Thursday, December 31, 2009

Our sentimental and reflective New Year's Eve dinner

Pete made a special pork roast and sauerkraut dish tonight, so we attempted a NICE family meal. We got out a tablecloth (which clued Rayna in that was "special!") and candles, and dimmed the lights.

Then we tried to talk about the "highs and lows of 2009" with the kids. It mostly turned into a discussion of the highs and lows of today. Pete attempted to teach us about the meaning of a new year, and repentance, from the Bible... but that quickly disintegrated as well.

Instead, here are some of the things that were said at the table tonight:

"You guys made a really good dinner, but it's really gross." (Cole)


"This is a really special dinner. Can I go get my Barbie fork?" (Rayna)

"Get your foot off the table" (Me)

"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH" (Miles again, louder)

"Colsen, we're about to eat the shoulder of a PIG!" (Strider)

"Can we blow out the candles now?" (Rayna -- about 3 minutes into dinner)

"We eat food into our brains, and then we poop it out our nose." (Colsen)
"Where did you learn THAT?" (Me)
"At school." (Colsen)

"Nonna and Poppa were here for New Year's Eve Eve Eve. LOL!" (Strider -- who just learned what LOL means)

"Get that out of your nose." (Me)


"Colsen, are you not hungry?" (Pete)
"No, I'm not. So I just need a muffin." (Cole)

"How come it takes so long to cook dinner, and it takes so long to clean up from dinner, but dinner is so short?" (Pete)


"Mom, are you sleeping?"

So, no, it was not quiet, reflective or peaceful.... but it was loud and joyful and messy and happy.

In other words, it was a perfect way to ring out a year full of all of those things.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

A Christmas to "Treasure"

My mom, being the ever energetic, creative person that she is, actually came up with a theme for our extended family Christmas this year. As we walked in her house on Christmas Eve, we received this hand-out:

And it lived up to all it promised!

Here are some of the treasured moments for me:

**Family blessing time. This year Mom made a whole board with various jewels or precious metals on it, corresponding to cards in her Treasure Box that had individual blessings for each member of the family, based on Proverbs. It was a very meaningful time that we're all grateful for; Mom and Dad said and prayed really cool things over each of us. Only Strider (and perhaps Uncle John?) was perplexed by the occasional tears.

**Treasure Hunt. Dad cooked up a big game for us all to play, to discover what the gift was that Mom and Dad were giving each of us couples. It involved 35 clues hidden all around the house, with such hints as "Peace" or "Book of Paul." They were tough enough to keep us all hunting for quite a long time. Then, when we had found most of them we were supposed to be able to unscramble all the letters to reveal the message. Due to a missing open parenthesis and an entirely illogical phrase, from a grammar perspective, this proved to be much harder than we expected. But, with a combined, team effort, we finally figured it out, and were very pleased to hear that we can all have another stay at the Sonshine Inn this year!

**Book Discussion. We all had assigned reading this past month: Crazy Love by Francis Chan. It was good to have a group of people to discuss this very challenging book with, and we all lamented our weaknesses in our passion for Jesus. Hopefully some of the things we discussed and learned will stay with us and encourage us in some new behaviors and thoughts.

**A visit from Grandma Deuce. As Karin says, we might be the only family who has a Christmas tradition involving an uncle dressing up as an octogenarian female, but, hey, it's fun for the kids. Or is it? We've realized there is a very small window of ages for which this actually works. Most of the kids are either too scared, or too "smart" to fully appreciate the beauty. This year, when Grandma Deuce walked in, Rayna's only question was "Why are you wearing glasses?" (Never mind the wig, weird clothes, high heels, etc...)

**Fun gifts
. One of the jokes this year was a sweatshirt for Dad. He's been teased for years now because he often asks for the same (strange) gift: "a sweatshirt with a nice design." He also gets teased because he signs his emails with the signature, "Warmest regards, Bruce." So this year when Pete (who had drawn Dad's name for the gift exchange) received the email saying he would like, among other things, "... a sweatshirt with a nice design on it. Warmest regards, Bruce." So that's what he got!

(Front says "Nice design" and back says "Warmest Regards, Bruce"
Even funnier than the sweatshirt, though, are Mom's and Graham's reactions in the above picture!

**Baby name discussion. After putting up with innumerable family conversations in years past about how Pete and I should name our babies "Ballpark" or "Hank" or other such ridiculous things, I was more than happy to lead a discussion about what another family member should choose for a baby name -- specifically, for John and Keiko's expected one. I suggested they could name it Porter, after our grandfather. And then they could use John's name for the middle name. It took John a few minutes to process this, but he eventually declared he would not be naming his baby after a portable toilet.

