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Let's start off by pretending that this little series of photos is a Christmas card, shall we?  Sent specially and very considerately from our family straight to yours! 

Somehow or other, I didn't manage to summon the gumption I needed to get the non-cyber version of that project off the ground this year.   Here, instead, we have some scenes from around the JoyFam's house showing how we readied ourselves with tremendous excitement for the Christmas season.   Sometimes, before I begin with it all, I wonder if it's worth it.  The thought occasionally strikes that the decorating process might well be an exercise in assigning myself a whole new slew of unnecessary and energy-sapping jobs.   But then I see the little eyes lighting up all around me.  I see the two younger JoyKids literally dancing in place as they try to contain their joy just a bit.  I see the four of them in passionate 'team mode' running back and forth to the garage with new boxes containing treasure after treasure they'd forgotten we had stored away.

God bless you as you hang with loved ones during this season commemorating His sacred birth. 
 
 
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Sometimes - I don't need to tell the parents and teachers among you - one needs to dig deep to find a consequence weighty enough to strike fear into the  heart of the receiver of it.  That proverbial sometime has come, today, to our home. 

The littlest Little can sometimes be just a smidge headstrong, as I think I've mentioned.  He's that joy-spilling-all-over-the-place type and his energy levels, while bracing and admirable, and even sometimes dizzying, sometimes find him in the way of Trouble. 

And when Trouble arrives and joins ranks with our boy Oliver, there is nothing more effective than the formal gathering up of his (pointedly, all male) seal family.  He weeps quietly as he does it and we all gather around watching, as it's the sweetest, most poignant thing we've all seen in a long time.  He kisses and hugs each of them and says long, protracted goodbyes, assuring them that he's sure he'll see them again soon.  Here you can see them at their very visible perch atop the armoire in our living room, waiting eagerly for the time to to ripe to be reunited with their very loving little Owner, errant though he sometimes may be.  You can plainly see the excitement in their eyes - loyal, loving little seals.
 
 
It's past midnight and I'm too jittery to attempt sleep.  My perch on the couch is tentative, to say the least.

Of my five immediate Loved Ones, four are currently up for intermittent bouts of huddling over the toilet - wishing for a quick death.  The toilet part is mostly wishful thinking as less than a third of the 'episodes' has actually involved one.  I'm on my third load of laundry tonight and there have been ample tears and "Why does God allow this to happen to me?"  The only one spared was not actually spared, but just the first little fellow to fall, and thankfully by now, his turn of alternating  retching and moaning has ended.  They're like dominoes.  Or flies. 

My hands are dry and chapped from exposure to toxic cleaners and from frequent dunks into newly soapy water.  My floors and the bedding in their rooms are pristine from excessive and oft repeated scrubbing.  I'm more than a little stunned that I'm still OK myself, frankly, and I'm thinking that my $12 flu shot - spontaneously purchased during a meander through Costco with my Dad - was well worth it.

JoyBoy, whilst splayed out on the couch in a sort of lethargic, vomit-induced desperation, helped me laugh in the middle of it all when he said,  this has taken some of the tinsel and sheen off of bulemia for me.  He then asked me to remind him to get the flu shot next year.
 
 
My sisters are two of the very most beautiful women I know.  Have a gander:
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I'm the lucky girl who got to spend ten consecutive days with these vibrant beauties.  My goodness did we laugh.  We laughed till we felt a bit sick.  And then we laughed some more.  I'd forgotten how alive they are.  I haven't seen them on a regular basis since I moved out to go to university when I was 17, but they, on the other hand, have very literally grown up together.  They are similar to one another in most ways.   

I share most (if not all) of their food tastes.  Having married a very meat-and-potatoes kind of man, it's very exciting to me to be able to meander up and down grocery aisles with them, picking out favorites and then coming home to prepare it to find that they love it all too!  We glutted ourselves on poke, something I'd never heard of before, but what is now indisputably one of my all-time favorite foods.  It's a raw fish - most often ahi tuna.  It's cut into cubes and marinated in various concoctions.  I salivate as I type this description.  My favorite is a spicy one sprinkled with fresh roe, but let's face it, I've yet to meet a poke I didn't love, and love passionately. 

We carefully pored through cookbooks and chose exotic salads to prepare.  We ate a phenomenal wheat-berry one that nearly found me swooning.  We ate grilled eggplant stacks with goat cheese and a balsamic/red wine reduction.  We inhaled some amazing tabouleh.  We ate a miso/edamame/soba noodle salad.  And then there was the melon and prosciutto one that was all the more beautiful because we ate it on the beach while watching Jody twirl with the setting sun behind her (Despite the whimsical image this description evokes, it was really just downright hilarious and I nearly peed myself watching it all unfold.  Let's just say that there was some falling involved!).  We feasted on exotic cheeses and the girls introduced me to truffle for the first time (I'm sad to report that despite my very desperate wanting to love it, alas! I didn't.).  We found a favorite new white wine  called Cupcake that we originally bought solely for the beauty of it's label. 

