Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

Tag: christmas

A Christmas Story

This one is even more rough than usual, so please bear with me.

I didn’t have a lot of time to read this morning. I have plans to meet my youngest son for a hike and need to leave the house a 7am if I’m going to get to our meeting place at a reasonable time. That’s one reason I don’t have much to report on Trotsky’s The History of the Russian Revolution.

The other reason is that I’m a tad lost already. History is complicated, especially to read. If it’s too simple, then you miss the bigger picture. If it’s too detailed, you can get bogged down and give up. I wouldn’t consider myself a real student of history, more of a dabbler, so the Russian Revolution era is a rough row to hoe for me. I love it though, and I know from experience to keep reading even when I feel like I’m lost in the weeds of who, what, where, and how. I’ll find something useful if I keep going. Time reading is never wasted.

Friday, I spent outside, despite the cold wind, and got some of the garage cleaned up and ready for the next project. I finally put away the Christmas boxes, after going through them and donating the last of the old things I don’t use anymore. It felt great getting tired and dirt-covered!

The wind was blowing even harder on Saturday morning, so I started my next indoor project.

christmas story

These are houses from my grandpa’s Christmas village. He made them in the 60’s when he and my grandma had a ceramics business they ran out of their garage. As a kid, I remember the big kiln in the corner, the stacks of molds bound together with fat rubber bands, the smell of clay. I’d make small sculptures from scraps and blobs of half dry ceramic and fire them in the kiln alongside grandma’s angels and bears. When I was older, grandpa let me scrap the seams on pieces left behind from the casting molds with a razor blade. I never got into painting much. I didn’t have the patience or the steady hand for it.

Years ago, I’m not sure if it was before or after my grandma passed away, my grandpa finally got rid of all those supplies. The kiln and many molds were still in his garage. I wanted to badly to bring them home and store them in mine, but I knew it would be years before I could ever spend time at a hobby like that. I didn’t have the space to store them all properly so they weren’t ruined. It was hard, but I let someone else take them. I don’t remember where they went.

When my grandpa moved out of his home and into my mom’s, we were going through stuff in his garage. He needed to downsize in a big way, and I was trying to help. In a box I found some of grandma’s Christmas decorations, the angels I remember being so hard to get out of the mold without cracking their slender necks, the three kings she worked so hard on painting and decking with jewels, among some other pieces.

I also found the houses. I don’t remember them being made, they were older than me, but I do remember seeing them under my grandparent’s Christmas tree. When I saw them in the bottom of the box, with their faded hand painted colors, I had to have them.

Each year I put them up on a shelf, arranged with a blanket of fake snow under them. They are too precious to leave on the floor under the tree. One year, I got a set of the Rankin/Bass Rudolf characters. My houses remind me of the Island of Misfit toys, so I set the characters up next to the houses. I’ve said I would make a backdrop for the houses, and decorate the whole shelf like the movie, for years, but haven’t got around to it.

Here comes the tragedy, so hold on to yourself.

The day after Christmas 2020, with covid BS, one son moved out and couldn’t come home because he was sick, one on his way out to go to university, I sat there on my couch…ok with life, but a little sad, when I heard the cat jump, a scratch, and then…the fall. I didn’t look. It’s making me cry just writing this a year later.

I was frozen, looking at my husband across the couch. “I can’t look. Oh, god.” I started to cry. It sounds so dumb, but dammit. Why? What else could go wrong? “Worst year ever!” I yelled.

Once I had myself under control, I went to inspect the damage. It wasn’t as bad as I thought. Only two houses had a piece broken out of them, and it looked like it would be easy to repair. The church, on the other hand, I wasn’t so sure. I got a tray and carefully collected all the pieces, down to the tiniest sliver I could find.

The cat had jumped up to walk over the top of the bookcase as he typically does. Walking across the fluffy carpet of snow, he got a claw stuck, shook it get loose, and knocked a house over. Because the houses are lit up from underneath by a string of Christmas lights, they were all pulled over the side, one by one. If I am going to keep putting this set up after I repaired it, I am going to have to find a better way.

