• "Oh, if I could only put things into words as I see them! Mr. Carpenter says, 'Strive, strive -- keep on. Words are your medium -- make them your slaves -- until they will say for you what you want them to say.' That is true, and I do try, but it seems to me there is something beyond words -- any words -- all words -- something that always escapes you when you try to grasp it -- yet leaves something in your hand which you wouldn't have had if you hadn't reached for it. ... I have written myself out for tonight, and am going to bed."
    - Lucy Maud Montgomery, Emily Climbs

    This is my place to "write myself out" -- sharing both my day-by-day thoughts and my artistic output. Thank you for visiting! - Carmen Pauls Orthner
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Fresh start

Filed under Cards,Fresh on Fridays,Layouts,Ramblings • Written by Carmen @ October 21, 2011

Hey there. I’m sorry that my blog has been so neglected these last few months — even though I enjoy so many blogs, I am sometimes at a loss to know what to write about on my own. I decided, today, though, to give regular blogging another go. Willow Traders — my on-line “home” — has a weekly blog hop, and I thought maybe I could commit to posting something crafty/creative once a week and linking up for the blog hop. If I can into a rhythm with that, maybe I’ll try posting more often.

So — consider this my inaugural weekly post. :) I hope I can do this!! Since the Willow Traders blog hops start on Fridays, that seems like a good day of the week to post. Since I like catchy titles (my journalistic background coming out there — headline writing was one of my jobs at the newspaper), I will call these posts “Fresh on Fridays”. :)

Okay — now where to start?! I have actually been doing a fair bit of scrapbooking/card-making/playing with my crafty supplies over the last couple of months. I was offered guest design spots with two kit clubs — Burlap and Buttercups for their September kit, and Sweet Peach Crop Shop for October — so that gave me the excuse to dedicate some serious time to scrapping when each kit arrived. I’ve also been participating in an on-line Get Organized Challenge educational series, hosted by Tiffany Spaulding from ScrapRack, and have actually developed some systems for HOW to organize my supplies. I’m not finished by any means, but maybe that process could be the subject of a future post. And at the end of September, my friend Megan and I went to Saskatoon for the inaugural Crop & Create event organized by Scrapbook and Cards Today magazine. I will share some photos (I didn’t take many — I know, I know — but there are a few, and I’m waiting for a few more from a new friend who took them because my camera batteries died) and stories of the event, my time with Megan and the projects I made, as a future post. There — now I have topics lined up, so no more “what do I write about?!” excuses for a while.

Since this is the FIRST “Fresh on Fridays” post, though, I will share my freshest stuff first. :) And that would be my projects for Sweet Peach! Corrie, the owner, actually had me lined up to work with the September kit, but something went wrong — we’re not sure where — and the kit never arrived. (I hope it’s not sitting in some UPS warehouse, and if it is, I hope someone finds it and sends it my way!!) So, no playing with the Amy Tangerine line from American Crafts or Jillibean Soup for me. :( BUT, Corrie decided give shipping a kit to La Ronge another shot, so I got the October “Sweet” kit to work with (there are two kits, “Sweet” and “Juicy”, every month), along with an embellishments add-on. I had to rush a bit because the kit arrived just before I had company coming (my parents came up for the Canadian Thanksgiving long weekend) and then we were going to be out of town for several days (the reasons may be another post altogether… though not one of these crafty Friday ones), so I had just Tuesday night and Wednesday to scrap! Thank goodness I have an understanding/flexible husband and a wonderful babysitter who took Sara a day earlier than usual! I got two of my four required projects finished before we left, and had made good headway on the other two, which I finished up on Tuesday.

So, so far Corrie has just posted my first two projects on her blog, so I’ll share those here as well, and put up some “sneaks” of the other two. First — a birthday card (you can click any of the pictures to see them bigger).

I used the blues, burlap and woodgrain letters to create a masculine, outdoorsy feeling card for my brother Curtis, who turned 33 (!!) on Oct. 18. I thought the “coffee filter” embellishment with the math questions worked well for a birthday card, with the “addition” of years. :) I stamped the Emerson quote on a piece of the packaging for the brads that came in the embellishment kit; might as well recycle, eh? :)

The second project was created partly as a way to showcase the photo shoot that our friend Lisa Friesen did for us on the Thanksgiving weekend — these were taken in a spot less than a five-minute walk behind her house, which is right on La Ronge Avenue, our main downtown street, so yes, we do live IN the woods! But I didn’t want the layout to be about the shoot itself, so instead I focused on a message I wanted to give Sara (who is napping right now…. I love that she is still pretty regular about her afternoon naps).

