Saturday, December 31, 2011

Lesson 114: Biggest News Stories of 2011

..........and one of them is, My Dad Turned 67!  ...........and this is my failed attempt at a Seuss-style rhyme.  We're about to shut out the lights on 2011, but before we do we must do two things:
#1--Wish my Dear Old Dad, Political Analyst, Mister Fix It, Soap Box Speaker, Tree Cutter, Inventor--Happy 67th Birthday!
#2--Take a minute (or four) to look back at the biggest news stories of the year.

I love these year end wrap ups and try to catch the Today Show one every year.  The people who put those clips together must have the most interesting of jobs--trying to choose stories that paint a picture of our world as it unfolded around us.   I think this one did a pretty good job.  It's been a year of political uprising and unrest all over the world.  Storms of great intensity tested our faith both here and abroad.  And we mourned the passing of Steve Jobs, the man that essentially made blogging from my living room possible.  Take a few minutes to enjoy a look back as well as a few snapshots from my dad's 67th birthday gathering at our favorite place for chicken wings--The Fiddle Inn.

Eloise used to like her wings mild, but over the years my tastes have changed.  I like Cajun style now and have advanced to medium hots.  Slovenians, if you are ever out my way, I highly recommend the Everything Wing--a blend of zippy spices with Parmesan cheese and garlic.  I had several of that variety tonight, so be glad that I can't breathe on you through this blog.  Only Steve Jobs himself could have made that possible.

Here is Grandpa with Sam, a 63 year span of stubborn between them.

 Here is Grandpa giving my son some advice on how to live a long, healthy life--work hard, don't worry over every little thing, and when you're old enough, drink beer.

Speaking of beer drinking, here is the card I got my Dad.  When the card is opened it plays the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's Messiah.

Yes, a birthday is a good time to count your blessings.  Among them are a dedicated wife, two loving daughters, and five grandchildren.  He also got two Red Lobster gift cards (my sister and I chose the same gift for him), a Handy Hose Holder, and a six pack of Rolling Rock.  After all, the card did read, "You rock."

Here are two of the fab five.  Jack drew the short straw and had to sit next to Sam.  Luckily Sam spilled his pop while Jack was watching. Because Jack's a basketball player, he had lightning quick speed to dodge the drips.  I asked Sam to "smile" and this is what I get.
I always try to capture the sky on special days like birthdays and holidays.  This was the sky tonight on the way to the restaurant.  It is the setting sun peering over the tops of the grape vines now lying dormant through the long winter months.  Not a bad shot considering it was taken out the car window while we were in motion.

Take a few moments to reflect back on your year and the events that shaped you into who you are today.  When the clock strikes midnight, I hope you have a loved one by your side, some silver coins in your hand, and a rock in your pocket.  May they bring you love, peace, and joy in the new year.

Happy New Year, Readers!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Lesson 113: Emmanuel

Enjoy a live performance this Christmas Day, Readers.  This is my favorite Christian singer, Chris Tomlin performing Emmanuel on the 700 Club.  There are many youtube videos with picture shows set to this song, however I chose the one with Chris performing it.  I wanted you to see how good and kind and clean and holy this man looks as he sings for God.  That is what we should all be doing today---singing for God.  He sent his son to us as a gift to the world.  In fact, the word Emmanuel is Hebrew for God is with us.  Thank you, God and welcome Jesus today and every day.

To accompany the voice of my favorite Christian singer, here are the words of my favorite Christian writer, Luke.  This text can be found in Luke, Chapter 2, beginning with verse 8.  If you are a child of the 1970's like Eloise, you will hear the voice of Linus as you read these words:

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.  And the angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shown all around them and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them, "Fear not, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you:  he is Christ the Lord.  This will be a sign to you:  You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and good will to men."

