Thursday, December 20, 2007

Have Oven Will Bake for Love

Neighbor gifts...clearly there are people on both sides of the fence here. And while it is one more thing to do in a very busy time of year, I'm weighing in on the pro side because, for me, it's about recognizing and loving the people who make up my daily community. Those people whose lives intersect mine on a daily basis mean a lot to me, and while I can't afford to buy them all a gift that monetarily reflects their value to me, I can cook. And it's not really the thing anyway; it's just saying, "I am grateful for you. You mean a lot to me, and I am thinking of you specifically at this time of year." Although, I had to draw the line at the cement donuts. Those I could not bring myself to give despite the kind thoughts that would accompany them.

I like getting the neighbor gifts, too. It just feels so...well...neighborly. I like having my doorbell ring and wishing each other a Merry Christmas. Frankly they could hand me a brick, and I would still delight in their kindness, but I have to admit that I really look forward to Melissa's cookies, the Miner's Martinelli, and Becky's bread. And if I have a vote, I would use it to encourage Shilo to make the "Stupid Popcorn" again next year. It's yummy.

So, for my beloved friends and neighbors, today I baked. Like this:

(The messy counter behind me is an idication of serious work at hand. Please ignore it.)

And like this:

And ended up with something like this:

Which I hope is understood as an expression of a very full and happy heart. Merry Christmas!

Donut Update

It was horrible! It took a huge portion of the day; I was tripling a new recipe that was supposed to be a Krispy Kreme copycat, which it certainly WASN'T! I was so disappointed in them I threw all the ones my kids didn't eat away. That means I'm making batches of cookies today. Another day in the kitchen...arghhh!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

It's Time to Make the Donuts

I'd love to write an inventive, meaningful, or even funny post today, but I can not because, instead, I have decided to make doughnuts for our neighbors and friends.

I'm not sure why, but I've been wanting to make doughnuts for some time now. Admittedly it's an odd compulsion, but it's there nonetheless. However, when I made my list this morning of everyone I wanted to give a little something to, it occurred to me that I may have bitten off more than I can chew. That is the curse of the optimistic, isn't it?

I'll let you know how it goes.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Christmas Bells Aren't the Only Things that Jingle

Folks, the wheels have come off the wagon again. Last night Mr. Wicke and I attended a fun and festive Christmas party with many other couples from our church. We've lived here for three years now, but you know, it takes about that long to get to know people and let them get to know you. Last night was going great. I mingled, had some great conversations, visited with a couple of girls that I don't know that well, and didn't say anything too embarrassing. Overall, I was handling myself pretty well.

And then the games started.

This is always a dangerous area for me. I love games, and I'm competitive, and I don't have a self-edit button, and that combination doesn't always work in my favor, if you know what I mean.

The game in question goes like this: The group is divided into two teams. Someone picks a word out of a hat and you have to come up with a song containing that word and be able to sing at least 6 words. The teams go back and forth until one team can not think of a song in the allotted time.

Now, I'm a singer and known to be somewhat musical, so comments were flying like, "Well, we've got Laurel on our team," and "Okay, as long as Laurel can be our singer," and I'm saying, "You guys I'm really bad at this game." And I really am. I can sing, but I'm terrible at retrieving ANY information when there is a time limit, let alone lyrics mid-song. My brain literally quits functioning. But they didn't believe me.

We did okay on the first two words which were Santa and bells, and I even pulled through with "this is Santa's big scene." Our team was ahead 2-0, and I began to feel pretty good. The next word was jingle. We gave them the old "Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way..." They retorted with "Jingle bell, jingle bell jingle bell rock..." Back and forth it went. At some point we even pulled out the big guns with "I've got a little change in my pocket going jing-aling-aling..." But they proved a tough oppenent here, and when they quickly returned, we drew a blank.

Jeff Lee began the obnoxious count-down, "10, 9, 8, 7..."

And somewhere in the dusty files of my brain I recalled something with a jinle-ling...if I could only...something from around 1983...what was it?


"I've got it! Wait!" And I began to sing, loudly, "My jingle-ling, my jingle-ling, I want" And as the dust was being blown off that old file, I began to realize that something was not right...

Unfortunately so did a lot of other guests, mostly men who also attended Jr. High apparently. "It's not jingle-ling. It's dingle-ling."

