The Pleasant Farm

Life & Family

Watching the Go! St. Louis Marathon April 14, 2017

Filed under: Random,Uncategorized — Jess Z. @ 9:14 pm
Tags: , ,

Let’s admit it… running a marathon (that’s 26.2 miles for those not quite sure what level of crazy I’m referencing) is NUTS.  People who run half-marathons regularly for fun also seem unstable to me.  But watching these events is actually kind of… fun.


First of all, I was surrounded by thousands of people anxious about the race.  We’re talking ginormous lines for porta-potties (anxiety is released as bowel movements, dontcha know).  But I was cool as a cucumber, meandering away from where I left Todd to find his starting corral, while meeting hundreds of people rushing towards the starting line.  Maybe they didn’t leave themselves quite enough time to make it to the porta-potty?

So while those thousands of people lined up to start the early morning race, I started walking to my first stop– St. Louis Bread Company.  Because I needed my breakfast fuel for this spectator business!

After my breakfast stop, I found my first perch for waiting.  It ended up being just past the 5-mile mark and I was plenty early.  I had printed a course map and outlined estimated times that I thought Todd should hit each mile based on an 8-minute mile, leaving space to update my estimates based on real time.  So with my extra time, I set up our Bluetooth radio to some Pandora jams, picked out my first poster (“Smile!  You paid for this!”), and finished sipping my caramel latte.


The first runners came by and I couldn’t help but think “Whatever.  You’re only running the half.”  The orange numbers designated the 13.1-milers, while the green numbers designated the true crazies running the full marathon.  I didn’t have to wait too much longer to get my first glimpse of Todd in the race.  I stuck around a little longer after he passed because I finally got to cheer on some runners who thought my sign was just hilarious.  Then it was off to my next stop.


During my jog to the next stop, let me just say– those runners were lucky they didn’t have to run up that part of Chouteau.  Annnnnnnnd I was lucky I wasn’t running any freaking race.

I had hoped to get race updates sent to my phone, but we somehow missed signing up for that option correctly.  Luckily, Todd continued to prove how un-human he is and he actually texted me most of his mile markers.  I made it to my next perch without too much extra time (I guess I spent too much time humoring the racers who laughed at my last sign, or took too long jogging up Chouteau) and updated the mile estimates on my map.  This stop was right before the 10-mile mark, where the half marathon racers continued straight towards their finish line and the marathon runners turned to get further away from the finish.  I held my sign that read “Harder!  Faster!  Stronger!  (That’s what she said)” but I was on the side of the street closer to all the marathoners making their turn, and they were a serious bunch.


Off I walked from there, heading towards the 16-mile mark where the runners would come out of running to and from Tower Grove Park, but before their trip to Forest Park.  My running legs weren’t opposed to jogging, but my shoulders were against it as the backpack started to feel heavier.  So I walked, carrying the radio connected to Pandora from my phone.   The “Running (Radio Mix) Radio” channel was a hit, because I got a lot of appreciation for the music from the runners.  I knew to pack snacks, water, and my posters but I will never watch another race without that Bluetooth radio.

Here I broke out this poster:


A handful of runners validated this as motivation so I like to think I helped them with their goals.  Ha!  And of course Todd came through like he hadn’t reached a struggle yet.


My next stop was super easy– I crossed the street.  That marked where the runners came out of Forest Park to head back to downtown, at mile 21.  I got to cheer on the speedy people looking at only having 5 miles to go, as well as the normal people hitting that 16-mile mark on the other side.  But after Todd ran by, saying “I’ve got a 7:08 pace”, I knew I was running out of time to see him finish.


The last part of my plan was to hop on the MetroLink to beat Todd to the finish line.  Long story short (long, frustrating, impatient story short), that part of my plan failed.  I actually didn’t even see him finish his first marathon.  Luckily, I’ve got people in all sorts of surprising places so I do have some pics documenting his last mile.  And I’ve learned that if I try to see him in the farthest places on the course, I need to come up with some other mode of transportation to get me back.  Possibly a jet or bullet train.  Oh— and I need to assume that he might actually start running faster at the end and screw up all of my estimates.

So are you going to watch a marathon?  Wear your running shoes.  Find a roomy but comfy backpack.  Google or Pinterest for the funniest and most motivating posters, and I highly recommend a Bluetooth radio.  Pack yourself a snack and some water.  And you will most definitely need a well-charged smartphone to keep yourself on the course, find the nearest MetroLink station, or at least find a latte.

