Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas!

After a month of saying "Santa's cutting back this year" the daughters whirled through the house in about two days...watching me "find" things I just happened to have bought a year ago.  I don't think the five grandsons (ages 6, 4, 3, 2 and 4 months) are going to notice any "downsizing" at all! 

And after a frantic day and a half of wrapping, it's done.  Santa's has been here - presents are under the tree, stockings are stuffed, milk has been drunk, cookies eaten, carrots and celery gnawed, letter left.  Check, check, check.  The jolly elf himself and his helper, Mrs. Santa, have enjoyed their hot toddy and with a quick peak at NORAD to see that the sleigh is actually somewhere over New Orleans and rapidly making final approach to the west coast at this time, I'm finally ready to head to bed for that promised long winter's nap.

Tomorrow will be a joyous one - presents to be opened, toys to be tried out, cousins to play with, festive food to be shared with family...all with (hopefully) no major meltdowns (I'm talking about the adults here - the boys will all no doubt get naps!)

Wherever life takes you this next year, here is my wish for you:

Mele Kalikimaka

Nollaig Shona Dhuit  

God Jul  

Merry Christmas

And warmest wishes for 2014!

~God Bless Us, Everyone!  tw

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Adventures in Generosity

As the holidays approach time seems to slip away.  The fact that I have been unable to contribute anything here is not because I've nothing to share.  In fact, quite the opposite is true.  There just aren't enough hours in the day.  Gerry tells me it's because I got a bit "squeezed" on both ends - Thanksgiving coming so very late in the month (with whom do I register a complaint about that!?!) and the "Swedes" arriving a week earlier than usual (no complaint there!).  No worries though - it'll get done or it probably wasn't that important to begin with!

In any event, yesterday was one of those wonderful, if a bit exhausting, days spent in the company of three incredibly generous women working entirely on the behalf of others - most of whom we will never meet or know.

The day began early - my dear friend (Carol) arrived at my house at 7:30 am, which might not sound too early to you but you should know that before coming to my house to start on our project, she had already gone in to work to finish something there (and further amazement should be registered by the fact that her work is the exact opposition direction from my home!)

We jumped in my very over-loaded "sleigh" - boxes of "blankets" (really just 2 yards of fleece fabric), 10 empty Full Circle vegetable boxes I had collected (they are the most fabulous packing containers), assorted items for the grandsons we'd be seeing, a large empty cooler.  There would barely be room for the driver and two passengers (and I really pitied the one who had to sit in the back seat!)

First stop, the Klahanie QFC to purchase four hams.  They were a great deal (limit two though) and we needed a total of ten hams to include in the food baskets we would be assembling.  We had called Marne to get her coffee "code" so Carol made a quick stop at the in-store Starbucks.  Armed with 2 coffees, 4 hams and a peppermint cocoa for me, we started to the car.  I thought maybe we could get to the vehicle with just one shopping cart so I put everything in mine - except the two coffees.  Carol kept her cart just to bring those two coffees along and we navigated around the guy delivering that day's shipment of poinsettia plants.  I wish I had a photo of that moment - the terrain is a bit bumpy and with no actual groceries to weight it down, Carol was soon wearing a good part of at least one of the cups!

Once we got the hams stashed in the cooler, it was time to pick up Marne and head to the Issaquah QFC (to pick up the other six hams, of course!  I know I could have probably just made an arrangement with one of the stores - QFC has also been incredibly generous - but it adds to the overall "craziness"  to make it kind of a scavenger hunt!)  After some rearranging so everything would (barely) fit, we beat a hasty exit as the poinsettia delivery guy recognized us from the first store!

Then it was on to Joint Base Lewis McChord.  Our task:  launder 48 twin sheets, pillow cases, towels and washcloths; finish purchasing items for 10 food baskets, wrap/assemble/arrange for pick up of said food baskets; fold/assemble 48 towel and bedding packages...oh and take turns watching three adorable little guys (age 4, 2 and 4 months).  Piece of cake!

Now Jenny, my Army wife daughter, would have (and actually could have) done this on her own because she is truly just that amazing but work like this a) goes MUCH quicker when shared and b) is a LOT MORE fun when shared.  We quickly decided to divide and conquer the world - my task, head off post to shop at Safeway, Carol offered to watch Milo (4 months) and Shay (2 years) while Jenny took Marne to the on-post launder mat to begin that process.  Jenny then headed over to pick up Jax (4 years), Carol & the other boys and lunch.  We all met up at the launder mat for a bite - good thing the place was HUGE! - and the boys had an impromptu play date with some other kids there. 

