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So, I did it – I finished all of the pillowcases for 30+ people (including one for myself – with a running shoe print, of course) for Christmas. They really did make for the perfect wrapping paper – they fit gifts of ALL sizes and shapes!

I wish I could report that Christmas came and went without a hitch and that I even ran on our trip to my mother-in-laws, but that’s not quite how it all went. Running didn’t happen for a variety of reasons – icy roads, lots of visiting with family, adjusting to the time difference (3 hours), etc. The biggest reason was the most important one, though. Our son was transported by ambulance on Christmas night from the ER to the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, where he was admitted for three nights.

After working for 2 weeks to get the kids healthy for our trip (daughter had pneumonia, son had sinus infection), they were both finally off meds and ready to go when a cold erupted in both of them the day before the trip. After several days of coughing and general ickiness, we began to realize that this bugger was not going to pass quickly. At Christmas dinner with 22 family members, our son picked at his dinner (RARE, as this kid eats non-stop) and had a wicked coughing fit that told us it was time to get help. My husband took him to the ER to be checked and after 2 breathing treatments they transported my boys by red sleigh (translation: ambulance) to Children’s in Pittsburgh. Diagnosis: pneumonia and aggravated asthma.

The next 3 days were filled with trips back and forth to the hospital for visits/tag-team overnight stuff while the docs, nurses and respiratory therapists worked to get his oxygen level steady. We are ever so grateful for my husband’s family who drove us back and forth (I don’t know the highways and city area well enough to make the drive in the dark) and took care of the little sister who was dealing with missing her brother and fighting her own cold/bout of pneumonia. The day before our return home to Washington our son was released from the hospital and our daughter took her trip to the ER for a chest x-ray that confirmed her illness. Armed with a bag loaded with antibiotics and inhalers, we were able to get on our regularly scheduled flights home on Tuesday morning (despite the fact that I lost my driver’s license in PA . . . but that’s a WHOLE other story). There is no place like home!

I had planned to share the series of haiku I wrote for our Christmas cards on Christmas Day with you all, but I think this last day of 2009 is an appropriate day to share the poems, too. As I look back on the year, I remember our fun-filled summer fondly, I appreciate the supportive network of family and friends and I am amazed at all my children grew through. I look forward to 2010 as a year of further personal growth – as a writer, a runner, a wife and a mother. And I pray that it is a HEALTHY one – not just for my family, but for yours, too!

And now . . . the haikus:

Daily Adventures
Two bicycles race
Beside the family garden
A rope swing beckons

Camano Island
Logs stretch out their arms
For kids to construct their caves
On the rocky shore

Little Sister
Red hair flows freely
As she dances side to side
Laughing and singing

Big Brother
“I have an idea!”
Inspiration is bellowed
Filled notebooks are proof

Brianna
Behind the dense fog
Ducks quack and cows moo, “Hello!”
As she runs the trail

Husband
Stars twinkle above
As the crowd dances freely
Music-filled nights rock

Albus
Kids reach for the leash
Announcing a family walk
Swish, swish goes his tail

Our Wish for You
Christmas lights glimmer
As the New Year approaches
May love fill your days

Happy reading, running and good health to you in 2010!

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HOORAY!!! Today marked the first day in over two weeks that we left the house using something other than just feet. The snow/ice finally melted enough that we could take our four wheel drive vehicle out of the neighborhood and even venture as far as the next town. Though it was a bit like taking two monkeys out of a zoo into the wild of the human world for the first time, it was still nice to get out of the house!

So, what have we been doing for all of these days? Here’s a little list of cabin fever busters we attempted over the last few weeks . . .

1. Run on the treadmill. Even Mr. Music took a bit of a walk on it (assisted, with a MAX of Speed 2)
2. Holiday movies (Rudolph, Grinch, Mickey, Garfield, Frosty . . . shall I go on? I think Mr. Music saw each one at least twice – and this is a boy who watches 1-2 half-hour shows MAX a day, if ANY!)
3. Christmas cookie baking (just once – with just enough to share with neighbors and Santa)
4. Trips to the Vet (2 trips made by my husband, father and dog – once by foot because the roads weren’t safe, another by car in the miracle window of good weather and “safe” streets before the third wave of snow hit). I’m thankful his bite is healing nicely now.
5. Christmas Card writing (see letter below) – complete with Mr. Music signing his name on each card himself!
6. Pre-Christmas toy sorting to make some space for a few new things from Santa and family
7. Facebook updates
8. New quilt project
9. Driveway shoveling
10. Igloo construction with snow from said driveway
11. Treadmill running
12. Balance ball workout
13. Dinner prep game – What can we make with what is in our fridge and pantry???
14. Treadmill running
15. Closet sorting
16. Driveway shoveling
17. Visits from parents who snow-shoed a mile to get here
18. Sledding with neighbors
19. Present wrapping
20. Piano playing and Christmas caroling
21. No church due to road conditions – lessons and carols at home!
22. Shoveling out neighbors’ stuck cars
23. Christmas!!!!!
24. Using degrees in English, Art History, Forestry & Education to put together children’s toys
25. Catching up with all of the laundry TWICE
26. Treadmill running
27. Digging trenches to allow the snowmelt to reach the drains and prevent our garage from flooding (that’s where all the books are!!!)
28. Oragami with Netflix mailing envelopes – they have patterns on their website!
29. Phone calls to distant family to pass along words of cheer for Christmas
30. Writing “Mad Lib” style thank you notes for the gifts we received (see below)

