Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Polar Bears

Many months ago I promised Addison a polar bear for Christmas. Well, Christmas snuck up pretty quick, and mid-knit I was informed that I was also to make a companion bear for Davis.

I literally completed the second bear during the final Christmas carol of our church's Christmas Eve service (I was watching via webcast).

Preschool Pageant

The Monday before Christmas Davis's preschool had its Christmas pageant. All the 3 year olds were the animals in the nativity. Davis was the donkey, a costume his teacher told us he had settled on weeks ago and never deviated, unlike most of his classmates. I'm fairly limited in what I can share from it given the school's strict "no social network photo sharing" policy. Most pictures of Davis obviously include other children, so you'll have to believe me when I say that it was surprisingly well done and sufficiently adorable. I had no expectation of getting emotional, that is until Davis spotted me from the stage, face lighting up, and he began to wave. Funny how such a simple performance can inspire such pride and even a few silent tears. I saw my little guy performing so cooperatively and enthusiastically, and, needless to say, I was very proud.

The most hilarious photo, however, is the one above, which thankfully contained no other faces than the priceless one front and center. The little boy to Davis's right, the one he's gesturing towards, is not a favorite. Davis has the enviable peculiar to many middle children of adapting wherever necessary. He gets along with just about any child. However, there is this one little boy in his class (we'll call him P), who he does not like. From Davis's reports it sounds like P is a little out of control, definitely the one the teachers have to reign in the most. During the performance, P was a bit of a wild card and after each song would clap enthusiastically with the audience. His clapping intruded on Davis's 18", and he started shooting P the most fearsome glares. Then P discovered he could bob his head from side to side and make his sheep ears flap about, you guessed it, right in Davis's face. More glares, and then this thumb thrust, which all but shouts, "What's up with this guy?" Wish I could share the video.

I ended up working from home the morning of the pageant. As events would unfold, our car wouldn't start early that morning when Trey tried to take Addison to school and with the need to sort out our vehicular situation and then the performance that very morning, it just made more sense for me to work from home. Thankfully, the car issue was minor and we had it back the next day, but it's wonderful to work for such a flexible company!

Genevie did very well in the audience and then enjoyed wearing Davis's donkey ears at the end.

A very pleased little performer with his daddy.

Monday, December 27, 2010

A Very Merry Christmas

Christmas is really starting to get fun now although I can't say I'm sorry to see December go what with various social engagements, holiday preparations, school productions, early dismissals, a book deadline added to the normal hub-bub of life in a busy household of 5. It's felt a bit like a whirlwind on a bullet train. I feel like I can now finally breathe a sigh of relief. Mug of jasmine tea in hand, boys lost in a world of Legos, little girl playing in her room not napping, husband furiously typing away, snowed into our cozy little home, it's time to finally update the blog, which has sorely been neglected this month (*see above list of all-consuming activities).

But back to the fun bit. The kids were excited for Christmas morning. All of them. You can see it on their shining faces in the photos below, and now two whole days later they are still mesmerized with their slew of new gadgetry. It was a Christmas of dinosaurs and dragons for the boys and dollies with push apparatuses, like strollers and shopping carts, for the girl. I received a lovely citrine necklace with accenting diamonds from Trey, and he received a toolbox and Scottish flag for our porch. We spent the afternoon with family enjoying good wine and even better food and then crashed in our warm beds for sound and much-deserved slumber. Wishing you all a very merry, though belated, Christmas from our happy bunch to yours!

Christmas Pudding Revisited

Remember this guy?

Our very own Christmas Pudding.

Found this little costume at my last NCT sale (boy, I miss those) before we moved back to the US, and you can only imagine our giddy delight at recycling the confection for Genevie.

We momentarily lost the topper before Christmas and there was nearly wailing and gnashing of teeth as that is what completes the ensemble.

Thankfully, Trey located it in some bin somewhere and the show could go on.

A little looser on this one than her predecessor but no less adorable or sweet.

