This is why all our Christmas cards were late and why I owe the public library $24 in fines. I learned to knit. (Don't worry, I'm not neglecting the children. However, Joseph may be the reason I give up knitting - after the knot he got my yarn in to.)

Cracker Nut

This was one of the exciting things we did this December - The Nutcracker. You remember that Ms. Minna has been teaching Olivia ballet for the past couple of months, so as our end of season treat we went out to a fun breakfast at a little French bakery and went to see the Southern California Children's Ballet perform The Nutcracker. (Minna, by the way, has danced in The Nutcracker about 7 or 8 times in her life.) I was able to get discounted tickets, but that meant we had to ride the bus with all the other kids to the performance (from the parking area). Olivia's first bus ride. Blurry, but a cute picture if you imagine it clear.
By the second act, kids all around me were complaining. "Not another dance!" Olivia sat on the edge of her seat through the whole thing - even lifted Baby up to see. She says the little mice were her favorite and she renamed her imaginary dog Cracker Nut for about a week.

It was fun. The only thing I regret is not getting a picture of the three of us together.

Evening to Evening

We went to sleep with the house peacefully aglow of Christmas. There are few things more fun than making your children smile.
Kazams! Our neighborhood has a Walkabout four times a year. This month, during the walkabout, we visited our local bike shop and the kids scooted around on one of these the whole time we were there.
Let the family concerts begin!

Riding to breakfast
Skyping with the McBrides
Skyping with the McDonalds, etc. Never has being so far away felt so close.
This is cute - I didn't know Mike took it. He was excited about the books he got.
Tut! Tut!
After lunch we went down to God's Extended Hand - a mission downtown. Mike preaches there once a month. They were serving Christmas dinner and giving out presents for kids. The face of homelessness is not always what you expect. I talked with one gal, probably several years younger than I, whose husband was laid off in May and they have been living out of their van. Their four children go to The Monarch School - a school downtown for homeless children. She had home schooled them previously. Good news - he should be starting a new job on Monday and their life may begin to change. She was not one bit bitter for the struggles they have faced.
Out for an evening walk.

And to all a good night.

Just wondering...

...how I didn't inherit my mother's obsessive compulsive wrapping powers. She wraps better than Macy's.


In some people's nativity (you know whose), some "people" are more important than others.

Images of Christmas

I haven't posted much lately, but that isn't because we haven't been busy...busy in the living life sense of the word, not in the running ourselves ragged sense. Here are a couple of glimpses of the things we have been doing to celebrate the season. First, this is one of about 50 pictures we took in the attempt to get a card picture. This isn't the one we chose, as you will see, but it was cute because everyone was giggling. By the way, our new address is
1350 29th Street, San Diego, CA 92102. Not that I am asking for Christmas cards. Take the information however you will and just know we LOVE getting mail.
This day (after nap, obviously) we colored pictures of the nativity participants. We glued them to felt and then the kids placed them on a giant piece of felt I taped to the t.v. cabinet as I read the story from Luke. Only it was a little frustrating because the pieces wouldn't stay up there.
These were our spicy treasures (as Olivia called them). We made them to imitate the spicy treasures the wise men brought to Jesus and have been giving them to people when they come over. You boil them in a pot of water and your house smells good
This was candy cane day. We ate them, read about them, and made some for ornaments.
We made gingerbread houses with some friends. Olivia's is the front left.

I feel like the is just a bullet point post. But I didn't want to get too far behind.

Trimming the tree

Having children causes so many things to come into clearer focus...or at least for you to force them into clearer focus. Here they are - babies with a little genetic bit of you and a little genetic bit of him and a lot of Adam. I would love it if they were blank slates of purity, awaiting our righteous writing. But not only are they born as sinners, we (the parents) are not particularly righteous...and so there is this tension. They need to be taught, exposed, wooed away from their sin and toward Righteousness. Yet, I am constantly fighting my own unrighteousness. And the World is fighting hard for them.

While I know that the call of Christ prohibits us from running and hiding, I am feeling a heavier and heavier burden to protect...well, maybe not protect, but to infuse with everything good and perfect and holy that I can. Whether I am doing nothing or doing everything, the World is infusing - constantly. Try picking out a few Christmas books from the library. We talk every day about the coming of Christ in some form or another and yet what grabs her attention? Asking Santa for presents...because that was in one of the books. She found a sugar daddy...and all she has to do is write a letter. "Come on, Mandy. What's the big deal? Let her be a kid. Let her believe in Santa." I can't. If leading her away from Greed and Selfishness and toward Generosity and Compassion is depriving her of her childhood, then so be it.

She will be just as excited on Christmas morning to see the thoughtfully wrapped presents from her grandparents - picked out for her because they love her and know her and pray for her - than she would be if we told her Santa threw them down the chimney (because there is no way he is getting down our chimney - the fire is constantly ablaze these days because the furnace is broken).