I’m sure there was more excitement these few weeks, but I’ve blocked them out . . . I’m putting the “adventure” behind me now and am looking forward to the promise of a new year!

Here are the letters we put together for our friends and family this year:

When you leave the Christmas card responsibility in the hands of a little redheaded girl who is not quite two years old, you get something musical, short and snappy – much like her!

(sung to the tune of “Baa Baa Black Sheep”)

Hel-lo, everyone!
For Merry Christmas time,
(Sister’s) here to sing you
A little family rhyme.

(Mr. Music) is reading,
And learning how to write.
Daddy is dreaming
Of me sleeping through the night.

Mommy is eye-ball deep
In blogs and press releases.
I’m learning to put together
Puzzles with (a handful of) pieces.

Swimming lessons, music
And (Mr. Music)’s pre-school, too.
As much as we enjoy them,
None are as special to us as you!

Merry Christmas, Family.
Happy New Year, Friends.
Wishing you love and joy
As this full year ends!

Love,

Little Sister

And our thank you notes go something like this:

We’ve been a little stir crazy this December (i.e., the snow has kept us homebound for over 2 weeks!). To entertain ourselves (and you), we created this “Mad Lib-style” note to express our gratitude for your kindness this Christmas. We did part of it for you, but you’ll need to pick the nearest friend or relative to help you fill in rest of the blanks before you read the note. Be creative and enjoy the results!

Adjective: ________________________
Person’s Name: ___________________
Person’s Name: ___________________
Verb: ___________________________
Verb: ___________________________
Plural Noun: ______________________
Verb: ___________________________
Noun: ___________________________
Verb: ___________________________
Noun: ___________________________
Verb ending in –ing: _______________
Number: _________
Number: _________
Noun: ___________________________
Group of people: __________________
Noun: ___________________________
Person: __________________________
Person: __________________________
Verb ending in –ing: _______________
Exclamation: _____________________
Adjective: ________________________

Sorry I can’t format the letter to look right here on Blogger. I think you get the idea, though!

Dear _______________,
(person’s name)

Christmas at our house was _______________. We spent the day with
(adjective)

_______ and ___________ doing _____________. We ______________ with
(person’s name) (person’s name) (verb) (verb)

our new _____________________.
(plural noun)

My favorite part of the day was _____________ ______________. Next
(verb) (noun)

year I hope we can do it again, and maybe __________________ with ____________, too.
(verb) (noun)

Snow has been _______________ here for _______ days. We took advantage of
(verb ending in –ing) (number)

the _______ inches of snow by building a ______________, sledding with our
(number) (noun)
_____________, and having ______________ fights. My _________ and _________
(group of people) (noun) (person) (person)

even snow-shoed to our house everyday to visit with us! It is all melting now and we’re

____________ for floods. _____________!
(verb ending with –ing) (exclamation)

Thank you again for your thoughtfulness this Christmas. I really like the

__________ and ___________ and ________________
(noun) (noun) (noun)

you sent me. I’m looking forward to ______________________ with it.
(verb ending in –ing)

Have a _____________________ New Year!
(adjective)

Love,

______________________________
(person’s name)

Enjoy the end of 2008, everyone!

My husband and I finally sat down to figure out our Christmas shopping list yesterday. We took a look at our selections from last year and considered our family members’ reactions. Of all our gifting last year, hands DOWN, the favorite items were the pillowcases I made (I think the final number was 32 handmade pillowcases, but I’m a bit fuzzy after all of that needle humming).