Peace and good will today and always,

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Lesson 112: A Baby Changed Everything

2011 years ago, a baby changed everything.  Here's the story set to the tune of Faith Hill's song, A Baby Changes Everything.  This is a must watch and a must circulate.  The pictures, words, and music create a holy trinity of sorts that will do doubt reach to the depths of your soul.  You don't need my words to improve upon this story so I will sign off with a phrase we should all remember every day, not just on the day of His birth---Welcome, Jesus.


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Lesson 111: White Christmas?

Here is the Erie weather forecast, Readers.  A white Christmas looks iffy. Just in case we have mud instead of snow this year, here is a nice Rascal Flatts rendition of White Christmas with a picture scroll of some pretty winter scenes to keep you pacified until the inevitable is upon us---snow, snow, and more snow.

  • Dec 22

    Mostly cloudy and cooler46°Lo 31°
  • Tomorrow

    Dec 23

    Colder with snow showers32°Lo 29°
  • Saturday

    Dec 24

    Partly sunny38°Lo 30°
  • Sunday

    Dec 25

    Mostly cloudy with flurries44°Lo 29°

Two days away until Santa arrives and Sam is about as excited as a kid could be.  Do you remember the Christmas when you were four?  Sam and Santa have had kind of a sordid history.  He's never really been a fan---never wanted to sit on his lap at the mall and asked me last year if the elves could bring his presents instead.  Here is one of my favorites from a few years ago:

 This is a classic.

 This is Sam this year, looking all grown up and serious having a heart to heart with Santa at a family party.
We found this Santa in The Middle of Nowhere, PA at a hidden little hideaway in the woods.  When we entered his workshop, Santa had a fire going in the wood stove with a pot of hot cocoa warming on top.  Santa scooped out the sweet treat with a ladle  and gave out cinnamon rolls to eat.  Sam had an extra opportunity to tell what was on his list this year--unfortunately WWE wrestling action figures and boxing gloves topped it (Lord, help me).

The girls thought they were too cool to sit on Santa's lap this year, but I made them anyway.  They asked for "presents" (guess who) and "world peace" again.  They are happy to have some time off school and have the opportunity to sleep in--a 'tween and teens joy.

On the way down the stairs a couple of morning's ago, a slitty-eyed Sam asked in a voice still thick with the previous night's sleep, "Mom, what really happens to kids on the Naughty List?"  I have a terrible habit of answering a question with a question, but I couldn't resist in this instance.  I replied, "Why, Sam?  Do you think you are on the Naughty List?"  "No," he said, "just wonderin'."

Here's my favorite rendering of Santa checking his list created by the legendary Norman Rockwell.  I love all the faces of the children in the background.  I took a peek and thankfully Natalie, Ellen, and Sam are on the Good List this year.

Green or white, I am looking forward to a good Christmas and I hope you are too.

Ho, Ho, Ho!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Lesson 110: Christmas Ponies

Remember this Christmas commercial, Readers?  The above post was the 1987 version of the Budweiser commercial from Anheuser-Busch.  The images of those clydesdales pulling that sleigh through the snow are burned into my brain in part because of that memorable tune playing in the background.  That is one of the reasons I usually include pictures and music with my words.  There is just something magical about the combination of all three that makes a lasting impression if you get it right.  I don't always do that, but that is my aim.  Watch the above video for a little blast of nostalgia.

I can't give too much praise to Anheuser-Busch because they stole my favorite beer away from Latrobe, Pennsylvania.  They moved the making of my Rolling Rock to the dumb state of New Jersey.  Eloise is loyal and I like what I like.  And I prefer what I like to stay with me in my great state.  The best way to drink it is in little green bottles called ponies.  When you are done, they make killer bud vases.  This is what they look like in case you want to buy me a case.  If you look closely you will see the mention of Old Latrobe and the mystery number 33 on the back.  If you want something to really entertain you, look that one up on a search engine.  It will be even more fun if you are searching while drinking one.

All this talk of ponies and sleigh rides got me to thinking about my sleigh ride last weekend with my family.  It was really fun.  Below are some pictures of our experience.

