Bring us a meal.

"Cranberry Pie Eating Champ"

1948 — Six-year-old Richard Baranski caresses a full belly after being crowned Cranberry Pie Eating Champion, upon eating a 10-inch cranberry pie in 15 seconds flat.. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

It may seem a bit old-fashioned, and in the past I haven’t been great at it, but from this day forward I resolve to be ready. When a friend or acquaintance experiences a major life event or a time of stress, I will take that family a meal.

Having dinners delivered has been muy, mucho helpful to us during the last several weeks. We set up a calendar on mealtrain.com (takethemameal.com is a similar option) so that when friends expressed interest in helping out, Israel could easily send the link, where they could claim a date and find our address and other pertinent information.

Meal planning remains one of my . . . areas for improvement, shall we say. When faced with the upcoming week’s menu and shopping list, I inevitably develop mental paralysis. So not thinking about dinner has been a special, sweet gift enhancing the flavor of all the food we’ve received.

Based on our experience in the past month or so, I’ll try to remember a few things when I make dinner for someone in the future:

  • Breakfast items instead of or in addition to dinner are wonderful. One friend brought quiche. Nice touch.
  • Skip the salad greens. After the first couple days, we had several bags languishing in the fridge. I’ll have to think of an easy alternative side dish.
  • YES to disposable plates, napkins, utensils; which are also useful as props and costumes.
  • Related: use disposable pans or tupperware you don’t want back. Unless you’re a pretty close friend and willing to swing by to pick up your dishes. And possibly clean them yourself.
  • Take-out is more than FINE, and likely delicious. I won’t feel guilty if I don’t have time to whip up something homemade. When our friend brought Peruvian chicken with all the sides, it was one of the best meals we got. (Even if it wasn’t, bottom line, I didn’t have to think about dinner!)
  • Tell the recipient: No thank you note. Though I love thank you notes, friends, I’ve made peace with texting a heartfelt thank you that includes a picture of Jack. Note writing somewhat defeats the purpose of taking something off the mama’s plate. (Taking something off her plate by putting something on her plate! Get it? Nice.)
  • Several weeks after the event? Never too late. We are still in receive-every-form-and-offer-of-help mode. (Sarah brought us dinner tonight, which allows me to finish this post. The internet groans a hearty thank you, I’m sure!)
  • Bottle of wine? Absolutely.

What else would you add?

Really, the above are side issues. To state the main problem, I need a go-to dinner I can pull out of my back pocket that’s relatively easy and universally yummy.

And we may have a winner. My friend Katherine brought a crock pot dish using a recipe she got from our friend Megan. I might’ve been especially hungry that night, but it hit the spot, like whoa. Here’s the recipe, direct from Megan’s email:

Cilantro Lime Chicken

Just throw some boneless chx breasts, a jar of salsa, a package of taco seasoning, lime juice and cilantro into a slow cooker for 6 hours. It’s amazing. You can shred and put on tortillas or serve over rice.

Ease McCheese. Katherine served this over a mixture of rice and black beans, along with a yummy salad (that she’d premixed instead of leaving in the bag, which made a difference). Ugh. So good. And so were the chocolate chip cookies that we—literally—devoured.

What’s your best dinner to deliver? I’d love to know.

Newborn Prayers and Pictures

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John Jacob Ortega—“Jack”—joined us October 12! We’re doing well, and thanks to Mama Rote, Israel, and other family, I’ve been enjoying a kind of maternity leave from my regular job. Even so, newborn life is quite a thrill ride. Yesterday I was thinking to myself that Jack is really starting to even out, really maturing; the next thing I know he decided to party hard all through the night. So nothing’s predictable at this point, which I should know very well.