The journaling reads:
Sara, right now I have no idea where you will grow up – but wherever you go, I pray that you will remember that this was your first home – a small (under 8,000 in the area) town in northern Saskatchewan. It was built on moss-covered bedrock and swampy muskeg, with a single downtown street wandering along the shores of a vast, clear lake. You devoured wild blueberries, received tiny white leather moccasins as a baby gift from the chief of the Lac La Ronge Indian Band, played with beaver fur at the local trading post and moss in the forest, and traveled for hours to get to a Walmart. And sweet girl, I hope that you will also remember that these six adults were among those who loved you best, and who could think of no happier way to spend their Thanksgiving Day than with you. Photos taken Oct. 10, 2011.

To give the background cardstock more texture, I put it on some cracked pavement (ie. my driveway!) and used a sanding block to “emboss” it. I also embossed a border onto the focal photo with a Scor-Pal, which is a tool for scoring lines (usually for the fold on greeting cards), and then sanded the raised parts to let the white core show through. The top patterned paper reminded me of sky, and the leaves are on the ‘ground’ beneath us. With the kraft doilies, I used a mix of Glimmer Mist, Maya Mist and walnut ink to create some variegated colours that reminded me of autumn leaves.

And finally, here are the “sneak peeks” of my other two layouts, “My Cupcake Project” and “Re-upholster”. :)

Thanks for visiting. :)

Jack be nimble, Jack be quick…

Filed under Cards • Written by Carmen @ May 1, 2011

Here is a card that I made today.

Our friends Rennea and Mark had their third child (note the “3″ on the card!) on April 20, and I’m going to the baby shower this coming weekend for baby Jack. We’re giving him a book of Mother Goose rhymes, and that inspired the “Jack be nimble” theme for the card. :)

I don’t have a lot of “baby boy” stuff in my stash, so I improvised. The background paper is Sassafrass, and I cut the line drawing of the little boy on a bicycle from a piece of Studio Calico patterned paper (this one is from before they went mass market with their papers — it’s called “Swell”). I made a collage out of label stickers from the new Emma’s Shoppe line from Crate Paper, and stamped the words with some truly vintage alphabet stamps from PSX. I clearly need to brush up on my stamping with wood-mounted rubber stamps, but I think the wobbly lettering is actually a bit funny with the text “Jack be NIMBLE”. LOL. The text inside says “Congratulations on your new son”. The green patterned brad is from American Crafts.

Thanks for visiting. :)

Cards? Me? Yes, indeed!

Filed under Cards,Ramblings • Written by Carmen @ April 5, 2011

Something new for me this year is making cards, rather than going out and buying them for every occasion. Partly it’s to cut costs — I’ve already got the supplies, and now I have a set of pre-scored card blanks and envelopes that has made the process a lot easier — and it makes sense to do it this way. But I’ve started to really enjoy seeing what I can do with these little “canvases” to make something special for someone we care about.

I’m not “into it” enough (yet) to make a stockpile (right now I’m just making a card when it’s needed), or make cards to sell or give away as gift sets, but I am having a good time. :) And who knows — maybe I’ll start doing more, and start stockpiling sentiment stamps and subscribing to card-making magazines…. Okay, maybe I shouldn’t go there, if helping my financial bottom line is supposed to be part of the point of all this! Right now I’m using my scrapbooking stash, and that’s good enough for me. :) I have been pleased to discover that Sketch Support not only has card ideas, but uses card sketches for layouts and layout sketches for cards — very cool resource.

So far I’ve made two birthday cards (one for Sara and one for my nephew Haven, who will be 2 on April 10), a sympathy card (for our Early Childhood Intervention Program worker, who lost her husband last month), a thank you card (for my parents’ long-time neighbours, who sent an unexpected birthday gift for Sara), and a baby shower card, and right now I’m working on a card for my niece Quinn’s upcoming 5th (wow, already?!) birthday.

Here are a few pictures:

In scrapping-related news, I had a layout called “And Everywhere She Went” (about Sara and her stuffed toy Lambie) published in the Creating Keepsakes March/April 2011 issue, in the “Reader Gallery”. That was very encouraging, and gave me some additional incentive both to scrap and to clean up my crafting area. I really wish that I could hire a professional organizer who’s also a crafter to help me with this, but I can’t wait around for that — if I’m going to work on any crafting-related challenges over the next while, I need some space to work, and I REALLY need to get the stuff OFF my floor so that my 13-month-old doesn’t keep ripping up my magazines, grabbing random embellishments, and pouring her bottle of milk on my cardstock!

All right — I’m off to do some more card-making! :)

Remembering my friend Richard

Filed under Layouts • Written by Carmen @ March 5, 2011

Here is my first-ever memorial layout — a project which I’ve wanted to complete for several years, and finally decided it was time.

