Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Project Life (Thanksgiving Week)

I'm so excited that the holiday season is upon us!! We had a fun Thanksgiving week, and hope you did too!

Sunday 11/21: I made cranberry sauce for Kate's school Thanksgiving lunch on Monday. Matt said she mainly ate mac & cheese and wouldn't try my cranberries. Boo!

Monday 11/22: I kept trying to take a picture of Kate with the stuffed turkey, but she kept tossing it away from her! She was more interested in Brown Bear, Brown Bear.
Tuesday 11/23: More cooking! My only contribution to Thanksgiving dinner was two pumpkin pies. Kate enjoyed sitting on the counter and "helping" me make them.

Wednesday 11/24: After work on Wednesday, our holiday weekend began! We checked into "Hotel Kelley," where Kate stayed with her grandparents while we went out with Matt's cousin, his wife, and her sister. Sushi seemed a perfect, light pre-Thanksgiving meal. Us girls all had rolls, but the guys wanted the sashimi sampler, which arrived on this big wooden boat! You can't tell the scale very well in this pic, but the boat was about two feet long and one foot wide!

Thursday 11/25: Thanksgiving Day! I took a bunch of pictures (see the recap post here!) but this one may sum up the day best: Kate meeting her new little second cousin Estella with big cousin Lexi looking on. It was a day full of kids and family, and many of us were meeting Estella and her twin brother Henry for the first time!

Friday 11/26: Lexi was so taken with Kate, and she begged to spend the night with all of us at my in-laws'. They played until bed, and then bright and early Friday morning! (No Black Friday shopping for us this year--my Christmas shopping is almost done already!) I loved seeing Lexi pick Kate up--so cute!
Saturday 11/27: After all the Thanksgiving fun with Matt's side of the family, Kate and I headed up for a quick trip to my parents' house.  Kate likes playing with my old toys that Mom saved, like this cash register (cash? what's that?) Nala also gave Kate the "snow bunny" pajamas that match the bunny slippers she got her a few weeks ago--such a cute little ensemble! (Old Navy, if you're interested.)
Sunday 11/28: The main reason for my visit was my dad's victory party, celebrating his Louisville Metro Council win. All the folks who contributed money, made phone calls, put up campaign signs, etc. were invited, and it was a great celebration of all their hard work and high hopes for Louisville's future!

I hope your holiday season is off to a fun and festive start, and that our Project Life hostess, Jessica Turner of The Mom Creative, is getting some relief from the morning sickness that has kept her down the last few weeks!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Turkey and Family

So this is our Thanksgiving recap!

We spent the holiday with Matt's family this year, staying at Granna and Opa's and joining Matt's cousins and their kids at his Aunt Janie and Uncle Gary's.

We began the day with pumpkin pancakes. Though she assures me that they just eat cereal and whatnot when it's just the two of them, Granna makes a big breakfast any time we stay over. So pancakes it was--and bacon!
Then, naturally, we turned on the Macy's parade, and Granna got out the photos of when Matt marched in the parade his freshman year of high school. They marched right in front of Clifford, apparently. The TV coverage swooped down right on Matt's face, so the videotape of the 1995 parade is a family heirloom!
Kate was unaccustomed to seeing a TV on so long without Elmo appearing, and naptime was coming dangerously close, so we were quite thankful when the Sesame Street float finally appeared!!
 Of couse, the moment the parade moved on, Kate flung herself on the floor, screaming "Elmooo! Elmoooo!" And... it was naptime.
In the early afternoon, we headed over to Aunt Janie's. Second Cousin Lexi had been so excited to see Kate again, and they hit it off right away.
 Brian and Roxanne fix the beans while Christopher opens the wine.
This is one of my mother-in-law's pecan pies. Gorgeous, huh? My pumpkin pies were a little burned on the edge and baked in the aluminum pans the ready-made crusts came in. But I'm okay with that.
 Time to eat! The stuffing and creamed corn are always my favorite.
Before eating, we went around and shared what we were thankful for. The little kids wrote theirs down beforehand. Kate didn't share hers, but I think the list would go something like "Puppy and all my loveys, my parents and grandparents, and CHEESE!"
After eating, the kids played outside a little. The boys enjoyed rolling down the hill, while the girls played with the big seed-ball things that fell from the trees. (Osage oranges, I've now been told.)