Two or three days after he was born, one of our pastors came over and did a short blessing for Jack and our family. (The mini-service is in the Book of Common Prayer, page 439: “A Thanksgiving for the Birth or Adoption of a Child”). It was beautiful! I’ve loved being part of a more liturgical church here in Nashville, one that uses these time-tested resources. First of all, I tend to like anything that’s old. Secondly, in this stage of life, I don’t have much excess energy to speak of, so I like having prayers written for me, a church with a Bible reading plan already in place. I find it restful; and I feel no need to re-invent the wheel or to show off by getting really creative. Finally, the prayers are so beautifully expressed:

O God, you have taught us through your blessed Son that whoever receives a little child in the name of Christ receives Christ himself: We give you thanks for the blessing you have bestowed upon this family in giving them a child. Confirm their joy by a lively sense of your presence with them, and give them calm strength and patient wisdom as they seek to bring this child to love all that is true and noble, just and pure, lovable and gracious, excellent and admirable, following the example of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Calm strength! Patient wisdom! Yes, exactly. That’s what I crave as a parent.

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“Confirm their joy by a lively sense of your presence . . .”

And if anyone’s having a difficult time remember their work at home matters:

May God the Father, who by Baptism adopts us as his children, grant you grace.

May God the Son, who sanctified a home at Nazareth, fill you with love.

May God the Holy Spirit, who has made the Church one family, keep you in peace. Amen.

 photo 9E9741D6-D578-44BD-98FF-7868757419D5_zpskkizfw9j.jpgAnd as I flipped around more in the ol’ BCP, several of the prayers “for use by a Sick Person” (p. 461) felt appropriate for me and this postpartum time. (I don’t think we should treat pregnancy and childbirth as a sickness, by the way. Still, a body needs to heal, plus anyone can use the prayers!)

For Trust in God

O God, the source of all health: So fill my heart with faith in your love, that with calm expectancy I may make room for your power to possess me, and gracefully accept your healing; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
 photo 88C1CF0C-028D-4E79-993D-2C42BB19CA54_zps6wbsywb7.jpg For Sleep (hahaha)

O heavenly Father, you give your children sleep for the refreshing of soul and body: Grant me this gift, I pray; keep me in that perfect peace which you have promised to those whose minds are fixed on you; and give me such a sense of your presence, that in the hours of silence I may enjoy the blessed assurance of your love; through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

In the Morning

This is another day, O Lord. I know not what it will bring forth, but make me ready, Lord, for whatever it may be. If I am to stand up, help me to stand bravely. If I am to sit still, help me to sit quietly. If I am to lie low, help me to do it patiently. And if I am to do nothing, let me do it gallantly. Make these words more than words, and give me the Spirit of Jesus. Amen.

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Hope you’re well, internet friends. If you need me, I’ll be here, endeavoring to lie low, to gallantly do nothing!

P.S. For fun! Three weeks with Mary Tobin (we were all babies!), and Oh, Man. (six weeks after adding #2 into the mix!). I’m posting earlier in a baby’s life than I ever have before. That’s a good sign, right?

I left my heart on Bourbon Street.

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A few years ago, we had fun with this post, brainstorming ways to fill in the blank: “I left my heart in ____.”

I was reminded of this after Mom did such a great job gathering, and executing, beautiful and meaningful ideas for John’s rehearsal dinner, which was held at the SweetWater Brewery in Atlanta at the end of January.

All the table names were street signs from places in John’s life, or Maltby’s life, or their life together: the streets they grew up on, South Africa, a ranch in Wyoming, Palo Alto, Athens, NYC, and of course New Orleans where they met. It was a super fun conversation starter, and a small glimpse into their lives which was appropriate for a gathering of family and friends from all over and from all stages of life, who may have only known the bride or the groom before then.

Mom also gathered pictures of the lovely couple as they grew up (we could do a photoessay on the evolution of John’s hair), and she did a phenomenal job with the centerpieces, along with her team of florists and designers (AKA Beth and Aunt Kace). Cotton, magnolia, pine greenery in silver julep cups, stacked on a couple old books for the height they needed.

The actual wedding reception was a gorgeous winter wonderland, and the style Mom and John chose for the rehearsal dinner was much more casual but complemented it nicely. Someone at my table (from Colorado) actually reached out and picked the cotton to see what it was like. Hard work. That’s why the cotton gin was such a big deal, I said.

