Tuesday, December 29, 2009


This morning I walked into Olivia's room to check on her and get a Kleenex. She had been playing by herself (well, with Lucy, too) for a while and usually if she doesn't see me for a while she starts calling for me. So I thought I'd anticipate her needs and say Hi.

When I came in she was busy trying to climb into her little wooden rocking chair that had belonged to her Grandpa Mark when he was little. I watched as she climbed into the little rocker all by herself, holding a thick boardbook the whole time. It was a difficult ordeal, not dropping the book and maneuvering into a rocking chair while wearing slippery fleece pajamas. There was a bit of grunting and heavy breathing involved, but she managed it.

As she leaned back in the chair (very chill looking), with book in hand, and looking pleased with herself, I clapped and praised her. Ignoring this, she grabbed my pant leg and pushed it toward the door, saying in her sweet but firm baby voice, "Bye!... Bye!" I was nonplussed but she maintained her stance until I got the clue and started to leave.

Apparently reading time is a solitary activity.

AMENDMENT: I just returned from her room and apparently doing business is a solitary activity.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas Part II

We put a lot of miles on my Grand Prix in order to celebrate Christmas Parts II and III. Olivia was not pleased. She broke down in the car twice, sobbing so hard that she was choking. JB thought she really was choking on something, but I told him that she was just that upset. Poor bird! We had subjected her to several days of parties with no down time. I don't think we should do that anymore.

On our way to Berkley, we stopped at MSU to exchange the sweatshirt that I had gotten, as it was too small. Are college students shrinking or something? I do appreciate that the women's clothing is slim fitting, as to look feminine, but we do need room to fit our bodies into the clothes, people!

So we ended up buying more MSU gear. Our old stuff was 10 years old and ratty.

But even more exciting than that was having lunch at Pancheros.

Best. Burritos. Ever.

JB and I love burritos and have gone to several burrito restaurants. None compare to Pancheros.

Then we hit the road for Berkley, where my Aunt Carol was hosting a Fraser get-together. There were seven people 6-years-old and under there, and it was quite entertaining watching the kids open their presents. But the best moment did not come until Granny was opening her giant gift that everyone went in on.

A little background on Granny: She saves everything. And she loves cardinals.

And her mega-gift was covered in cardinal wrapping paper.

Each piece of tape was carefully pulled away, so that she could keep the glorious paper. The Frasers are used to this. That's why Granny opens her gifts last. My brother has often said that any gifts for Granny should be wrapped using one piece of tape, so that when she removes that one piece, the paper will fall down around the present and her work will be done. No one has perfected that strategy yet.

Well, my cousin's daughter Pepper, who is a few months older than Olivia, was feeling sad about something. As she walked by Granny and the cardinal paper, my Mom suggested, "Hey Pepper, why don't you help Granny open her present?" in an effort to cheer her up. But Pepper was not interested. The two boys, Rex and Ivan, did not hear the part where Mom was addressing Pepper. All they heard was "...why don't you help Granny open her present?"

They roared with excitement and pounced upon the present. We were all laughing our butts off except for Granny, who was not having it. Here is a breakdown:

Ivan and Rex, roaring, roaring, grabbing at the paper: "Aaaggghhh!! Raaaaah Raaaaah!!"

Granny, swatting, "No! Stop! That's MY present!"

Audience members: "Ivan, Rex, stop! Granny wants to open it herself!"

Other audience members: "Go on, help her! You can do it!"

Aunt Carol: "Mom, I'll give you the roll of cardinal paper!"

Granny won the battle in the end (has Granny ever NOT won a battle?), and resumed careful unwrapping of her new large flat screen HDTV.

I think this is her first new TV since the Carter era. Seriously. Her TV is one of those old floor models without a remote control. Uncle TJ said they were taking bets on whether Granny will get a new TV stand or just set the new TV on top of the old one. I gathered that they got her the new TV because she was having trouble with the digital conversion. Aunt Carol told Granny that she won't have to throw her converter through the cable company's window now, but Granny said that she's still gonna do it. Granny kicks ass.

And I didn't take a single photo because I was too busy visiting with people. So you'll just have to take my word for it!

Christmas Part I

Since we did so much over the Christmas holiday, I'm blogging about it in a few parts.

Part I is what we did first: Hunt Christmas.