Every day these days, Olivia and Joseph come to battle over something, anything it seems sometimes just for the heck of it. It is a constant gentle (and sometimes not so gentle) prodding toward generosity and patience and love for one another. I get a lump in my throat this minute over it. I get so discouraged - by my own frustrated response, by their seeming lack of love for each other, by their greediness...and my own. I just can't bring something else in that competes for Jesus' attention.

I don't know how this will continue to shape our holidays and our regular routine, but be sure that it will. I need the help. We all need more of Jesus and less of ourselves. And I take courage in the fact that they were not just born with our genetic little bits and Adam's sin, but eternity was etched on their hearts by their Maker and it will call to them, sometimes maybe just a whisper, but it will call to them every day they walk this earth.

So, this was supposed to be about trimming the tree...hmm. We did trim it. And Olivia and Joseph danced to one of my favorite Christmas movies - White Christmas - a movie making no claim of Jesus, but still exemplifying generosity, sacrifice, and love for others more than yourself (did you know I could pull that out of White Christmas - watch it, you'll see). And we drank hot cider out of...not out of Christmas mugs because I forgot I sold them in the yard sale before we moved, dumb.

Not exactly Danny Kaye and Vera-Ellen.

It is only their love for Jesus that will give them everything they need in this life. It does not matter how much they love me, or I them. Oh, that they would see Jesus.

The same, but different

For the past three years, in true Griswold fashion, we have ventured out to cut down our own Christmas trees. It is things like this that make me thankful for Mike. He is good at carrying on traditions. Often times I am a minimalist and if things seem like they might be complicated or, let's just be honest - I am feeling tired, I'll choose the path of least...effort. Mike is right in the middle of his ordination preparations and so I thought we might do better to just visit our local Lowe's...for Mike's sake. But upon his encouragement, I Googled local tree farms, he worked late and we all took off for about 3 hours one morning last week to find the McBride Family Christmas Tree. I am so glad we did.
As you can see, everyone has their own idea of the perfect tree. Mike inspects the price tag. Olivia checks out the size. And Joseph, as always, just happy to be here. And you might be asking, "Aren't those trees pre-cut?" Why, yes they are. The "cut your owns" were Monterrey Pines and we knew nothing about them (where my Googling fell a bit short). They have long, feathery needles and their branches were kind of thin. They were really pretty trees, but I was afraid our ornaments would slide right off. So we opted for the pre-cut Noble Fir.
It was fun to see how different our experience was this year. No fields of green grass and ponds with geese on them or lush mountains in the distance. Last year I think it was overcast and spitting snow. This year we walked 14 dirt acres and looked at bouldered, desert mountains in the distance, and though there was a chill in the air (maybe 65 degrees :) ), the sun shone brightly. It was beautiful, but different.


Wait 'til you see it decorated.

Now an anomaly

Who would have ever thought we would be so excited to see rain. The day after Thanksgiving was a long, windy chilly day of scattered showers.So the kids took their breakfast outside.
And we went out to the pier at Ocean Beach to see the water. It was SO windy.

Christmas in California.

Asian Night

Not to move on from Thanksgiving too quickly...but I've been experimenting with some stir frys (fries?) and Thai dishes lately. The kids are always such sports with the chopsticks. It ain't pretty or clean, but they'll eat their whole meal with them.

About a Thanksgiving

A short(ish) story in (mostly) pictures. We spent a lot of time building anticipation for Thanksgiving this year. We've been eating pumpkin dishes for weeks (above: pumpkin french toast with cranberry sauce). We've been filling our bowl of blessings. We've been learning about the pilgrims and whatnot. The week before Thanksgiving some friends invited us over for some of their activities. Below: we dressed as the Indians for a canyon first thanksgiving picnic. We ate grilled cheese and cranberry sandwiches, popcorn, apples, and pumpkin cookies. The canyons are one of the few places around here where you feel like you can get out into nature.

A confused Indian.

That is my favorite kind of palm tree. There is a whole little grove of them in this canyon.

I always remember watching the Thanksgiving Day Parade when I was a kid - so that is what we did...well, they did mostly while I was cooking.
My first turkey (not Joseph). I was nervous, but it turned out pretty good. I had a little 2 hours into it coaching from my mother that seemed to do the trick.

I took a picture of it before we cut it, but the memory card wasn't in the camera.
This is my new favorite green bean casserole recipe. No cans of anything in it and it is so tasty!

Olivia really liked the cranberry relish.
As always, just happy to be here.

We tried to invite dinner guests, but everyone had plans. Even our homeless friends - who would have thought. We missed our family, but all in all it was a special day of new traditions...that I am sure (if I am my mother's daughter) we will change next year.