December 30, 2010

Gratis, For this I am So Thankful XXXIII

It's a reflective week here, as we are trying to put a close to December and the year of 2010, and yet look ahead at the same time with much hope and eagerness for what the New Year might hold.

I have been mulling over a few potential resolutions, to be posted here later, and reflecting on the abundant good that this year has afforded. I am sort of shocked that I have managed to keep up with these Gratis posts with such fierce regularity, and am amazed in looking back over all of them this week, at how richly filled our life is with joy, adventure, provision, and laughter. All these little things. Every day. Each week. All of our months. And even years.

So, here we go, onward. Because time never stops.
For this week's round of ten, I am thankful for:
311. finding full-flavor and yet delectably smooth finishing espresso beans locally. And the fine macchiato I enjoyed at the coffee shop the other morning that for-the-first-time rivaled the ones we daily enjoyed in Firenze, Italy. Now ages ago. As a partner to this great find, I am thankful for Dave + my shared Christmas present this year, a burr coffee grinder.
312. indulgent rich holiday treats, like homemade chocolate babka bread. Slices of pure heaven; cinnamon chocolaty bread with a crunchy streusel topping. A loaf that is simple but also luxurious and lavish at the same time.
313. presents that made it all the way to Ukraine to a little boy, and a little girl that we sponsored through Operation Christmas Child.  We were overjoyed to receive the destination confirmation e-mail this week, and it was fun to find the spot on the globe with the Craunlets.
314. hand-written holiday correspondence, still slowly streaming in. I love the annual updates and  connections from far-away friends and family.
315. a 47-try Christmas picture of the Craunlets for a small ornament project. One for us, and one for each of the Grandparents. Giving up on our not-going-so-well photo shoot, at number 46, we announced to the Craunlets that we were quitting. They must have liked the idea also, and effortlessly, they both smiled upon hearing the news. And one final click of the camera. WIN.
316. the quick card-holder solution I crafted up moments before Christmas. Thanks to Martha for the idea, involving a wood embroidery hoop, small clothespins, and white glue. Nice to have all the cards amassing in one place.
317. lingering bits of comfortable holiday cheer around the house. Likely our least-decorated year on record, but still warm and inviting little moments of jingle bells and pine.
318. the newest addition to my salt + pepper shaker collection; a charming pair of Snowpeople. And they each have a sweet little jingle bell on their plugger, so they ring whilst being shaken. A delightful little surprise gift from my mother-in-law.
319. winter break. And the promise of school resuming this coming week. It has been a pleasure to have a solid two weeks of vacation from school and teaching, but I think we are all pretty ready for normal to return.
320. new books. A business/Christmas present to myself; this small stack of inspiration and related reads to get the new year's art-making well underway again.

December 29, 2010

The Loveliest of Things

continue to arrive via post, completely lifting my spirits--the days of this week have been markedly long. Today, this was delivered during my quiet afternoon. And turning its pages has proven most delightful.

December 28, 2010

That One Troubling Bit of the Song

Last year, perched at the very top of the Craunlet's stockings, were small stuffed animals of two of Santa's most beloved reindeer. There was a dancer tucked into Belle's and a Rudolph in Nate's. They were a last minute impulse buy from a pharmacy store, and as it would go, they became ever quickly quite dear to the Craunlets. So dear, that my foggy memory recalls wrestling them out of their weeping arms the day we packed them up with all of the other holiday cheer. And so dear, that we talked about them nearly--if not certainly--every single day of December before we finally heaved all of those boxes back out of the attic for this year's Christmas.
Nate is absolutely certain that he met the real Santa in Cleveland this year. And he is a full-on and most adamant Santa believer and reindeer admirer, despite all of the heated discussions he has endured with his big sister. The big sister who unabashedly doesn't believe for a moment, and will gladly announce that there is no such person as Santa Claus. However, through the course of our very long month of December, Nate has diligently provoked and piqued her interest and curiosity in all of this story, and magic. So, she has willingly played along with all sorts of Christmas merriment and make-believe.

And there have been a lot of reindeer games played out in our living room. As Belle and Nate are pretty much each other's best playmate; it's natural to know and understand to them that most surely Dancer and Rudolph would as a result also be the very best of companions.

Enters the problem.

Nate notices in his fully-memorized and most favorite Christmas tune, Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, the most troubling of lyrics: 
All of the other reindeer
Used to laugh and call him names
They never let poor Rudolph
Play in any reindeer games
The audacity. Nate simply couldn't reconcile these words. After many frustrating rounds of singing, he angrily came to me demanding that friends would never call each other names, and that surely this bit of the song excluded dancer, and really indicted all of the other reindeer. The mean ones.