This black-and-white photo of my friend Richard Loeffler (which I didn’t take, although I wish I had!), together with the title work, has been sitting in my “unfinished projects” for several years. I pulled it out yesterday and realized that along with the layout not having enough room for all the journalling I wanted to include, I didn’t like the cardstock background. Anyhow, I ended up with literally two pages of journaling, so I decided it would be best to tuck that underneath the big photo, but that left the right side of the layout blank. I dug into my stash of photos from my involvement with La Ronge’s local amateur theatre group, Peanut Productions, and found these two pictures — both very classic “Richard”. :)

The quote I pulled from the BookCrossing memorial page, which has a brief tribute to Richard, and the spaceman and stars came out of that — though again, I suppose they are a nice “nod” to the title, as well as to Richard’s chosen avatar. I used a Studio Calico library card stamp to create a card for the copy of Catcher in the Rye that he took from a library when he was 12, and added some Prima flowers with text on them — I picked them because they had text, the colours matched, and Sara had been chewing on the container and dumped them all out, so they were on my desk already — but then I noticed that the text is from a dictionary definition and includes words like “kindness” and “qualities attributed to an angel”, and I knew they were the right choice. :)

I love the title, which has layers of meaning — it’s American slang, and sounds to me like something Richard would have said as he was leaving to go somewhere, and it also refers to the tiny airplane he’s just launched in the photo, as well as to the “great beyond”.

The journalling is way longer than anything I would post to a public gallery, but since this is my blog, I figure I can get away with it. ;) So here it is for posterity. (Note: I found the song lyrics yesterday, six years after picking the layout’s title — I thought they were a fitting addition.)

When I wake up in the mornin’ / I look at the sky up ahead, / and I wonder what it’d be like, / To be there, yes to be there.

Now I can tell you lots o’ stories. / I can tell you how it should be. / But if you wanna find a good life, oh, take it from me, yes, take it from me.

’Cause you gotta fly away like the blue bird. / ‘Cause you gotta fly away to touch the sun. / ‘Cause you gotta fly away come tomorrow. / Can’t you see? Lord, can’t you see?

(lyrics by .38 Special)

He slipped away from us on a quiet spring afternoon while watching an old movie, just three days into his 57th year. Richard was never one for long goodbyes — I remember him ending phone calls with a “bye” so short and clipped, it sounded like barely a “b” — but it still caught everyone by surprise. And I think that the reason it was so hard to comprehend was that he had always been so fully alive. Just look at that photo our mutual friend Pat Davidson snapped of Richard releasing a tiny toy airplane into the air: the gleeful look, the feet bouncing up off the ground… it is so quintessentially Richard.

Thousands of people knew Richard as rloeffle of BookCrossing.com, where he was the leading “releaser of books into the wild”. He left books everywhere: at restaurants, at Ice Wolf hockey games, and shipped up to the northern uranium mines, and the site tracked the books’ travels around the world — some even ended up in Japan. The 7,000-plus books he “released” came both from his own large collection — partly the result of several years of running his own small book chain, R and R Books, for 25 years — and from cast-offs collected from both the La Ronge Public Library, where his wife Rosemary is still the librarian, and from the regional Pahkisimon Nuye?ah Library System (PNLS), where he was the office manager.

He did it because he believed that everyone should own books, and he had always intended to do it incognito, not realizing that the username he registered under (suspiciously close to his real name!) would also show up on the site. He eventually embraced his “fame”, though, and was both profiled in our local weekly newspaper, The Northerner (in the photo, he was hiding behind a book) and interviewed for a USA Today article about BookCrossing. When Richard died, several of us sent e-mails to the owner of BookCrossing, and he actually didn’t believe it. He was so sure that it was a prank, he sent an e-mail to Richard’s account, asking if he was actually dead. Rosemary was very upset, and there were profuse apologies and a special memorial “release” in Richard’s honour, but it says a lot about Richard’s impish wit and zest for life that even someone who hadn’t met him in person couldn’t believe he was really gone.

Bryan and I did have Richard and Rosemary, whom Richard called his “storybook love”, over for supper one night, and I also remember attending the Festival of Words in Moose Jaw with the two of them. After he started working at PNLS, he sometimes gave his boss, library director Audrey Mark, a ride in the mornings, and his insane driving ensured that she was wide awake within minutes of leaving her house. The PNLS board (on which I was serving at the time) later commissioned local artist Hilary Johnstone to do a painting in Richard’s memory, and she chose to create a northern forest filled with vibrant colour — a fitting tribute indeed. I recall the story Richard wrote for The Northerner’s wedding edition, about the odd beginning to his son and daughter-in-law’s relationship at a bookselling convention, and interviewing him about his feelings as a native New Yorker about the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center. (Even after 30 years in Canada, he could switch on his New York accent in seconds.) I remember him taking in both an orphaned dog (named Oliver, after the Dickens character) and a group of teenaged hockey players, and taking part in a CBC Radio special as an official “last minute Christmas gift shopper”.