First Big Snow


While not a white Christmas this year, we got a white-day-after-Christmas. Just over a foot of snow fell from about noon yesterday into last night. This is quite possibly the most ideal time to get snow. Kids are off from school. I'm off from work until Wednesday. Holidays are over. There is nothing to do except play with new toys, read new books, start new knitting projects, catch up on blog posts. No agenda. No expectations. Nowhere to go. Best snow ever!


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Christmas Poser Exposed

Recognize this Christmas flower? An amaryllis you say? Not so fast. It's actually an hippeastrum, commonly confused with an amaryllis. Apparently, this misnomer has been commonly perpetuated so that now all of North America thinks the bell-like bulbs that you cultivate in mid-winter are amaryllises or amaryllae or whatever the correct plural is. I know what you're thinking. Interesting but fairly useless tidbit because you know you are going to get weird looks if you ask your local nursery where the hippeastrums are.

I scored this amaryllis at a local discount produce market for a mere $3.50, and it's doing quite nicely. This picture was taken on Sunday just as the bud split to form the two tell-tale bells, and the second shoot is coming up nicely. It should be in full bloom for Christmas, and I will certainly post an updated picture.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Stille Nacht

When I was at Rutgers, I had a German professor who had fled East Germany during Communist rule. She worked as an au pair in England, saving and putting herself through university and ultimately earning two PhDs. One Christmas she shared the following.

On Christmas Eve, she and her husband would go to church, the only time of the year they ever went. The service was exquisite and traditional with soft candlelight and familiar carols, and each year the service would conclude with Silent Night, just voices, no accompaniment. And in those few hushed moments bathed in flickering candlelight, my professor would raise her tuneless voice and wholeheartedly sing that most famous of German carols in her native lanuage, the German mingling with the English in a harmonious tapestry of worship transcending time and place and tongue.

Every Christmas Eve our church concludes its service the same way and although many years have intervened, I never fail to think of her with tears in my eyes and wonder if one day the meaning of this timeless hymn will find a permanent place in her heart.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Reasons I Joined the Dark Side

I come from a long line of real Christmas tree lovers who take great pride in their ability to cultivate a cut tree for weeks on end indoors, and if you had asked me even a few years ago if I would ever consider purchasing an artificial Christmas tree, I would have emphatically rebuffed you. However, times change as do people, and this year we went over to the Dark Side.

My reasons abound.
  1. Artificial doesn't dry out. As an unabashed Christmas enthusiasts, who listen to carols from early November through the end of the year, Trey and I both have traditionally put our tree up right after Thanksgiving, which admittedly leads to a fairly crispy evergreen by the time the new year rolls around. Not a problem with artificial.
  2. Artificial is low maintenance. I have vivid memories of putting up the tree, trying to get the prongs of the stand perfectly even, the tree swaying dangerously from side to side as one person held it, the other screwed the stand brackets, and yet another stood farther back saying, "No, more to the right. No, too far. Put it back." Not to mention the multiple pitchers of hot, steaming, sugar water the tree required for sustenance, the bearer squeezing into the few inches of space between the lowest boughs and the stand, a feat that really required the skills of a contortionist. Plus the numerous conversations over the course of the month, "Did you water the tree?" "No, did you?" "Hmmm, it doesn't seem to be drinking. Maybe it's reached its saturation point." (whatever that means). With artificial assembling the tree requires snapping three pieces into place. It's perfectly balanced and requires no watering (see point #1).
  3. Real doesn't smell like it used to. This was just about the number one reason to go real. I have those lovely olfactory memories from childhood of coming downstairs the morning after the tree was put up and being embraced in the tangy freshness of a Balsam. No more. I'm not sure what's happened, but the trees we've gotten for the past few years, just don't smell all that much. Certainly nothing that a robust pine-scented candle can't accomplish.
  4. Artificial isn't messy. Yes, I admit it. I am a mess-aphobe. I hate crumbs and spills and toys strewn about. I know. It's a problem that needs addressing. So you can imagine what a struggle the pine needles are for a neat nick like me. Nuff said.
  5. Artificial comes pre-lit. Do you know how wonderful this is? Probably you do if you have a pre-lit artificial tree. No fussing with light strands or pricking your fingers.
  6. Artificial looks so real. You may have memories of the fake trees in days of yore that looked something akin to a bottle brush. No more. The trees are so real these days I've even heard a few die-hard real tree supporters remark at their mimicry.
So there you have it, the 6 reasons we went over to the Dark Side and bought artificial. The most remarkable thing about making this decision was that when I first broached the subject with Trey back in November, he said to me, "I was thinking about it too!" Great minds.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Big Girl Bed