So…it’s over a year later and I’m repairing the houses. I can’t match the paint exactly, and they are rather old and faded, so I’m repainting them all. The sparkly snow is dull and dirty, so I ordered some new paint to make them beautiful again. I’m having so much fun working on them. When I’m done painting, I’ll work on making a better lighting system, a background of the Castle of the King of Misfit Toys, and small stands for all the characters so the village looks less like a drunken festival.

Thanks for sticking with me on this one. The story needed to be told. And now I’m off to go hiking with my boy. Hopefully I can keep up this time!

A Little Writing Anarchy: “Bought & Paid For”

Today, I’ll be promoting a little writing anarchy. Just a little, nothing too crazy.

Do you have to use writing prompts to create fiction? I don’t think so! I don’t think there’s anything I HAVE to do when I’m writing. I’m reminded of a scene from a movie: “You’ll do it and then he’ll do it and soon enough, EVERYONE is doing it! It’s total anarchy!” Probably not a scene from any movie that was actually made, just one that I believe exists only in my head.

“Bought and Paid For” is the prompt given to me today by Writer’s Write. I’ve heard it used before, in old movies and books, but I’m not totally sure of the meaning, so I looked it up.

Urban Dictionary’s entry was no help at all. Wiktionary was only slightly more helpful. I mean, at least I know how to use the phrase in a sentence now. But where did it come from?

The History Channel’s article “10 Common Saying with Historical Origins” sounded promising but the phrase I wanted wasn’t listed. How does that show up in a search?

Thinking about the meaning, I saw Santa’s workshop and all the elves working away at all those toys (for good little boys and girls). A small boy, maybe 8 or 9 years old, starting to lose faith in the existence of such magic, stumbles across the workshop while exploring old warehouses in the dark heart of a big city.

Magic can be found anywhere these days, if you look for it. No need to sequester it in far off places. Most people would walk right on by this place, maybe even work right along side it, and never see what’s shimmering beneath “reality.”

The boy explores down an alley and catches a whiff of something pleasant, warm cinnamon and cool pine. He follows his nose. Then a tinkling of small bells catches his ear, almost a laugh. A twist. A turn. And then a glow under a large sliding warehouse door.

He pulls but it’s too heavy for him. He lays down on the ground to see if he can catch a glimpse of what’s inside. Laying down, he presses face against the cold damp asphalt, and sees…no…that’s very strange…small green and red felted shoes walking busily back and forth.

The pace of the feet quickens, the singing swells louder, and then it all stops. He hears the clomp of a heavy boot moving towards where he lays, then sees the culprit. Black shiny boots pass in front and stop at his head, facing away from him.

His breath catches at first and he forces his next breath to draw in slow and quiet. Is he afraid of scaring the dream away, waking himself up?

The chattering he heard previously has hushed and all the felted feet turn toward the black boots. The black boots rock forward onto the toes and back again to the heels, while a long heavy breath is drawn in.

Suddenly a clatter is heard, possibly a dropped tool or project supplies, he can’t be sure. The rustle of quiet heads turns in awe. And then… The black boots shiver in front his eyes with a chuckle as it deepens into a belly laugh. A sigh comes from the amassed felted feet and the giggles, singing, and tinkling of bells returns.

But the boots continue to stand there. He imagines the body above the boots surveying the work being done in front of him. When will he move on? The boy is starting to grow cold, though so curious about what’s happening beyond the door. The damp is starting to creep up into his clothes and chill him. Besides…he really has to use the bathroom.

He decides he can wait no longer and slowly, quietly as he can, begins to move his hands under him in an effort to stand up and sneak away, when the boots rock and turn toward him in a flash. The boy freezes in place only to see the crack beneath the door grow dim with the approaching feet.

His breath freezes inside him as the huge sliding door creaks with pressure and then groans slowly open, flooding him and the alley with warm yellow light. He knows he’s been seen but he still can’t will himself to move.


I went for a walk to think of an ending to this story but only came up with, “Does a story ever really end?” Also, I’m out of time today. I never did get to a place to use “bought and paid for,” but I will or maybe I won’t. Writing anarchy!

