Tuesday, December 27, 2016


Marissa's Selfie, December 2016

Our youngest often says things that bring laughter to the family, some of which need to be written down before they disappear into my memory.

The girls were in the midst of opening their gifts when they came across the gift of pajamas. Marissa already had a requested Polaroid camera by her side, an electric blanket and other seemingly more desired items. She opened the box with pajamas and said, "Oh thank goodness -- PAJAMAS!" Apparently both girls were in need of new winter pajamas more than I had thought.

One of the gifts I got for Wayne was a gag gift for "poo-pourri." It came in a box that was called "Master Crapsman" and had two spray bottles of fragrance that you're supposed to spray into the toilet before you use it, and it traps the smell in the toilet.

Later in the day, Marissa and I walked by a bathroom where we could tell the poopourri had been used -- it smelled good, but underneath you could tell...it didn't.

"Well I'm glad Dad's using it" Marissa says, "It's a gag gift, but he really needs to use it. It helps the whole family."

Monday, December 26, 2016

Christmas Eve Birthdays

My dad's birthday is on Christmas Eve; he would have been 72. This is the first birthday that he is celebrating in heaven.

Summer 2015
Growing up, Dad would get a single gift from friends and relatives that would be both his birthday and Christmas gift -- he usually didn't have birthday parties, since everyone was busy with holiday festivities. He felt like he didn't have birthdays like other kids did, and carried this sentiment into his adult life.

When my sister and I were kids, my mom made sure that Dad's birthday gifts were wrapped in birthday paper, Christmas gifts in Christmas paper. Every member of our family got to choose what the dinner was on their birthday, and for years my dad chose lasagna. My mom's homemade lasagna was our family's dinner on December 24th for years. All of his adult life my sister and I got him birthday gifts, even though we had stopped exchanging gifts with each other and my mom years before.

The traditions continue though he is gone.

My cousin Sam and his family live in Minneapolis now, and we invited them to join us Christmas Eve for church service and dinner. His parents drove up from Illinois and joined us as well. These are all relatives on my dad's side of the family, so it was appropriate that we were all together. Plus, they are wonderful people, and we enjoy visiting with them all.

We gathered around the tables set with the china from my childhood, china that my dad had bought for my mother while serving during the Vietnam War. We feasted on homemade stuffed pasta shells (the closest I can come to making lasagna), told stories and went through a few bottles of wine.

And, just like old times, we celebrated a birthday. This time it was Theodore's, my cousin's son who was born on December 24th last year.

Theodore unwrapping his gift.

A toy like the ones my girls loved when they were his age.
It was wonderful to spend this day with my extended family, making new memories and new traditions.

John and Deb Nemanich, Theodore, me, Marissa and Wayne, Sarah and Sam. Missing: Lindsey, who had a migraine

Saturday, December 10, 2016

The Mom Photo Syndrome

In our family, I'm usually the one behind the camera. Whenever I see a moment happening that I want to preserve, I grab my camera and snap it. From birthday parties, to moments of sweetness between daughters or daughter and dog, I am often taking photos of the family.

The day we got Beauty.

Sisterly silliness at the apple orchard this fall.

Recently I've been working to clean up our photo library, which is constantly growing and, outside of being in chronological order, is difficult to search.

Luckily iPhoto has a facial recognition feature and has you tag people, so then you can search for people by their faces. It makes it really handy if you're looking for photos of someone for a graduation collage...not that I'm thinking about that already (gulp).

I started with my kids, the most infamous and photographed members of our family.

iPhoto identified more than 1,000 potential photos of each of them. It took quite some time to go through them, clicking on the ones that were indeed each child,  rejecting or correctly identifying those who were actually other people. For the most part the software had it right.

Then I worked on photos of my husband -- there were 540 photos of him, usually with the girls. The software was usually right too, though every once in a while it picked my stepdad, often in later years when Wayne's hair was more the color of Mark's.

Finally, I worked on my own photos, of which there were only 123, most of which were not correct  because my sister, sister-in-law and daughter all look a lot like me, so of those photos I re-tagged them with the appropriate person.

Screenshot of working through photos of "Jenny," 50% of which are wrong.
123 photos over the past 15 or so years. Sure, it's a lot of photos, but it's a fraction of the photos we have. I want my girls to look back on their childhood and know how happy both their parents were to spend time with them (and that we did). Sometimes photos are what trigger the memory - what will our girls remember about an event when the same person is always absent from it in photos? Although I do usually make my involvement in their lives pretty memorable, as time goes by photographs become the proof.

So I'm committed to making sure I'm in more photos. I never was a "selfie" person, so I'll be handing the camera to my husband or my kids more often, to capture more of life's moments with me in them.
Before-work selfie.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

What's a "Relish" Dish?

Thanksgiving traditions are changing as time goes by, but we still gathered with the Horsman family the Saturday after Thanksgiving for a big feast. This time we gathered at Kathy's home, and our family planned to drive down and back in the same day, since Millie's house is no longer available to stay.

My sister-in-law Kathy did all the planning and most of the cooking. She asked everyone who came to bring a side dish -- the specific request for me was a "relish" dish.

A relish dish?
What to fill these with?
Now, I know what relish dishes looked like that my mother put together back in the 70's and 80's. They were small little glass dishes with partitions in them. She would fill them with things like black olives, pickled green beans or pickled beets and little tiny Gedney pickles that apparently weren't tiny enough, because she would also slice them in half.

The relish trays were dutifully passed around the table with the rest of the feast, and would come back to the kitchen with only the black olives missing. Turns out Kristi used to put a black olive on each finger, wave them around for a bit and then eat them off. I remember having to use the tiniest tongs I'd ever seen in my life to pick up the itty bitty pickles and put them back in the jar, because they were mostly untouched.

I always assumed that's what a relish tray was -- food you served with meals that didn't really belong with the meal that no one really ate.

But now I was being asked to bring a relish tray to my sister-in-law's, to feed 27 people. So I had to ask all the sisters-in-laws: how do you define a relish tray?!

I got back suggestions of carrots and celery and dip (isn't that a veggie tray?). There was a suggestion of pickled herring or olives. Does pickled herring go with anything? Although that response did confirm my initial suspicion that a relish tray is filled with food you don't actually eat.

I decided to bring a veggie tray, cranberry jelly and another traditional side dish from my childhood, spiced apple rings.

Most of the spiced apple rings went back in the jar, but some of the cranberry jelly went. And veggies are always a healthy nibble, so those stayed out long after the feast had been put away.

I also learned that "crudités" is the fancy French word for a veggie tray. So next time I can just tell people "I'm bringing the crudités" and they'll wonder what I'm bringing and who this fancy-pants sister-in-law of theirs is.

Cousins playing pass the creepy baby.

How old, Kayla?!

Bear proves that he can sleep anywhere, including between two talking adults.