The time has come. And much earlier than I anticipated.

Genevie has begun climbing out of her crib. It began a few weeks ago with an initial clunk. Trey rushed in during naptime to find a surprised and slightly dazed Evie who had fallen out of her crib. Since then, however, she has perfected the art. Since Evie's door does not latch properly, we have had to put up a gate and a small table in front of her door to keep her confined when she decides to get out. No good having an under-two-year-old wandering around the house at any hour of the night.

Thankfully, she has exhibited more restraint than her older brother Davis when he began climbing out of his crib. Since the initial novelty wore off a few days ago, as long as we speak clearly and firmly to her when we put her down for bed that she "is not to get out of her crib," she listens and obeys. Girls are so different. In the morning we can hear her little chirp as she opens her door, peers around the gate, and calls to us from across the hall.

Which leads me to today. Trey and I are going to take the front rail off her crib and turn it into a proper toddler bed. Our reasoning is that since she can get out of the crib, at least we should enable her re-entry. The other night when this all first started, I went in long after lights out to put some laundry in her dresser and was startled to see a little backside and pair of legs poking out from under the full bed in her room. Yes, I jumped. Yes, she was sound asleep on her knees halfway under the bed. No, she did not wake up when I put her back in her crib.

This whole growing up thing is going a little faster than I expected.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Merry Christmas from the Holloways

Christmas 2010

Dear Friends and Family,

What a year 2010 has been. The most significant change in our lives this year was the purchase of our very first home. After more than a decade anticipating this momentous milestone in our married life, the realization was no less sweet for the waiting. We closed on March 13th and moved in the very next day. It is a lovely white home with black shutters in the craftsman style, more than 80 years old with a tremendous amount of charm and character. I like to call it the Jefferson (after our street, of course) and it features a front porch and swings perfect for enjoying gentle evening breezes or a morning cup of coffee. We quickly became acquainted with the “joys” of home ownership following several plumbing incidents and some minor basement flooding, but those usual experiences couldn’t put a damper on the thrill it has been to own a little piece of earth and make it truly ours. This summer we had the exterior painted and in the coming year we anticipate painting the inside and having the original pine floors, which are currently covered with carpeting, refinished. In the meantime, we are reveling in our first Christmas here, the strains of familiar carols filling the air since November.

Our family enjoyed several vacations and day trips throughout the year. We kicked off the year with a trip to Washington DC, which we would revisit two more times in the year at Memorial Day and Labor Day. During that bitterly cold and windy first weekend of 2010, which saw the shutdown of the Washington Monument due to high winds, we continued to introduce the children to some of our most beloved spots in that great city. In the spring we took the children back to the Statue of Liberty in NYC, and then in June we enjoyed a long-anticipated week vacation at an adorable and thoroughly rustic beach house along the Delaware Bay just outside of Cape May, NJ. We flew kites, discovered scores of horseshoe crabs, watched World Cup soccer and indulged in many seafood meals during our week away, returning sandy, rested, and full of sunset-tinged memories. In July my sister Sarah got married and I was matron of honor. It is a joy to have another member of the family and hold out hope that cousins from my side may be just around the corner. In August we went to the Atlantic City Air Show, an event which awed every member of our family, Mom included. For the holidays we’re staying close to home but will be enjoying a visit from Trey’s mom right before Christmas.