I am very excited about where the story was going. Aren’t you? I think, for both our sakes, I’ll spend some time on Part Two tomorrow morning. I may not find an ending to the story, just a decent place to stop for a moment, but at least we can find out what happens to our little friend and what might be “bought and paid for.”

Go back to the first post of my November writing prompt challenge, “NaNoWriMo: But It’s NOT a Novel, It’s…” for more of these non-book related posts!

Old Posts Make Me Smile

They really do. When we started our homeschool journey someone told me that a great way to keep a private school record was to keep a personal blog. I started writing in 2006, the year my oldest turned six and had to be enrolled in school. I started our own home-based private school that year and this year was our last private school filing. I stopped writing on my first blog, Liberty Academy, in 2014. I had started using Facebook more and printing it as a book at the end of the year, so I felt keeping up with both was too much.

Comparing Facebook and a Blog, there are definite perks to both. I wish I could combine them! With my blog, I tend to write more commentary. I use fewer pictures in each post, using only the ones that highlight the day. I also write more about what went on that day and what I thought about, along with things they said or did that made me smile or pull my hair out.

With Facebook posts, I tend to post more pictures and only caption them. The positive, and what keeps me coming back, is the feedback I get on Facebook versus the blog. Facebook gets “likes” which tell me that my friends and family are seeing what I’m posting. My blog, well, it was more like an online scrapbook that I drug out when family was over to see baby pictures and vacation photos.

Looking back, I wish I had continued my blog along with Facebook for a more complete memory. Posts like the one I’m sharing today bring back vivid memories of my parenting journey and I hope my sons enjoy them as they get older. I’ve printed blog books and My Social Books for each year and love thumbing through them on quiet days.

The post I’m sharing today was from one of our many Disneyland visits. When we lived near it, we spent about one day a week there, sometimes more, but once we moved to the desert, we slowed down to about one day a month until the cost of an annual pass exceeded our interest in going. I love this post because it shows my interest in them and our relationship along with details about the cost of Disneyland! I did not edit this other than to correct some typos.

November 15, 2012
Yes, Disneyland Again!

When we decided to get Disneyland annual passes, we looked at the cost of the pass and budgeted for gas and at least one trip per month. That actually gave us a couple trips in some months because of black out days for our passes. So, we’re starting to wind down. We got the passes for Christmas last year and our first trip was in January, so we only have a couple more trips ahead. Tom is a little sad. It’s not going to be fun the last time we go and will probably end up being a VERY long day. Jake is easier going. He enjoys going and loves all the fun but is perfectly fine with doing something else and looking forward to the next time he may or may not get to go. Polar opposites those two are, on just about everything.

So why do I like Disneyland so much? I really couldn’t say. I grumble and complain and say I wouldn’t go if they boys didn’t want to, but then I’m there and it’s fun and there are the memories, and I’m teared up at the fireworks show. It’s strange. The down side parts are the cost (we could spend that money on doing things we’ve never done before), the crowds (not just the amount of people but the quality, blach!), and the sheer overwhelming-ness of it all. The drive down, the drive back, the bustling about all day, and then there is the recovery day after. But then there is the up-side parts! Spending the day with my boys. The drive there and back is filled with singing, talking, and laughing. Riding rides I remember as a kid, getting churros, telling stories about going there when I was little and when I worked there. The conversations we have in line are probably pretty bizarre to those around us, they pretty much cover just about everything; the physics of the ride, the capacity, when it was created, what used to be there, the theme, crowd control, funny stories of when we worked there, books we’re reading, movies we’ve watch, people in line, plans for the rest of the day, etc. I wish I could record them all! All the while I’m thinking how many people get to run wild through Disneyland so many times with their 10 and 12-year-old boys? I’m not dragging them and they’re not dragging me. We are having a blast together and there is nowhere else we’d rather be. The only thing that would make it better is if Dad could come with us. Poor guy has to work! But we always try to bring him home some candy and tell him all the stories.

I guess I’ve gone on long enough about this, so here are the pictures from our day!

On the tram again! My sons cannot just look at the camera and smile. Really, it’s physically impossible for them.

1 Jake on the tram         2 Tom on the tram

Ahh the traditional picture in front of the big Disneyland Christmas tree! They were blind from the sun. It was 85 degrees out! So much for the Christmas feeling.