This was last year's open sleigh on runners.  Erie had one heck of an early start to its winter last year and by mid December we already had ourselves a nice, thick snow base.

This is the "sleigh" we rode in this year---it's the Plan B if there isn't enough snow.  The Middle of Nowhere, PA did get a few inches (truly, don't ask me for directions because I still don't know where we were) making the ride picture pretty.

This is a picture of some scenery you drive past to get there.  The sleigh pulls you through a wooded loop, past a couple of ponds, and through hemlock trees with low lying branches.  When the sleigh bumps them everyone gets showered with snow.  It really is picturesque.
Sam could not resist the opportunity to sling a snowball.  Told you he was a southpaw.

 This is one of the horses.  Look at his size compared to Ellen.  The owner of the farm told us that the horse weighs 2,780 pounds.  Now that is a lot of horsepower!

The sleigh stopped at Santa's hidden workshop in the middle of the woods in The Middle of Nowhere, PA.  I got out to take a snapshot.  You can see a figure in the back of the sleigh who wanted to make sure she got the best seat on the return trip---Natalie.

This is a horse that lives on the farm where Sam goes to Pre School.  His name is Moses.  I couldn't resist a snapshot of him the other morning.  I hate to tell him that I really hate horses.  I am scared to death of them.  Of horses and roller coasters---Eloise is not a fan.

Now here is one horse-like creature that I adore.  Do you recognize him, Readers?  It's Nestor the Long Eared Donkey.  It is probably my all time favorite Christmas story.  You can catch it once in awhile airing on some cable or dish channel if you surf around. If you were a child of the 70's like I was, this type of animated character was popular then--the Rudolph type figures that moved in jerky steps and cried teardrops of real water.

In fact, here is one of Nestor crying those water droplet tears.  You'd be crying too if you saw this part.  The beginning is worse than Bambi, let me tell you that.  Nestor gets picked on by bullies in the barn because of his big ears.  His Momma protects him by telling him that he is kind and good and special.  Then somehow Momma and Nestor get locked out of the barn in a snowstorm and Momma covers Nestor with her body to protect him from the cold.  Nestor wakes the next morning only to find that his mother has died and sacrificed herself to save her son.  It's a killer, so have a box of Kleenex ready (and a pony bottle--those help, too).  Stick with the story because Nestor gets the most special job of all.  Watch the movie to find out.

I hope your last few days of preparation are going well and you found a five minute reprieve to read this story.  So what is the point of my lesson today?  It is this:  Find your Christmas pony--either pulling a sleigh, on a retro Christmas show, or in a tiny green bottle. I've experienced all three and they are all good.

Enjoy the anticipation of the good things to come,

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Lesson 109: 5 Days Left--Can You Handel It?

The High School Chorus traveled around to the elementary schools this week to perform their holiday show.  They do it every year.  I always look forward to seeing the older kids come back.  It is fun to watch them grow and change.  They sing songs for us, and lead us in some carols for a sing along, but my favorite number is the last song, the last one performed every year--George Handel's Hallelujah Chorus from his Messiah.  The music teacher gives the elementary students a little history lesson every year about how King George stood for this song (no Slovenians, not George Bush--he just thought he was king), and ever since people have been on their feet when this song has been sung.

Eloise will give you a little history lesson on surely one of my dear departed German Brothers in Song--George Frederic Handel.   Given all my natural born musical talent (note sarcasm) I am sure I am on some twig of his family tree.  In fact, some of my German relatives were part of the Seibenburger Singing Society in Erie.  Sorry to say I didn't get one shred of those genes passed down to me.  Bummer.