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photo credits: the fantastic Vue Photography

So we know that John left his heart and his SweetWater beer in Athens with a brown-eyed UGA girl . . .

What about you? Where have you left a piece of your heart? And isn’t funny how it takes leaving to realize how much you completely adore someone or something or somewhere? Let’s see . . .

I left my heart in Del Ray (our old neighborhood in Alexandria, VA).

I left my heart at Little Lights.

I left my heart in Paraguay, at Pabla’s storefront home.

I left my heart in Cholula.

I left my heart, or maybe found it, no—my heart was stolen! that’s better—at Nick’s Nightclub, Alexandria’s premiere line dancing institution.

(And, always and forever, I left my heart in Cville, specifically at Take It Away. It’ll probably be right where they stack those little containers of house dressing.)

Your turn! But be careful. My heart is literally hurting right now. Nostalgia, you kill me.

Christmas by the numbers


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Merry Christmas from Graceland!

On this, the twelfth day of Christmas, I’m totally on board with keeping Christmas going all through Epiphany. Not only does it appeal to my natural slacker, but the longer celebration provides an antidote to the inevitable disappointment when events don’t follow your vision for the perfect, beautiful Christmas morning. We’re not perfect; that’s fine. I wrote a reflection for my friend Elizabeth’s blog about the angels and the shepherds and what it meant to me to rejoice not because things are perfect, but because God has come near. You can wrap up this last day of Christmas by reading it here.

We had a wonderful—not perfect—fun, old-fashioned family Christmas (name that movie!) in Memphis, with Israel’s and my families combining forces for an epic Christmas Palooza 2K14. Mama Rote compiled the stats:

16 people
12 adults
4 girls 3 and under
6 Ortegas
5 Rotes (+  1 soon to be Rote)
4 Slakases
7 days
1 birthday party for a 1 year old
4 gallons of milk
10 pounds of corn tortillas
7 dozen eggs
3 gallons of pozole
3 high chairs (+ 1 booster seat)
3 cribs
3 strollers
countless diapers
50+ loads of laundry
30+ plus dishwasher loads
1 Grizzlies game, complete with overtime
14 rolls of paper towels
5 dozen tamales
1 1/2 gallon of vegetable beef soup
1 ping-pong tournament
1 Chinese checkers tournament
2 aerobeds
2 dogs 
1 cat
and…..
FOURTEEN, yes, FOURTEEN cases of a nasty tummy bug.**
*Some numbers estimated
**Will says that a positive thing is that, in the aggregate, we gained less weight as family due to ‘the circumstances.’

It was so fun to be together, despite the tummy bug. Now we’re back at home, watching Downton Abbey and maybe White Christmas one last time! In Mexico, children receive gifts from the Tres Reyes Magos on Epiphany, so last night Mary Tobin and I put shoes out in the hall, with pine needles instead of hay for the camels as the wise men came through, and this morning we found one last Christmas treat. Today we’re packing away the decorations, and I hope I can convince Israel to burn our tree in the fire pit in the back yard tonight . . . wouldn’t it be beautiful and symbolic, like the light in darkness, the star leading to the Christ Child?? OK, I love fire. I’m a pyromaniac.

If you’re packing up today, too, here’s some free advice I picked up from my Aunt Kace. She has pretty Christmas frames with photos from family Christmases in years past that she stores with her decorations (but too many embarrassing middle school ones, Aunt Kace!!). So now I’m keeping an eye out for Christmas frames at post-holiday sales and trying to tuck away any good photos with the ornaments. I haven’t found many frames that I like, but we brought out pictures and subbed them into our usual frames for the month, and I love the nostalgic effect!

 photo 8759CC53-AD8D-458D-8785-D1D36FC356BE_zpslzyzsgs3.jpgIn looking through this year’s pictures, I spotted a bit of a theme:
 photo B1011067-3F3A-484B-8E4D-6C3C6F0F0153_zps8dnbgm9l.jpg  photo 37E2C393-8BF9-4352-9558-B3B0AE079C2F_zpsnnevrhnu.jpg Just offering Baby Jesus what we can. (Food is our love language. I would probably take the chocolate, but the tamales are also really good.)

