper-level courses didn't require much in the way of expensive tomes. 

Those generals, however? Those books were the worst. I hated buying them. And I hated selling them back, because what the bookstore gives you is never even close to what you paid in the first place. So many times I felt scammed by the system. So when CampusBookRentals.com contacted me, I wish I could have gone back in time to all of those GE courses and done my books differently.

CampusBookRentals.com is simple. And genius. You order the books you want to rent, set the dates you want to keep them, and poof! you have your semester's books. When you're finished with them, you send them back in a prepaid envelope. When you have the books, you can treat them as if they're your own--this means highlighting, people. And I was a highlighter. I can't say that I'm in a position to have tested CampusBookRentals.com firsthand, but this video explains the process well:

The cherry on top of this system is that CampusBookRentals.com donates a portion of its proceeds to Operation Smile, an international charity that enables corrective operations for children born with cleft palettes. So, not only is CampusBookRentals.com making life easier for students, it's making life possible for children. Win, win, win in my book.

CampusBookRentals.com is offering my readers a chance to win a $50 credit toward their service. All you have to do is leave a comment telling me which college class was your favorite! The giveaway will be open through Tuesday of next week. (And like I said, I really wish that this gig would have been around when I was in college four years ago.)
  a Rafflecopter giveaway

PS--If you like this whole textbook rentals thing, check out RentBack.com, where you can rent out your textbooks to other students. I can imagine that this is a far better option than sell-back.

This post is sponsored by CampusBookRentals.com, and all opinions are mine.


hello, Monday

:: Hello, Monday.
:: Hello to lists--lots and lots of lists.
:: Christmas lists, grocery lists, project lists, cleaning lists, blog lists.

:: Hello to mission emails from the brother.
:: And if we're lucky, hello to pictures from Brazil.

:: Hello to a new week of counting points.
:: And hopefully hello to more progress.

:: Hello to a bit of handmade Christmas.
:: Think some sewing for the babe and some sewing for me.
:: No sewing for Josh.
:: Because sewing for guys is hard.
:: And hello to handmade gifts that I can't tell you about.
:: Obviously.

:: Hello to being this close to finishing a new book.
:: Hello to young-adult dystopian novels.
:: You never get old.

:: Hello to my first-ever sponsored giveaway this week.
:: Tune in Wednesday.
:: Especially all you college kids.

:: Hello to a babe who walks like Frankenstein.
:: Hello to  the goose eggs and bruises and bumps and cries that inevitably accompany Frankenbaby.
:: And hello to brushing off the dirt and getting back into the action.
:: Hello to passing off some of that resilience to me, because heaven sure knows most days I need it.
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