And let’s not forget– be prepared to feel uplifted and encouraged.  Watching these “crazy” people reaching for their goals will make you feel a part of something much bigger than just being a spectator.


Next up: qualify for Boston???  I’ve got some posters I haven’t busted out yet!


Dear Mom on the Zooline Railroad July 17, 2014

Filed under: Random — Jess Z. @ 9:17 pm

Dear Mom on the Zooline Railroad,

You taught me a lot today at the zoo.  You taught me about parenting and myself, and more importantly you taught me about the mom I don’t want to be.

Trent was thrilled for the chance to ride on the train.  All four of us scrunched into one seat, which was preferred over being split up two by two.  For our first station-to-station trip, we went through a long tunnel and Trent was in heaven.  There couldn’t be a better place in the world at that exact moment.

At the next station, you joined us along with your kids.  You hurried two little boys into a seat, then started yelling angrily towards the back of the train at someone who was apparently not helping you as much as you had hoped.  I don’t know if she was a sister or a friend or a sister-in-law, but she scurried in an attempt to get the last two kids into a seat as fast as you were demanding.  She was holding your daughter, a young girl who was maybe 3, who was clearly upset.  The other little boy hopped into the seat right in front of us.  With a huff, you grabbed the little girl, still hollering for “everybody on the train!”.  It turned out that holding all the bags across your shoulder while also holding the little girl made it impossible for you to slide across the tiny seat next to the first two boys, so you snarled at the sister/friend that she needed to help you by taking the bags.  She reacted as fast as she could, and joined the boy in front of us.  Everyone sat silent and a little scared, waiting for those in your group to be seated and the “fun” to start again.

All aboard and away we went, chugging to the next station.  Your little girl could not calm herself down, reacting the way most kiddos her age do when they can’t catch a moment to recharge… she wailed and threw every appendage around that little seat, with you being the closest point of contact without a doubt.  Her meltdown was embarrassing for you, I’m sure.  But not as embarrassing as your reaction.

You screamed “Stop that right now” more times than anyone could accidentally keep track of.  You spanked her.  You slapped her leg, with the slaps coming more frequently in the darkness of a tunnel.  As her wailing continued, you turned her around into a hugging position but instead of a hug, you tried squeezing her so hard that she wouldn’t be able to flail.  Her head would fling back with a scream, and you would yank it back against you.  I can’t speak for the rest of the passengers on the train, but those of us in our car were speechless and scared for that little girl.

Your sister/friend tried handing you the little girl’s doll, mumbling about what else might help.  Your boy sitting between us and you put his head on the seat and declared that he hated the zoo.  When you threatened to take him home, he responded hopefully with “We can go home?”

The remainder of our trip on the Zooline Railroad was quiet.  I was actually relieved when we had made the round-trip and it was time to reclaim our strollers.

I don’t know you, and I don’t know how your day had been up to that point.  There may have been a decent excuse for your bad attitude.  Maybe you found out that morning that your husband lost his job, or your mom has cancer, or a best friend from college was in a car accident.  My point isn’t how terrible you acted, but rather what I took away from how you acted.

I don’t want to be the mom that yells at those who are trying to help.  I don’t want to be the mom who is so angry that hitting my child would be the first reaction.  I don’t want to expect my children to be perfect and quiet all the time.  I don’t want a trip to the zoo or museum or fair or train display to be so awful, my kids beg for us to leave.  I don’t want to have a parental meltdown that shadows the meltdown of a preschooler.  I don’t want my boys to be afraid of me.

I want them to look forward to trips as a family.  I want to learn how to let go of schedules and routes, and allow them to make their own experiences when we get to go to special places (even if that means not seeing it all, or doing it all!).  I want to give them the freedom to be their age, and be able to remind myself that a child having a meltdown just means they’re normal and not that I have done a poor job parenting.  I want to use the volume of voice when I speak to them that I hope they use with me.  I want to find that style of parenting that fits between being too disciplined and being too laid-back.  I want my kids to understand rules and expectations without forcing them to lose sight of freedom and new experiences.  I have a lot of figuring-out to do.

The rest of your story, as sympathetic as it may be, doesn’t make a difference to me.  What does make a difference is seeing a live example of how I don’t want to mother my children and I hope that example sticks with me the next time I come to the verge of my own parental meltdown.

I do hope your day got better.  I hope your kids cooperated and got to see something neat at the zoo, and I hope your sister/friend got a sincere thanks for her help with your gang.  And I hope that there comes a time when a quiet tone calms a screaming kid, making you think that maybe things don’t have to be this way.