 Here is his picture:

Now we have solved the mystery where my hair comes from. I guess I got those genes instead of the musical talent (yes, it's a joke, I am aware its a wig--but I still ask WHY?).  Historians also describe Handle as large boned and loud.  He had a kind and generous spirit and was known for donating to charities even in the face of his own personal bankruptcy.  Handle was raised a Lutheran and was a devout follower of the Christian faith.  I liked what one Internet source stated about him:  He was relentless optimist whose faith in God sustained him through every difficulty.  Raised as a sincere Lutheran, he harbored no sectarian animosities and steered clear of denominational disagreements.  Once, defending himself before a quarrelsome archbishop, Handel simply replied, “I have read my Bible very well, and will choose for myself.”

Things would be a lot simpler for Christians if we all took up that attitude.  Here is another portrait.  Handel looks confused.  He probably was ticked off at the artist who was rendering his likeness.  I spent more time laughing at the google images of Handel than I did researching, I think.

One character trait that defined Handle was his obstinate and stubborn nature.  Those traits which are prevalent in my family lineage can work to either your advantage or disadvantage.  In Handel's case, his took the form of persistence and he continued to work away at his dream of composing even at his worst of times.  His faith got him through the dark parts of his life and Hallelujah for that!  In fact he wrote a whole chorus about it.

I sum up Handel's contribution to music by borrowing the worlds from Patrick Kavanaugh, author of Spiritual Lives of the Great Composers.  He states:  Handle refused to be deterred by setbacks, attacks, illnesses, or even sever financial woes.  It is a tribute to the faith and optimism Handel possessed, relying on God as he worked to overcome significant obstacles and to create music that is universally cherished today.   Nicely put, Pat.

While I was researching Handel, I found out that Bach was also born in Germany the same year, although the two composers never crossed paths.  Bach really has nothing to do with this piece except for the fact that his portrait cracked me up, too.  Laughter helps ease holiday stress, they say.

I guess the appeal of the beautiful Hallelujah chorus lies in its simplicity.  The word Hallelujah is broken into four parts, but the first note is held, so it goes like this:  HAAAAAAAA-le-lu-jah!  It was new and catchy at the time.  Another music historian also notes that the "King of kings, Lord of lords" is the same note repeated but played at higher somethings or other.  Like math, I don't know or understand music.  I am just a fan in awe of the people who do.

I see from the above posted video that I am not the only one in awe of this song or those individuals whom are talented enough (and in the video, brave enough) to sing this in a mall's food court.  This was part of a "Flash Mob" that has become popular in the last couple of years.  For those of you who are still in the dark about he concept, you obviously have a computer because you are reading this blog, so google the term to save the rest of us the boredom of an explanation.  I love not only those singing, but he reaction of the bystanders who were lucky enough to be in the right place in the right time.  Look for the one blond who keeps on eating though.  I feel like screaming, "Hey Lady!  Put down your fork for a minute!  This is a once in a lifetime thing to be witness to a Flash Mob involving this song!"

There has been a commercial airing from time to time on a Flash Mob gone wrong.  Click here for a chuckle   I've always desired to be part of one, but this would be me.

Eloise is of German ancestry and I really don't give much thought to it aside from Christmas time. Christmas brings with it the need to carry on traditions of our parents and grandparents.  Because America is the big melting pot, many holiday traditions abound in this country and they are neat to hear about.  One of the traditions of German people is in the making of gingerbread houses.  This custom was popularized with my Boyz, the Brothers Grimm (Eloise is a lover of fairy tales).  They recorded the Germanic tale of Hansel and Gretel.  They are the lost and starving brother-sister duo known best for nibbling at the witch's candy house, getting captured, and living to tell about it.  

Here are some that we made in our house this week.  They sure are cute, but the problem is where do I put them?

This is Ellen's house.  She's my artsy one.  Ellen and com padre Em made these last weekend.  Not too shabby.

Here is Natalie working on hers.  

Here is Sam's finished product.  Notice his shirt covered with frosting.  You should have seen the pants.

Here is Eloise's.  Not too shabby.  I didn't get Handel's musical talent, but at least he gave me art and design and baking ability..............
Yeah right.  Thank you for the dream Google Images.

