Saturday, December 12, 2009

Grandpa Grandpa's Christmas Tree

This morning, my little boys woke up excited, because I promised them last night that we would be decorating the tree today. Even before they had had breakfast, or any of us had even considered getting dressed, my little loves reminded me of that promise and asked if we could get started. So I slipped into my shoes and brought in the wealth of Christmas decorations I've accumulated over the last 10 years.

Now, typically, my husband helps me string the lights-- because our 8 foot tree is almost 3 feet taller than me and getting the lights -around- the top is nearly impossible for me to do by myself. That wasn't going to stop my sons though! So my oldest volunteered to stand on the arm of the couch and help me, while I moved the foot stool around, and between us, we got it strung up nicely. The first strand we put on were the new LED lights that my husband wanted to test out. Right now, I'm going to say they are -COOL-! Not only are they 1.) More energy efficient and 2.) Way the heck brighter than regular Christmas lights, they ALSO come with a variety of flicker patterns you can set with a push button!

Then I began opening the boxes and tins full of ornaments. This year, as my boys are getting older, I would open a tin, give them each one, taking a tin with heavy or breakable ornaments myself, and we would go around and decorate the tree-- following 2 simple rules: spread them out-- there's a lot of tree to cover; and no arguing about placement. And we had a ball!! There was no arguing-- and LOTS of laughter and smiles-- and when we were done, the only thing remaining was for my husband to come place the star on the top of the tree. Then we turned on the lights and admired our handiwork.

I've always admired the eclectic nature of our Christmas tree. There's never any tinsel. It's always colored lights with a star on top. But ever since the first year Mark and I bought Christmas ornaments for our very first tree together, it's always been an interesting variety of ornaments. There are a large multitude of bells-- glass, metal, and even purely decorative. If you nudge our tree as you pass by, it tinkles merrily at you. Angels, Santas, prisms, stained glass, photographs, Christmas trees, German straw ornaments, pull string toys-- and a wealth of ornaments from my childhood that my mother has passed on to me, all share the branches of our holiday evergreen. And all lit up, it never fails to make me smile.

So, you might be wondering, at this point, what any of that has to do with my title, and who Grandpa Grandpa is. But before I can get there, I have to tell you about my nativity. See, when I was seven years old, my Grandma Carole took a ceramics class, and she created this wonderful nativity scene that she gave to my family. And every year, my mother would set it out, and we weren't allowed to touch any of it. My sister and I loved the whole thing-- but our absolute favorite piece was the donkey. Bear in mind that we were children of the 80s and the A-Team was one of the COOLEST shows on television. So this donkey's name was, "Mr. T Donkey"....It still is. My kids have no clue who Mr. T is, but they can tell you this donkey's name (;

Well, three years ago, we went to visit my parents in Missouri for Christmas, and my mother didn't have the nativity out. It almost broke my heart! There were so many fond memories of my childhood wrapped up in that display! And my mother gave me a wonderful gift-- She knew that it mattered to me-- and so she passed it on to me, to display and share with my children. And every year I have.

...You're still wondering about Grandpa Grandpa, aren't you?

Fine, fine. Okay, so when I was a child growing up, my mother was in the ARMY. And when I was seven, she had to spend the year in Korea-- which meant that my sister and I stayed with my dad's parents: Grandma Carole and Grandpa George, in Connecticut. And they are WAY big into decorating for Christmas! Now, my Grandma Carole is Sicilian-- and her father had a last name I couldn't possibly pronounce... and have long since forgotten. But I knew he was older than my grandparents. So my sister and I christened him, "Grandpa Grandpa". We loved going over to Grandpa Grandpa's house because he LOVED the red pistachio nuts-- and we learned to love them from him. Salty goodness that also dyed our finger red-- it was childhood bliss! And one of my fondest Christmas memories is quite short, but I know it was at Grandpa Grandpa's house:

It was getting late, my sister and I were both getting very tired, but my Grandparent's weren't ready to go home. All the adults were sitting around the dining room table, talking, laughing and visiting. And I came over and asked when we'd be leaving because we were tired. Grandma Carole told us to go lay down beneath the Christmas tree and count the lights. My sister and I thought it was delightful! Getting to lay with our heads down under the tree and on the tree skirt, with our legs sticking out into the room, looking up through the branches, watching the large colored lights flickering, and trying to count them. Giggling and talking as little girls and sisters will. It was like being in a fairy forest. And I remember fighting to keep my eyes open to look at the lights just a -little- bit longer. And drifting off to sleep warm, happy, with the distilled murmur of my Grandparent's voices, the smell of pine and the beautiful flickering lights.

Well, I've been thinking about that off and on today, thanks to the single string of flashing LED lights that I spread from top to bottom around the tree before putting on the regular lights we always use. Our tree has been beautiful and lit all day long. And several times today, I've caught myself staring at the lights... lost in the memories and smiling.

