Little Christmas Eve

24 12 2007

Today is Christmas Eve, but more importantly, yesterday was Little Christmas Eve. This is a holiday that I always thought my Grandpa Lars made up in order to have an excuse to eat lutefisk, pickled herring and fish eggs. But it seems like he came by it honestly, bringing it from the old country….

December 23rd: “Lille julaften” – “Little Christmas Eve”
Most Norwegians decorate their Christmas tree in the evening of Dec. 23. The decorating of the house and the tree is done by the entire family.
There is a start in the top of the tree, and electric candles-shaped lights on the branches. Tinsel, hearts, angels, nisser and sometimes flags are a part of the tree decoration. Heart shaped christmas baskets made of colored, glossy paper is a decoration which s widely used.

I decided to have a get together in honor of this most wondrous of holidays. Taking a page from Grandpa’s book it would give me a reason to drink wine and take pictures of my friends in front of the Barbie tree. As you can see, the true reason for the holiday (the decorating of the tree and giving of baskets) was lost on both him and me.

Pickled herring. Bring it on.

Since my house is very small and I had invited 8 grownups and 6 children I made the executive decision to allow the girls to open up their biggest surprise gift last night. I have been working madly since Thanksgiving to convert this little outbuilding in the backyard into a super cool pre-teen hang-out room.

It all started when I found an air hockey table on Craigslist for $35. Soon after the lime green papasan chair was found using the same wonderful website (also $35). My boss donated a rug, my friend some beautiful drapery panels, I bought a double bean bag chair ($50) and we used the desk and an easel to “art-up” a corner of the room. Eric and Natalie, the best ever neighbors spent four hours on Saturday helping me pull it all together. Without them I could have never been able to do this……

We needed to do this as soon as possible into the night in order to off-load the numerous children that we had no room for in the main house. I love that video. I love Sophie’s screams, but what I love most is Maya, at the very end, looks over at me with the I-am-going-to-cry-in-front-of-all-these-people face and shakes her hand at me. Maybe being her mother allows me to see how overwhelmed she is….if you didn’t pick up on it watch again, it is wonderful.

The rest of the night was spent in the company of wonderful weird friends. The room was filled with laughter and craziness. Also? I received the most incredible gift I think I have ever received….

Sean made it! Isn’t it breathtaking! Here is a closer picture….

Oh! We took prom pictures in front of the tree, too!!

The following picture really sums up the night for me……

Oh…I almost forgot. This party was brought to you by the letter “T” –

And the number pi –

Grandpa would be so proud.


Water, Water Everywhere But Not a Drop To Drink

11 12 2007

This last week saw the most rainfall in on day ever recorded for Seattle and surrounding area.

That’s a lot of rain.

South of here in a town called Chehalis, Interstate 5 was under 8-10 feet of water. Here is an aerial photo to help illustrate the craziness:

Isn’t that amazing? The Interstate is actually under the water – the road pieces that you see are the elevated exit ramps. Yikes.

The “God Clouds” lend a 40-days-and-40-nights sort of effect that I really like.

I remember learning from my Dad many things regarding rain and the weather in general while growing up on the ranch in Montana. He is the one that taught me that rain or blustery weather is coming about a day after you see the horsetail clouds high in the sky. I knew almost exactly how much time I had to get back to the house once the thunderclouds rolled over the mountains to the west of us. I knew how much rain it took to fill puddles to a certain level. One-tenth of an inch filled the regular small puddles, one-fifth of an inch overfilled the small puddles and surprising random puddles would show up. At one-half inch or more the possibility of a “gully-washer” loomed and I would excitedly monitor the end of the lane for gushing mini-rivers from the mountain.

He explained the differences in the soil. There was the clay and the sandy loam. They caused the water to behave differently. While flood irrigating (see “Surface Irrigation” in this Wikipedia article for explanation) I was always amazed that he knew the topography of every field and how the soil would accept the water. If you ran the water over one specific area of the field for a specific number of hours you could irrigate a totally different and separate part of the field just by understanding the geology involved in the water table.

Dry fields actually “boil” as water running over the dry ground absorbs into the ground around the alfalfa. The water replaces the air pockets in the ground and if you stand really still and listen you could hear the whispering agricultural hot-tub of bubbles.

I loved flood irrigating.

My Mom called to make sure that I was okay this weekend. I was explaining to her that I don’t even need to watch the news anymore to know how much rain has fallen. We have had an inch of rain in 24 hours if I get a large puddle at the end of my driveway. We have had two inches of rain if I get a corresponding puddle in front of the steps.

This rain was different. Yes, first I got the end-of-the-driveway puddle, then the in-front-of-the-steps puddle – but I found out when we get 5+ inches of rain in a 24 hour period my entire driveway fills with about 1-2 inches of standing water.

“Well, now I know how to measure that kind of rain,” I told her.

She was really quiet for a few seconds.

“Wow. You sound exactly like your Dad. He was always talking about how much rain filled up what puddles around here. I had forgotten about that,” she said.

The above reminiscence would have never happened without her statement. I had forgotten all about it, too. It is amazingly comforting that silly things like rain vs. puddle measurement can be so deftly connected back to him. It assures me to think that in some ways I display something, anything, that was once his.

That is the best Christmas present of all for me.

Tis the Season

3 12 2007

The girls and I have been talking.

We’ve been talking their entire lives. About anything and everything. They are smart and well-rounded and funny as hell.

And they totally get it.

They brought up the conversation about how artificial Christmas is. It started with them laughing hysterically at some toy commercials. They are sharp enough to point out that Bratz dolls, Barbies and My Scene dolls are all one in the same. Sophie noticed that if parents aren’t willing to buy Bratz, they will probably let their kids have My Scene dolls. And everyone seems pretty fine with Barbies.

“I bet they are all by the same company Mom. That way they get the money no matter what. I don’t want any Barbies this year. Everyone buys them for us and we have a hundred. I don’t even play with them. What a waste of money.”

Then we discussed artificial Christmas trees versus real. I like the idea of real, but love the ease of use of artificial. Our old artificial tree was showing its age, so we Freecycled it. When out shopping for another I kept walking back and forth in front of this tree thinking, “Oh no. I can’t. Can I? Is it ridiculous? Oh my god, I love it. But I can’t. Can I?” and on and on.

Finally I did.

The whole Christmas theme was identified. And the girls came up with the final them out of a few different contenders. It is…..

“Have an Artificial Christmas!”