Christmas is 5 days away.  I have no business making a mess in my kitchen with gingerbread houses when I still have shopping to do, presents to wrap, and now a sticky floor to mop.  However, Christmas and the traditions that come with it are important.  They are worth the mess.

Again, let me reiterate--CHRISTMAS IS 5 DAYS AWAY.  Can you Handel it?


Saturday, December 17, 2011

Lesson 108: Winter Snow

Don't worry about the message in the video screen above, Readers.  You can still watch my suggested video this week by clicking on the Watch on You Tube.  It will take you right to the video.  Blogger restricts some content that YouTube allows.  No problem.  The link will take you out, and you can always come back in.

If the song sounds familiar, I did post the same one last year, but a different video.  It is one of my very favorite Christmas songs.  Don't be fooled into thinking that the song is about winter snowflakes, despite what you see on the screen.  Listen carefully and watch how cleverly scenes from Bethlehem unfold before your eyes.  It is simply beautiful.  This is a song about God sending his love to the earth:
it came like a winter snow, 
and slow, 
falling from the sky,
in the night, 
to the earth below

Watch and listen and see if you get the same reaction I do; it gives me goosebumps.

Yeah!  You came back!  Just like the winter in Erie, you have returned.  Winter comes round every year, but the amount of snow it brings is unpredictable.  I watched Miss Perky Weather Girl as I was sweating out the holiday stress on the treadmill earlier this week.  She reported that Erieites are fourteen inches in snowfall BELOW last year.  We had an early start to last winter and the snow seemed to last forever.  Because there is always a balance in nature, this December I've found myself traveling to the mall to Christmas shop on dry roads.  We had a bit to cover the ground last weekend, just enough to get everyone in the Christmas spirit.  We had a warm up to a balmy 51 degrees this week, so the winter white quickly turned to a muddy brown. To remind you of what a winter snow looks like, especially to my friend Tracy Southern, here are some snapshots from last week's touch of winter white.
This was the sunrise from my front porch.

The sun hitting the horse corral across the street.
I love how the glow came out on this one.  I did not boost or enhance any of these shots.
This one is my favorite, which is why I made it big.  Too bad I sent my cards out already.  This would have been a good one.

These are grape vines, Slovenians.  Actually, my college roommate from Pittsburgh on her first trip to Erie asked, "What's growing on those sticks?  Cranberries?"  Glad to inform you all she went on to become a science teacher.
 I love holly.  You can do something really cool with it that I do every year.  Take one bowl with kind of a flat bottom and put another smaller bowl inside of it leaving a circular gap between the two.  Fill the gap with boughs of holly clipped from your holly bush.  Then fill the gap with water to the top.  Set the bowls in the freezer for a couple of hours.  Remove and you will have a ring of ice with holly and berries frozen inside.  I put my holiday dips inside the ice ring.  Humor me and try it.  It's the only Martha Stewartish thing I do.

 This is the AWESOME poinsettia plant I bought from the Harbor Creek girls basketball team for their fundraiser.  I splurged on the big one because it was for the school.  I also never bought a white one before, but thought I'd be adventurous this year.  Wow, was I surprised!  It is absolutely beautiful and I am looking forward to that gracing my home all winter long.
 Those big petals remind me of snowflakes.  Exactly one year ago today, snowflakes fell just like this--almost this size.  They were as big as tea cup saucers.  I remember the day well because I never saw a snowfall like that day.  It was beautiful.
Sunday my family is scheduled for a sleigh ride in the middle of nowhere.  I hope I can find the place again.  Last year we rode on a sleigh pulled by a team of horses through the woods to Santa's workshop where we were served cookies and hot cocoa.  The sleigh slid easily over all of that piled up snow.  This year I don't know if it will have the same feel.  I guess the place has a backup farm wagon in case there is no snow.  I don't know if bumping through the rutted mud will have quite the same effect---plus Sam is a bit nervous this year about meeting Santa.  He keeps asking me what really happens to kids who are on the Naughty List.
We had a windy night the other night and lo and behold, when I arose in the morning, look which of my deer fell over---the doe. She too, was probably exhausted, overworked, and under appreciated, so she just fell over dead.  If I don't get a nap in this weekend, I just might do the same. My kids need me, so I am signing off now.

