Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Oh Christmas Tree

This is where we get our family tree every year since we've lived in Lemon Grove. It's the tree lot at the Veteran's Thrift Store ( where I do quite a bit of my shopping ). It's become a fun tradition to take a family photo in front of the tree that chooses us.

The sun set while we were there this year and these pictures don't quite capture how pink with delight the sky was.

You can sort of tell from the reflection on Hannah ( our mini van "Hannah Montana"'s a Pontiac Montana ).
I love, love, LOVE the tree. I love what a gift it is each year, and how it continues to give. I love the outing of going to get it as a family. I love decorating it. I love the wonder it creates in our home.
Every year I am tempted to leave it like this. Just the lights. I love it like that. This year I did leave it like that for two days. It was nice.

But then I get excited to see and enjoy all of the ornaments from all the years of doing this. So I turn on the Christmas tunes, pour myself some nog, and get to it.

Usually after lighting the tree, I have to trim the top to fit the star. This is the very top of the tree from this year.

I found it significant.

This is one of my favorite childhood ornaments. It's a cheap little piece of plastic, and I love it.

Opening the boxes of ornaments each year is a big part of the gift. It costs nothing, and means so much. It's such a treat to rediscover them, and remember where they all came from.

So many of them I've had since I was little, even ones that I made or bought myself as a kid. Many have been made by kids in my life, or have been gifts from loved ones. Our little family gives each other an ornament each year, and I realized when I opened this box, that it represented ALL of these categories. Very old, brand new, handmade. I love it. It's such a gift. I get lost in the boxes of beautiful memories, and love finding a special place for each one.

Ah nostalgia.

And I love how it changes our home from outside.

It just sheds a little more light, right where we need it...
and blesses me.
Oh Christmas Tree.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

I Believe

It's 2:30 in the morning, and I had to get out of bed and look at the Christmas tree. This happens to me every year since I can remember as a kid. I'll get up in the middle of the night, gaze into the twinkling lights in the still and quiet when no one is up, and it will make me thoughtful about life. This time I woke up thinking about how we met Jesus on Tuesday. He had made a lifestyle choice to wear a big red suit and grow a beautiful white beard to bring joy to so many.

Annabelle's physical therapy unit was hosting a FREE SESSION with Santa & Mrs. Claus that we could not pass up. It was just, bring your own camera and take as many photos as you want. Not the typical pay a bunch of money for one questionable photo we've experienced the last two years. We were so excited to find out when we got there, that Santa & Mrs. Claus were the REAL DEAL. They were IT. They had made this choice to BE the Clauses! Annie did her obligatory, two year old, cry of torture on Santa's lap, and they even let us do another session where we were in it to hold her. They were nothing but smiles, and patience, and sweet comforting words. I looked around the room and saw kids faced with incredible challenges with huge smiles beaming across their faces, and he would hug them as they left and say "Merry Christmas, Santa loves you." It just meant so much more than that. I wondered if he knew. I wondered if he knew what an impact he was making on them... on me. I felt like maybe he did. I felt like the doubtful mother in Miracle on 34th Street being transformed into "a believer." It was truly a divine moment.

Oh, I believe in Santa. Absolutely.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Oh So Grateful

This was our Thanksgiving. It was so lovely. Cousin Sara flew in from Oregon, and just a couple of friends joined our household for a quiet gathering. It hit the spot. I am so grateful for this beautiful life.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Autumn on the Road

Ok. I know. This post is enormous. I'm not proud of it. I'm terrible about blogging as I go. Thus, The Post Party. You just have to think of it as a big picture book, with lots of chapters. This one has a little better excuse for being so long, as it documents the Lindens six week adventure to the Great Northwest, where there were many visits, gatherings, and celebrations of all kinds. It was a grand road trip with all to much to tell. I'll say it again, we are so blessed.

Our first stop: Los Gatos! That's right, The Cats!! There we spent some time with our good friends the Chandlers. I regret that we were bad about taking photos here, but the ones I got were of little Sydney artist.
Thank you Chandlers for your friendship and warm hospitality. We had a great time!

These folks are people we've wanted to meet for quite some time now. They are long time friends of our Mercers, and they have awesome twin boys, one of which is an SB kiddo. When they found out we were pregnant with Annabelle, Mama Missy contacted me right away to be of encouragement. It has meant so much. And they just happen to live in Los Gatos too, so we decided to see if they could get together. So glad it worked out!

They have a zip line at their place. How cool is that? This is Luke powering along. What SB?

Missy, Annie, Luke and Owen.
Buddies right away. So much fun!!

Napa Valley was our next stop to visit our friends the Monticelli family. These are people who know how to break bread together. What a treat to join them and finally meet the newest little ones.