I normally start with recaps on the children, but this year I’m switching it up a bit and beginning with the parents. Trey’s year has been marked by activities as diverse as they are demanding. After enjoying some much deserved time off from research following graduation, he began pursuing publication of his Aberdeen thesis on Andrew Melville early in the year. In the autumn he entered into negotiation with a renowned academic press to publish his work as a scholarly monograph and has spent every free moment for the remainder of this year working on revisions in preparation for publication. Besides being a tremendous morale boost for his career in an economic time that has been particularly unkind to unemployed academics, this opportunity has given Trey a reason to revisit his beloved topic, looking with fresh eyes upon a subject that he had lived and breathed for the better part of three years. He has truly enjoyed re-examining the period and the man from a new perspective, the unmistakable sign of the genuine scholar, I believe. His list of ideas for upcoming publications continues to grow, and I have little doubt that the repertoire of works authored by a Holloway will expand in the years to come. Trey continued serving as an adjunct professor at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, guest lecturing for a Church History course in the spring. He has also relished his time at home with the children. This rare opportunity to be integrally involved in the daily routine of our family has created a very special and strong bond between him and each of the children. His immense patience and capacity for childish play often puts me to shame and serves as a remarkable example of how we can easily and ably adapt to whatever circumstances we face.

I have continued to work with a technology start-up company in Center City Philadelphia called DDC. The year has seen the departure and arrival of several new employees, making me now the most senior at the firm after my boss. Working with a young company is both exhilarating and challenging. I wear many hats, including office manager, human resources, billing, and payroll on top of my normal Director of Marketing responsibilities. The company continues to grow, adding clients, increasing web traffic, and general media attention, and I get to do what I love every day. In October I traveled to Atlanta for a conference and had the opportunity to see Trey’s mom and sister while I was there. I have also become connected to a knitting group on the 32nd floor of my building and go there every Wednesday at lunchtime to knit. They are a wonderful and encouraging group of women and after leaving my own knitting group back in Aberdeen, it is such a joy to be involved in another one. This year I also started writing fiction finally. I have had many ideas bouncing around in my head for a long time but was held back by the paralysis of inertia. Finally, one day I took the plunge and within a couple of weeks a veritable onslaught of words had found their way onto the written page. While I have no idea how long this process may take -- months, years -- I know without a doubt that writing is my first and always-will-be love, and no matter where I live or what I am doing, I will always have it. It is not dependent on a paycheck or a boss. It rests solely and squarely with me, a prospect which terrifies me and thrills me in the same paradoxical moment. Like I said, the library of books authored by a Holloway will hopefully only continue to grow in the future.

This has been a year of great maturity for Addison (5) most significantly punctuated by entering Kindergarten this September. Within a matter of a week, Addison began writing his name all by himself and recognizing letters wherever we went. Full-day Kindergarten has certainly been a physical adjustment with him sleeping longer and deeper at night due to sheer exhaustion. He has made a gaggle of new friends, often of the female persuasion, and was very proud to show off Mom when I came in to read to his class on Columbus Day. Trey and I have been particularly pleased with his teacher. She has a wonderful manner with the students and we see Addison learning by leaps and bounds as a result. Another area of real growth has been in helpfulness around the house. With two younger siblings who are still quite dependent upon both of us for very mundane care, it has been a real help to have Addison assist with things like taking out the trash, clearing his plate, putting away his dirty laundry, and playing with his baby sister when we need to get something done. His love for birds has only grown more intense and to it he has added a great fascination with dinosaurs, fueled by multiple viewings of Discovery Channel specials on Netflix instant view. His mind is curious and he loves to ask, “Is that real?” the kind of ontological question one would only expect of Trey’s son. I have recently begun reading Charlotte’s Web with him, in large part fueled by my happy childhood memories of being curled up next to my mom or dad reading Little House on the Prairie or The Chronicles of Narnia. As I expected, this special time in the evening before bed has become a favorite, and Addison regularly urges “just one more chapter” before lights out.