Don't let all of the work involved with this holiday ruin the anticipation of what's to come.  Sometimes the waiting and wondering is the very best part.
Merry Christmas, Readers.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Lesson 107: A Chip Off the Old Block

I opened an unexpected gift today.  It was in my inbox so it didn't need unwrapping, just a double click to unlock it, because how do you unwrap a song?  Eloise is Tim McGraw's number one fan, and because I am a loyal voting member of his fan club, I was alerted to his free song Christmas All Over the World.  Yes, it's really free and you can find it here, too.  Give it a listen by clicking here:  Christmas All Over the World by Handsome.  You'll be sure to love it.

I was kinda' bummin' because I had been on a search of Tim McGraw Christmas songs and I came up dry.  It seems as my Hero in the Black Hat hasn't produced a Christmas album.  That comes as a surprise as he is a Christian and even has the world faith tattooed on his arm.  (Oh crap!  That's his wife's name.  Darn it all.  Way to ruin my vision).  I did come across this pairing of Tim and Alicia Keys on the Oprah Show singing one of my favorites, Happy Christmas.  It made me happy (because he was wearing his black hat) and sad (because I realized how much I miss Oprah).  Yet I still felt that you may enjoy the duet, hence the above posting.

Tim's not just my hero because he's handsome.  You have to look deeper than that and Eloise isn't that shallow.  He's a steady singer, sweet and simple---never over the top--just consistently good.  I saw him in concert this summer and he's a great performer and knows how to play a crowd.  Tim's proven himself as a good actor, too and stars in one of my favorite movies, The Blind Side.  He's a democrat and even has considered running for public office.  But the most interesting part of Handsome is his backstory.

Tim McGraw was born to a single mom, a waitress who did her best to make a life for her musically talented and athletically inclined son.  Mother was a proud woman and chose to have a go at raising Tim alone, and never told her son who his father was.  As a boy, Tim came across his birth certificate while looking for something.  Imagine his surprise to find that his father was none other than Tug McGraw, a relief pitcher for the New York Mets.  According to a few Internet sources, Tug McGraw denied for years that Tim was his son.  When the two met later when Tim was a teenager, Tug could no longer deny that Tim was his son due to the striking resemblance between them.  A real chip off the old block that could not be denied.  What you do think, Readers?  See below:

 This is Tug.

This is Tim (minus the hat).

I'd say the resemblance is quite uncanny.

I am happy to report that the two did make room for one another in their lives and that is a good thing because Tug took an early exit out of this life with brain tumor in 2004.  Tim wrote this famous title track, Live Like You We're Dying about his father's death.

As a parent, you are always looking to see how your children are like you.  It doesn't matter if your children are your genetic offspring or if they are adopted, fostered, or step.  Anyone who spends time with a child during his formative years has an impact and traits or habits eventually show through and are passed onto another generation.  Eloise herself is going through this as I am raising my three children.  Sometimes I think that is really cool and other times I cringe.

 Let's take for example my Natalie.  Here she is with her iPod.  It rarely is out of her hand.  The kid listens to music constantly.  Just as Ellen taught Natalie to scream McDONALDS!!  every time we drove by the restaurant, I taught her this little number:  Who's your favorite singer, Natalie?  TIM McGRAW!!! she screams.  Love it.  A chip off the old block.  That's pretty cool.