Sacramento! These are Annie's "Big Sissies." Our Mercers of course.

All the Grandparents have to get in their Annabelle time.
Special time and treats from Nonna.

So much love.

Back in the car. Our little road tripper was a real road trouper.
Portland bound!!! Off to see Great Auntie B. & Lori ( wish we would've gotten the camera out the night before, Lori ), and their amazing PEZ museum!

Aunt Beth.

So good to see you!!!

Now, over the river and though the woods...

Finally to Gram & Papa's house. They have this nice thick rug to play on.
Good morning Papa.

Strollin' the hood with Gram and Papa.
Uncle Jeremy!
Auntie Kristi and cousin AVA!!!
One for each.
I think Auntie Kristi loves me...
and Papa likes to sit with me.
So once we got settled, we all decided to get back in the car and drive to Eastern Washington where we have LOTS-O-FAMILY.
Great Aunties Marcia & Joye.
The infamous Grandma Lucille ( Papa's Mama ) and more kisses from Papa.
Us Ladies.
Great Uncle Neal.
Oh yeah, My C.C. ( Cousin Crystal ).
Grandma Lu & Little Lu
Reading with Auntie Joye.

Sugars for my Ava Niecey.
Pumpkin carving!

Grandkids and Great Grandkids with Grandma Lu. When we decided to take this photo, she actually said out loud " Are you all tryin' to kill me?!" 92 and Hilarious.
Holy cousins in the tub!

And in their jammies!
Crackin' up.
That's my brother behind the cuteness there.
And even more cuteness.
And glory, hallelujah, I got my Fall!

Our next chapter was in La Grande. The little town in Eastern Oregon I lived in from 4th-10th grade. We stayed there with dear friends who live on their beautiful family farm that is over one hundred acres!
It was such a joy to see Annie play so much with other little ones. Kids that are so special to us. It's so easy to get caught up in our routine at home, and appointments that we have for her. I haven't gotten her out with other kids enough. Clearly, I really should.
Jenni was my closest friend from Oregon. We lost touch for a few years, and when I was pregnant with Annabelle, we found each other again, and it was like no time had ever passed. I knew she had a son, but she told me she had two more since we last spoke. I asked their names, and when she told me, I almost passed out. We both had little girls named Annabelle. Mine was still in my belly, and hers was in pigtails. Still can't believe it.

Our Annabellies.
Our Fishermen.
Pops "caught a fish."
My Jenni.
There were so many critters to enjoy at the farm. I flipped over these orange ones. Oh, and their pot bellied pig...named AVA! Too funny.

We got to ride horses! One of my favorite things to do.

Josh the Dog and Ava Pig. Such good ones!
And then we went into town. This coffee house, is one of the coolest I've ever been to, in little ol' La Grande. It's called White House Coffee. So nice.

Time to get back to the farm and make applesauce! Now, if you've never done this, or been in a kitchen where it's being done ( which I certainly had not ) , what you are missing out on, is the most heavenly scents imaginable, and the prize is the taste of warm, fresh applesauce. Like nothing I've ever experienced.
My contribution to the project. I chopped about a gazillion apples, and that was the easy part.
Here's the real work...and Henry got to stay up late and help. Smart kid!
Poor Josh. Only if some gets dropped.
The next day we all headed out to the natural hot springs that has been recently developed into a museum. Pretty cool!

We will always treasure our time in La Grande with our sweet friends.

After we left, Pops indulged me in making a few quick stops that I've wanted to make for years. My family lived in two different houses while we were in La Grande. This is the home my folks bought after living in the church parsonage for two years. When we lived there, it was white, with the red roof, and blue shutters. Now, the cute shutters are gone, and it's blue, but still looks like a doll house to me. Love it.
This was my elementary school. It is now an activity center/day care. I went there to see if they still had the mural I helped paint up. They didn't. I missed it by just a few years. They painted over it in 2005. Wow.

I can't believe they still have the Spook-A-Rama here! It's basically a little carnival in the gym of the school that we had every year around Halloween, and I won the poster contest to advertise for it all three years that I went there. Is it still bragging if you're talking about when you were in the 4th-6th grade? Ok. Sorry.

This is the mural that is covering our wildlife scene. I painted a huge purple Grizzly bear. It was brilliant. Again, sorry.
This is the gymnasium where I became a band geek, played with those weird parachutes as a class in P.E., sang in concerts, oh, and it also doubled as a cafeteria. They were having some sort of a health fair the day I peeked in.
As you walk in the front doors. I could still smell the paste, Lysol, and peanut butter.
Ah, nostalgia.
This was the church parsonage that my family lived in when we first moved to La Grande. It looks really good. When we lived there, it was yellow with green trim, and had two giant ball lamps hanging in the front of the house. This is better. It was right across the street from the church that my Dad pastored there.
Goodbye sweet little town!