It started on the Sunday before Christmas, with Grandma and Grandpa's annual Carol Sing party. There were around 24 people there, including some talented musicians to accompany our singing. There were a handful of children there, but the one I remember best is a little boy from our church named John. Well, he's not really little. He's like 9 or 10. He was very sweet and really enamored with Olivia. Every time Olivia started to fall as she practiced walking, he would try to catch her and keep her safe. I told her that it was okay if she fell, but he didn't believe me.

John and his brother Lars were shooting a nerf gun type thing and laughing as Olivia laughed when all the balls shot out. John said many entertaining things, best of which were, "Olivia is an awesome baby. Most babies don't like me, but she plays with me." And, looking at me, "Olivia looks like you," and then, turning to JB, "But she doesn't look like you." Pause. "Except for her red eyebrows." (Out of the mouth of babes--she's going to have red hair!! :) )

On Christmas Eve we were back at G&G's for dinner. I wasn't sure we were going to make it because freezing rain had been coming down all afternoon. Many many churches had canceled their evening services and the cars were covered in ice. But we made it! After dinner we hung out while we waited to go the church's midnight service. Olivia provided some entertainment:

The midnight service is one of my favorite parts of Christmas. The chapel is filled with candles and we sing all the good hymns with our awesome choir. We have a great new worship leader at Thornapple and apparently the service this year was excellent, according to Grandma and Marian. I cannot vouch for this because JB, O, and I did not go.

...please pardon me while I wipe the tears from my eyes...

JB and I had to admit to ourselves that we cannot do everything we used to do, now that Olivia is in our lives. She was not doing well by 10:15, even after I had tried to get her to go to bed until we had to leave for church. She was too riled up to sleep in a new place. On top of that I was feeling like crud (I got better!) and JB was exhausted. So we went back to the Hilton and went to bed. We were really bummed about missing the service.

But THEN, we woke up, and it was CHRISTMAS! Jesus had been born in the night and it was time to celebrate.

We celebrated with a hot fire in the woodstove, Mark's famous delicious eggnog, a cute baby in her green velour leisure suit, egg souffle, family, happy dogs, and by singing Joy to the World.

Oh, and with PRESENTS.

Here is the tree. It looked larger when it didn't have presents under it. Then it got dwarfed as we started putting boxes under it.

I love giving presents more than getting. I love taking several months to think of the perfect gift for someone and then making it happen, which often involves me making it. I did a lot of making this Christmas but foolishly forgot to photograph my creations.

I made Austin some recipe cards. For Grandma's birthday earlier this year I had self-matted (double mat with two openings--hard!) a fringed gentian photo of mine and included a gentian poem that someone had written out for Grandma. For Christmas we got it framed and it turned out beautifully. Then JB and I put our creative heads together and made a Spring felt table runner for Marian. It has flowers on it with bunnies jumping over the flowers. And it has a sun. And the flowers have roots and bulbs. Lots of sewing. It's folk-art-looking. JB created the pattern, and then I sewed it. It took 2 months from start to finish. Eee! But it was fun. Maybe one day I'll remember to take a picture of it.

Olivia, JB, and I were blessed with many wonderful gifts. Here is Olivia on her Rody horse from Austin and Lauren, wearing the hat that Grandma Hunt knit for her. I got a matching hat. We're totally stylin'.

Okay, so I'll name some of my presents. MSU hooded sweatshirt (I've never had a nice one!). Custom shades for our front living room windows. Friendly Village pattern tea set. Turquoise earrings. Folksy vase from Colonial Williamsburg. iTunes. L.L. Bean cardigan. Lotto tickets (not winners, but I had fun scratching them!)

JB, O, and I enjoyed ourselves. We went home and packed our bags for rounds 2 and 3 of Christmas, which I'll publish later... :)

(The driveway on Christmas morning:

We were very concerned about Grandma and Grandpa making it into the house safely, so Austin went out to assist. Our elders made it in just fine, but Austin's feet slipped out from under him and he bit it hard. But he's okay.)

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Birthday Goodness

Saturday was my birthday.

I love looking forward to my birthday, and it's not because of presents! When we were little my Mom said that we couldn't start decorating for Christmas until my birthday came (even though this did not mean that we would be getting a tree that soon. Trees were reserved for the last minute of Dec 23 or 24). So for me, celebrating my birthday symbolizes the approach of Christmas.