Then, finally, the babies woke up! Christopher and Viktoria's 5-month-old twins Estella and Henry, whom we were all eager to get acquainted with.
And then we took a gazillion group photos. This was the culmination: the four generation photo with Matt's grandmother, her two daughters, three of the four grandsons, and six great-grandkids.
After pie, I took a few shots of the babies...

Shawn played his bass clarinet for us...
And eventually I realized I hadn't been in a single photo all day, so we took a family pic.
Lexi asked to come spend the night at her great-aunt and uncle's house (my in-laws') so that she could spend more time with Kate. The two girls had so much fun climbing up to the top bunk bed, reading books, coloring, and playing piano.
So that was our Thanksgiving! How was yours?

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Idol of Choice

Hope you all had a happy Thanksgiving!
BTW, This is not a post about abortion or socialism, though you might get that idea from the title and/or my first paragraph!

In January and February of 2001, I went on a college foreign study trip to Russia and Central Europe (mainly because I had always dreamt of going to Russia, not because I was a History or Political Science major, the course subjects for the trip). One of the major themes of the trip was “democratization,” mainly how difficult it is for a different political and economic system to really take hold in former Soviet bloc countries.

Old habits die hard, it seems. I saw evidence of that firsthand in a museum gift shop in St. Petersburg. They kept most of the big, full-color, coffee-table style books behind the counter, displayed face-out on some nice shelving. Using gestures and the few Russian phrases I’d memorized, I got the shop’s sole sales lady to take down a book so I could skim through the beautiful photographs of Russian architecture and landscapes, and their (English) captions. . . .

. . . for the rest of the story—why the sales lady got irritated with me and what that teaches me about pastor’s wifery—visit The Pastor’s Wife Speaks.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Project Life (Nov. 15-21)

This week might also be known as "the week I thought was Thanksgiving." For whatever reason, I kept thinking it was Thanksgiving week. Not so much as to not show up to work on Thursday or something, but in my head, I was a little off-kilter. Anyway, it was the week BEFORE Thanksgiving, and the week of both my mom's and Matt's birthdays.

Monday 11/15: Mom came to town for a couple days while Matt took a retreat to the Thomas Merton Center. It happened to be her birthday, so (even though I gave her her present when Mom and Dad visited the week before) we celebrated with dinner at Olive Garden and a little bitty cake!

Tuesday 11/16: Good to know Kate can be obstinent for other people too. Here's Kate saying "no, Nala. I do not want to go get dressed right now. Thank you for the invitation."

Wednesday 11/17: I get a lot of my decorations as hand-me-downs from my mom. She brought me these pilgrims that I put on the mantle. Cute, huh?
Thursday 11/18: No picture today, but here's two for...

Friday 11/19: Matt's 30th birthday!! We celebrated with dinner at Matt's parents' house and then going out to the Flying Saucer, a great beer-hall style bar we used to frequent in our Div School days.

Saturday 11/20: The next day I did some family pics for our friends the Hills. Becca is Kate's BFF and her Mommy and Daddy are pretty cool too!

Sunday 11/21: I made muffins before church Sunday morning, and remembered to use these cute turkey napkins! I've had them a while, but only use a few each November, so they last, and I enjoy them each year!

For more Project Life, visit The Mom Creative (and her husband, who just started a new daddy blog!)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Photographer for a Day

A few weeks ago, I confessed how I secretly fantasize about being a professional photographer (namely, for weddings, but either way). So, I was thrilled when our friends the Hills just mentioned out of the blue at Matt's party Friday night that they'd been looking for someone to do some family photos for them, and they asked me!

My skills are by no means professional-grade (I shoot on automatic and don't know much about the various settings) but I think I have a decent eye for composition, so with a good camera, I do alright.

So the very next morning, I met up with John, Nancy, Becca, and John's sister Jen at a park in Brentwood, and we shot all around this historic home, a cool old barn, and the playground there. I learned several things in my 90-minute stint as family photographer:

1. It's a workout! All the crouching, moving to get various angles, leaping to catch the antics of a fast-moving toddler, etc. I felt physically tired afterward.
2. Light is tough. I really tried to be aware of light and shadow, making sure faces were nicely lit, subjects weren't having to squint, and no wierd shadows fell across faces, but I was not always successful.
3. There are so many details to be aware of! Not just the light, but things like the fact that Becca's collar wasn't laying flat in the first batch of shots! I didn't notice that until I was going through the pics later.