But what I will remember most are the times we spent together in two arts groups: the Wild Rice Writers and Peanut Productions. As befits a born storyteller, Richard enlivened many Ricer meetings at Northlands College with readings from his unfolding novel, The Big Prize, about the crazy goings-on behind the scenes at a game show (he was delighted by one character who finished the dastardly Rubik’s Cube by peeling off the coloured squares and re-sticking them on in a finished pattern), and with his natural gifts for mischief, charm and disruption. I will never forget the evening that Gareth Cook, whose staff key allowed us to use the college for our evening meetings, forgot to turn the alarm off, resulting in two RCMP officers showing up in the middle of the meeting. They asked who was in charge, Gareth sheepishly introduced himself, and Richard cut in with a mock-shocked, “Gareth Cook? Is that what you’re calling yourself now??” The officers actually went for their guns for a half-second before realizing that everyone else in the room was snickering.

Richard also loved to regale us with stories from his own life. There was the baseball mitt he got signed by every member of the Brooklyn Dodgers and then played with until all the autographs were worn off, because it was his only mitt and it never occurred to him not to use it. There was the copy of Catcher in the Rye he stole from the New York Public Library when he was 12 because the librarian wouldn’t let him borrow it, and decades later he used it as a prop for a talk about defying censorship (it was on display at his funeral). There was the time he was trying to find the train to Baden-Baden, and his phrase book German somehow convinced other tourists that he knew what he was doing, and they were following him around like he was the Pied Piper.

In 2000, Richard was recruited (by me) to tread the boards as part of the Peanut Productions theatre troupe, to whom he brought his natural ability to ham it up and readily improvise when a line happened to escape him. He was never afraid to embarrass himself – or anyone else, for that matter. He was particularly memorable as a psychiatric patient who was convinced he was Edgar Allan Poe and wandered around in a bathrobe and a red bowtie, holding a large volume of Poe’s works, and spouting off lines like, “Once upon a midnight dreary…”.

We miss you, Richard, but in our hearts, your unquenchable spirit lives on.

Journalling: March 4, 2011

Thanks so much for reading. :)

Recording 2011

Filed under Layouts,Projects • Written by Carmen @ February 28, 2011

I’ve decided to participate in the Project 12 challenge that Davinie Fiero organizes every year, along with Scrapbook and Cards Today magazine. The sketch was posted Feb. 1, and here I am with the layout finally finished on Feb. 28 — nothing like waiting until the last minute, eh?!

I really enjoyed documenting a whole month in one layout. Here is the journaling:

“Seriously, is there any better way to start a new year than with a big pile of presents?! Our belated Christmas celebration with my parents included champagne the night before, and then a morning of unwrapping gifts, homemade waffles, and lots of snuggling for Sara with Nana and Grandpa Pauls.

My first big project of 2011 was to help turn several months of “revisioning” work by our church into something tangible: a TV documentary from the year 2020, focusing on the impact La Ronge Alliance had had on its neighbours. Kelly Provost introduced the finished film to the congregation in the Sunday service on Jan. 23.

Sara had a CT scan done on Jan. 6 at Saskatoon’s Royal University Hospital, and our little extrovert entertained the patients and hospital staff while we sat in waiting rooms. We were very relieved to learn that Sara’s skull sutures have not fused prematurely, and there is no sign of pressure on her brain.

I started doing some paid work again, helping Eagle Point Resort with cottages and houseboat bookings, and writing newsletter copy for the Athabasca Basin Development Corporation.

We tried to go down to Saskatoon again on Jan. 22 for Aaron and Laura Haight’s wedding reception, but after 30 minutes in “white out” conditions, we turned back. Sara still had her sleepover at Grandma and Grandpa Orthner’s, though, while we spent our first childless night in 11 months organizing the church’s financial paperwork.

Sara worked on eating more adventurously, and once she even had the same supper we did (baked salmon, peas and carrots, and rice pilaf) and ate it all. Bryan decided it would be cheaper to make his own yogourt for her, and figured out how to do it in the crock pot.

I, on the other hand, worked on eating less, and saw steady downward progress (finally!) on the scale at our weekly Weight Watchers meetings. I started attending a weekly circuit training class at Fitness 24/7, and my Wii Fit “age” is no longer 70-something!

