Sunday, December 30, 2012

Our Christmas Card

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the three of us.

{click to enlarge image}

This was the first year I actually got Christmas cards made and in the mail.

Okay, so I didn't get them and send them out until after Christmas, but better late than never, right?

Since I never did birth announcements for Nell, this was one way of assuaging my guilt, I suppose.

Plus, aren't real live legitimate adults supposed to send out Christmas cards?

We ordered ours from  I love all their beautiful card options!

And the proof they sent us for approval (shown above) looked great.

Sadly, the actual cards we received in the mail had a weird orange tint to all the photos, and the clarity wasn't great.  I can't say I was thrilled about that, so I'm not sure if we'll use minted again.

So if you receive an orange-ish card from us, well, all the sentiments of the card were intended, but the coloring as such was not.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

the gifts

Some of the gifts given and received this year were so special, I thought they deserved a blog post.

* * *

An exquisitely crafted wood utensil caddy my parents made for us:

A beautiful wooden rattle, handmade by my parents for Nell:

The darker wood is walnut, and is originally from an end table my grandfather made in woodshop when he was young.  Now Nell has a rattle with wood that once belonged to her great grandfather... pretty neat.

{We skyped with my parents while Nell opened her gift from them.  Hurrah for technology.}

* * *

From Nathan's parents, Nell's Grandma Carol and Grandpa Steve:

A great bedtime book

The cutest little stuffed goat

And an ornament made by Grandma Carol for Nell's first Christmas

* * *

From Nell's Uncle Andrew, a beautiful traditional German lullaby that he arranged for four voices just for Nell, and wrapped with strips of paper perfect for a baby to tear into:

Gute Nacht, Gute Nacht, Mein Feines Lieb

Such a special gift!

* * *

As I mentioned in my Christmas post, I picked out three little things for Nell from myself and Nathan.  

This little turtle squirts water... she already loves playing with it during her baths in the kitchen sink!

* * *

From Nell's godparents, Cara and Gregg, wooden stacking rings and a very special book.

{I was tearing up a bit when I first read it to her!}

* * *

And here's what I made for family members this Christmas: felt mitten garlands!

This year I found myself with my hands a little more full than in previous years, so not only are they not finished yet, but most of my siblings, as well as my parents and Nathan's parents, are getting variations on the same gift.  I've been cutting out and blanket stitching mittens together for weeks, each embellished with different buttons, rick-rack, stitches, or felt pieces.

They are hung with tiny clothespins on strands of jute twine, to be hung over mantels or doorways or wherever you want when you decorate for Christmas.

{Okay family members, now you know what to be watching for in the mail.  Know that they were made with love, and wishes for each of you for many happy Christmases to come.}

* * *

P.S.: Since I never posted them, here's what I made for family members last year.

Framed scrapbook paper Christmas trees with wooden button stars:

Monogrammed coasters made from stone tiles:

{I've since been told by my brother that apparently the waterproof sealant I used after inking them was not as effective as it claimed.  How disappointing!  Sorry about that, family members.}

Stenciled tee shirts for my three nephews:

It wasn't my first time doing freezer paper stenciling for them, but it was definitely my most complicated!

This is the first year in several years that I haven't made those boys gifts of their own (among other things, there were previous stenciled shirts, and before that, there was an alphabet magnet board).  I felt badly that this year things were just too busy to do things just for them, although their family does have a mitten garland coming their way.  Hopefully they'll forgive me.

* * *

Did you do handmade gifts this Christmas?  Got any crafting ideas to share?  What are some ideas for things to make for men?

Friday, December 28, 2012


It was Nell's first Christmas.

It snowed a little on Christmas Day.

And my heart was full to bursting all day as I held my little girl in her Christmassy plaid pajamas.

I told people I didn't want anything for Christmas this year, and I really meant it.  I would have been totally okay with doing a gift-free Christmas.  Frankly, our financial situation has been a little bleak lately, and even the things I 'need' right now are things I can get by without.  My life just feels perfectly full with my family and plenty of love to go around.  Nonetheless, we did end up with some very special gifts under the tree on Christmas Day.