I have a new respect for the professional (and prolific amateur) photographers I know.
Here are a few of my favorites from Saturday's shoot...

Friday, November 19, 2010

Birthday Man Q&A

Today is Matt's birthday! Two years ago, for his 28th b-day, I wrote a list of things I love about him. This year, I thought I'd let him tell his own story with a fun little Q&A.

So tell me, baby...

We'll start off easy.
What's your favorite food?
Sushi and Italian food.

What books are you reading right now?
The Gennessee Diary by Henri Nouwen, A Just Place by Jurgen Moltmann, and The Same Kind of Different as Me, by Ron Hall and Denver Moore.

What book has had the biggest impact on you? (and you can’t say “The Bible”)
Messy Spirituality by Mike Yaconelli

What was the last thing you purchased?

What song are you playing a lot these days?
Peace (A Communion Blessing from St. James Square) by Rich Mullins

What is your favorite thing to do with Kate?
Our (not so) Secret Daddy-Daughter Handshake

What would be your dream vacation?
Somewhere outdoors that feels completely untouched by human hands.

What was your most memorable birthday?
That's a tie between Disney World when I was 8 and Rome when I was 26 on our Honeymoon.

What has been your proudest moment?Winning the Preaching Award at Div School graduation in a class with a bunch of amazing preachers

What are you looking most forward to in your next thirty years?
Continuing to be a daddy!

And you are indeed a great daddy! I hope you have a wonderful birthday, and a great year ahead.
You can wish Matt a happy birthday too by contributing to his "Birthday for a Cause" over at One Day's Wages, where he's collecting for a charity called HEAL Africa.

Happy birthday, baby!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Christmas Gifting

I love Christmas.

On one hand, I can't believe I'm already blogging about Christmas (I'm one of those purists who refuses to decorate or listen to Christmas music until after Thanksgiving) but with the stores' Christmas promotions already in full swing, it feels like the right time to say a few words about Christmas presents.

Seriously, one of my favorite parts of the holiday is wrapping presents, and since Kate has arrived on the scene, I have LOVED buying gifts for her. Partially, she's just so much fun to buy for, but it's also that it doesn't feel so superfluous shopping for her. She grows out of clothes quickly, so I don't feel bad about buying her new clothes (though I'll almost never pay full price). No, she doesn't absolutely NEED new toys aimed at her exact developmental stage, but she "needs" them a lot more than Matt or I (or most other adults we know) need anything.

And that's what gets me. The pressure to wrack my brain to find gifts for people who don't need anything. The knowledge that other people are wracking their brains to find gifts for Matt and I.

I'm not saying we should do away with gift giving. Yes, it's a commercial and consumeristic twist on a religious holiday celebrating the birth of someone who had nothing and no place to lay his head. (My favorite line from the new sitcom Outsourced, in which an Indian customer service rep balks at an American novelty mistletoe belt buckle: "This is how you celebrate the birthday of the son of your God?") But gift-giving is also a special tradition that--at its best--emphasizes selflessness and generosity toward others.

I just worry that the cultivation of generosity is being replaced by social pressure: we feel we have to give something, so we find just anything to give.

I hate that feeling, and I hate the idea that others might have that feeling on my account. So, there are several ways that I can think of to combat the "urge to splurge":

1. Don't buy just to buy.
It's fun to see a huge pile of pretty packages under the tree, and (if you have any clue what to get them) it can be fun to shop for other people. I love stumbling upon something and thinking "oh, this would be perfect for so-and-so." But if there's not much that the other person needs or really wants, don't buy things just because you think you "should." I haven't got any great ideas for Matt this year, but I know he shares my values on this issue and will understand if I give a goat through Heifer rather than buying him a sweater. (Still hoping for a good idea, though :0)

2. Don't compare the cost.
This one actually has two applications: a) don't compare the amount you're spending on one person to how much you spend on another. This will just lead to meaningless "add-ons" to one person's gift to make it equal to another's. (I hear siblings can be picky about this as kids, but I think adults can look at the big picture.) And b) don't compare the amount you think someone else will spend on you. People have different budgets, different gifting styles, etc.--and that's okay. No one should feel pressured to spend beyond their budget.

3. Follow the "want/need/wear/read" guideline.
I've heard about some families that give a certain number of gifts to each person, one gift per category: something they want (a toy, a necklace), something they need (socks, a new hard drive), something they can wear, and something to read. This is a nice way to keep spending under control and--for families with kids worried about such things--to keep things fairly equal.