Merry Christmas!

What worked for me in 2014.

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I’m ripping the title of this post, and the idea, straight from Modern Mrs. Darcy, since I love her posts with ideas for for figuring out systems that work well in daily life, and because it’s helpful to reflect and remember before heading full-throttle into a new year with all its goals and expectations.

Also, this gives me a tidy vehicle to talk about several different topics that could’ve been their own blog series, were I more conscientious. (Maybe in 2015!? 2015: the Year of Conscientiousness. Yikes.)

Here we go. What worked for me in 2014:

1. Nashville.
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We’re loving Nashville, and to be honest we don’t know what the future holds (do you?); it’s possible we could be here forever, could move back to DC, could boogie on down to Mexico City, Timbuktu, Duluth. I hope not Duluth. What we can say is that in 2014, Nashville worked for us.

Being closer to my family in Memphis (and closer to ATL, Chattanooga, etc.) has meant we’ve actually been able to say yes to events ranging from the significant—my brother’s engagement party, my great aunt’s 80th birthday—to the more-random-but-still-significant-in-their-way—like Israel joining my dad and his brothers for their semi-annual grudge match golf tournament. Mom and Dad have visited a lot and helped us with the girls so generously. I even tagged along on a work trip with Israel and we visited my brother in San Francisco: flew out from Memphis after dropping the girls off at Lolly and Grandpa’s. Easy cheesy, relatively speaking.

On the August weekend we attended my great aunt’s birthday party in Chattanooga, a good friend was getting married in Nashville, so we left the girls with the family, drove back for the wedding Saturday night, and zipped back Sunday morning (pic at the top from our return drive the morning after the wedding). Worth it. All this to say: even without being in the same city, the proximity to my family makes a big difference and opens a lot of opportunities that we didn’t have living 14 hours away. Especially before the girls are school age, I appreciate all the help and the difference it makes to my mental health!

 photo 928D23B8-6CB2-40F8-AB1B-491F19D8462D_zps0zuuegyr.jpgAnd the fam gets to witness MT growing into her bow. Aunt Reba’s lake house, 2013 and 2014.

2. Sunday suppers.

 photo IMG_7243_zpsbd372a75.jpgA special edition of Sunday supper for Israel’s birthday

Nashville’s, like, the hottest city in the world right now, and there’s a lot going on; we’ve barely scratched the surface. Such a magnet of a city draws a lot of great people. Two of my cousins live here, as well as a lot of friends and acquaintances from college in Virginia, from Memphis, from other random connections . . . so it’s been fun and challenging to connect and re-connect with people. It’s kind of nice, actually, to be new to a city and have to say to yourself, Well, let’s try to make new friends. No shame in it. However, it’s hard work; it requires patience; and it’s logistically tricky, especially with kids.

After reading this article, “Friday Night Meatballs: How to Change Your Life With Pasta,” about a family’s weekly spaghetti and meatballs tradition, we thought about how to make it work for us. We started having my cousins over on Sundays and then invited other friends. I love it for a lot of reasons:

  • People come to us. Sometimes it’s a quick, casual dinner; and sometimes people want to hang out longer. In that case, we put the girls to bed, keep the party (or the quiet conversation) going. Now that I’m thinking about it, the girls, in theory, are learning that Sundays are special and are getting used to welcoming different people into our house.
  • Establishing that Sunday supper is a regular event, internally within our family, but especially externally, by issuing an open invitation to friends, forces us to do it and get better at it. Though I’ve loved the idea of hospitality and having an open, lively home, historically I’d get really stressed out when people came to dinner. Since it’s a weekly event now, hosting is less elevated and more friendly. We’ve gotten better (I think) on both ends: letting go of an ideal and not flipping out when the house isn’t clean, but also improving in efficiency with practice so that the house is actually cleaner and the meal is less of a hassle.
  • For the meal, we settled on some kind of soup each week: flexible depending on numbers, freezable if there’s a lot left over, requires only bowls and spoons, friends may bring drinks, cornbread, dessert, etc. In the article I referenced above, they do a family meatball recipe every time, which is great because it’s yummy, has cultural/family history meaning, can be made ahead of time, and it’s the same every week, so it doesn’t require extra thinking and planning. I’d love to narrow the menu down further, but I don’t have the mastery or the drive to make mi suegra’s pozole every week!
  • Though the menu still takes more mental bandwidth than I’d like, one of my favorite things about Sunday suppers is the way it streamlines our hosting and social life. For all the times that I’d normally say, “Hey, we should get together” to someone, and likely fail to follow up (which is a lot, especially being new in town, having fledgling friendships, or running into an old friend or acquaintance), I can instead offer something concrete: “Hey, my cousins always come over for dinner Sunday. Do you want to join us this week?” (Thank you, Nate and Zach, for being our tools.) I feel like I’ve wiped clean my mental to do list of people I should be reaching out to or trying to get together with, or at least moved it all under the heading of Sunday supper. And if I really can’t be bothered to think or be social, Israel can invite people, and I’ll just make sure something’s on the stove in the blue Le Creuset.

If you’re reading this and you live in Nashville, ask me about the next one!

3. Barre class at McCabe Community Center.

Going to a weekly exercise class has been surprisingly effective in helping me feel like I really live here. The community center close to us has $3 group classes (yes, THREE BUCKS), and I’m now dedicated to Wednesdays at 12:30 with Sue. (Huge props to Israel who eats lunch with the girls and starts nap time. Love you, Boo!) It’s not, shall we say, as serious as the barre classes I’ve taken in the past. But Sue is hilarious. She makes us talk to each other, which normally I’d hate, but it works; she makes obvious jokes with the barre/bar play on words (Don’t lean into the bar! Remember that Friday night!); and she routinely plays “Black Velvet” for warm up or cool down. She also has great bumper stickers. Nashville people, seriously, rearrange your life to join me on Wednesdays. A scheduled class creates a nice hinge in the middle of the week, and it has revived my fitness routine. (Now I’m into these free pilates videos. I feel like an adolescent valley girl!)

[I don’t have a picture of exercise class; but you can see above where I’m feeling especially fit in a Christmas sweater and stirrup leggings at Israel’s birthday party! And here, again in Mama Rote’s old clothes, since she was/is a fox.]

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I’ll have to return with part two of “What worked for me in 2014,” since I’ve surprised myself with my passion for my barre instructor. Stay tuned. What worked for you in 2014?

In the meantime—here on the blog, wordpress has reported to me, these were the most-read posts of the year:

  1. New City East Lake (or, How to Decorate for Interracial Couples!)
  2. ‘Round Here 
  3. To Love At All
  4. Doctor’s Orders, or, Another Note for a New Mom
  5. World Cup Update + Links, or, How not to find a good Mexican restaurant

 Thanks for reading!

A note for a new mom.

 photo 3D577B5C-1378-47FE-9537-19DC5B299857_zpspptzfghu.jpg You know it by now: the days are long, the years are short.

Sometimes I’ll write about parenting tips and things that I find helpful. I love reading about that stuff, and I figure a lot of you do, too. At the same time, probably nothing in my life has evoked feelings of insecurity as much as becoming a mother. (It’s also brought a new sense of empowerment and unparalleled joy—I guess they’re all mixed in.) So. It’s obvious, we’ll all make different decisions as parents and in life, but the truth is, that can make me nervous. I’m faced with the reality of how highly I value what other people think, when I realize that I’m doing things differently than other mothers.

I have enjoyed reading the baby books, the child development material, parenting articles, websites, blogs. (Again, following Uncle Steve’s advice: get a lot of advice, then do what you want!) It’s an important task—raising kids—so it’s important to make considered decisions about how to go about it. I want to do my best . . . but ultimately it becomes a big lesson in trust and giving up control.