Davis (3) continues to follow his own unique trajectory simultaneously baffling and bewitching us with his humor, charm, independence, and quirkiness. This year saw him fully potty-trained in under a week and dry at night just a month after his brother accomplished that feat, all in marked contrast to the agonizing experience we had with Addison. He too started school this autumn -- preschool that is -- at the United Methodist Church that abuts our backyard. Davis is a veritable fountain of tales from his adventures at “Little Pwaisers Pweschool”. I thrill at the literary heart that is so clearly growing in him. He loves to narrate his daily exploits, including even the most prosaic details that he somehow manages to transform into riveting nuggets with his winsome voices and theatrical gestures. “Today Ms. Nancy had a yogurt while we had orange fish.” “Paul would not stay on his orange triangle.” He calls the only little girl in his class of all boys alternately “the sister” or “McCool” (her actual name is Nicole). I can only imagine what this class must be like for her. Davis is completely absorbed by numbers, noting speed limit signs wherever we drive and insists on doing his “homework” every night while Addison does his. This has necessitated some creative invention on my part, but it is clear that he needs to feel involved, ever fighting middling status. Besides his great gift for detailed narrative, Davis has begun to cultivate a fairly advanced sense of humor for someone so young. I can see already that he will be the class clown, the one who always gets in trouble for making the other kids laugh. You can see the special delight he derives from making his brother and sister throw their heads back in fits of silly laughter. As we continue to work with him to control the defiance and tantrums that typically afflict the toddler years, we are learning to speak his language, physical touch. He needs strong embrace and reassuring kisses in restoration. Often in the intensity of emotions such as disappointment or frustration, he is unable to verbalize his feelings or even to respond to our comforting words. We are therefore learning how to sympathize with him beyond words and assure him of our love in a way that he can understand.

And last but not least, our baby, who is every day becoming less like a baby and more like a full-fledged little girl. Genevie (20 months) is not the period at the end of our five-member gang but the exclamation point. She has continued to hit her milestones well ahead of the normal curve. At 18 months she began showing signs of readiness for potty training, an event neither Trey nor I is ready for as we attempted to catch our breath from just completing the job with Davis. This project can wait until after the first of the year, but won’t it be lovely to have no children in diapers? At her most recent well visit the doctor informed us that Genevie is speaking at a 2 year old level. She already uses small sentences and has a vocabulary so large I’ve completely lost word count. Every day she surprises me with new ones -- horse, shoulders, plane. Clearly she’s listening and remembering everything we say. To top it off, she has started recognizing letters, and although she doesn’t apply the correct names to the right ones, it is clear that she understands that they are a distinct set of shapes unto themselves. She is a very happy and adaptable child, easily taking naps wherever we set up a pack’n’play, as long as her dolly Nana and her binky are to hand, and eating anything, especially vegetables that we place in front of her. But don’t confuse adaptability with compliance. Far from it. In fact, her resemblance to me goes much deeper than just facial similarity and physical size. She has a fire in her belly that is fearsome to behold when her will is crossed, which includes activities such as buckling her into her car seat, brushing knots out of her hair, and wiping her nose. If one of her brothers even dares take a toy, this little pint-size ball of fur is her own greatest advocate with a shriek that puts the rest of us to shame. One of her latest interests is reading books. She’ll circle our heels with a volume, tug on our leg and say, “Read! Read!” then curl up in our laps and listen quietly to tale after tale. However, Genevie’s favorite thing in the entire world is playing outside, and she invariably comes back in covered in dust, red-cheeked, and delighted.

Life has settled into a fairly predictable, albeit bustling, routine. After many years in which transition was our normalcy, the new rhythms of the work and school week have replaced those of the academic calendar that were once so familiar. There is a real contentment and peace with the richness and fullness of our lives. Each passing year has brought unexpected turns on this life journey, but we have always been able to look back and say, “It was good and He was faithful.” May you too look back on your year with a grateful and expansive heart. May your cup be filled to overflowing, and may you find peace in the unwavering character of our Savior.

Much love,
(for all the Holloways)