While I’m not going to make that many pillowcases again this year (fabric was specially chosen for EACH one . . . I think I was truly out of my mind!), we did decide that the bulk of the gifts will be homemade. The others will be as locally-purchased or experience-based as possible. If you are a family member reading this, please STOP reading NOW and move on to your regularly scheduled life – email reading, dusting, vacuuming, playing with the dog, walking on the beach – WHATEVER . . . just GO!!!

What are you still doing here, Mom? Pat? Get out of here! I love you, but NO PEEKING!

OK, I think they’re gone. *whew!*

I mentioned a week or so ago that I’d really like our gifts to be environmentally and budget friendly. I think we’ve go it: Homemade reusable bags (similar to these)! My husband and I cranked out the prototypes last night while the kids were at my parents’ house for a sleepover. Here’s the rundown:

– We’re using fabric from the stash I’ve been building for the last 10 years (some fabric I bought in Italy before we were married!). I’m also reusing some old curtains that I made years ago that are still in good shape but don’t fit our windows in this house. I’ll be using thread from my stash, too. Random colors of thread will add to the eclectic feel of the bags!
– For the more “masculine” bags (no fru-fru stuff for the manly men in our families!) we DID get some navy striped sheets on sale to cut up and use (budget friendly, not AS environmentally friendly). That was the ONLY shopping we had to do.
– We figured out how to make the bags like the reusable canvas bags from the PCC Natural Markets out here, so they are quick and easy! All it will take is sewing 2 rectangles of fabric together (the bags are lined to make them more durable since we’re NOT using canvas), making the tuck to give the bags a bottom, and then attaching straps.
– We’ll use the bags as wrapping paper for a few little goodies to send. That’s right – no wrapping paper needed! I can feel some trees smiling about that one.
– Even with the little goodies, everything should fit in a flat envelope for cheap mailing and limited “Post Office package juggling dances” while managing 2 small children in line.
– If we make 2 bags/night, I can have 20 made in 10 nights, which means that all the packages can be mailed well in advance of the Christmas rush!
– Since the idea was truly my husband’s, he has agreed to man the iron. This really will be a fast project with two of us on deck!

Since I was able to run at the YMCA after my son’s swimming lesson yesterday and I started my morning with the first workout of Week 5 in the 6 week Bounce Your Body Beautiful plan, I’m feeling quite energetic. I’ll put that energy to good use for tonight’s sewing session! I’ll be sure to get some photos of the process to post while we’re at it.

It has been ages since I’ve visited anyone else’s blog. While I’ve been away, I have been making some real progress in my other life areas:

1. I sent out over a dozen press releases announcing the award for We Are Girls Who Love to Run. Which leads me to an important question for YOU, dear reader: Did you know that Her Sports + Fitness is now Women’s Running Magazine? Be sure to check it out!

2. I’ve been working on some meaty guest blog posts for some BIG blogs out there. I’ll let you know where to go when they’re posted!

3. I just put the final touches on our Christmas letter – and it isn’t even Thanksgiving. While I really enjoy Christmas cards, I usually get stressed about this aspect of the holidays. I write the letters from the kids’ points of view, so they’re not a typical blah-blah-blah letter – and they’re also SHORT! Well, tonight the inspiration hit and it is DONE (in the voice of Little Miss Fireball). I even got the wallet-sized photos ordered to include with the letter. BTW: this is MUCH more budget-friendly than photo cards and the leftovers can go in my wallet so that I actually have photos of my kids with me.

4. My husband and I have been spending our spare moments cleaning out junk. You know the stuff – the pile of old Runner’s World magazines, the rubber bands from the heads of lettuce we bought at the farmer’s market in June, the thousands upon thousands of kid art projects, scraps of fabric from quilts I made two years ago . . . I feel so liberated with all of it sorted into the appropriate bins: garbage, recycle, mail.

5. The Fireball’s horrid cold is nearly gone now, so we squeezed in a trip to the park while the sun was out for a bit this afternoon. We almost didn’t get it in, though, as Mr. Music is going through one hum-dinger of a growth spurt and is back on track with nearly daily naps. It’s no wonder I can’t get myself on a schedule!!!

Now that the Christmas cards are under control, I’m off to have that yearly sit-down with the husband (who after a year of blogging, should have a nick-name – I’ll work on that) to figure out a healthy balance for Christmas gifts. Things to consider for balance:

– price
– environmental impact
– time involvement (last year I made about 30 personalized pillow cases for family members – BIG hit all around, but BIG time sucker on my end . . . and I have some quilts to finish!)
– personal significance of gift (I like gifts to have some sort of important connection and meaning)
– do we consider donations in our family members’ names through a reputable charity?

Does anyone have experiences with the charitable donation approach to gifts? Did you receive one? Have you given one? I’d love to get your insight!