2011 Christmas Letter

Dear Friends,

2011 has been quite an eventful year for our family. It began with a lot of stress over my husband’s job at Blockbuster Video, which was shutting down stores left and right with only a partial guarantee that he would still have a job through the company’s bankruptcy and sale process. He was one of the lone few in his district who left the company voluntarily, and in May, he began in a new position at the Vitamin Shoppe. As an assistant manager, he has been learning a lot of new things about nutrition and how to run a high-volume store, and it looks like he is in a position to advance sometime in the near future.

Around the same time as James began his new job, I found my hours at the baby store decreasing, so I began a position as an assistant to a home-based professional photographer. There was a lot of schedule juggling to be done with three jobs between the two of us, and eventually, I did decide that it wasn’t working out to my or the photographer’s advantage.

July marked our sixth wedding anniversary, but we spent the day finishing an emergency drive to Wisconsin. My mother-in-law had suffered a massive stroke earlier in the week and was having brain surgery as we got on the road. She came through surgery alright, but had some significant damage. Due to her previous health issues, doctors became more concerned about her heart than her brain. To a point.

Over the next several months, she fought like a champ to stay with us, but for every forward step of her recovery, there was another step backward, and finally, on October 18th, she passed away in the hospital with her husband and other family members around her. We all miss her a lot, and needless to say, the holidays just haven’t been the same without her.

In the meantime, however, we got some happy news. In August, we found out that there will be a new member joining our family next spring. Michael is very excited to be a big brother. We don’t know if the new baby will be a boy or a girl, but he insists he’s going to have a sister and has named her “Baby X.” He’s been trying to help pick out names for after the baby comes out, and so far, his top contender is Nemo, which he insists is perfect for a girl.

And speaking of babies, I have continued my position at the baby store and, after cutting out the photography job, have picked up a weekly shift at my local cloth diaper retailer. It’s the perfect job for a mom of young children, since the babies are welcome and motherhood is our staff’s top priority. Michael enjoys coming to work with me most days, especially when there are other four-year-olds there to play with.

We are looking forward to some big changes in 2012, though we’re still waiting for clarity in the details. We hope that your holiday season was magical. We think often of our family and friends near and far, and we hope that you all have more blessings in your life to count. Because even though we have had what some may consider a fairly difficult year, every day we are grateful for all the good things, the people and the love that we hold so dear.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Sara, James and Michael



Thanksgiving Assignments

James: Turkey prep including handling all the gross parts of the raw bird, herb buttering under the skin, shoving more herbs and another half a stick of butter up the cavity. Corn bread stuffing assembly including vegetable chopping and ham steak frying.

Sara: Green bean casserole. Mashed potatoes. Pumpkin cake.

Michael: Powdered sugar sifter.

Yeah, and then we scramble to make sure we remember the crescent rolls and we heat up some gravy from a jar, but it’s our Turkey Day tradition so far.

This year, we’re lucky enough to be sharing our dinner with James’ parents. They are lucky enough to be spending some time at the park with their grandson. Overall, I think we’re a pretty lucky bunch.

We have a lot to be thankful for this year. And we are. We so are.


Is it really the end of November already? Next week is Thanksgiving. Tomorrow, we have a house guest coming. And next week, a visit from my husband’s parents. This will be the first Thanksgiving in a long time where we will actually have family around.

I’m really looking forward to it, but with the craziness of my husbands and my work schedules, it’s probably going to be one of those whirlwind visits.

Hopefully, we’ll have enough time to spend together. To go see something touristy. To give the grandparents the opportunity to hang out with M while the mommy and daddy catch up with each other. To cook an awesome turkey. To be thankful.

And after they leave, well, it’s pretty much Christmas.


For the first time this year, M got to actually see some pumpkin carving in action. We had him draw the face, and the adults went to work with the knives. We really need to plan a little better next year, though. It’s not easy to carve a pumpkin with steak knives.

However, is that not the cutest little pumpkin face you’ve ever seen?

Thanks to the cutting and the scraping and the tireless efforts of Dad:

And Mom:

It turned out like this:

Not the spookiest pumpkin around, but quite adorable if you ask me. And it sure brightened the little one’s night. We had fun doing it. And I think he was pretty proud of the way it turned out.


Dear Michael,

A week and a half ago, you turned three years old. These last three years have been awesome. You talk so much now, expressing opinions, telling stories, reliving memories, encouraging anyone and everyone to play your favorite games.

I really need to start writing down the things you say on a daily basis. Because as I sit here trying to capture the essence of you, I know that I’m about to leave something out.

There have been a few words that you haven’t been able to pronounce as clearly as some. We’ve already lost several to your constant listening, re-pronouncing and self-correction. Like helicopter. And tractor. Which used to be “hoptopter” and “cracker,” respectively.

So here are a few of my current favorites, in no particular order:

  • Any word that ends in “st” you switch around to “ts,” such as, “almots,” (almost) “lats,” (last) and “fats,” (fast). Also, “ghost” started that way (“goats”) but has become “ghotst.”
  • You’re still not quite there with the “l” sound, so when you say, “hello,” it comes out more like, “hewoh.” The best part though, is the intonation, which can’t really be accurately represented in writing but makes me smile every time.
  • If you’re looking for me or someone else, you say, “Where are you?” but it comes out sounding more like, “what are you?”
  • Bananas are “bee-nanas.” Emphasis on the first syllable.
  • You have combined the phrases, “If you say so,” and “Whatever you say,” so they have become, “Whatever you say so.”
  • When you don’t know the name for something, you make it up. Often you refer to items by their color, like the red Ergo carrier is simply, “the red.” But sometimes you are a little more descriptive, like when you referred to the back of your knee as, “the armpit of mine leg.”