In .01 seconds the pages of that old neglected folder were suddenly clear and readable to my mind's eye, and I had total recall:

When I was an itty bitty boy,
My grandmother gave me a cute little toy.
Silver bells hanging on a string
She told me it was my ding-a-ling-aling

My ding-a-ling, my ding-a-ling
I want you to play with my ding-a-ling.
My ding-a-ling, my ding-a-ling
I want you to play with my ding-a-ling.

I can now recall other verses, but I will spare you the sordid details.

"Laurel, that's a dirty song!"

I couldn't respond because I was hunched over in uncontrollable fits of laughter accompanied by deep blushing.

That was pretty much the end of the game for me. Oh, we stumbled along, but I never did recover my confidence. Once again I had fallen victim to my own exuberence. So much for my good impression.

Oh, well, there's always next year.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Mission Accomplished!

Well, he did it! Yesterday around 4:30, his committee chair called and said, "I just wanted to formally introduce you to Dr. Wicke." And then I started to cry. I've been doing that a lot lately. I think I may have a problem. But it was just such a relief.

Thanks for all of your well wishes. Now I'm going to go snuggle Mr. Wicke who arrived home tired but pleased. We have some catching up to do.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Is There a Doctor in the House?

Tomorrow is a big day in Mr. Wicke's life. After almost a decade he is defending his Ph.D. thesis. I pray for resounding success. And before he heads into a room to face a panel of would-be critics/peers, this is what I would like to say:

Dear Mr. Wicke,

There are not enough nouns, or any other part of speech, to express how proud I am of you. I could not have walked the long road you have persistently plodded these last many years. Literally one foot in front of the other every day. Who has that kind of persistence? You utterly amaze me with your work ethic and loyalty to your goals, and all the while you have financially supported this family, allowing me to stay home with our children without complaint. I know that earning a Ph.D. is not a part-time pursuit, yet somehow you have maintained a full-time career and been a spectacular father and husband besides. That is not only impressive but inspiring.

What I would have you know is that I see you. I understand your sacrifice. You would never complain, you are a man after all, but I know, at least to some degree, the difficulty and work that you have endured. When I think of the qualities that make a man a true success, you possess them all. I see you, darling.

And I love you.

Break a leg tomorrow.

p.s. After you come home, and after this 345 page paper is finally turned in and there are no more rewrites late into the night, and after we have a huge blow-out party...well, you know there is a honey-do list coming, right? xoxo

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Advent Update

We have fallen behind in our adventing activities, or oh-so-many-reasons. Reasons that I will explain in another post. Suffice it to say that Christmas is a full-time job!

But, back to the adventing. As most of you know, my goal was to do an activity a day. While that hasn't happened exactly, I have to say that I am loving the whole thing. It gives us something to shoot for, to help us remember and enjoy the little things about the holiday that sometimes get overlooked in the mad rush of just getting the to do list done.

Yesterday we bought candy-canes and ate them by the Christmas tree. The t.v. was off and Christmas music was playing, and we just enjoyed each other, laughing and talking for those few minutes before the kids' bedtime, and I found myself feeling so grateful for the important things that are so right in my life: The gift of my family and the joy we share together. And isn't that what Christmas is about? So I give adventing activities a big thumbs up! Yes, it is one more thing, but for me, it is the right thing for the season. Thanks to the many of you who gave me that nudge to go for it.

I'll be thinking of you tomorrow as we make our Christmas angels.

Monday, December 10, 2007

My Must See Pick of the Year

Why hasn't this movie found its audience? It's a slam dunk for me. Steve Carell is brilliant: vulnerable and sweet and still a little funny. But the whole movie deserves a standing ovation as far as I'm concerned. Have you seen it? What did you think?

And if not, well, get going if you can still find it. It's worth the $9.50, I swear!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Cleaning the Shower Gone Wrong...Terribly Wrong

First you've got to understand that the most embarrassing moments in my life don't happen because I'm not thinking. I mean the general observer might conclude that I'm simply addle-brained, but such is not the case. The truth is that I am often so focused on the task at hand that I miss the larger picture. That's when things can go seriously wrong for me.

Case in point: A few years ago, back in the childless years, Thomas and I were relishing a quiet Saturday. I had slept late and enjoyed a good breakfast. By late morning I was ready to jump in the shower and get started on my day. Being a working gal, Saturday was generally my cleaning day, and there was much to do.

After disrobing and stepping foot in the shower, I decided my first task should begin immediately with a good bathtub scrubbing because, as everyone knows, the best way to clean the shower is while you are in it. That way you don't have to worry about leaning way over, dragging your shirt through the cleanser, or getting your clothes wet. The only problem was that the cleanser was down the hall in the laundry closet and I was naked, but a little thing like that doesn't stop me.