4. Give to those who DO need it.
There are people in need year-round, of course, but in this season so marked by shopping and giving, it is a natural fit to make giving to those people not just an afterthought but an essential part of your celebration. Budget for your gifting to the various toy drives and agencies that ask for year-end contributions just as you would budget for gifts for your family. Shopping and wrapping are part of the joy of the season, even if not all the gifts end up under your own tree.

How do you approach Christmas gift-giving? Do you have any tricks or traditions to keep gift-giving meaningful and heartfelt in your family?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Quick Poll

I love reading/hearing the comments from men, childless folks, and stay-at-home moms on my Working Mom Wednesday posts, and it made me curious about the mix of folks that are reading this blog.

So could I trouble you to take a quick poll for me?

Are you a mom? A dad? Are you a WOHM, a WAHM, or a SAHM? Or can you go out in the evenings without arranging childcare?
I know the options I give are very woman-centered (sorry, guys--it really does matter whether you are a WOHD, WAHD, or SAHD, but since there probably aren't too many of you reading, I'm going to lump you all in together.)

Working Mom Wednesday: Self-Doubt

Working Mom WednesdayLast week, I asked you to weigh in on your biggest concerns as a work-outside-the-home mom. As a blog poll (one with relatively low turn-out at that), this questionaire was in no way scientific, but gave me some idea of what I should write about for future Working Mom Wednesdays.

"Time for myself" and "time with my spouse" were the top picks (and maybe I'll write about those soon), but close behind were "guilt/self-doubt" and "pressure/criticism."

With around 70 percent of moms with young kids working outside the home (including 50-something percent of moms with babies under one year) it is shocking that the "mommy wars" still rage. We're all trying to do the best we can, but emotions can still run high as we're all wondering "is my best good enough?" or "am I really doing the right thing?"

Some of those feelings come from within (guilt/self-doubt) and some from outside (pressure/criticism) but I think those are really quite intertwined. I feel pretty confident that my career is overall a good thing for me and my family. But if someone criticizes that choice, I am likely to not only feel defensive, but start to doubt myself and the choices I've made. The cycle can work the other way too, when moms who doubt their own choices justify themselves by criticizing others.

A big question for moms dealing with guilt of self-doubt might be, "Where is this feeling originating?" Does it come from the disapproval of family members, acquaintances, or even strangers? Does it come from reasonable concerns like the cost of child care outweighing your income or a child that needs more personal attention than a day care can provide? Does it come from discontentment with your job and a real preference for or longing to be a stay-at-home mom? Does it come from a religious or cultural belief that mothers should be homemakers? Does it come from insecurity or envy?

I'm certainly not qualified to say which of these reasons is valid or not, but simply asking the questions may shed light on those feelings and open the door for some important discussions between you and your spouse.

PS: If you are new to The Parsonage Family, here are quick links to a few older "working motherhood" posts you might find most useful...
concerns about going back to work
benefits of day care
making time for yourself and your spouse
letting the housework go

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Project Life (Nov. 8-14)

Just an ordinary week in the Kelley household! Enjoying the temperate days of late fall as Thanksgiving and Christmas inch closer! Here's this week's Project Life...

Monday 11/8: Nala got these adorable bunny slippers for Kate at Old Navy. Kate loves them, and doesn't want to take them off even to get dressed!
Tuesday 11/9: We've had to hide the Halloween candy in the linen closet so Kate doesn't grab it! (Doesn't hurt us to keep it out of sight and out of mind too!)
Wednesday 11/10: The play kitchen we're getting Kate for Christmas is stashed in the garage for now. I don't want to be up til 2 am Christmas night assembling it, so we'll have to figure out when and where to put this 55 pound thing together!
 Thursday 11/11: Kate and I enjoyed cookies and milk while watching a little Elmo before bed. Love those cheeks!
Friday 11/12: No photo for today! Matt made a great Italian feast for dinner, though--with homemade marinara sauce. He's a great cook.

Saturday 11/13: We took a walk at Clarksville's Greenway. She held our hands part of the way, but also just wanted to run and explore.
Sunday 11/14: Our Kroger offers a free cookie to kids under twelve. Kate enjoyed this double-chocolate treat while we shopped!

For more Project Life Tuesday, visit The Mom Creative!


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