The Story of The Legend of Flintmarsh

So before I post this, I thought I should mention that about 3 years ago, our local SCA shire, Flintmarsh, received it's permanent status and became an official shire. The next February, we were hosting our joint event with another shire-- and I would be teaching a couple of classes on basic belly dancing and introductory drumming. I was -extemely- nervous the night before, and I couldn't quiet my mind, nor get myself to go to sleep. So, using a bit of what I knew about the actual history behind how our shire had formed, I decided to tell myself a story so that I could go to bed. After a wonderful night's rest, I attended the event, taught my classes, had a wonderful time, and during feast, shared the story I had invented with my shire/ table mates.

This was the result (from February, 2008):

The Story of The Legend of Flintmarsh
by Cigan Oszinte (mundanely known as Janin Wise)

Once upon a time, less than two hand spans ago, Flintmarsh did not exist. It was not even an idea in the minds of its founders. They were part of another shire. A shire to the East.

But things were unsettled in that shire and it was troubling times, and a portion of its populace decided that they could stay there no longer. So they banded together, said goodbye to the friends they still had amongst their old home and headed out into the wilds of the west to find a new home.

They traveled for many days, loaded heavily on their wagons. Stopping every evening and wondering “Would this be our home?” But every time, there was some reason it would not work. Perhaps there was no ready supply of fresh water. No shelter from the elements. Too little fuel for even a warm fire. Or worse yet, unsuccessful hunting.

Until one day, they came here, to what would become Flintmarsh—a bountiful area where land met water and wildlife abounded. The light from heaven shown down upon it and they knew they had found home when they sent their warriors out on the hunt and they brought back the boar—symbol of hearth, home, prosperity and hope and decided they would use it as their device.

But all lands belong to the king, and no shire may begin on the king’s lands without his blessing, so they petitioned the king of Meridies for the right to set up in his borders. Being a wise king, he gave them permission to try, but they would have to show they could prosper and grow before he would grant them permanent status, for no town can exist with too few people.

They were fortunate to start out with great leaders, people capable of the behind the scenes work that keeps all society going. And they had among them a blacksmith armorer who not only helped armor and arm their fighters to defend their new lands, but taught them to arm and armor themselves. They also had amongst them archers of great skill and prowess.

And as time passed by, as populations are wont to do, they grew. The arts came to them—they were blessed with artisans both of pen and needle. Fair maidens with sweet voices and nimble feet. Heralds, fighters, all—they grew and they prospered.

And they came unto the notice of the king, who saw that they had kept to his directives and aspired to their goals. And being a wise and gracious king, he called them to court and granted them with their permanent status, and thus are we, the Shire of Flintmarsh!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Goldilocks and The Three Zombies

Okay, so you probably read that title and it caught your eye, but it needs a little background before we actually get into it. See, my little boys like to be told stories at night, and I encourage them to tell stories as well. And my oldest tonight was pretending to create a video game with zombies in it (though they were parasite induced-- and removing the parasite wouldn't cure the zombie-- just turned them into dust). And with that, he inspired the following story that my boys heard tonight, that I'm now going to share with you.

--by Janin Wise

Once upon a time, there were three zombies. Momma zombie-- whose hair was mostly fallen out. Poppa zombie-- who'd lost his left arm. And baby zombie-- who no longer had either of his legs. They'd fallen off over the course of the years. Anyway, Momma zombie was in the kitchen making breakfast: Stewed BRAINS!! Baby zombie's -favorite-!

Once she got breakfast all ready, the zombie family decided to go for a nice walk around the graveyard and give the food time to cool before they ate it. So they loaded Baby zombie up in a stroller (after all, he didn't have any legs) and headed out for a stroll.

Now while they were out, Goldilocks happened upon their crypt.... Now I know what you're think: Goldilocks is a cute little girl with blonde hair, right? Nope! Not in -THIS- story! In -this- story, Goldilocks has blonde hair alright, but she's a giant caterpillar monster! Anyway! She's come across their crypt as she was wandering about-- even though her Momma caterpillar monster had TOLD her she needed to find a nice cozy spot and build herself a cocoon. But she wasn't listening.

As she got nearer to the zombie's crypt, she smelled something that smelled -delicious-!! She'd know that smell anywhere! It was STEWED BRAINS!!! Her favorite! So she pushed her way right into that crypt and headed for the kitchen.

Now, when she got there, she saw a -huge- bowl, so she headed to it first, and stuck in her spoon and got a BIG ole mouthful of those stewed brains-- But pbbt! sputter! hack! She spit it right back out because it was TOO HOT!

So she headed for the next largest ball, stuck in her spoon and got a big ole mouthful-- But ACK! She spit it right back out because it was TOO COLD! EWWW!!! (She didn't like -cold- stewed brains!)