After all, we lived in a two story walk up. No one walking by would see me, and we rarely got unexpected visitors. Besides, it was literally three steps away; the only other person around was Thomas, and he's seen me naked plenty. Moreover, now I was in a hurry. The day was wasting, and I had a lot to do. I was focused.

I was also horrified when, as I was reaching on tip toe to grab the cleanser, I heard a knock on the door. With a quick turn of the head I saw through our large picture window two dark-suited men standing at our door. I'm fairly certain I made eye contact with one of them, but the details are fuzzy at best. Nonetheless, if they had not yet seen me, it didn't take long after my blood-curdling scream.

I hit the deck and broke all world records in the army crawl screaming incoherently all the way. "Thomas! Thomas! I think the missionaries are at the door--and they saw me NAKED!" I made it to the study and crawled onto the futon where I assumed the fetal position and covered myself with the throw pillows yelling the entire time, "They saw me NAKED! I know it--I was getting the cleanser, and I heard the knock, and I was NAKED!--And they're still there! I can't face them! Naked?! Arghh!"


"But I was NAKED!"

He waved his hand at me, dismissing my crazy tirade, and walked down the hall toward the door.

Now, talking only to myself, I said, "We'll have to move. I can not face the missionaries at church after they've seen my NAKED! Why does this happen? NAKED?? In front of the missionaries?!..."

Thomas reentered with one of those knowing smirks. "Well, the good news is it wasn't the missionaries, but I think you gave the Jehovah's' Witnesses quite a show." In his hand he held The Watchtower.

For whatever reason they never came back.

As for me, I've stopped walking around the house in my birthday suit for any reason at all, but I still believe the best way to clean the shower is while you are in it. I simply keep cleanser in every bathroom now. Just a little tip to keep you focused.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Our home has become a favorite with the Jehovah's Witnesses. They are loving us here, and come see us at least once a month. Now I belong to a proselyting church, so I get it. I mean it takes some courage to get out there and knock on doors, so we are always kind and welcoming. I even find their literature rather interesting to read. Oh yes, the Watch Tower and I have become familiar. But this month they've doubled their efforts, and I'm thinking I may have to use my tried and true method of turning them away.

Tune in tomorrow for another installment of "How Things Go Very Wrong in the Life of Laurel Wicke."

Monday, December 3, 2007

The Ugly Side of the Christmas Photo

Taking The Family Christmas Picture may be the part about Christmas that I dread. It's always stressful. This year was no different. Everything that could go wrong did. We were tired; Griffin refused to smile as usual; I had the great idea of wrapping Mr. Wicke and I up in Christmas lights so it looked like the kids were holding us hostage. I wanted them holding the end of the string; they wouldn't do it. Then when Griffin would finally smile, the lights quit functioning. Isn't that just typical? We did get one that will work. It's not my favorite. The kids are cute, the parents are a little less, the background still less, but I don't care. It's done. Check it off the Christmas to do list! That is enough for me.

Last year I avoided the whole mess with a brilliant idea: We went to the mall and took our pictures in a photo booth. All four of us crammed in there and had a wonderful time. Then we just used the photo sheet on our Christmas card. I was tempted to do it again, but I thought it might be a bit repetitive. Now I'm considering making it our standard. Who cares about repetitive when I can keep my sanity?

Two years ago we tried to snap a picture after Church one Sunday. Let's face it, getting all four of us in picture condition is not an easy task, so Sunday seemed perfect, but Griffin wasn't having it. We tried cajoling, tickling, and teasing. Finally Grandma Wicke, trying to entice a smile out of him, brought an Oreo from the kitchen. " and then you can have this cookie." But it only brought wails, tears, and "I want the cookie" demands.

Irritated and tired, I said, "Oh, just give him the damn cookie!" Have I mentioned before that I am a bit short in the patience department?

Anyway, when the kids were just about done and I had recovered some of my good humor I said, "Okay! Let's go! Let's get this picture taken!"

"Just a minute," my sweet little 4 year old Logan responded. "I have to finish my damn cookie."

Yeah. Humble pie is a little tough on the way down. I'm still blaming The Christmas Picture, though. It just brings out the ugly in me.

Griffin not smiling in 2005.

Griffin not smiling in 2007. And mom looks as crazy as she feels.