Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Cattle Are Lowing....

Merry Merry Christmas!  It is still dark out this morning, and I am up before everyone else.  Our animals are early risers and sadly I can't sleep in, even when I try.
We have been playing Christmas music for the past month ( I love it when I hear my kids humming and singing along with the likes of Tony Bennet or Frank Sinatra or Ella Fitzgerald.  It just ups their coolness a little more).   Whenever I hear the carol "Away In A Manger" it makes me giggle to myself, because at this time of year, at our house, we really do hear the cattle lowing.  Not because we live in a barn, or own a cow (although, truth be told, I have looked up photos and info on miniature cows on the internet.  Miniature donkeys too.  They are adorable.)  but because the ranch across the street is currently full of calves and mommies who tend to call out for each other at all hours at this time of year.  I love hearing it in the background, even when a little calf is being very very persistent in it's search for mama.  It's sweet.
We decorated the house the day after Thanksgiving and I noticed right off that one of my favorite Christmas items was missing.  It's a big red book with "The Family Christmas Book" written in green on the cover.  But it's way more than a book; it's my record of Christmases past, and the ways our family has been spectacularly blessed every year.  On each page, since the year Grace was born, I have taped in a photo and that year's Christmas card, and there are several lines on which to record "How we celebrated the season" and "Events of the past year".  In the Christmas story in the book of Luke, it mentions that "Mary kept all of these things, and pondered them in her heart" (Luke 2:19) - this book is where I 'keep all of these things'.  Jason being born - it's in there.  Our first trip to East Asia is recorded.  Simple things like Grace starting dance class or Jason's first year in little league.  The year we bought our house (a daily reminder to me of the grace and immense love of God for me).  Our first summer project to El Salvador.  Fantastic trips to Washington DC and Pennsylvania, Arizona, and a family reunion at the Grand Canyon.  Answered prayer for our families.  The births of cousins, and the way my kids have celebrated their birthdays every year of their lives.  They are all in there, and without the book, there was a hole in my Christmas.  I scoured the bookshelves and dug around in the attic to no avail.  
Then, three days ago, one more spot came to mind, and lo and behold, there it was!!  Last night  I added this year's info and was once again reminded of how greatly we have been blessed.  At this time of year it is especially good to 'ponder these things' in our hearts.  Again, a Merry Merry Christmas to each and every one of us.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Things I've Learned This Month

1. El Salvador has the best coffee in the world.  Jamey and I made a four-day trip to visit our 5 students who are in San Salvador for the year.  They are doing great (which made our visit wonderful and easy) and it was fun to go to some of our favorite places again, like Viva Espresso.  I have seen coffee growing along the slopes of the volcano in El Sal...maybe it's the soil, or the climate, but whatever it is, I have never had a better cup of coffee (truth be told, I don't really know a lot about coffee.  I just know that the worst coffee is the kind that comes from truck stops, and whatever brand they brew at my church, sadly). We brought back a couple of pounds for ourselves and I was really bummed when it was gone.

2. It might be harder to be a mom than an athlete during soccer tryouts.  Jason tried out and made the JV soccer team at the high school.  I tried my best not to worry...I knew he would be fine either way...I knew that only a few freshmen would be chosen...When I found myself awake at 4 in the morning, I tried to think about other things and go back to sleep.  I told myself I was being absolutely ridiculous (that didn't really help).  In the end, he made the team and is having fun and we are all enjoying watching the games no matter what the weather.  And I feel much more rested.

3.  Grace is amazing.  I actually already knew this, but it is good to be reminded.  In October, Grace applied for early admission to Cal Poly SLO, to major in psychology.  She has wanted to attend Cal Poly since she was five years old.  I wasn't worried about her being qualified - after all, she did great on her SATs, has way over a 4.0 GPA, and has done all kinds of volunteer work.  But, working at Cal Poly as we do, I also know that about 45,000 other kids, many likewise qualified, also apply for admission every year and most don't get in.  It feels a little arbitrary, but it is supposed to be 'fair'.  Let me just mention that this was also partly responsible for my lack of sleep in October and November.  But, 2 weeks ago, she got a letter in the mail that began, "Congratulations!..."  and is now looking forward to being a freshman this coming fall.  Yahoo!!

4.  There actually are wild pigs in the neighborhood!  I have heard the rumors.  I know men who cross the road and go over "on the ranch" and hunt them.  One of my friends (whose property actually is across the road and backs up to "the ranch", which is 14,000 acres - yes, it's a real ranch) had several of them come into her yard, fight with her dogs (the pigs won), and uproot/eat her iris bulbs (I should mention that she runs an iris farm at her home, so having the bulbs dug up and eaten is not good).  But I have never seen any sign of one....until Jason came home from a friend's house and mentioned that there was one by the side of the road (it had had a run-in with a vehicle and this time, the pig lost).  Then when I was at a neighbor's house, she mentioned that she actually knew the guys that had hit a 300-pound wild pig - gross!  Of course, in true Garden Farms fashion, my first comment was, "His poor truck!!!"  It was apparently totaled - so now we will be watching out for yet another critter on our country drives.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Update on Sandy

Well, Sandy the Surfwagon has a new owner. A few weeks ago, over 1600 people (students, kids, grownups old and young) showed up for 90-minute shifts and over two days, they packaged over 200,000 meals - enough to feed 550 orphans for an entire year! And a few days afterwards, Jamey and Grace chose the winner of our Sandy giveaway at random - a Cal Poly student named Shawn. I didn't hear the conversation when Jamey called to tell her but I hope she enjoys the car! And I hope that she can come and get it soon, so I can park my car under the protection of the canvas pop-up garage. We had temperatures down in the low 20's this week, and for some unknown reason a previous owner of our house planted trees that drop 'things' constantly (berries, tiny flowers, leaves, pollen, little green things that stick and don't come off....) all around the driveway. On Thursday I left for SLO and noticed that there were tiny leaves frozen to the hood of the car. Festive! It looked like the car had been to a party, or in a parade. Which reminds me, the neighborhood Christmas Parade is today and we will not be driving Sandy down Walnut Avenue. Instead, I will be riding in the back of my neighbor's old yellow pickup truck with the other Farmgirls, all wearing our aprons. We will be collecting items (socks, gloves, granola bars) to send to troops overseas. And tomorrow we are learning to make tamales for Christmas Eve - I have been looking forward to that for months! I felt very smug about all of these good things we have been doing until I read a book this week called Kisses From Katie. It is the very true story of a girl who, at age 19, moved to Uganda to teach kindergarten, and subsequently has adopted 14 daughters and provides hundreds of children with meals, clothes, school supplies and tuition, and health care. She is 23 years old. Wow. That put me back in my place. I will just ride down the road, and continue working on my Christmas cards, and make tamales out of masa and chicken and pork. And sing Christmas carols in my head.