Tuesday, December 30, 2008

How Many hues of Brown are there anyway?

Many. Too many. And I seem to need to test every single one. Not too gold, not too pink, not too green. Just right. Painting this many walls the same color, you kinda need to get it just exactly right.

we'll let you know how it goes-wish us luck.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas week in review

John teaches friends how to play our newest game edition "croconole" at our Christmas soup and bread party
Jenna blends in as the most helpful member of our family; keeping dishes done, making the girls' hair spunky and darling, wraping nearly every Christmas present and reminding me to stay calm with moving anxiety serious infringing on my Christmas festivities.
Mason works on his ski jumps and snow bumps while playing the "Wii ski" game Porter was gifted this year
We pile into the car to "ding dong ditch" (Porter's catch phrase) our neighbors and friends, leaving lemon curd and scone mix on their doors with a jolly Merry Christmas! from the Grahams

Hope your Christmas holidays were Merry and Bright! The season is closing all to quickly for me this year as we move from red and green decked halls to newly painted walls and all the preparation that comes on the heels of selling a home...

wish us luck.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

It's no Safari, but How 'bout a Trip to the Stockyards?

Dear Grandma and Grandpa,

Last Christmas we had a great time waking up to your company in AFRICA. We loved visiting the orphanage on Christmas day, and we were happy you got to spend the night at the lodge 'cause it meant that we got to go on Safari while you were soaking up the African sun, just the two of you...a Christmas we'll always remember!

This year we can't offer up close views of zebra and rhino in their natural habitat-but we thought we could give you a trip to the monkey house instead

to our monkey house that is...

We want to take you on Safari, TEXAS STYLE, when you come down to see us this January. On Saturday, January 17 we'll take the not so long road trip to Ft. Worth and catch a glimpse of the stockyards (a must see for anyone wanting a true Texas experience). As if that isn't enough, we can-at our leisure-visit the Kimball Art Museum and stroll the streets of Ft. Worth. When we feel hungry we'll eat Bar-b-que or chicken fried steak or, did we mention Bar-b-que? And when we're good 'n tired we'll mosey on home and jump all over you

like the monkeys we are...

it ain't Africa, but we'll make the best of what we got deep in the heart of Texas!

Merry Christmas with all our love
John and Katie, and all your little monkeys

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Big Announcement

After debate, prayer, thought, sweat and plenty of tears, we've decided we just can't get enough of this in Texas (no, not the wedge-y grabbing, the playing with cousins:)

so we are moving


back home

where cousins, sisters, parents and brothers await our arrival.

It has been a hard decision. A surprise opportunity for John (we had NO intention of leaving Texas before Mason left for his missionary service about 5 years from now; Surprise!!!)

Our wonderful Texas house will become the home of another family. Sign goes up the day John reports for work in his new Utah office...January 5

Kids and me? We'll linger while the house sells, then make our way to a new home.

Don't know for sure where the new home will be. The Salt Lake area is full of possibilities. But rest assured, wherever we land

you'll be very welcome.

Merry Christmas cousins! Here come the Grahams!

Monday, December 22, 2008

A Houseguest for Christmas!

How lucky are we? This lucky...Jenna came to spend the holidays at our house!

Jenna was one of the first neighbors to knock on our door in Boise, Idaho. Then, a darling 11 year old full of chatty conversation and ga ga's for our babies. She's grown up with us. During the time we've known Jenna we've welcomed two daughters into our family (and she was VERY instrumental in bringing our Molly to her happy little lively self), we've moved 3 times and she's come to see us every Christmas save our last one spent in Africa. A beautiful young woman who can text like lightening and will mezmorize our little ones for hours on end with her attention and affection, Jenna is a gem and a welcome extra member of the Graham crew...

Our kids love Jenna. And for some reason, I guess Jenna loves us.

Probably the best gift of the season; the gift of her presence in our home. The gift of her help at a very chaotic time in our family's life (big announcements to come...soon) and the gift of her desire to be with us. We are comfortable to her, comfortable enough that she'd wake up Christmas morning in our home instead of hers. Very few gifts could be more tender than that.