The Mom Stuck Behind You



What I Learned In College June 1, 2014

Sometimes people think that the goal of attending college is to earn a degree, seek employment in that area of profession, and carry out a career until retirement.  While that may be the case for some, the percentage of people who attend college only to find their career path make a surprising turn must be significant, considering the number of people I personally know who fall into this category.  My own life story includes earning a degree in Animal Sciences from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where I took classes to specialize my degree towards dairy herd management.  Fast-forward a few years, and my story will tell you that I became employed into a full-time position as a paramedic.  Well hmmm.  Guess those college years were wasted, right?

It shocks me how often people make an assumption: that if I’m not “using” my degree, then the time and money spent earning said degree were wasted.  I happen to find it easy to argue that point, with a few points of my own.  And thus, I present to you, what I learned in college.


1.  I’m in charge of me.

Wake up on time.  Get to where I’m expected to be on time.  Go to bed on time.  Pick up my groceries, wash my laundry, pay my bills.  In college, I figured out pretty quickly that no one was going to do any of these things for me, or remind me to do them.  And who suffered the consequences if I didn’t get to class on time or buy a gallon of milk?  Just me.  Now, I have children who would suffer the consequences if I didn’t have my shit in order.  But in college, I learned that I was no longer someone else’s responsibility and that I’m quite capable of being independent.


2.  Eating right is hard.

I grew up in a house where each meal arrived to the table without my active participation in choosing it or creating it.  We ate what was served (except I just can’t eat beets and I’m pretty sure my sister still avoids lima beans) and didn’t really appreciate how well the Food Pyramid was represented around the clock (thanks Mom).  Then I got to college and was given a magical card that let me into the dining hall, where anything and everything was fair game.  No one would question me if I ate three bowls of Lucky Charms.  I thought a bagel every morning was a grand idea because I wasn’t used to having free access to bagels.  Even though I like vegetables, it was hard to remember to toss them onto the tray next to whatever caught my eye.  I don’t recall fitting the stereotype of “The Freshman 15” but I learned that I really didn’t have the metabolism to eat whatever I wanted.  In the dorm near mine, there was a late night cafeteria that served an array of things fried and dripping with grease.  With that same magical card, I could go grab a pizza and fried cheese sticks; somehow, the idea that those things were there and “free” made it a bedtime decision that didn’t take much convincing.  At some point, I realized that those pizzas were barely palatable and instead of eating late night crap, I could just go to bed.  Oh yeah… I learned that eating right takes a lot of thought and active participation.


3.  Money matters.

I was blessed with the American Dream life of two hardworking parents who chose to financially support their children through college.  I didn’t have a clue at the time what that actually meant, or that other kids would be sitting next to me in class and paying tuition bills on their own.  I did know I needed to apply for every scholarship that might consider me, and I knew I was expected to be employed and earn my own money.  During this same time, I got my very first credit card and was responsible for paying my own bills and making rent payments.  I had to keep a checkbook balance and actually do the math; I had to watch dates on the calendar for when bills were due, and sometimes wait for Pay Day.  I learned to appreciate gifts, earn my keep, and worry about money (not a fun skill, but a skill nonetheless).  And in the years following graduation, I’ve come to realize the full extent of how damn lucky I am to have had my tuition paid.


4.  Sisters can be friends.

Growing up, you’re stuck with your siblings.  You’re stuck sitting next to them at the dinner table, maybe stuck sharing a room, often stuck sharing a car or a hobby.  I never classified my relationships with each of my three sisters while growing up as anything other than “sister”; I never knew any different.  When I went to college, my older sister who I was forced to share space with at home became the wise, experienced one who I would choose to meet for lunch (and who got me through chemistry).  Then she graduated and my younger sister showed up on campus, and we developed a friendship that went beyond sisterhood too.  The great thing about being on campus with a sister is you can do all the fun “sister” things, then everyone goes home to their own space!  Then everyone is out of school, married with kids, living lives with careers and separate addresses… and I realize that the growing-up part of having siblings is a tiny chunk of time compared to the friends-forever part.


5.  Report cards don’t get sent home.

An A is great to brag about.  The rest of the alphabet?  Not so much.  But if someone is investing in your education and personally cares about your successes, I feel like that person is owed a regular update on how classes are going (even if the answer is “Not so great.”).  College is a good time to learn that Bs and Cs are okay (if that lesson wasn’t learned in high school).  I muddled my way through French, math, and chemistry because I had to, not because I enjoyed the material.  And I figured out that working towards a degree that involved a deeper understanding of any of those topics was not for me!