One afternoon, I thought Sara had a really snotty nose, then realized the goop was all over her face. I discovered she had gotten into a container of Vaseline and smeared it all over her face, her hands and her change table, plus torn up a roll of diaper liners. I remembered the first rule of being a scrapper mom: take pictures first! So I posed her in the midst of the “crime scene”, took my shots, THEN dealt with the mess.

Other highlights included signing off on our revamped mortgage, Bryan preaching about 7 signs of a healthy church, a high energy concert by the Sultans of String, and Bryan’s mom’s 64th birthday party. Darcy and Angie brought two huge pans of lasagna, Janelle baked a chocolate “wacky cake”, Sara climbed INSIDE the toy box to play, Theo tried to grab the barely-extinguished sparklers, and Ruth is unlikely to forget her party any time soon!”

And the layout:

Thanks for stopping by. :)

Making plans and leaving room

Filed under Ramblings • Written by Carmen @ January 24, 2011

It’s a new year, and I am hoping to see some changes around here — many of them internal, but hopefully the good that comes from that work will spill over into my external environment as well.

Since Christmas I have been very “up and down” emotionally. I talked to one of the doctors at our local clinic about how I’ve been feeling, and in addition to renewing my prescription for my depression meds, she also prescribed a Vitamin D regime. I had heard before that the lack of Vitamin D from sun exposure can be a contributor to winter blahs, but I didn’t think that was a major factor here, as we do get a lot of sunlight even in the winter — but I’m not actually OUT in the sunlight much at this time of year, because it’s so blasted cold, and especially with Sara, I don’t want to be out more than I have to be. We usually just a do a quick errand run during the week, and on Tuesday mornings we go to Parents and Tots at our church. Thursdays I have a breakfast and prayer date with my friend Timea, but that’s at 7:30 a.m. — well before the sun comes up at this time of year. I spend much of the day behind closed curtains, and now that Bryan and I are on a “no restaurants” plan for the next few months, I don’t even do the walk from the post office to the Java Shack that I enjoyed in the summer/fall. So — for the next week or so, I’ll be taking 4 Vitamin D pills (I believe they are 1,000 mg each) a day, and then going down to 1 a day, which is still more than I’ve been getting from my multivitamin (which, come to think of it, I’ve been forgetting to take… doh).

The house has been bothering me — I’ve been very slothful lately, and things have just been left where they landed, sometimes for days, even weeks at a stretch. I need to develop a system for dealing with that that isn’t obsessive but also keeps the house looking comfortably lived-in as opposed to a chaotic mess. I also want to work on my patience with Sara, who is certainly a contributor both to the mess and to the lack of time/energy to deal with it. She is both a treasure and a trial, sometimes at the same time, like when she is attempting to climb up my pants leg while I am doing something on the computer. I have decided not to apply for a job I was considering — I realized after much reflection that once we move, I will be working at least part-time and I will be away from her, and right now I just want to focus on being with her, at home.

This year I have chosen the word “play” as my “One Little Word” — my guiding principle for 2011. January has been a tough month for “playing”, largely due to my low energy and moodiness. When I think of “play”, there is both the connotation of not taking everything so seriously (task lists, mess, etc.), and yet I also think of play as being something children take very seriously — they are so intense and focused on their playtime, which is a time of both discovery and delight, of imagination hard at work. I want to keep both of those things in mind as I set out on the rest of this year. I am making plans, yes, but I also want to leave room, for making unexpected discoveries (the lovely moments of serendipity), and for time spent doing the very important work of playing — getting down on the floor (literally) with my daughter and her toys, being silly with my husband, playing board/card/computer games with friends and family (and not getting upset over wins or “losses”), reflecting on ideas (through writing) both for my own pleasure and for strengthening relationships with people I value (especially my mom), taking an interest in physical “re-creation”, deepening my prayer life through times of solitude and through work with a spiritual director, and most of all, getting messy and making mistakes and taking joy in what I can do with my art supplies.

So far this month, I have enjoyed giggle fests with my daughter, written the script for a faux documentary about our church in the year 2020, learned how to use my Wii Fit (I am getting a lot better at rhythm stepping!), attended two circuit training classes, played lots of Scarab Solitaire and Tropical Swaps on Mindjolt.com, listened to a randomly chosen CD (ie. I didn’t even look!) on my iPod, and managed to stitch on some buttons and glitter up a chipboard arrow (and much of my desk and floor) in the process of creating a layout called “Look at Frosty Go!”, about Sara taking her first steps on Christmas Day while wearing her snowman sleeper. I hope there will be much more playing ahead….