I wanted to keep this Christmas simple.  Maybe that's not what most mothers do for their kids' first Christmases, but that's what I wanted.  There have been years when I put pressure on myself to make everyone happy at Christmas, to make perfect meals and have plenty of gifts and keep smiles on faces.  This year I tried to let all that go.  Nell won't remember this Christmas, and honestly, yesterday I know she liked having a mother whose stress level was low more than she would have liked having more presents or a more perfectly cleaned and decorated house.  She needed a mother who didn't stand in the kitchen all day working on dinner, but sat down and played with her or held her close.

Keeping Christmas simple.  It's something I actually find easy to do in some ways.  We've all talked openly about gifts on my side of the family, and agreed that handmade is something we love and value, that phone calls are more important than money spent, and that gifts arriving late is something we understand and don't mind in the least.  (Good thing, because once again this year I'm sending mine out late!)

I don't think I walked into the North Shore Mall all December.  I did go into the (much less busy) Liberty Tree Mall area on Christmas Eve, as my resolutions faltered and I began to worry because I didn't have stocking stuffers for Nathan or his brother Andrew.  I walked back out with only a few small purchases.  I got them each some dress socks, which they needed, and a few little candies to eat.  I eschewed the idea of wasting money on little junky trinkets that would just get thrown away after a couple of days.

I guess it being Nell's first Christmas made me stop and think hard, more than ever before, about how we want to do Christmas in our home.  How to celebrate Advent.  How to keep stress levels low and keep days merry and bright.  How to make it about Jesus, and about loving the people and the things He would love.

Throughout the day, I intentionally decided not to get so caught up in capturing the moments that I missed the moments.  And, as it turned out, I left Nell in her Christmas PJs all day and never worried about dressing her in one of her red dresses (it's ok, she did wear them last Sunday and then on Christmas Eve).  I didn't spend time staging perfect Christmas photos on white blankets in front of the tree, which I had thought about doing.

I gave Nathan a couple of ties, a scarf, and this print, which, haha, he is going to love hanging somewhere that is not our living room.

We gave Andrew this sweater and framed print of a horn.

Nathan did his shopping for me this year at an antique store.  Not one of those expensive and swanky antique stores, but the nice little shops that are every few blocks in Essex.  He found me several things, including front and back pieces of a broken violin, for displaying decoratively in the music room.  I love it.

We interspersed Nell's gifts between nap times and nursing sessions, and we enjoyed watching her play with ribbons and paper.  

In addition to the three little things I got her (a bath toy, a book, and a small toy), Nell received gifts from her grandparents on both sides, from students of mine, from her Uncle Andrew, and from her godparents.  She is one lucky and loved little girl!

It felt a little surreal writing "from: Mom and Dad" on her packages, and thinking of all the years of seeing "from: Mom and Dad" on my own gifts as a kid.  Wait... I'm a Mom?!

{Couldn't find our gift tags anywhere on Christmas Eve when I was wrapping gifts, so a marker on the wrapping paper had to do.}

I haven't finished sewing her Christmas stocking yet, but it'll be ready for next Christmas, for sure.

And I didn't finish the pixie hat I'm working on crocheting for her, but I guess she won't know the difference between a Christmas hat and a January hat.

I'm sitting here today, after Christmas, and reflecting on how we kept things affordable this year.  And we had a special Christmas that I'll always remember: Nell's first, my first as her Mama with her outside of me, our first as a family of three.

I guess I'm proud of myself for not going overboard for Nell's first Christmas.  But I still have a lot of thinking to do about how we'll keep Christmas in our household each year, the traditions and the meals and the ways we'll balance time and money and handmade and store bought.

To keep things simple, to keep our focus in the right place, but to have plenty of that Christmas magic.  That's what I want to be able to do for Nell.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

seven months

Overdue as usual, but so it goes... It's Nell's seven month post!

She gets called Nelson, Nelbert, Nelberta, Nellen, and even, most recently, Nellwick.

And occasionally, we call her Donald Trump.  Her hair is pretty long on top, with not much underneath, you see.  In fact, she had her first haircut already, a little before she turned six months old I think.  Just a trim of some of the longest wisps that were hanging over her ears.

Nell at seven months weighs about 21 pounds, and while a few of her 9 month size clothes still fit her, she is mostly wearing 12 month stuff.

She has the most infectious laugh imaginable.

She can make anybody in this house smile.

Her babbles are contagious, too, and she loves it when people 'say' back to her whatever she is 'saying.'

This girl loves bath time.