3 boys at the christmas tree

4 stupid fake tree

Hey! Wait just a cotton-pickin’ minute! This tree is FAKE! What happened!? This prompted a half hour “In my day…” diatribe, which again made me feel old. I can’t wait to do this to my Grandchildren!

5 waiting for matterhorn

This is Tom trying to figure out what the crests mean on the Matterhorn while stuffing a pretzel in his face. I’m proud of this picture because it’s natural. This is what Tom looks like pretty much all the time. There is not a moment that goes by that he isn’t trying to figure something out. On a side note, the figuring things out gets crazier in the evenings just before bed. It’s as if he has to finish every thought through before going to sleep. Poor Jake has to hear them all even though he is trying to go to sleep. While we were waiting, Tom noticed a couple things on the cars that he didn’t know about. He asked me about it, but I didn’t know either. I’ve never worked on that ride. I thought he forgot about it, but as we got into the car he stopped the ride operator and quizzed him about it for the few seconds before the ride started. He got his stinkin’ answers! :))

6 splash mountain

Splash Mountain. The plan was to go on this and then the Haunted Mansion, Pirates, etc., but it was broken when we got there so we went on Haunted Mansion first. Waiting for that, I got quizzed about why “splash was down” and what could have gone wrong, how long would it take, who would they call, and if it would be closed for the rest of the day. You could tell Tom was worried that the plan would be altered. I understand though, at least this time. This is his favorite ride. So we waited around for a minute or two to see if is reopened. He wanted to ask the ride operator about it, but I told him he wouldn’t give him any more information besides “Soon.” or “Later.” and “Technical difficulties that will be resolved shortly” I know this drill. Thank the maker, it opened up and they went running off. This is a ride that I do not go on. I hate getting splashed wet and then walking around cold for hours afterward. The pretty of the ride is not worth the misery, in my opinion. So, I wait for them at the exit.

Notice the white sky? The boys did too. This is something that always bugged me in the OC. They sky is such a pale blue that it almost always comes out white in pictures. Must be something to do with the moisture in the air? Don’t know. But it makes for some ugly pictures.

We stopped for some dinner at the Mexican place, per Jake’s request. My boys LOVE Mexican food. The bummer is that they’ve never been partial to kids’ meals (seriously, kids meals should be smaller versions of what is actually served at that restaurant, but don’t get me started) and they’ve outgrown sharing an adult meal. The cost of feeding these buggers has gone up tremendously!

And then it was evening and the lights came on! That’s my favorite. I love Christmas at Disneyland at night! I swear that just seeing Main Street, the Castle, and Small World is worth the price of admission at Christmas time. Luckily, Tom and Jake still like the kids rides so we went straight to Small World when the lights came on.

Here are the highlights…

8 small world christmas

15 small world christmas

And the GRAND FINALE! The family behind us in line at Space Mountain laughed when I told the boys we had to see the fireworks from in front of the castle or I was going to cry and not be consoled. They would have to drive home because I would be crying so hard, I would not be able to drive. As if I were exaggerating! Every time I try to see the fireworks close up, it’s way too crowded. I cannot sit there holding my spot for three hours. I just refuse. But the park attendance was so light, I just knew we’d get a good spot this time and we did. Here’s my view…and I’m not zooming.

16 christmas castle

I didn’t bother taking pictures of the fireworks since they never look good that way, but it was impressive even if I have seen it a million times from my spot light. It’s pretty much the same show we did back then, but with more on the castle, no tink, and Christmas music. But, I’ll admit, I loved it. The best part was watching Tom and Jake look back at me with the “Did you see that?!” face. Totally worth being sardined.

I planned on leaving at 8pm, but the fireworks were at 7:45 and then the park closed, so we were stuck in the mass exodus. Kinda fun swimming through that. And we got a cinnamon pretzel for the road because my friend was working at the Wetzel Pretzel stand. Then we got to listen to people fight, push, and scream at each other getting on the tram.

It was another great day at Disneyland. I’m going to miss it. Passes went up $100 per person this year, so it’s not going to happen for a long time. But there are other adventures to be had!

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