One of your favorite games is “the train game,” where you link fingers or arms or loops and hooks with me or Daddy or whoever else is around, and you lead us around the house as the “big black engine.” We can be pretty lazy around these parts, but when you come over and ask us to play the train game please, how can we do anything but rise up off our seats and follow where you go.

You have become really interested in directions and maps. We draw maps, look at maps on the computer, and for your birthday, you even got your own laminated map of DC. You like to watch the moving map on Grandma’s GPS from the back seat of her car, and you appreciate being consulted whenever we have a directional decision to make. Most of the time, your answer is “wept,” that is, left.

You love people. And I’ll be elaborating more on that in another day or two, but I have to say I find it totally fascinating and humbling to watch you with other people. Anyone. From newborn infants to dogs to teenagers to toddlers to adults of all ages. You like to share yourself with them. At the rally it was, “look at mine sign.” Out trick-or-treating it was, “look at mine costume, I’m the man in the wewoh hat.” You show your cars, your trains, your sailboat picture to anyone who comes near enough to notice, and I love how excited you are not only about those things that you possess, but the fact that having someone around to share the excitement with makes it that much more exciting for you.

You joke and you tease, and your games are becoming more cerebral even as you still enjoy the more physical tackling and tickling and pillow castle and fort-building games. You have yet to master the subtle art of teasing, since more often than not the tease and the lie are about the same thing, but I can see you trying to work it out. Sometimes it works, like when you call me Daddy, and we all have a good laugh. But other times, like when you say you need to go potty after you’re all tucked into bed and you sit up there and do nothing, we have to try to remember that that’s not “teasing,” but a filibustering technique that makes no one happy.

There’s just so much to say, I keep thinking of more and more. I love how you remember things. You mimic us and ask us to mimic you, making faces or gestures or noises. You’re becoming so much more independent, wanting to do so many things “mine self.” You’re crazy and wild and loving and kind. You often remember your please, thank you and your welcome, but I see that you wish there was more to that exchange than those three, so after the “your welcome” part, you often add one of two phrases, “You’re so polite,” or “I’m so polite.” Either commending the other person for their manners or giving yourself that extra little pat on the back.

I think that you are an amazing kid, and your dad and I are incredibly lucky to have you around. You never fail to make us smile, and we hope that we bring that much joy to your life, too. Happy birthday, my big boy. I’m so proud of you.



So there’s the completed “Man in the Yellow Hat” costume. He loved it. And he had such a good time trick-or-treating in it. He hopped and ran and sang out “Happy Halloween” all the way up and most of the way back down the street. We ran into a few neighbors we knew and had a good little group. M was thrilled, and it was super fun.

And that was just the tail end of an awesome weekend/week/weekend combo.

The stories of which, sinceĀ  today is merely the first day of NaBloPoMo, I’ll save for tomorrow and the next day and the next day to get me off to a good start.

Happy Halloween!

Family Christmas, part 1

Well, it’s been an eventful few days in Wisconsin so far. Last weekend was one of the best family Christmases so far. My brother was actually in a good mood during the parties, and everyone had a good time, even though no one actually went home with $20,000.

Yes, I said parties, since my family’s gathering took place over the span of two days. Saturday was the official Christmas party, and then it got late enough into the night that we decided to hold off on a couple of the gift exchanges until the next day, when my brother and his family would come back to my parents’ house for round two and to watch the Vikings game.

My brother-in-law, from Minnesota, was the original Vikings fan in the family. Now, however, with the traitorous quarterback formerly of Green Bay now playing for their rivals in purple, my brother and at least one of my nephews now have purple jerseys in their football season wardrobes. Personally, I still can’t bring myself to cheer on the infamous quarterback, and frankly, I’m shocked that so much of my Wisconsin-born and bred family has put on the purple. Of course, one of these years, that old number 4 will actually retire and not come back again, so I really see no point in all this, anyway.

Which is just to say, we had to have the game on the television during the second phase of Christmas on Sunday.

We had a great time. M got a lot of great new games and toys. He never had to play all by himself. He’s loving the magnetic dartboard that my parents bought for the household. And every time he throws one and misses, no matter by how much, he goes around the room to everyone to tell them, “Almost.” He’ll say “Almost,” when he misses, then he walks over to Grandma to tell her, “Almost,” then to Mommy and to Daddy to say, “Almost.” At least he’s not a sore loser, because the missing is almost as fun, it seems, as the hitting, when he victoriously proclaims, “Did it!” He also likes to carefully place one dart directly on the bulls-eye and point and claim, “Did it!”

Since the weekend, we’ve had a few quieter days. Just hanging out with family. We’ve had some lunch with friends, have some plans coming up the rest of the week. One more Christmas extravaganza with the other family this coming weekend, so there will be lots going on.

Being on vacation, it’s hard to write with much depth or breadth, since my time is limited and what’s unclaimed ends up running away on me all too fast. So I’m trying to say a few words as the week goes on, but I’m just enjoying myself so much. It’s so nice having family around, especially my husband. And with the grandparents and others around to occupy the child, I actually get to have some true face time with my spouse, which was something that I’m not sure I even realized how much I missed at home, and it makes me feel very warm and happy inside.

Merry Christmas!