We ziplined, which was a first for me and most definitively a trip highlight.  It wasn't as adrenalin-y as I'd hoped, but it was still so, so fun.  It was, in fact, my Christmas present from JoyBoy this year and it's a gift that I suspect will always rank high as an all-time fave.

We glutted ourselves on sunshine, golf-cart joyrides through places we weren't supposed to be and shopping.  We ran along the beach boardwalk and we did a new exercise class - zumba - which was also a  trip highlight.  I felt like a groovin' latina for a second there.  For the girl who can rarely make her body do what she wants it to do in the realm of The Dance, this was a novel sensation.  For one brief moment, I actually had my torso and my shoulders doing two separate things!

It was wonderful and I don't think I'll ever forget it.
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Jude asked that I post this.  Immediately.  It's actually pretty fantastic.  Check it out and see what's huge in the 11-year-old boy crowd. 
 
 
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My parents just dashed off at the crack of dawn.  They're organized like that.  The coffee pot was pre-set, the keys were neatly laid out in orderly anticipation.  There's no question that the gas tank was full.  As I lived with them over the course of this past week, I was reminded of aspects of my childhood. 

I remembered that my Dad always had the vehicle pre-warmed and de-iced and waiting for us before a family jaunt.  I remembered that he always made sure I knew how to change a tire and to insure my car.  The way he said I love you was by filling my gas tank or by replacing my old wiper blades.  I remembered that Mom liked to have pre-cut veggies out and waiting for us much of the time.  I remembered the coffee she'd bring me while I languished in bed as a teenager.  I swooned as I recalled her many back scratches.  I swooned because I was enjoying a modern-day one as I recalled the former ones. 

It feels so nice to be cared for by someone again.  Not, of course, that my loved ones don't care.  But they don't care for me in that just sit down and rest and don't even think just now of all the lunches that need to be made for tomorrow sort of way.  I'm almost always the one planning and preparing and setting out uniforms and packing the swimming lessons bag and the one who runs around meal planning and homework helping  and the one who cringingly has to cut the poop chunk out of our cat's bum fur and it's all as it should be.  But this week, I remembered that it feels so nice sometimes to flop across someone's lap and just think about nothing but how lovely it feels to have one's back scratched for a long, lazy time.  That's parents.  I guess it never really ends.  With your parents, it's somehow ok to just revert back to being a selfish kid who doesn't feel like doing work, but who just wants to curl up on her bed reading stacks of Nancy Drews and graciously allow Mom to bring her a nice drink while she does so.
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These hands always made me trust that all was well in the world.
 
 
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Anabel as Laura Ingalls
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Jude the Clown
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Lola the Geisha
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Oliver the Race Car Driver
 
 
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Oliver's 7th birthday fast approaches and he felt very strongly (cause that's the way Ollie feels things!) that he wanted to research motorcycles on the Internet and draw a unique one for each of his friends in the form of his birthday party invitations.  Sometimes I feel just a bit stunned at this boy's artistic abilities and just wanted to take this opportunity to trumpet it around to all the land.  I've mentioned how cool this little kid is, right?
 

Dinner

10/28/2010

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We're not unique in this.  Families everywhere congregate to eat together at night.  I had a friend once who teasingly lambasted me for taking pictures of and then scrapbooking about ordinary blips of life.  This friend thought my penchant for doing so was the silliest thing ever.  He thought photos were for documenting the more unique events in life.  I've not changed my ways, though, as you can see.  I'm still the frantic Weirdo Mom wielding her camera at the most mundane - and sometimes inopportune - of times.  These photos show (some of) us eating a regular, old family dinner together. 

I feel a compulsion to document these ordinary days because I can see already that they are fleeting.  I know the day will come where the dinner hour won't be a noisy cacophony of extroverted people competing aggressively to share about their respective days.  The Quiet will be so sad.  And so in the meantime, I comfort myself with the taking of countless commonplace pictures.  And I laugh when Oliver triumphantly informs us all that Lola wasn't closing her eyes during prayer.

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He often reads to us as the stragglers finish up
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These pictures represent the naivete of the attitudes of the childless.  Insofar as they depict a little creature who is now indisputably a part of our lives, though I'd never have forecasted such a thing.  Before the sight of my sweet eldest daughter begging me for him, I wouldn't have imagined that I'd allow such a creature into my home, most especially in a voluntarily sense.  But he's ours now and we really kind of love him.  Especially when he shoves big bits of food in his cheeks.  That's pretty cute.