I am looking forward to attending the annual women’s retreat at Camp Kinasao in a couple of weeks — I missed it last year due to being 36+ weeks pregnant, and I really did miss it. It is a good time for playing — lots of laughter, bonding with friends new and old, praying, singing, doing crafts, photographing, reading, hot tubbing…. Love it. And now — off to work, since I do still need to do that! I’ve got some article assignments due in a couple of days, and my MIL is babysitting today, so I’ve got to get going on those.

The challenge now

Filed under Uncategorized • Written by Carmen @ December 27, 2010

… will be to summon up the energy to get all caught up on my writing before this Christmas season becomes a muted memory rather than a present (no pun intended!) reality. We’re done with the feasting and gift opening for a couple of days now, before my parents come, and are hoping to find some time for resting, getting caught up on some ignored paperwork and cleaning, resting, enjoying the opportunity to visit with friends new and old, and resting. Yet here I am still awake, at nearly 1:15 a.m. on Dec. 27…. At least we can all sleep in tomorrow, or at least either Bryan or I can grab a nap during the day and have someone else to watch Sara if her desired naptime doesn’t coincide with ours. I’m going to go try again to sleep, and will write more tomorrow.

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…

Filed under Christmas • Written by Carmen @ December 26, 2010

… a baby who took her very first independent steps! Talk about timing it for maximum impact — right in the middle of the gift unwrapping chaos, I glanced to the side and said, “Oh my gosh!” as I saw Sara take a step toward me, toddling forward in her little snowman sleeper. I startled several people, who thought something awful had happened to Sara and wondered for a second why I wasn’t dashing to rescue her, but then they realized what was happening before she flopped on her bottom — and then she repeated the trick several times over the next hour or so. Angie caught the whole scene on video, which is wonderful — how often does that happen, that you have a camera recording a big milestone for posterity?! Janelle and I had been talking not long before that in the living room, and she predicted that with Sara being so confident pulling herself to a standing position, “it” would happen within the next two weeks. Both of the Sengas’ kids walked between 10 and 11 months, and here is Sara, just three days past her 10-month birthday, taking her first steps. I was also amused by the fact that maybe five minutes before this, she and Bryan had opened a gift from Grandma and Grandpa (Papa) Orthner — a pink child-sized “Baby Princesses” car, which she had been examining with great interest ever since the wrap came off — and the tag said, “Once you learn to walk, next you’ll be wanting to drive” (or something to that effect). She’s always been one to rise to a challenge — when she was brand-new, every time we’d wonder aloud if she was done with her bottle, she’d start sucking more vigorously than before, and she’s pursued every developmental step with almost obsessive determination. And just maybe, that card gave her the incentive she needed today! ;)
… voluminous amounts of presents — seriously, it took 3 hours to open the gifts for 11 people, and we came home with (way) more than we went with.
… a “Big Bang Theory” marathon on the “Space” channel — I am so going to have to start watching that show. And I love the commercials for the “Space-Mas” specials, with Darth Vader opening (much to his disgust) a pair of fuzzy slippers from The Emperor.
… more food than I should have eaten, with round 3 set for after church on Boxing Day.
… a lovely time of relaxed adult conversation while Theo had his post-lunch nap and Quinn watched a movie on her DVD player — we don’t often take the time for that at family gatherings, going straight from dinner and dishes to the board/card games.
… fabulous photo-ops — we even got Dad to take a few shots of the three of us, which we get so rarely (thus the “twosomes” as our Christmas card photos).
… a chance to sleep in — I told Bryan this is probably the last Christmas we’ll have for many years when we’ll be the ones getting the baby up, instead of the other way around!
… word that our gifts to Curtis and his family in B.C. were both received, and well-received (including happy squeals from Haven in the background of the call), and they were brewing up a pot of the Bolivian coffee for breakfast and appreciating the art for decorating their new home.

There is much more I could write, but Sara is already back to sleep in her crib (she cried and/or fussed remarkably little today, even with an accidental tumble off the bed in Mom and Dad’s spare room), and Bryan and I should get to bed, if I can pull him away from playing with his new iPod Touch for a few hours of sleep….