Keiko, meanwhile, was adamantly declaring that she wanted NO input from any of us, and there was NO way this child would have 2 American names. She said the baby will have one Japanese name and one English name. Pete asked for an example of this, and James quickly offered, "You mean like 'Bob Samurai?'" Maybe I'd just had too much wine, but this struck me as immensely funny. This name stuck, much to John and Keiko's dismay, eventually even being shortened to little Baby BS. They should have just accepted Porter John. :)

**And speaking of "Bob"... Under the category of "talking it to death," the guys in the family all had repeated conversations about where their Men-only breakfast would be on the 26th... circling around the conclusion that it would be at Bob Evans about 400 times. It got WAY less funny as time went on.

**And speaking of redundancy... All the way to Huntersville and back in our van, we listened to Andrew Peterson's song about the genealogy of Jesus. The same track over and over. The kids kept begging for "one more time!" Who knew the Begats were so fascinating?

So, yes, there was much to treasure from this Christmas. Thank you, Jesus, for all the great memories You gave us on Your birthday!

Scenes from Christmas 2009

Dad doing Adornements with the grandkids

Let the opening begin!

John got some funny t-shirts

And Strider got a serious shirt -- one's been asking for for 3 years now. It was a Cowboys Christmas for him!

Rayna and Colsen liked their new toys... an easel and pattern blocks for Rayna, and cars and ramps for Cole. Kai and Branson are also very into cars at the moment, so it was VERY exciting on Christmas morning.

Even Miles is starting to enjoy things with wheels

The Babies of '09 got matching bibs...

... and gave Nonna a frame with each of them wearing a "Born in 2009" shirt.

We are thankful for so many blessings this Christmas!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Cookie contest and campfire caroling: How the Wrays do Christmas Eve Eve

When the Wrays, Dreschers, Wrays, Clarks, Wrays and Franks get together for a holiday, there's not a whole lot of just sitting around being bored.

On the 23rd, we all converged at the Drescher's new house for the first big event of the weekend: the Great Azzle-Off of 2009. (Last year we had the Great Ufffle-Off of 2008, so this was the improved and expanded sequel.) Each family brought a unique cookie creation to compete; the entries were the Wrazzle, Clazzle, Drazzle, Frazzle, Jazzle, and Deuce-azzle.

We set them out anonymously and put voting jars in front of each one. Then the tasty fun began! Each person had paper votes that they could cast in the jars to determine the winners...
.... a couple of the favorites...
And the winners were, in order (drum roll please....): The Deuce-azzle, the Clazzle and the Jazzle!!

(Interestingly enough, neither my mom's nor my entry placed... even though we were the award-winning bakers a few weeks ago! What does this mean??!)

Later that evening, we headed outside for a bonfire. Uncle James diligently coached some wet wood into burning enough to give us some light and heat for roasting... and Uncle John coached the kids in the gentle sport of tree-bending-and-flinging-into-the-air.
Uncle Graham enthusiastically led us in some Christmas carols...

And the rest of us kept the little ones warm, and enjoyed the atmosphere.
It was a happy Eve of Christmas Eve... and the festivities were just getting started!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

(Christmas pictures are always so much easier to do when I don't try to get everyone looking at the camera!)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Wait a second....

I think there's something that's NOT an ornament in this tree...
(Our resident Curious George was climbing up the trunk)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmastime activities hitherto unrecorded

The past few weeks have been full of many more activities than I've been able to keep up with, so here's a quick summary of some of the miscellany of this season:

1.) Many arts and crafts attempts. Usually the results were not quite the picturesque ones I had had in my mind, but we tried. This one, for example, was making popcorn strings for the tree. We learned that it takes a lot of popcorn, and a long time, to make a string of any substantial length. We also learned that it was much more fun to eat it than string it. And I spent most of the time fishing dropped pieces out of Miles "the human dustbuster's" mouth, who was camped out under the table.
2.) Fun with friends and the youth group: We've enjoyed a few different occasions with happy and crazy people... but the most memorable might be this game we introduced to our church youth group. Pete found the idea online... It was a game in which teams raced to make "reindeer antlers" out of panty hose and balloons... The results were quite funny:

3. Going to the Nutcracker. The kids thought the performance was "pretty cool" and they also got a kick out of seeing some of their friends dance in it!
4. My birthday. Always a major highlight of the year! This year's occasion was super-fun, starting with breakfast in bed, then lunch out (yay!) and shopping, and some of my extended family over for dinner. (We held a lottery to see which lucky members could join us... since Pete, who was making dinner, thought that the whole group might be a little more than he could handle. :) )
I'm very thankful to have married a professor, as that means he always has this time of year off from work and can focus his whole day on making it special for me!
I will say, though, this year is weird, since I am now actually older than the age I always think my mom is (36). Hmmmmmm.