6.  Extracurriculars are worth the time.

Oh hell yeah.  College is not defined by the classes in a schedule but how time is spent otherwise.  Maybe it’s running or reading or drinking or sleeping… but college is the perfect opportunity to be involved in true extracurriculars.  My college experience wouldn’t have been anywhere near the same without the Marching Illini, playing in the Basketball Band during home games, the Illini Dairy Club, being a member of the Illini Dairy Judging Team, or playing intramural sports.  Those groups are where my memories were made and where my closest friendships began.  I traveled for the first time in my life as part of my extracurriculars, and had experiences that I would have missed out on if I only studied.  Of all the pictures I have from my years on campus, I can’t find a single one of me studying in the library.


7.  Some friends are forever.

And some aren’t, and that’s okay too.  But the friends who know me today and knew me in college have seen my life come full circle and been supportive the whole way.  These are the friends who I have shared some of the most awesome experiences with, from a time in my life that will never be recreated (no kids, no responsibilities, no major bills).  These friends understand what it means to “bleed orange and blue” and feel the same warm, fuzzy feelings of returning to campus.  They also share the same dismay of returning to campus and not recognizing half of the buildings… we haven’t been gone for that long, right???


8.  Oh wait, I don’t have it all figured out?

In high school, everything seemed black and white.  Then I went to college and everything that was “black and white” became gray and fuzzy.  Turns out, our world isn’t so black and white either.  Things change, people change, realities change.  But we still set goals, make achievements, and hopefully spend time with the “extracurriculars” that make tomorrow worth looking forward to.  Nope, I don’t have it all figured out even at this point.  I have my family and my friends, and the rest keeps sorting itself out on some wacky but trusted journey.  My experiences in college were a great stepping stone to figuring out how to make life worth living, even if I failed at choosing a major that would define my life ten years later.


I wouldn’t choose to have my life today any different from how it is.  I spend time at the farm (see, using my degree!), enjoy my job, and have the best, most handsome group of fellas living under my roof and filling my heart.  Part of my journey to where I am now included four of the best years of my life studying at the U of I, growing friendships and making memories.  My name isn’t engraved on a Bronze Tablet of insane smartness (like my sisters Jenny and Julie, kudos!) but it is somewhere in the Animal Science Lab on a plaque for something or another.  Looking through these pictures reminds me of so many awesome experiences I had shoved into those 4 years, and I’ll have those memories for the rest of my life.  Along with some retained knowledge about ruminant nutrition and reproductive health in dairy cattle, of course.

Just don’t ask me a single thing about chemistry.


Facebook Isn’t That Interesting October 16, 2012

Filed under: Random — Jess Z. @ 9:19 am

When a saleslady would suggest I could pull a coupon up on my phone in place of the mailed one I “forgot” (read: never had in the first place but was trying for a better deal), I would sarcastically laugh.  “Not on this phone,” I would reply.

When coworkers compared strategies for Angry Birds and spent free time with their heads bent over their fancy phones, I would bend my head over a book or a magazine.

When I would wonder “Where is that address?” or “What is a lunet?” or “What is the balance in my checking account?”, I would make a mental note to look up an answer at some later point in time when I had internet access.  Which means that later on when staring at a computer, I couldn’t remember anything that I meant to look up.

Then, my “ordinary” phone was put on hospice.  It’s functions became dysfunctional one-by-one: first it wouldn’t ring when my dad would call.  Then the touch-screen area to send a text message became unresponsive.  I couldn’t set my alarm clock.

I started going nuts.  I hadn’t considered myself as one to rely on texting, but I sure missed it when it wasn’t an option.  I had to revert back to calling people when I had a quick question.  I couldn’t bother texting completely boring, mundane thoughts as they passed through my head.  I’m sure my husband and family missed my sharing of those thoughts with them.

The time had come.  A new phone was no longer a want, it was a need.  And would you believe, most places don’t even sell phones anymore without every bell and whistle that comes with internet capability?

So it was that I ended up with a phone bigger than my hand that’s faster than my brain and has sunk me into the depths of free time spent dulling brain waves.

I love playing games with my sisters.  I love having a decent camera that can catch my super-handsome toddler before he notices me pointing my phone at him (which results in the “Duh” look).  I love being able to google before I forget what I’m yearning to know more about.