Then comes Ellen, so named for her mother and Grandmother--Eloise + Helen.  With that kind of name she's bound to have some of my traits, right?  Ellen resembles me the least out of my brood but is most like me in one area that stands out--her writing.  This is a sample of one of her narrative writing pieces she did for school.  The girl writes with ease and has been begging me for her own blog which she wants to title:  Life Inside The Lamp Post:  An Insider's View.  (No lie, she came up with that title---and the answer is NO--an 11 year old doesn't need to be blogging, but I know paybacks are going to be hell for me someday).  Her story is titled The Steel Dragon and is a real life account of her first roller coaster ride.  For those of you who know me well, Eloise is a chicken and has some crazy fear of roller coasters.  My daughter has seemed to have a similar disliking, right down to the upchucking in a garbage can after the fateful ride.  Ellen's wit often emerges in her written words more so than in her spoken words.  That is really cool, too.  And speaking of wit and writing................................

...... onward to my son Sam.  Recently we drew a line in the sand (well, on the kitchen linoleum) over a slice of peeled apple he refused to eat.  He protested.  He whined.  He cried.  He threated to move in next door with Grandma and Grandpa.  (Did you hear that?  That was the squealing of van tires--my parents are making the great escape).  After two hours of empty verbal threats, Sam switched strategies.  He decided that perhaps a formal, written approach would get him a little further.  He made this sign.  It is a drawing of an apple with a worm head sticking out of it (in the middle) with a big X through it.  Underneath he has written his name backwards (to the left) and my name on the right, which is correct because even backwards my name works.  I asked him what his sign said and Sam replied the following:  "Mudders (still can't say that "th" sound) should not make their sons eat apples that taste like turds."  My reply, "It takes one to know the taste." 2 hours and 24 minutes later he finally ate the #$& apple and complained because the flesh had turned brown.  But I won.  Yeah for me.  Stubborn my boy is---you could say that.  A chip off the old block?  Well, I guess you could say that, too.  Cringe!

Here is Sam during one of his better moments, lining up his Toy Story characters and taking pictures of them.  A chip off the old block?  I guess so.

He's also a funny little thing, just like Eloise.  I love a good laugh.  Sam has taken the liking to making up jokes.  He picks up any book he finds and pretends he's reading us jokes out of it.  Here is one of his recent ones:  Why did the chicken cross the playground?  To get to the other SLIDE!  The joke isn't as funny as Sam cackling like a lunatic over the punch line.  The best part is that he grabbed a book from my bedside table where I keep my nighttime reads.  Didn't he grab Hell's Corner by David Baldacci??  Little Devils must be naturally attracted to the word Hell.   He calls it his Jokety Joke Book.  I guess the jokes on him.

At home, Sam is a laugh and a half.  At school and in public he's a bit unpredictable to say the least.  This is Sam's preschool class performing the Christmas play on Friday.  Can you spot Sam?  Look closely.  Keep looking............................................. you are bound to see where would my boy be....................................?
 Oh now, lookey here!?!?!   Who could that be peeking out from behind the stage curtain refusing to go on stage and sing.  Hmmmm..........
It was none other than Precious Himself.  The cutest little reindeer of the herd who opted to stand off stage the entire Christmas play.  I would have busted him about it, but I kept seeing myself on that very stage when I was young and I remembered how much I hated it.  Eloise was the shyest of shy kids and being in the spotlight put me in a panic.  Who would have thunk it that one day I would grow up to be a teacher of all things?!?!?!   Sam--again another sliver of ice chipped off this big, blond block.

To show you that he survived, Readers, here is his picture after the show.  Sam came running to us and said, "Didn't I do great!?!?!"  Yes you did Sam.  You did your momma proud.

Here is one final picture of Sam from this weekend smudging up my freshly Windexed window as he usually does.  As you can see from the scene we are literally chipping ice once again in Erie.  Winter has set in with its first significant snowfall.  Just an inch to cover the grass and make the sidewalks icy--but in December, who doesn't mind a little Christmas snow?   It's exciting.

The first winter snow is about as exciting and unpredictable as raising kids---especially mine.  I know some blizzards are coming, but they eventually will blow through.  I wouldn't trade my three for anything in the world.  They are the chips from my block and I am as proud of them as any mother could be.

Happy Christmas, Readers.