5. Football by the light of the Christmas decorations.

6. Frolicking by the light of the Christmas decorations:

How thankful we are for the lights, the activities, the joy, the brightness and the True Light of the season!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Pageantry... without the pageant

This morning the kids at our church sang some songs "up on stage" as part of the Christmas celebration. Some of the kids volunteered to wear costumes of the various Nativity scene members, even though there was no real pageant, per se. In my opinion, this was the best of both worlds: the kids had the joy of dressing up and feeling very official, but we didn't have to go to a lot of play practices all month!

Strider and 2 of his buds agreed to be Wise Men, though he was teetering on the edge of thinking he was "too old for this stuff." He had one spoken line today, to introduce one of the songs, and after we coached him to not to try to play it too cool, he ended up doing a good job.

Rayna was thrilled to be an angel, and Colsen was an obvious choice for shepherd.

During the week we tried on the costumes, so I could see how many feet I was going to have to hem up the bottom of each robe, and the kids acted out the Bible passage they're memorizing:

Rayna: Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth, peace to men, on whom His favor rests.
Colsen: AAHHHHHH! Look, Mom, I was terrified!

So, after a lot of taping up, pinning up and other adjustments, we made it to the service today...

Behind the scenes:

Strider, Jonathan and Sam, a.k.a the Wise Guys

The angels waiting in the wings (get it?)
Colsen during rehearsal.... maybe not terrified, but a little daunted at least...

And in the worship service:

Looking very charismatic

And singing this year's version of the Tune That You Can't Get Out Of Your Head, a.k.a. "Nothing, Nothing, Absolutely Nothing"
(Strider is on the far left, Colsen is the shorty-pie in the middle, and Rayna is the other shorty-pie, Angel-version)

Friday, December 18, 2009

More of our soundtrack

The kids are memorizing the Christmas story from Luke 2:1-20 -- I'm hoping we'll be done by Christmas. Anyway, I've been trying to get them to practice reciting TOGETHER, but that seems to be an impossible task.

I got some video snippets yesterday, and captured a few classic behaviors: Strider charging ahead, Rayna getting distracted, but then happily showing that she really does know it, and then Colsen wanting to jump right in with his 2-cents, lest we forget he is around. (He went and pulled an ornament out to use as a prop without me even noticing)

I think getting them to all say partial verses on one video is about as close to "reciting together" as I'm going to get!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Current soundtrack

As usual, it's been pretty loud around here lately. If I were to dissect the din, though, here are some of the elements that could be heard:

a.) Dueling "Silent Nights" (ironically)

Both Strider and Rayna are learning Silent Night on instruments this year -- Strider has picked it out by ear on the piano, and now we're adding some chords, and Rayna is learning to play her glockenspiel, to her great joy.

b.) "Colsenisms," often followed by laughter.

Some of the things he's said lately:

"Here's my old Blackberry that doesn't work anymore. Do you want it?" He hands me an old Leapster cartridge, then says, "I still have my Blueberry that works here" as he plays with a plastic rectangle.

Talking on his pretend phone one day, (excuse me, his Blueberry): "Hi Will, What are you doing? Oh, you're eating gum? Oh, Ok. Bye!" Turning to me..."That was Will. He was crying and had to go." I asked him why he was crying, and the answer was, "He got in trouble. He was eating gum without asking."

"Daddy, are you going to be a baby someday, when I'm going to be a man? No? You're going to be a man, too? We're going to be TWO MANS?!" (escalating to glee)

"No, Mommy! You can't put gas in the car! Only Daddy can do that. He might spank you!" (Yes, I'm very spoiled... he's apparently never seen me put gas in the car)

"Here's my baby, do you want to hold her?" He hands me a doll. "Can I have her back now? She wants to sleep on my shoulder." I ask him if he's the baby's mama, or her big brother. He answers, "No. I'm her grandmother."

One day when Miles is exasperating me by getting into all the kitchen cabinets while I'm trying to cook, I say, "Miles, you're starting to bug me." Colsen, without missing a beat, says, "Let's just put him back in your belly!" He said it so quickly that I think he's been contemplating that one for awhile.

c.) Even Miles has something to say!
He has his first word now, "Bye" said in the very Southern tradition as "Bah."

So he's joining in the noise creation around here.... as well as working on his tough manly skills by pushing around very large chairs:
Yep, there's lot to hear around here!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Another sweet afternoon

Rayna and I got to have some fun project time with Ellie and Ava on Sunday -- no boys allowed!