Welcome Jenna. We'll make room for you here at our inn. So glad you chose to come home to us!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Serving and Army of Servants

With the Holidays bustling around us, the women of our local church congregation (we call our congregations "wards" because we divide ourselves up geographically. That way we worship with our neighbors, and we are nearby fellow churchgoers so we can support and help each other in time of need. Just a little "mormonism" for the day...)were asked to feed a large group of full-time missionaries. This is quite an undertaking, to prepare a hot meal for over 70 strapping boys, some 12 beautiful young women and a smattering of retired couples. These missionaries have volunteered their time for 18-24 months. They pay their own expenses and spend all their days in the service of others. Their first duty is to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with others. They also give service in the community and stand as wonderful examples for the youth of the church. They live meagerly during their service and we church members often have them in our homes for meals. Missionaries are between 19-22 years old. They should be off partying in college, thinking about themselves and generally living it up; but no. Instead they dedicate themselves to Christ, they leave their homes and families to serve wherever they are called (even Texas) and often they learn new languages and participate in cultures foreign to their own. THey are paired with a companion, and that partnership changes multiple times over the course of their service, so they are constantly learning to get along with, help, encourage work hard with many different kinds of people (of course, the boy missionaries or "elders" are NEVER paired to be a companion to the girl missionaries or "sisters"...I'm sure you knew that ;)

So, with holiday crazy-ness all the way around 30-40 women cooked hams, made funeral potatoes and homemade rolls. Many more made candy necklaces, which were given to the missionaries as christmas gifts from us all. Even more donated neckties and appropriate "girl" accessories so these servants to look forward to a little something new. The children in our congregation wrote letters and colored Christmas cards that were set at each plate. Some of us decorated the church gym to look a little more like home, and even more still served and cleaned up the meal. It was a mighty effort to support a mighty cause. And so well worth it. A song of thanks was all they had to give in return; oh yea, and their two years of dedicated service...

missionaries display full plates of warm food, and candy necklaces as they choose which tie to add to their small collections.

In this church, the world is very small. Here you see Elder CARTER HURST from our old congregation in Boise Idaho. Elder Hurst was called to serve in this mission, and has been doing so faithfully unknown to us-when I showed up to help at the luncheon he recognized me and said hello! My John used to be Carter's scout leader, and has seen him tough out 50 mile hikes and do all sorts of shenanigans in a younger day. Just look at this clean cut, clean living young man! How fun to watch a boy become a servant of the God he's come to know and Love for himself.

This mighty group of servants, all arranged for a photo op. Parents hear from their missionary sons and daughters about once a week, and only by letter or email. These kids call home on Christmas during their missions and that's it; these photos will go home to families, and I guarantee they'll be placed in prominent places for all to see the service of their missionary son or daughter.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Count 'em up Folks...

I can see the flaws in both of them, but they hang finished with the others on the mantle, so I'll overlook those little imperfections...

one thing to check off the holiday to-do manifesto...

How is your list coming?

take time out from the hustle and bustle and enjoy a little spiritual enlightenment here. The music alone with reverence the season, and the messages are simply outstanding.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Lucia comes and goes

The Grahams spent Christmas 2000 and Christmas 2001 in Stockholm Sweden. We had the immense good fortune of spending 18 months total in Sweden-and I feel it was one of the most defining experiences in the life of this family. We soaked in the good of another culture, we made efforts to learn a new language, we were loved and accepted by people who were different from us, and we became more deeply devoted to the gospel we live and espouse to believe in. We decided to bring some of Sweden's culture into our family rituals and traditions for good, to help us remember these defining and life changing experiences. Lucia Day, the Birthday celebration song and Midsummer celebration were the things we wanted to promote among all things Graham (oh, and Swedish country interior design, and Gustavian style furniture, and the eating of cheese with bread for breakfast and the making of kanelbullar and swedish meatballs and the purchase of most things IKEA and being willing to sing in church. I think I've still forgotten some things, but you get the general idea).

Over the years we've really "done up" our celebrating of Swedish Holidays. But, some years we've barely celebrated at all (last year is a case in point; we were in Africa sans lucia kladder-which means clothing-and the special ingredients needed to make the Lucia bullar-or buns-on Lucia Day so we had to celebrate by Bryn bringing us cereal in bed). This year we missed midsummer entirely.

LuciaDay 2008 found us with John a little under the weather and Katie very unprepared (no special Lucia bullar made, oh no!). But we had a special box of NEW LUCIA GOWNS, candles, crowns and the like (THANK YOU SISSEL!!!) so I was determined for us to celebrate somehow. The day progressed and buns were prepared, and stored for a day late celebration.

Early morning Sunday found me rousting our kids from their warm beds, milk scorching on the stove to make bribe-worthy hot chocolate, and Mason for the first time ever finding fault with our tradition ("man this hat is so pointy, its hard for me to keep in on my head with all the curls I've got goin'these days. Sigh). The little girls were eager to do something that for them was new and magical. Porter was glad he didn't have to "wear the dress" as he now has a very manly "pepparkakor boyken" (gingerbread boy) costume that will serve him for a few years to come. Buns were placed on plates, Dad went back to his bed. The music of Lucia filled our home and the kids marched in to deliver the warmth of the holiday season to their father in his pretended slumber. Then buns and hot choclate went 'round and 'round. That holiday warmth we felt had so little to do with the scorched milk in our bellies...