Ahh… the Eve has come and gone…

Filed under Christmas • Written by Carmen @ December 25, 2010

… and my heart is full, as is my belly! Bryan is in the kitchen finishing up the last of the dishes from our celebration tonight with the Prokopchuks and our last minute additions, Audrey Mark (whom we ran into while getting sub sandwiches Thursday night) and Cole Paproski (who was at the worship service earlier this evening). It wasn’t really planned, but I guess we’ve honoured my mom’s “Christmas orphan” tradition after all! I’m feeling pleased with myself — as I’m determined not to let the house get back to such a desperate state as it was in pre-celebration, I’ve already straightened up the couch cushions, cleaned up the toys and dishes and vacuumed both the living room and the hallway, and we’ve tackled all the mess in the kitchen except the floor, which I decided to leave until after Bryan makes the veggie casserole and we finish up the gift wrapping for the Orthners’ celebration. We need to be there by 12:30 p.m., and it’s currently 12:30 a.m., so hopefully we’ll have enough time for everything. If not, at least we’re the guests this time and no one will see the house for a few days! :)

Sara is sound asleep, after the two youngest Prokopchuks, Nadia (6) and Naomi (8), “adopted” her as their playmate for the evening — they are always eager to hold her, and entertain her with stuffed animals and toys, and after they (with our permission) took her to her room, I was happy to just let them be. :) She was happily babbling (“lodolodolo…”) and having a grand time, and after a small meal, went to bed with minimal fuss, and we didn’t even hear a peep out of her during the rather raucous game of “The Last Word”, which had us, in teams, attempting to be the first to get our category established as the one dictating the words shouted out, and the last to be giving a valid (though that was sometimes debatable!) answer when the buzzer went off at random intervals.

Before the game, we all feasted on Bryan’s homemade cinnamon rolls (I had, um, 4…), apple cider, spinach dip with artichokes in sourdough bread, and skewers of meatballs, mushrooms and peppers. There were visits to our “library” downstairs, and a lot of discussion about Saudi Arabia and Alaska (both places the Prokopchuks have lived), dual citizenship and cross-cultural reflections, books and libraries (including La Ronge Public’s current expansion), and hunting and fishing trips. I need to remember to e-mail Audrey — who is the director of Pahkisimon Nuye?ah Library System, whose board I chaired for two years — a copy of my “Biblioholism” layout. :)

The candlelit service was wonderful — I always love seeing the dots of light throughout the darkened sanctuary and hundreds of voices singing “Silent Night”, and the “Did you see him” reflections from Joseph, Mary, the shepherd, the innkeeper and the magi (each in costume) were really striking. I will remember Joseph’s desperation and frustration over the rejection he and Mary experienced because of her “shameful” pregnancy and his full embrace of his role as Jesus’ (adopted) father; Mary’s desire to protect her son from the suffering predicted for Him in Isaiah; the young shepherd working alongside his father the night of Jesus’ birth; the innkeeper dealing with greed and neediness in her inn, and assisting as midwife for Mary; and the magi apprenticed to a man who had been studying the stars for decades, and tasked with giving the gift of myrrh, a spice used for burial. Sara was a bit fussy (she squealed quite loudly at one poit), and Bryan ended up taking her out to the foyer, but George Searson (who was ushering) took her near the end so Bryan could join me for the candlelighting. Oh, and we had the YouTube video of “Where’s the Line for Jesus” during the offering, which will go again to Scattered Sites for their outreach to the homeless.

We spent a good bit of the day getting the rest of the housecleaning done, though I did take some time to play with Sara and to breathe a bit, and while it didn’t look quite like I’d hoped, it was all right for what we needed — all the public spaces were clean. :) And we got the tree decorated, at long last, and I got some pictures with Sara examining the ornaments (she loved chewing on the Precious Moments one!) and got her new angel ornament labeled (“Sara 2010 – our new little angel”, in honour of my own precious “little angel” ornament that I got when I was 3). I went out mid-afternoon in hopes of finding some bread to make some sandwiches for a bit of lunch, and found the trees all coated with a gorgeous layer of hoarfrost — the world seemed bleached of colour, which is perhaps why Christmas trees are traditionally ablaze with colour, eh? It was only 3:30, but the grocery stores I checked were all closed already — I went to Co-op first, out on the highway, then downtown to see if NorthMart was open. I saw a lone snowmobiler out on the lake, but La Ronge Avenue was very quiet — I saw the candy canes and stars the Town puts up on the power poles, and a “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year” sign at Wayne’s Lumber, but very few people or even cars. The only “crowd” I saw was at the Shell gas station, where I ran into James Eninew (got a firm handshake) and Colleen Klassen (I asked if she was getting a few last thing, and she said she was just getting fuel — the very last thing, as they were heading south to her mom’s), and bought some white bread and cooked ham (my options were limited…). I overheard Cora Leung, the owner, talking about plans to travel, so I asked her and she and Kevin (her husband) are going to a resort in Cuba. I told her a bit about Bryan’s trip there and warned her about the rental vehicles — she said she thought maybe they’d stick to chartered tours! She wants to do a tour of Havana — “while old Fidel is still in charge,” she said. :)

Anyhow — a bit of a backwards look at my Christmas Eve! I should get to bed, as it’s already 1 a.m. and tomorrow will be full too. I hope Sara doesn’t eat too much of the wrapping paper, and I don’t eat too much of everything else…

The wheels keep turning…

Filed under Christmas • Written by Carmen @ December 21, 2010

… but I think I may have fallen under them. ;) Just kidding — I’m feeling a little worn out at the moment, but I’ll get through it all. The Dec. 22 prompt for Shimelle’s Journal Your Christmas participants is an update on your task list, and I’ve got commitments tomorrow morning, so I figured I’d just get this done tonight. So here is my list, with an update on how I’m feeling at the moment….