And looooves being naked.

When I pull off her clothes and her diaper and carry her downstairs to the kitchen sink, her entire body contracts and thrashes with joy and delight at the fun of being naked and the prospect of the bath to come.  It's so cute... indescribably cute, really.

Nell can roll over... she has rolled over... but she rarely chooses to roll over.

{She prefers to fuss when placed on her tummy.}

She is a lover of people and a lover of music, and she always gets so excited when I walk into the music room, knowing that it means she'll get to hear some violin music and see my students and their parents.

Nell is getting a little will of her own these days, and I know it's only a taste of what is no doubt to come.  She makes it quite known if she wants something she sees, and if she can't have it, or something she has needs to be taken away from her, she is pretty furious!  Gone are the days when out of sight meant out of mind, or when a simple distraction could cure those momentary frustrations.

 She loves the Christmas lights in our house, and is particularly taken with the ones winding up our stair banister.

She loves drinking water, and after giving her sips out of my own water glass frequently for the past month or so, I recently bought her her first sippy cup.  She hasn't quite gotten the hang of it yet, but she loves the idea of it nonetheless.

No solid foods yet.  She seems to be doing just fine without 'em for now.


Dear Ellen,

Someday you will hear about the very, very sad shootings that took place earlier this month in Newtown, Connecticut.  To you, it will be history, something that happened when you were too little to be aware of any of it.

To me, your mother, it was a day when I snuck into the room where you napped to check on you a little more often, a day when I hugged you extra tightly and held you extra close when you woke up.

I don't think there was a mother in America not brought to tears that day, thinking of the mothers who sent their children off to school that morning, expecting them home in time for a snack, maybe a Christmas cookie.

A mother shouldn't have to bury her child.

Certainly shouldn't have to spend the night knowing her child lies cold in a crime scene, waiting to be positively identified.

Shouldn't have to be overcome with the grief of knowing her child's last moments were one of terror and confusion, ones of fear and pain.

Oh Nell, the world is full of darkness.

But when you were born, we gave you a name that means "light."

You're sitting at my feet right now, wearing a pretty red dress and playing with your stacking cups.  And the joy of being your mama fills my heart to the brim, but I also feel on my shoulders the responsibility of raising you to be a light in this dark world.

While it's especially terrible to have such crimes against humanity perpetrated near Christmas time, the Advent season is also an especially fitting time to remember that we believe that all creation will be restored someday.  There's hope in knowing that, amidst the darkness of pain and suffering, a long time ago a baby came into this world to begin to make things right again.


Friday, December 21, 2012


round button chicken
~ Capturing the context of contentment in everyday life ~
Every Thursday at Like Mother, Like Daughter

Life around here has been busy.  As much as I intend to be more regular about blogging, it seems to keep getting usurped by other, more pressing matters.  What better motivation for a blog post than another installment of {pretty, happy, funny, real}?


Our Christmas tree, of course!

I like to try to make our house pretty at Christmas time.


My girl is pretty happy sitting her her new (to us) high chair, and I am happy that I found a wooden high chair with such potential for cuteness for $30 on Craigslist.  (I would have liked to have paid less for it, but I'm okay with it.)  

Still deciding whether to strip it and stain it (Nathan's vote), or to paint it... maybe white, or perhaps a cheery turquoise or other fun color?  Cast your votes, friends.  What would you do with this cute Jenny Lind style high chair?


We have an ongoing debate in our household about Christmas trees.  I like white lights and 'classy' ornaments, while Nathan likes colored lights and all the ornaments he's accumulated since his childhood.  Our compromise, which we arrived at last year, was to utilize the fake tree we discovered left in our garage when we bought this house, and have one of each!  In our living room is our real tree, with white lights and beautiful ornaments, and in our TV room is our "white trash tree," a fake tree with colored lights and ornaments like this:

Pretty funny, if you ask me.


Our coffee table is covered in Christmas crafting odds and ends right now!

I'm still scrambling to finish Christmas gifts, and at this point there's certainly no chance of having them shipped to family far away in time for Christmas.

Of course, while the mess and the late-ness of this is {real}, the coffee table is a bit of a {happy}, too, because the funky green Craigslist coffee table I bought last spring has finally begun its transformation into a black coffee table!  It still needs another coat of paint, but I'm happy every time I see it in its new shiny black state.