This morning I wrote a quick note on a slip of paper to send my friend Ashley who’ll be bringing home a newborn in a couple days. (Eeeeps!!) Ash and I have discussed parenting styles and decisions (in theory), and as with other friends, I’ve said, hey, don’t worry if we do things differently. Before our family moved, I passed along to her a stack of baby books with the disclaimer that several of them contradict one another, so she’ll just have to decide what she wants to do.

But the note I wrote this morning contained my most practical, best advice. So I decided to copy it here:

“He . . . set my feet upon a rock making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.”
Psalm 40:2-3

Ash, I’d written this verse out for myself as a reminder that God makes my steps secure in motherhood—of course we won’t be perfect, but we know God’s taking care of us. I pray that you will feel utterly confident (in yourself, but more in God’s provision) as you get to know Towns!

And, my fave parenting strategy: ask God for wisdom every day. He promises to give it (James 1:5).

I love you!

If you want to know what I think, that’s it. Thanks for letting me keep it real, dear reader. Maybe next time I’ll be back with some snarky judgmental thoughts on kids’ television habits. [wink.] Love y’all.

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To Love At All

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To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.

-CS Lewis, The Four Loves

This week I burst into tears after a frantic google search reminded me that Inez was born with a Mongolian spot on her back, that she did not actually have a mysterious, massive bruise on her behind and need platelet levels checked. (The midwife had talked to me about the spot after she was born, I realized once I found the wikipedia page. She told me it is common with Hispanic babies and might appear to be bruising, and I had nodded and said ok, and promptly moved it to an inaccessible part of my brain.)

One thing I noticed—I didn’t cry when I thought something was wrong, when I was internally panicking a bit, but I only cried once the relief came flooding in and I could breathe, once I realized how tense my shoulders had been as I typed and tried to talk myself down from the worst case scenario.

It reminded me of a quote that I’d heard about having children: “It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. ” That resonates big time with me. I know I’ll only continue to learn that loving my babies is all about letting them go.

On the other hand, sometimes it seems that loving my spouse is the opposite—not letting go but leaning in. Cheryl Sandberg, write a book about that! Loving him is not so natural as loving the babies who were literally part of me and who carry my traits. The girls could never be rid of me. The thing is, they also carry traits of the one I chose. He’s the one who is not bound by blood but by decision. Israel, let’s decide to love each other each day. Happy Valentine’s Day.

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Pre-marital counseling and all the baby books exhorted us to keep our relationship as the priority for a healthy family, rather than focusing only on the kids. I’d love to hear your experience and wisdom on this! Please share, and please know I’m grateful for you, very dear readers, this Valentine’s Day. Mil besos.

Bebe Dos FAQs (i.e., I’m pregnant)

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Hey, friendly friends! I’ve been trying to think of a nice, creative way to announce that we’re expecting—however, my brain doesn’t work properly. So I’ll go with the easiest format I can think of, and tackle some FAQs.

Q. Are you pregnant?

A. Yes!

Q. Are you excited?!

A. Yes, now that I’m in the second trimester. Honestly, earlier on, I knew, in my brain, that this new life is an exciting thing, but I didn’t feel the excitement yet. I felt like booting, then killing Israel (my husband, not the country—I dread the google searches that yield this post as a result).

Q. Does Mary Tobin know?

A. Not yet. She’ll be a little over two when Bebe Dos is born. (If you have any advice, holler at me please!) As an adult I find the concept of time difficult, so (though she’s clearly a prodigy!) if Mary Tobin understood that we’re having a baby, I think she’d expect him or her to come tomorrow. We’re waiting a little bit to begin talking about it.

Q. Will you find out if Bebe Dos is a boy or girl?

A. Yes! This is my husband’s concession to me, and I’m so grateful. We found out with la princesa, so he thought it would be fun to have a surprise this time. My best arguments: I want to tell MT about her little brother or sister. And it’s my body.