But I’ve found out that checking Facebook more than once a day is really unnecessary.  It’s shocking how much about people’s lives that I don’t care to know about.  And those who I stalk purely out of curiosity over what ridiculousness they thought worth sharing?  Even they’ve become boring.

When I have a free moment, I’ve become one of those staring at my phone.  And I’m not proud of it.  My email isn’t interesting, my Facebook isn’t interesting, my turn to make a play on a game can certainly wait while I’m helping my kid sort shapes.

I can’t give up texting.  I’ll get on Facebook more often than really necessary but probably never miss that my college friend finally had her baby or other friends finally got engaged.  I’ll check my account balances when I need to know how much is there, I’ll find an address for someone who’s called 911, I’ll check my email when a friend needs to vent longer than is appropriate for a text.  I’ll take pictures of my kid who apparently won’t stop growing and learning, I’ll get better at Scrabble with experience.

But I also need to pick up my novel and start putting a dent in my stash of unread magazines.  I need to spend the time with my kid giving high-fives and singing Itsy-Bitsy Spider instead of thinking of a way to play the letter “z”.  And this fancy phone isn’t going to help with those things.


Candy Monsters June 14, 2012

Filed under: Random — Jess Z. @ 1:40 pm

Way back when, my mom would load up her 4 kids to watch a parade every now and then.  We’d have death-grips on our Walmart sacks and eagerly wait for candy to fly our way.  Every now and then I’m sure there was an elbow thrown in between us, and every now and then I’m sure we got hollered at for drifting too far into the road.  We’d examine our pots of gold and do some trading: no strawberry candies for me, but I’d love your Tootsie Pop thankyouverymuch.

Fast-forward to 2012.  I’m sitting on a trailer with a tub of candy to toss during a parade.  Sometimes I glimpse a kid standing on the curb waving with one hand and gripping their sack in the other.  I shower the kid with candy and their face lights up with excitement and thankfulness.  But this isn’t the norm.

Rather, the norm is kids yelling at me “CANDY!  Give me candy!  Hey, over here!  I need more than that!”  They’re shoving the kids next to them and grappling for pieces that hit the ground and roll.  More than a dozen times I see a parent nudge a kid when it becomes obvious that ours is a trailer that’s tossing candy, as if the parent is saying “Go!  Get up there!  Collect that candy!”

I’m annoyed at the audacity these young kids have to demand that it’s my job to throw them candy.  You know what?  It’s not.  My job is to provide a visual of a fire department funded by tax dollars that is professional and well-equipped.  And I get to toss candy from time to time, preferably to those kids who are happy to see the fire trucks and wave… and really excited when candy’s a part of the deal too!

Do parents bring their kids to parades with candy acquisition being the sole purpose?  What about the police cars, the float entries that groups spend hours decorating, the creepy lions and bears that walk around looking for high-fives?  What about the Clydesdales and the marching band?

Thank you to the adults who said thank you to us on behalf of their kids; I know the kids hear your example on some level of sugar-induced craziness.  Thank you to the kids who wave and smile without demanding candy.  Thank you to those who are happy for a single Tootsie Pop and realize that by us throwing one piece at a time, every kid along the parade route has a better chance at sharing some of the wealth.

It makes me want to take Trent along on every parade, where he can find the enjoyment of giving candy to others rather than receiving.  Otherwise you will find me near the curb: the mean mom making her kid say thank you and not allowing him to bulldoze other kids over for a butterscotch disc.


Are You Laughing Yet? December 12, 2011

Filed under: Random — Jess Z. @ 9:28 am
I stole this from a friend on facebook and it’s definitely worth sharing:
Apparently the White House referred to Christmas Trees as Holiday Trees for the first time this year which prompted CBS presenter, Ben Stein, to present this piece which I would like to share with you. I think it applies just as much to many countries as it does to America …

The following was written by Ben Stein and recited by him on CBS Sunday Morning Commentary.

My confession:

I am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish. And it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up, bejeweled trees, Christmas trees. I don’t feel threatened. I don’t feel discriminated against. That’s what they are, Christmas trees.

It doesn’t bother me a bit when people say, ‘Merry Christmas’ to me. I don’t think they are slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto. In fact, I kind of like it. It shows that we are all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of year. It doesn’t bother me at all that there is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my beach house in Malibu . If people want a creche, it’s just as fine with me as is the Menorah a few hundred yards away.

I don’t like getting pushed around for being a Jew, and I don’t think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians. I think people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period. I have no idea where the concept came from, that America is an explicitly atheist country. I can’t find it in the Constitution and I don’t like it being shoved down my throat.