Then she saw the smallest bowl, and stuck in her spoon and got a mouthful-- and it was JUST RIGHT! So she ate that bowlful of stewed brains in nothing flat! And even though her Momma told her it wasn't proper behavior, (Momma wasn't there to see, now was she?) Goldilocks LICKED that bowl clean!

Then she wanted to see what was on Crypt TV, so she headed into the room and flipped on "All Spiders, All The Time", her favorite show. She saw a HUGE coffin, so she climbed into it-- but it was too hard! Then she saw a medium coffin, so she climbed into it-- but it was silk lined and plushy and didn't feel good against her. Then she saw a small wooden coffin, so she climbed into it and it was -perfect-! So she snuggled down to enjoy her shows-- and she broke it all to pieces! She was -way- too big to be in that little coffin!

Well, after all that adventuring, she decided to make her cocoon then and there, where she could still hear her favorite show as she drifted off to sleep.

Now it wasn't terribly long after this that the zombie family finished up their stroll around the graveyard. But as they approached their home, they could see that the crypt door was left wide open! SOMEONE had been in their home!!

They went in and headed for the kitchen. Poppa zombie walked over to his bowl and said, "SOMEONE has been eating my BRAINS!" And Momma zombie went over to her bowl and said, "And Someone has been eating MY Brains!" And Baby zombie looked in his bowl and started to cry as he said, "Someone's been eating my brains too! And they ate them ALL GONE!!"

Just about that time, they heard "All Spider All The Time" on their crypt television. And Momma and Poppa zombie wouldn't let Baby zombie watch it: It'd rot out his brain, and they didn't want that happening any faster than it already was!

So they dashed into the coffin room. And Poppa zombie said, "SOMEONE has been sleeping in my COFFIN!" And Momma zombie said, "Someone has been sleeping in MY Coffin too!" And Baby zombie said, "Someone's been sleeping in my coffin too! And they broke it all to pieces and left this large snoring silk sack!"

Now, just about this time, Goldilocks woke up. And she heard the commotion outside of her cocoon, and figured she'd best get out of there!

So she busted out of her cocoon and!........

Do you know what she turned into?

A Butterfly?

That's normally what would happen at this point, right?

Well that's -EXACTLY- what happened!

She had turned into a beautiful GIANT butterfly! And she flew out of there as FAST as her new wings could carry her!

And the zombie family was left to...pick up the pieces....


And before you ask, yeah-- I really do tell my kids these stories (lol) (:

It's Christmas At The Wise House

Or at least, it's starting to look like it (:

We have a couple of traditions in our house-- starting with Advent Calendars. While we were up visiting my parents in Missouri, I made sure to stop in at the local chocolate shop and buy a couple of Advent calendars for the boys....which I didn't remember until December 5th. (lol) The boys didn't mind getting to eat 5 pieces of chocolate to get started, but it gave my 4 year old the wrong impression-- because the next morning, he decimated 10 more chocolates...from his -brother's- calendar. Just means they had to switch calendars and he has the remaining days before he can have any more, and he was on chocolate time out for a couple of days (;

Then, we celebrate St. Nichalous night. It's a tradition, like the Advent Calendars, that my family picked up when I was a child living in Germany. Every December 6th, Santa checks his list, so we set our shoes by the front door, along with cookies and milk for Santa and a plate for his reindeer. This year, we left them apples, celery and carrots. This year, because of the small chocolate advent fiasco, Santa couldn't fill my boys shoes with the traditional chocolate-- so he made due with little puzzles, pencils and writing pads (: After my boys got their goodies in the morning, we headed out to wait for the bus, and they helped me decorate the palm tree. Last year, I used regular Christmas balls-- and when they fell off, they shattered...and when it rained, they all turned clear, silver or white (; So this year, we used Shatter proof, plastic colored ones, and it's working beautifully-- even through two storms so far!

We also got to celebrate our Shire Yule. Our local SCA shire has been doing it for 3 years now, and we greatly enjoy it. Everyone gets together the first Saturday in December with holiday potluck (My honey made delicious deep fried turkey!), gift baskets that anyone is welcome to contribute to, a Shire Tourney to determine the Shire Champion, and a yearly shire game. It started with Nine Mans Morris. Last year's was Five Field Kono. And this year's was Fox and Geese. All really cool medieval games that the shire folk can take with them to events and play if they get bored.

I realized the night before Yule that I didn't have Christmas cards to share, so I spent about 15 minutes and created a family portrait for this year's cards and printed them out, with the following saying on the inside:

The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree: the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other. ~Burton Hillis

Today, I'm going to get the cards mailed out to our family and friends, as well as the few Christmas gifts (read calendars) out to all the Grandmothers, and then I'm going to get the Christmas tree assembled so that we can decorate it tomorrow.

The boys are really excited about getting to help decorate it, and this year, we're going to try out some of the new LED Christmas lights (: If it works out well, we'll be waiting for the day after Christmas sale to try to pick up more for half off.