Lucia is the saint of light. In Sweden she comes in the darkness of the year, reminding those of the frozen North that though their days at present are grey and short, the light is not lost or even fading. It is coming. And as we think of light in the grey of our world I hope we will remember the same....

"Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.

"I am the light and the life of the world. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end."

"And behold, I am the light and the life of the world; and I have drunk out of that bitter cup which the Father hath given me, and have glorified the Father in taking upon me the sins of the world, in the which I have suffered the will of the Father in all things from the beginning."

Behold, I am Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I am the life and the light of the world.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Prom Night

In light of recent posts in which I comically editorialized on my high school prom night dress standards, I thought I'd post here my most recent "prom dress". My steady date for the last 15 years asked me to accompany him to the, eh hem, company party. I said yes (He did not ask me by writing "will you go with me to the company party?" in shaving cream on the front lawn. Boring guy just emailed me and told me to put it on the calendar. I"m such a pushover, I said yes anyway...)

We had to dress up. Black tie optional. John of course chose the "not black tie" option.

I chose to go shopping. First I shopped my closet. Then I shopped a few sales racks. Last I shopped my friend's extensive personal jewelry collection.

This is what I came up with.

John picked me up around 5 (this means he literally picked me up off the ground and carried me out of the house that we live in because I was still talking to the babysitter and it was time to go). We dropped our teenager at his friends' house for the evening (Thanks Asay's, Mason had so much more fun than he would have if the babysitter were actually babysitting him!). We had some time to kill because I had taken such a long time to look like a knock out that we missed the "pre party cocktail party" at his co-worker's home in town.

So we went to Central Market and walked the aisles. We bought some Meyer lemons and a bottled water (so romantic).

Then we walked next door and got a piping hot donut from Krispy kreme. Yum and Yum.

Then off to the party. We couldn't hear anyone speak to us for the crowded and echoed room. The dinner entree was served on little dessert plates (we had to go through the line 3 or 4 times after figuring out that the first course was actually the main course. Trey Chic) John was given a standing ovation, a non-alcoholic bottle of champagne and a pat on the back for being an awesome manager. I clapped the loudest for him cause I'm his biggest fan. He held my hand. I felt like I was the ugly duckling shy girl on the arm of the BMOC. Accept that I looked like Audrey Hepburn. The only downer of the evening was when I was mistaken not for the beautiful and timeless Ms. Hepburn but for Maria from The Sound of Music. I'm sure with enough liquor anyone could have made the same mistake, right? Hepburn was the look I was going for, so I'm sticken' to it...

We walked around the party while others gambled with fake chips. My favorite part was sitting by a fire in a comfy chair sipping the best hot chocolate I have ever sipped in my life. John sat across from me. People came to speak to him as if he were receiving them at court. I watched him enjoy people whom I hardly know, and I could see in their expressions that they genuinely enjoy him too. I felt so lucky to be his date it made me giddy.

Then it was time to go. We picked up the teenager. We drove out of town and back home again. I hoped my date would make a move on me, but sleep overcame him-

so he dreamed of me instead.
My best prom ever.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Some Holly for my Jolly...

We've decorated it twice now. This giant mammoth of a tree has fallen down three times. Ornaments scatter (and break), lights become unstrung, and I become unglued when we hear the loud thud followed by the shatter and crackle of breaking glass...not such a merry way to spend the holiday...
and we had to dig through this to find coats, gloves and hats yesterday morning before I could let the kids go to school...we haven't needed coats for two seasons now, so none of the boy coats fit Porter and none of the girl coats fit Bryn...

Have a Holly Jolly Christmas, its the best time of the year
I don't know if there'll be snow, but have a cup of cheer....

Oh, ho the mistletoe, hung where you can see (and where it can fall down on you...)
somebody waits for you
kiss her once for me!

a little mistletoe and a romantic moment spent with my husband under it would be the perfect remedy to these holly jolly headaches we are experiencing now and then through the holidays ;) Nothing like smooching with weeds hanging over your head to calm the stress of falling tanenbaums (ho ho, I could have used that whole tanenBOMB word through this whole post! I"m cheering up already :)

gotta go. Tree is going, going gone...
Merry Friday everybody

Saturday, December 06, 2008

2008 in Review

Welcome to the Graham's 2008 Christmas Epistle

with the wonder of blogging it is easy for many of you to log on here and check out our daily comings and goings, but we thought we'd fill you in on some little known stuff about the Graham goings on during 2008

I predicted that John’s many travels, including Durban, Cape Town, Victoria Falls, London, Athens, Austin, Milan, New York, Salt Lake, and Scottsdale would be the highlights of ’08 for my favorite consultant. While he mentioned his many travels, his favorite was not abroad, but instead to Park City Utah, with us-his family-to enjoy the Alpine slide,escape the Texas summer and play with his wife and kids. Even more passionately, John enjoyed resuming his tradition of cooking Thanksgiving dinner now that we're back in the US, eating at many good restaurants (Uchi in Austin gets top nod this year), and taking a day off of work so his wife could enjoy a day at the spa. I thought he might mention the 13 new board games he's purchased this year, but only nodded to that idea as he took his turn playing Tigris and Euphrates on line with his loyal game playing pals.