Or maybe I can put it another way: where did the idea come from that we should worship celebrities and we aren’t allowed to worship God ? I guess that’s a sign that I’m getting old, too. But there are a lot of us who are wondering where these celebrities came from and where the America we knew went to.

In light of the many jokes we send to one another for a laugh, this is a little different: This is not intended to be a joke; it’s not funny, it’s intended to get you thinking.

Billy Graham’s daughter was interviewed on the Early Show and Jane Clayson asked her ‘How could God let something like this happen?’ (regarding Hurricane Katrina).. Anne Graham gave an extremely profound and insightful response. She said, ‘I believe God is deeply saddened by this, just as we are, but for years we’ve been telling God to get out of our schools, to get out of our government and to get out of our lives. And being the gentleman He is, I believe He has calmly backed out. How can we expect God to give us His blessing and His protection if we demand He leave us alone?’

In light of recent events… terrorists attack, school shootings, etc. I think it started when Madeleine Murray O’Hare (she was murdered, her body found a few years ago) complained she didn’t want prayer in our schools, and we said OK. Then someone said you better not read the Bible in school. The Bible says thou shalt not kill; thou shalt not steal, and love your neighbor as yourself. And we said OK.

Then Dr. Benjamin Spock said we shouldn’t spank our children when they misbehave, because their little personalities would be warped and we might damage their self-esteem (Dr. Spock’s son committed suicide). We said an expert should know what he’s talking about. And we said okay.

Now we’re asking ourselves why our children have no conscience, why they don’t know right from wrong, and why it doesn’t bother them to kill strangers, their classmates, and themselves.

Probably, if we think about it long and hard enough, we can figure it out. I think it has a great deal to do with ‘WE REAP WHAT WE SOW.’

Funny how simple it is for people to trash God and then wonder why the world’s going to hell. Funny how we believe what the newspapers say, but question what the Bible says. Funny how you can send ‘jokes’ through e-mail and they spread like wildfire, but when you start sending messages regarding the Lord, people think twice about sharing. Funny how lewd, crude, vulgar and obscene articles pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion of God is suppressed in the school and workplace.

Are you laughing yet?


Random Christmas Thoughts December 10, 2011

Filed under: Random — Jess Z. @ 8:00 am

Christmas is absolutely my favorite time of year and my brain is running in overdrive.  Every Christmas is going to be even more exciting from here on out with our own little one and more & more little ones in the family!

Trent’s stocking is proof that I’m horrible at checking out dimensions of my online purchases.  But who cares– doesn’t every kid need a stocking that could double as a sleeping bag?

My Godmother gave me this Precious Moments nativity scene piece-by-piece.  I can’t recall how old I was when she started this, but it has been a part of every Christmas since the days of only having Mary, Joseph, & Jesus.  Even though I knew I would be getting another figurine each year, I was excited to see which piece it might be and see the nativity grow.  What a great gift idea!

With a birthday close to Christmas, my expert-cake-baker grandma decorated each birthday cake when I was a kid with a Santa Claus ornament.  When I go through my mom’s pictures, I can see which year came with which Santa.  I now have a tree full of Santas every year!  Which is good, since a naked tree is no good and neither is a tree filled with meaningless ornaments.

Speaking of the Christmas tree, I am not the type to spend hours carefully placing each light, ornament, and strand of garland.  I’m certainly not the perfectionist type.  While having a tree is super important to me, I just want the darn thing decorated as quickly as possible so I can get busy with more important things– wrapping the gifts to go underneath the tree!

I’m particularly glad I don’t have to decorate the entire tree.  At least I don’t plan to.  So don’t bother checking out the side of the tree backed into the corner– it’s naked!

And it must be a real tree.  End of conversation.

People comment on my super talented family (you know, a family filled with people who own AND USE sewing machines).  My mom made this Christmas tree skirt which includes material from some of my Christmas dresses growing up.  Somehow my mom managed to make special Christmas outfits for four daughters every year

And all I’ve figured out is buying Trent a massively jumbo stocking from the internet.

My childhood inability to keep the gifts bought for family a secret has only gotten slightly better.  I’m absolutely giddy over a secret something for 2 of my nephews, but the only way I’ve contained myself is by showing “it” to a select few people.  Poor Todd is asked to feign excitement over all sorts of things I pick up to wrap for our families.

I hope everyone who opens gifts from us appreciates the gift, wrapping, ribbon… and perfectly sized box.