Holding back my laughter, and  hearing the intensity of his heart on the matter was the sweetest of moments. Despite all of their differences, and disagreements, and disparate beliefs regarding flying reindeer and Santa Claus, nothing can touch their friendship. And I hope they guard this relationship so ardently as long as they live.

December 27, 2010


Normal--after this awesome long holiday weekend--we are not quite ready for your return.

December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

The presents are all opened at last, and now it's an all-day-play-in-your-pajamas-day for Team Craun.
To see this morning's merriment, click on over to our picture pages.

Merry Christmas to you + yours.

December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas Eve

 May your holiday be sweetly full of surprises and awesome wonder.

See more of our Gingerbread House merriment on our picture pages, right here.

December 22, 2010

Happy Birthday

To my dashing handsome other half. Who is an always-strong, never-quitting and most loyal best friend. He is quick to laugh, honest, and patient and the best dad that I know. He loves deeply and extravagantly, and for this alone I am so lucky.
Happy birthday fine husband, may your birthday's be many, and richly blessed. And may we always celebrate them together, even when we are 50. And 100.

December 20, 2010

Gratis, For this I am So Thankful XXXII

It's a WHAT DAY IS IT??!! kind of week here...on the heels of too much time in and out of hospitals, and travel, birthday celebrations, and the beginning of Christmas break. The whirlwind is just today settling itself in our household. For that alone, I am thankful.

However hectic and emotionally overwhelming [debilitating, maybe more accurate a description] this ride has been here in the last few weeks, I feel like it has also honed my vision and my heart both to be better tuned to beauty and gratitude. There has been a lot of sweet quiet, and loud rays of light coming in cold panes of wintry glass. Family snuggle time, and recovery. Little unexpected gifts and notes, and sweetly timed calls and visits from friends and family.

Today, as we prepare for Christmas week, I am undone with thanks for:

301. my first edition pulled in my home studio. HUGE. Lovely, and laden with sparkles. She is titled reinforcement. A screen print, in edition of 27 with a small handful of artist proofs. Though officially a part of a Z-files holiday portfolio print swap for Zygote Press, It's a bit of a personal solace piece. My strength. Its been a rough and bumpy emotional couple of months here. And what a prize it is to be making. Through everything. I treasured upon a small box of old reinforcement stickers, made of tyvek. So strong, untearable, and tough. But they were all punched a little off center. Not too accurate. But enduring. And I placed them all on a grid, like a little army, and burnished them right onto my screen creating a direct printing stencil. I mixed a heavy dollop of gunmetal ink into mostly white to lighten, thicken and build the opacity of the lay of ink. And the result is a song. So lovely to me in this season. And also a marker to drive into the ground. I have made. I do make. And I will keep making.
302. a lit and decorated tree. At long last. Now that it is the very week of Christmas upon us.
303. the beautiful assortment of silver and such that provides a walk down memory lane each year as we unpack the Christmas boxes. The young traditions we have started as a little family already sweetly accruing a history.
304. Christmas break. Belle is home two weeks off of school, beginning officially today. It reminds me of my much younger days, and has put us all in celebration mode. Which is timely to our spirits.

305. the lovely sweet card made by Belle at school. Her crooked wobbly neat handwriting on the back declaring Merry Christmas. The sparkling gel pen architectural drawings of a merry little neighborhood, both so urban and magical.
306. holiday baking; about to officially begin. And the insanity of my proposal to make gingerbread houses with the Craunlets this week. And the Joy of Cooking, my baking companion -- I am so glad for her company. So tenderly loved by Dave's Grammie.
307. my two napping over-grown babes on the very first afternoon of Christmas break. How did I get to be so lucky?!

308. the compliments of a store-owner regarding the behavior and character of the Craunlets. Spoken out of relationship, and continued watching, noticing. The benefit and treasure of shopping locally, and building relationships. She bestowed on them a pile of writing + art supply presents, as a partner to her words, delighting in their very hearts. And the gesture so warmed mine.
 309. first Christmas presents received via post, all wrapped up pretty, and placed under the tree. Waiting. And the Craunlet's ever building anticipation.

310. the timely hearing of this J. Hudson Taylor quote as part of Sunday's message at Gateway Church: “I have found there are three stages to every great work of God: first it is impossible, then it is difficult, then it is done.”

December 19, 2010

These Sillies

Nice to have the house bounding with silliness and shenanigans again.
Photo taken at Belle's school, after her Kindergarten Winter Performance. To see the whole line up, click over to our picture pages, right here. You'll find Belle standing in the first position of the front row, still and composed. Certainly. Among a sea of wiggling and fidgety Kindergartners.