Then when I married my part-Dutch husband, I learned that for the Dutch, my birthday IS Christmas! Aka Sinterklaas Day. Children put their wooden shoes by the fireplace in hopes that Sinterklaas will leave them a present for being good. Ambitious children leave hay and carrots in their shoes for Sinterklaas' horses, which results in a thank-you treat being left.

(If you want a humorous take on this Dutch holiday and Sinterklaas' strange habits (like summering in Spain) listen to David Sedaris' essay, "Six to Eight Black Men". I promise you'll laugh out loud at least once. There's also a humorous bit on Michigan hunters in there.)

So on this Sinterklaas Day, we went to Meijer Gardens to see the Holidays Around the World exhibit, which includes several Christmas trees decorated the way different nations do it. While they had an England and Ireland tree, there is no Scotland tree. Fail, MG!

Mark and Marian treated us to lunch at the Gardens, where I had never dined before. Who wouldn't enjoy mushroom and artichoke salad? Weirdos. Oh, and JB. So he got something else.

Then JB made me a FAB dinner of a favorite I share with Garfield: lasagna. JB made Emeril's lasagna. BAM! The Hunts came over to help celebrate, and Marian brought me a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. Oh, and did I mention that I didn't have to manage Olivia while I ate dinner? Mega bonus.

And the birthday fun just kept continuing.

For there were presents (in addition to the dozens of texts, phone calls, and FB messages wishing me a happy day)!

Top presents:
  • Membership renewal at Meijer Gardens for JB and I (one adult admission is $12, so a membership to get in for free anytime is awesome!)
  • Art-deco topaz earrings
  • Money

Toppest present:

Yes, there is a toppest present.

JB said he was going overboard on a Christmas/Birthday present, which totally blows the budget.

Wanna know?

Here are some clues:



I love going to concerts and haven't been to see a lot of my favorite acts because it is so expensive. Each summer I cry and cry when the wonderful concerts come to the county fairs, etc., and leave again, while I stay at home.

Then when I learned that my two faves (after Keith Urban and Alison Krauss), Brad Paisley and MIRANDA LAMBERT were coming to town for a show in January, I was quite dejected. They will come and rock out without me.

But not any more! I am v. v. excited.

Thank you, JB!!!!!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Olive and the Prickly Pear

Those of you who have interacted with Olivia know that she doesn’t cry. Ever.

She fell down the side entry stairs the other day (okay, so it’s only 4 steps!) and let out a cry/yell until I came to her rescue; then she was fine. She stepped off the bench in Mom’s kitchen and hit the hard tile floor. No crying. She climbs onto the dogs while they maniacally wrestle with each other, snarling teeth bared. No fear.

So last weekend when she cried on and off for over and hour, even breaking out in hives, I knew that something was wrong.

We were in Mayville the Friday after Thanksgiving. Dad and JB were fixing my car in the barn. (THANK YOU, Dad!!—I had needed a new pump for my windshield wiper fluid. He just happened to have a spare laying around. Who does that?? My Dad. He’s awesome. Well, it also helps to drive the same kind of car as the rest of the family, too.)

Mom, K, Annie, O and I were in the kitchen. O was standing at the sliding doors, watching the birds, etc. Then she cruises (yes, she’s cruising now!) quietly over to the table on which sits Dad's giant blooming Christmas cactus and a pair of binoculars. She was interested in the binoculars, and as the Christmas cactus isn't that sharp, us girls let her continue to play while we talked. We failed to notice the prickly pear cactus living in the pot, too, which Liv did NOT fail to notice. So she grabbed it with her pudgy little left hand.

A million little fiberglass-like splinters embedded themselves into her hand. In the palm. Between her fingers. All over her thumb. Everywhere.

Sad, sad bird.

She cried and cried. We tried all sorts of remedies. She tried so hard to be brave. She would stop crying, and then reach her hand out for a toy, and it would hurt again and she would cry again. After trying lip wax (getting some of the pokers out) and soaking her hand in warm water (fail—baby uncooperative), I took her to the barn to get some duct tape from Dad at Mom’s suggestion. Dad agreed on the remedy and said to make little balls for her to grab in her hands that would pull the pickers out.

So we did that. A few times. And got most, if not all, out..

Unfortunately her hand was still sore from the poking of the needles. So she still cried some more.

But then Grandpa got out the spinning top and all woes were forgotten. Who can cry when there’s fun to be had in Toptown??