Once we got back to Washington, our next visit would be in Seattle. First of all, with these lovely ladies. Pure love, theses two I tell ya. Pure love.
We've established a Chinese food tradition with them.

We love you Wickey Women!

We spent a few hours just us Lindens, in our old neighborhood before heading back to Gram & Papa's. This is Bizarro's. It's one of our favorite Seattle restaurants.

Annie was enthralled with the piano man at the market.

We also got some pretty great visitors at Gram & Papa's.
Sesame Street with Uncle Wes. Awesome.
This next chapter is about a magical place in Carnation, Washington called Camp Korey. It's a camp for kids with big challenges. It is FREE to them. My darling niece ( C.C. ) worked there for ten weeks last summer. It has changed her life to the point that is hard for her to talk about. This camp has one of two ropes courses ( with a zip line ) in the nation that is wheelchair accessible. It is a stunning place in concept and well... just take a look! My family spent a day there to enjoy the Fall festivities with our own special tour guide.
Pumpkin pancakes!
Gram & Papa.

Weighing in.
With all three of their Granddaughters. A rare moment!

Our beautiful tour guide...who occupies a large portion of my heart.

This is the face of a happy camper, in an extraordinary place, with my family.
My cup runneth over.

This structure is one that holds so much good stuff. Talent shows, silly camp songs, dancing, wonderful, wonderful, wonderful...
with a decent view.

Check it!

Thank you Crystal.

These are our friends the Fosters. The girl in the yellow hat is Alex, who I use to babysit when she was four years old. She's nineteen now. Oy. So cute! I am very bummed that my Kelsey is not in either of these photos. I was actually in the delivery room ( and helped!! ) when she was born. She is more special to me then she'll ever know.
And this is their Mama, My Marti.

Another trip to Seattle to see our Peeps! Brunch with Mary Francis. Isn't she somethin'! She actually drove all the way from Bellingham to see us. Love that Mary.

Then we decided to sneak up on our friend Dan. Obviously, we were all optical industry nerds together. Good times!
So good to see you!!

Next we stopped by Shmancy, my friend Kristen's boutique, to hang out with her and check out her great business . She sells funky handmade toys, and art. It's fantastic.
Annabelle was in bewildered awe.
So fun and inspiring to see you Kristen!!

Then it was time to go to the Parker's for dinner. They are our dear friends from our home church in Seattle ( which I regret not taking any photos of the Sunday we went there while in town ). Annie got to play with Ren & Elise ( please tell me I spelled their names correctly! ).
Miss you Parkers!

This gathering is with folks ( and their kids ) that Pops used to work with in the restaurant biz that we have stayed such good friends with.

Story time.

The Guys.
The Gals.

Miss you all! Thanks for hosting such a nice time Tami!
I guess it's time to go home, and rest up for...

With cousin Ava Pumpkin!!
And don't you think I make a lovely ladybug?

I can't take it!!! Too... much...CUTENESS.

Time for toys!

Pops carved a most excellent jack-o-lantern.

Celebrating Auntie Kristi's birthday!
I can't even tell you how special our time was with you, my family. Miss you so much, and will always cherish this trip, and time spent with you.

Last visit before the road home. This lady has been another champ for us in the special needs community. She has two beautiful daughters that have given her lots of experience to give expert advice, and a compassionate heart for others. Thank you Michelle.
Uh oh, was supposed to get ready to go, but feel asleep on Papa. Who can blame her?
Last cuddles.
Thank you, thank you, and thank you.

The road home.
Only two visits this time. First stop, Ashland, Oregon to see cousin Sara.
This is a boutique she like to shop at called
It even had a play room for the munchkins! We got to meet Annabel with our Annabelle sporting pants that she had made, from cousin Sara. Pretty fun to see her reaction. What a creative talent.
Sara's house has good floors for wheelin'!
It's nice here.
We were blessed with a gorgeous Fall day, and Ashland and Sara charmed our socks off!
Thank you my kindred spirit Cuz.

Last stop before home to San Diego.
Squishy Sissies.
What an incredible time and opportunity. Thanks to everyone we stayed and visited with. It has meant so very much. And giant thanks to Gram & Papa for putting us up / putting up with us for a month!!! It was amazing.

These are two little films from our trip that Pops made. I'm so proud of his work here. The first one is a visit to the pumpkin patch in Eastern Washington with family, and the second is of our visit with dear friends to my old home town in Oregon. So charming, if you have the time to watch. Thank you for visiting The Post Party, and enjoy this wonderful season.