December 17, 2010

A Month with Many Surgeries

Our family has become ever too familiar with the hallways of the Cleveland Clinic's Main Campus Surgery Center; this month has yielded numerous quiet long days as Belle and Nate took their turns for scheduled surgeries. 
It's a painful place of waiting. Of watching your little one fall into a deep sleep too quickly, with the help of medicine. Arriving at their side in the recovery room, still laid flat in dreams, and hooked up to various tubes and wires for monitoring. It seems a mysterious place between life and death, a bit of limbo. And the doctors and nurses flood you with good and reassuring news, which you hope for, and yet still nervously watch for the rising and falling of their sleepy breathing chests. Their little bodies still so heavy against the hospital bed.
And it is an all day thing. The get-there-early kind, to be put in queue and wait. To go to pre-op, and wait further. Answering questions, measuring vitals and height and weight. Changing into eerily cute children's gowns, and waiting more. And it's happy juice, and laughing gas. Only no one is laughing with all this nervous undercurrent. And it's a last kiss at their bedside, in the operating room, before another waiting room, filled with crowds of lonely people, worried and pacing, armed only with a pager to learn any patient progress. 
Surgery has begun, and all is going very well.

Surgery is over, all went perfectly.
Nice to be informed. Oddly comforted by the small screen of technology, before being paged to head to the recovery room. Heart racing, heading quickly to their bedside.
Watching them brave and strong is so rewarding to the heart. As they wake up from the slumber of surgery nearly unflinchingly, as they chatter away to nurses, doctors, family life specialists, and staff. Chomping away on brightly colored popsicles, sipping cups of juice. Like a field trip. Only one that leaves little scars, and prescribes souvenirs of tylenol laced with codeine. 
And these are in-and-out surgeries, as they call them. Routine. I cannot imagine parents and children with more complicated medical concerns. Because these few little things that we have endured seem so great, and huge and heavy.  

I take a breath this morning.
All of our planned surgeries now in forever's yesterdays.

Belle is off to school in a twirly Christmas dress, ready and excited for her Winter Performance this afternoon, with no stitches in her eyelid, and almost no trace of last week's surgery. And Nate is deep sleeping on his belly, right on top of the small and sealed-up incision. And I am listening to his bear-like breathing on the monitor as he sleeps in almost two hours late now, recovering from his day of surgery yesterday. 

And I am so thankful. 

For now we head into Christmas break, and we are all recovering and recovered. And we are  doing well, and I am so thankful that we have awesome access to such brilliant and local medical systems. That our children are well cared for, and full of life. Even though the process is full of hard decisions, and sometimes pain, and much waiting.

December 15, 2010

On Time, and the Forever Fast Moving Forward

Her growing up is happening all too fast. I catch a glimpse of this older her on occasion, and it just takes my breath away.
Like these shots of her on the commuter train back into downtown Chicago to catch our sleeper train for home. Her, kindergartner going on teenager, the french braids, and freckles, fingers fumbling with her train ticket, chewing gum and telling time...

Winter Wonderland Train

This last weekend we boarded an overnight train for Chicago. We had a family wedding to attend, and decided to make a bit of a Polar Express Holiday out of the affair, as the weekend also included Nate's birthday. It was magical, and lovely, convenient and terrifically charming to barrel through the winter landscape in our wee little cabin. We rented a family room, just enough tiny beds for the four of us, and slept the majority of the hours on board. Curtains opened to the expanse of deep blue sky, richly speckled with stars, the gloriously bright moon, and the reflective blanket of white snow upon the ground. We enjoyed breakfast on the morning we arrived to Chicago, and dinner on the night we departed.

The Craunlets were enamored with the whole experience. The many stops, and winter landscapes. Moving between cars, and eating on the train. The loud whistle as we rumbled off from a platform, and the cabin attendants, and conductors that further made the trip so enjoyable. Most especially the conductor on the Chicago Commuter train the morning we arrived. She smiled at Nate, asked him if he had ever seen the Polar Express movie before, and as she spoke to him, small punches began to float towards the ground, and the click click clicking of her ticket puncher was busy making an "N" on Nate's ticket, and a "B" on Belle's.
Again, I had wished for snow. That's crazily two weekends in a row now that I have made this wintry request. I figured since we intentionally opted for the mode of transportation least affected by inclement weather, we my as well have loads of the white stuff to accompany our trip. It seemed only appropriate if not necessary for a winter train trip. And apparently Mother Nature was in agreement, as we rode home with the Midwest blizzard as our backdrop.
Here are a few pictures of the Craunlets enjoying the train:

December 14, 2010

On Turning Four, Twice

We celebrated Nate's fourth birthday first in Cleveland, and then in Chicago.
And though both celebrations were merry good times, it's nice to officially put a close to all the partying.


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