Marne and I finally developed a "rhythm" where I was kept busy taking the sheets from their packaging and loading the washers while she hopped from machine to machine inserting her "laundry card" to start them up again.  It took a bit of time (unfortunately but humorously) for her to realize that she could set them up for more than six minutes at a time but until that happened she resembled the guy who's playing the glasses with various levels of water...hopping from glass to glass to play a tune.  It was a pretty funny sight!

By the time lunch was finished and it was approaching naptime, the towels were pretty much dried and we sent (clean) garbage bags full home with Carol and Jenny.  Carol was to stay with the boys and wrap/decorate the food boxes while Jenny purchased any last minute items at the commissary (pick up was scheduled for 4 pm and it was going to be close). 

Meanwhile back at the ranch...Marne and I were still up to our necks in laundry, laundry everywhere!  We had taken over four triple-load commercial washers and were just about down.  Loads were completed but we had no place to put anything until dryers were available (and we had commandeered six triple-load dryers but assorted smaller ones) and by now had figured out how to put at least 18 minutes on each load.  Dried sheets were now beginning to accumulate so I was reassigned from unpackaging new items to folding laundered ones.

It only took a few minutes to realize why we always just launder and remake the bed - folding 48 fitted sheets is a pain!  Try though we might, things were getting dry much quicker now that we were using so many dryers, and we could not get it all folded.  We decided to throw any remaining unfolded items in (clean) garbage bags and head back to Jenny's.

We arrived just as the food boxes were being picked up.  Marne saw a soldier in uniform in Jenny's house and naturally assumed that on an Army post the only soldier in uniform who would be in Jenny's house had to be Travis - a surprise Christmas present for the family.  She was pretty excited until I reminded her of exactly where we were and that practically EVERYONE is in uniform at JBLM!

Anyway, as I said, fully loaded (and beautifully wrapped) food boxes were making their way out the door. (These boxes are going to military families.  Many of our military families are what I term "free and reduced lunch" meaning that these kids receive free or discounted meals while they are in school.  This places a huge burden on families already struggling to make ends meet as there is often no lunch when the kids are not in school - such as the Christmas holiday.  In addition to some holiday foods, these boxes are more intended to get them through until school is back in session, providing simple meals, snacks and even milk.  To help with this project, we are so grateful to the St. Judes' Knights of Columbus who fundraised and donated monies to purchase the food included here.)

One project down/one still to complete - the folding/assembling of linen packets.  We set up an assembly line where someone held the baby, someone folded items and someone rolled up a set and put them back into the plastic bag the sheet set had originally come in.  (These linens will be used to provide a welcome home for returning soldiers.  In this particular case, a portion of the 170th Military Policy Company will be returning home sometime this month, with the balance arriving home in April 2014.  Single soldiers return home to barracks furnished with...pretty much nothing.  And so, once again, a HUGE thank you to St. Judes' Knights of Columbus who donated funds to purchase bed linens, towels and basic toiletries as well as another HUGE thank you to Dr. Ronald Danforth, Redmond dentist who donated dental products.  These items will supply the soldiers with some basics until they can be reunited with their personal belongings which were put in storage prior to their deployment.)

Then it was time to hit the road back to Redmond.  We considered having our husbands meet up with us somewhere for dinner but realized we were all pretty tuckered out.  We had left my house at 7:30 that morning and I pulled into my driveway just about 7:30 that night.  What an incredibly fun, exhausting, productive day!

I know...a long post but I don't know if I'll be able to share for the next few weeks as we'll be enjoying company!

I hope your holidays are joyous ones full of family, friends, fabulous food and basically a festive frenzy (how's that for alliteration!)  and that sometime in the midst of this craziness you remember that when everything is stripped down to bare basics it's just food and wrapping paper unless shared with loved ones and a thought to the real reason for the season!

And in case I don't get back to this blog until after the first of the new year, know that I am thinking of all my family and friends, and even those no longer with us.  (This morning I made up a batch of Chex Mix and couldn't help remembering how many times mom made it for the holidays of my childhood.)  I leave you with this - the first is something my sister-in-law (Annie) shared with me this morning.  It is absolutely amazing and I too wish I could have been there.  And the second a touching poem forwarded from a friend of my husband's - a Christmas Poem by a former highway patrol trooper.

~later, tw