I figured Mason would mention learning how to play the guitar, or making the district choir or even playing on the school soccer team as this year's best for him. Instead, Mason said that riding elephants in Victoria Falls, spending time with his little brother Porter, and hanging out with his cousins twice this year made up the best of ’08. Mason's favorite quote, or at least most frequent, is something he has to say nearly every day as his mother finds things he has misplaced. Kneeling on one knee, he kisses the hand of the “Great Finder” and recites; “oh great finder (kiss the hand) of all things lost (kiss the hand) thank you for finding (kiss the hand) what I could not. May I become (kiss the hand) like you (kiss) a great finder (kiss the hand) of all things lost (kiss)”.

I had Bryn pegged this year, the only child whose personal highlights matched her mom's predictions of what they'd be! Trips to Cape Town and Vic Falls, beginning gymnastics training, and visiting friends and cousins in Utah were favorite moments in Bryn's 'o8. Her quote of the year came out of her blessed mouth just this morning. As I, her hip and super-cool mom, danced and got a groove on to Sheryl Crow, Bryn observed my moves and said, “This is the kind of thing that makes kids want to run away, Mom.”

Madi, who has enjoyed singing in the school choir, advanced in school to the gifted learning program and taken not only summer soccer camp but weekly swim team did not chose these as her ’08 highlights. Her baptism, Cousin Camp in Utah, going to movies (she has seen 7-8 in theatres this year), and earning a new iPod were her personal picks. Madi's quote this year is from a recent church party, where a pig was roasted-whole “in the pit”- Texas style. Upon seeing the dead animal being consumed by fellow church-goers, Madi resolved to never eat pig again “unless it is bacon”, she said. “That stuff is just too yummy."

Being the super mom I am I just knew Porter would choose soccer camp, swimming lessons and karate class as highlights for the year. Nope, Porter instead mentioned having a pillow fight with aunt Jessa in Africa, playing rugby with Mason nearly every afternoon in Africa, and having cousins and grandparents come to Texas (for Madi’s baptism) as the year’s best stuff. He also said having his dog come home was one of the best parts of this year. Porter’s quote is a sad testament to the fact that mom doesn't have good carpools in Texas. “We’re here at soccer, Porter. We are just a little late,” said I. “Like always,” said he, as he skipped out of the car and joined his team in training.

Molly Molly Molly! She was napping when this epistle was penned so we may never know her personal favorite moments for 2008. My guess for Molly’s highlights would certainly include becoming fully POTTY TRAINED (which was a most difficult and challenging task for Molly and her mommy), and becoming a full fledged student - attending a neighborhood joy school twice a week and a local regular preschool twice a week. These are affectionately differentiated as “back pack school” and “school bag school”. Molly has learned in church and at her Methodist-based school-bag school about the resurrection of Jesus Christ and her quote for this year is a regular song out of her happy little body at least a few times each day right now. “After 3 days He came alive everybody! Jesus didn’t die forever, after 3 days he came alive again!” Oh how full of joy we all can be at this happy truth!

Lucy. I guessed that starting “school bag school” once each week (sometimes twice); tormenting the dog daily, including feeding him all kinds of people food and laying on his stomach for nap-time; and learning how to sing the Little Einstein’s theme song along with “Head, shoulders knees and toes” and “I am a Child of God” would be the highlights of this year for our littlest Graham. When I asked Lucy “What is the best thing about this year Lucy?” she answered these very words: “Jesus makes me Happy!"

Me? My highlights for this year include watching my children enjoy the affection of the orphans at Ethembeni House in Joburg, standing on Table Mountain as a family, seeing a long-dreamed-of dutch door installed in our new Texas house, and completing the Texas Ragnar Relay with some fun and fab friends. These experiences, however, pale in comparison to the lessons I have tenderly learned this year that God loves His children-even when we make mistakes-and that His son is “our partner, our friend, our advocate, our Redeemer.”

For all the fun we’ve had in the past 12 months, all the great places we’ve gone and things we’ve seen and done-the blessing of this knowledge stands supremely above it all. These are the truths that make the birth we celebrate at this Christmas time the miracle it is. We wish for the knowledge and wonder of these truths to permeate your lives and hearts in the coming year.

Merry Christmas from the Grahams!