So I’ll let you know, I hope, in a few more weeks after the ultrasound.

Q. Any cravings?

A.

Swedish Fish and Better Cheddars earlier. What can I say? The kid needs nutrients. Lately, nothing very funny or exciting.

Q. Do you really want to kill Israel?

A. Not 24/7. My friend told me that her husband slept on the couch for the duration of her pregnancy. So, all things considered, I think we’re doing alright.

Q. When are you due?

A. After Christmas.

Q. Names??

A. Yes. For a boy, if he’s born on Christmas Day, Uncle Steve suggests Felix. Felix Navidad Ortega. [Groan!] Or Scooter. Please tell me you have suggestions that will trump Uncle Steve!

Q. Are you showing yet?
A. If you thought I’d post some baby bump pics, you were sorely mistaken, my friend!

More to come!

Joy to the world!

“Joy to the world, the Lord is come! Let earth receive her King!  Let every heart prepare him room, and heaven and nature sing.

Joy to the world, the Savior reigns! Let men their songs employ, while fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains repeat the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground.  He comes to make his blessings flow far as the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace, and makes the nations prove the glories of His righteousness and wonders of His love.”

AND WE’RE BACK from a wonderful Christmas trip to Memphis, where I obviously could not blog, because it was so cold in my house.  Many books were given, received, started, perused; and many DVDs were given, received, and watched. (Many baked goods, meats, and cheeses were also consumed, but that’s for Anna Kate’s blog.)  Ghosts of Christmases past made appearances to bring Izzy and Courtney up to date on the time that Will was packing heat to deliver Meals, the years when elfin Ben gave us all lumps of coal or a melted penny, and of course last year’s “Christmas Miracle” when Dad messed up the time for Meals on Wheels. Indeed, we heard lots of stories, including pathetic tales of Will’s teenage and college-age isolation, loneliness, and yes, torture at family gatherings as the oldest child by four or five years.  John and Ben discussed open-mouth kissing, with interjections from Mom, who has “forgotten more than you’ll ever know” about making out.

Disturbing family details aside, Christmas is awesome. 

Quick reviews:

Christmas in Connecticut– A favorite of Kelly Johnson’s family. I loved it; Izzy was a little more bored/amused at what those silly people from the 1940s used to say, as in: “Say, what’s the big idea?”  I think I was more into it because I’ve been getting into cooking and housewifing lately.

Christmas Vacation– Favorite moment in this viewing: “Can I refill your eggnog for you? Get you something to eat? Drive you out to the middle of nowhere and leave you for dead?”

Start the Revolution Without Me– Basically, it was a sheer delight to watch my dad watch this movie. This is a comedy classic for our family, starring Gene Wilder and Donald Sutherland, set in France, 1789.  Just hearing the music makes me laugh.

Slumdog Millionaire— Our only trip to the theatre yielded mixed emotions for me. I must’ve seen an ad touting the movie’s critical acclaim, including something along the lines of “the most uplifting film of the year” which I’d say is pretty misleading.  A Mumbai street urchin ends up one question away from winning the Indian “Who Wants to Be A Millionaire?” and we see his life retraced, explaining how he could possibly know the answers on the show, and what brought him to that point. Of course, an orphan’s life of poverty, child exploitation, corruption, crime, and just general pain is tough to watch.  Does the redemption at the end make it worthwhile?  I guess this is life’s question.  I did enjoy the style– colorful and visually stimulating (but not so fun as Bride and Prejudice— now there’s one I can wholeheartedly recommend!).  It is a good movie, but I had misplaced expectations.

Also, I started reading The War of Don Emmanuel’s Nether Parts by Louis de Bernieres (gift from John), and will review when finished. So far it’s better and funnier than One Hundred Years of Solitude which is also set in a fictional Latin American country with tons of characters (Thanks to Ansley for killing our book club with that one!).

I hope you and your families had a wonderful, colorful, redemptive, hilarious, warm and joyful Christmas.  We’re only on day five of Christmas, by the way.