I’m feeling a little “bah humbug”-ish today, as I look at the remainder of my “to do” list. Bryan is off work as of today (although he did get called in to fix a problem, as something technical always goes wrong when he’s away), and he should be off until he’s needed back for the Headwaters Tech store inventory starting on Jan. 3. I wish I could be “off” with him, too.

He’s on childcare duty today, and he’s planning to take Sara to the church with him to play in the sanctuary while he practices music for Sunday, and then (so they’re out of the house) to play in the church nursery while he works on updating the church’s financial records on his laptop. That’s nice in a way, because sometimes Sara being (literally) underfoot gets old – but I miss her being around, too. I just wish their absence wasn’t because I’m going to have a day to relax, but because the house is a mess, the paperwork is piled up, and to top it off, there’s Christmas prep work to do.

I don’t mind the Christmas stuff at all, and it’s not like we’re going to have so much company here that I need to have the house in tip-top shape. But there will be visitors sooner than I expected, as we have now invited Kathy and John Prokopchuk and their four kids and my friend Audrey Mark over for Christmas Eve snacks and games, and even if they weren’t coming (in just — eeks — two days!), I just have a hard time relaxing and enjoying myself when the house is in shambles, even if I’m the only one who thinks it looks that bad.

Sigh –- I thought it would be easier to get ready this year, but here it is Dec. 22, we’ve had the tree for over a week, and it’s still just standing bare and forlorn behind Sara’s baby gate, sucking up jugs full of water, and there is so much else to do besides….

So here is my remaining list, tucked away for posterity….

Urgent pre-Christmas preparation tasks and regular life commitments:
1. upload and process Nancy and Robert McKenzie’s wedding photos, burn CD and bring CD over to Timea DONE
2. HOUSECLEANING (and all that entails…) DONE
3. get caught up on my Christmas journal entries GETTING THERE…
4. Weight Watchers meeting DONE
5. finish up paperwork for maternity leave income statement and talk to Service Canada rep
6. find out about donations and volunteering with Scattered Site project for the homeless DONE
7. finish wrapping gifts for Bryan’s side of the family DONE
8. edit, print photos and assemble brag books

Enjoying the season:
1. continue with my Advent Bible studies
2. continue taking photos, writing daily thoughts and answering prompts for this journal GETTING THERE…
3. read Mousekin’s Christmas Eve, A Visit from St. Nicholas and Nativity story from children’s Bible to Sara
4. read The Northerner‘s Christmas edition
5. decorate our tree (and get photo of me and Sara hanging up our angel ornaments) DONE
6. decorate house
7. set up nativity DONE
8. attend Christmas Eve service at church DONE
9. get house ready for and host Christmas Eve get-together with Prokopchuks and Audrey DONE
10. enjoy gift openings with family HALF DONE
11. enjoy Christmas feasts DONE
12. help lead music for long-term care Boxing Day worship service
13. munch on Bryan’s homemade cinnamon rolls and butterhorns

After Christmas Day:
1. get library area cleaned up and ready for Mom and Dad to sleep during their visit
2. Sara’s pre-op appointment for her CT scan (get paperwork signed for neurosurgeon)
3. Weight Watchers meeting
4. mail out remaining Christmas cards once they arrive
5. meet with Kelly and Timea to work on church vision document
6. finish and mail baby thank you cards
7. finish dealing with or filing remaining household paperwork
8. write letter to our sponsor child in Indonesia
9. continue taking daily photos for Project 365 (and start work on actually compiling them)
10. wrap gifts for each other, Sara and my parents
11. get stocking stuffers for Sara
12. set up savings account for Sara
13. set up Registered Education Savings Plan
14. invite Kandis Riese and Munsons over
15. sign up for “One Little Word” class at Big Picture
16. work on income tax revisions to include medical trips and home renovations
17. massage appointment for my back issues
18. wrap up on-line commitments (postcard swap and month-long challenge)

Maybe next year…
1. make gingerbread house
2. finish my homemade wreath
3. get some sleep!

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