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!

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Friday Dance, in the British fashion

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One of my besties from college did (and to my knowledge still does) a celebratory jumping twisting dance each Friday, her ritual to kick off the weekend. In honor of Ansley, I’m shimmying my bloggy shoulders and hips to shake out some random thoughts and links I’ve been toying around with in my mind to share with you.

First, the big news. We are in Memphis, and—this is fantastic—so are Harry and William. They enjoyed barbeque at the Rendezvous last night, and tomorrow will be ushers at their friend’s wedding at the Hunt and Polo Club. (The former location was the site of our rehearsal dinner; the latter my bridesmaids‚Äô luncheon! We are now connected in a mystical and very important way.)

Israel believes the monarchy needs to go, but I kind of love it. Here‚Äôs one take on why it‚Äôs fun to see pictures of the young royal family (keyword: family): Ashley McGuire’s “This Is Why We’re Obsessed with Will and Kate.”¬†That, and Georgie‚Äôs clothes: The Royal Baby Proves All Southerners are Basically Royalty.

Unfortunately for us, though, Kate and George aren‚Äôt in Memphis. And in a prime example of southern hospitality, a local “gentlemen‚Äôs club” decided to leave William‚Äôs name off of their sign that reads ‚ÄúWelcome Prince Harry‚ÄĚ because they ‚Äúdidn‚Äôt want to create any marital strife.‚ÄĚ Pure class.

On the subject of baby clothes in the South, Mama Rote laughed at this post about various levels of smocked clothing at different churches:¬†“And here in the South, I would say that there are definite circles of high-smock expectations and low-smock expectations, generally based around the Church you go to. They may not be spoken guidelines, but as soon as you step foot onto the nursery hallway, you can almost smell it in the air ‚Äď which smock denomination (smocknomination?) your church falls under.‚ÄĚ (Ours is certainly “smock-optional.‚ÄĚ)

On my bookshelf currently: All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot, then its sequels All Things Bright and Beautiful and All Things Wise and Wonderful.

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On childhood road trips‚ÄĒin our killer conversion van!‚ÄĒI first listened to James Herriot’s dog and cat¬†stories on cassette tape. Herriot was a veterinarian in the Yorkshire Dales in the English countryside beginning in the 1930s, and his stories are at times funny, heartwarming, and fascinating, and always good. You’ll love his narration¬†and his contagious devotion¬†to the country and its¬†animals. As city-bred Herriot works doggedly to win over the¬†stolid farmers, he’s got to take the triumphs together with the¬†looking foolish—as when he’s called out to a calving in the middle of the night, and realizes as he soaps up his arms that the silent Dalesmen¬†can smell the strong, fruity, feminine scent of the soap he’d only used in desperation, borrowed from his housekeeper. The farmers sniffed, but didn’t say a word.

With his hilarious voice and his images of lambs and calves and green, green grass, Herriot has been the¬†perfect spring reading for me. I’ll be keeping these books around for reading aloud to the family in future years.

Sticking with the English theme, another college friend‚ÄĒnot a royal, but a member of my personal aristocracy‚ÄĒwill be married this weekend. We studied abroad in England together, and so: Mary Hamner, me best bird, I virtually toast you with a turbo shandy!

Leaving you with some spring-y images from our outdoor painting en plein air session yesterday. (Please infer: we are artsy, worldly, sophisticated . . . if only little Georgie were here for a play date!):

Final question: how can I make some cash off my daughter being a child model? Let me know your thoughts.

Shalom, Y’all

While Israel toured around Israel this past week (yes, the country), the baby princess and I took the opportunity to enjoy our own exotic trip to Memphis.

He ate wonderful, fresh food:

[At a winery in the Golan Heights.]

And so did we:

[Fresh organic squash, harvested by my brother Ben.]

He saw new things:

[Jesus might have yelled at the money changers in the temple here. No big deal.]

So did we:

[The Memphis Greenline with Uncle Ben.]

Rather than go on with the comparison, I’ll fuse our two experiences into song for you:

One time Memphian Johnny Cash is inspired by his own travels in the Holy Land. I love this song. Listen, and watch the San Quentin prisoners’ reactions.

A lesser person would be bitter about the difference in our two trips, don’t you think?

More pics of Israel–the man and the country–on his instagram feed here. More pics of Memphis and the princesses on mine, here. (Though honestly I didn’t do anything particularly Memphis-y except listen to BB King’s duets album while driving out to J. Crew and Anthro.)

Shalom, y’all!

I left my heart in. . .


Check out these sweet, wistful postcards by Paper Pastries (via A Cup of Jo via Anna Kate). . . with several cities from-which-to-choose.

And here‚Äôs why I love my mom (besides the fact that she raised me and provided nourishment). ¬†This is what she said when I asked her which one she’d pick:

I don’t know about the card – I don’t see there being a big market for ‘I left my heart at Lake Cheston’ or ‘I left my heart at the Delt house’ or maybe ‘I left my heart at the truck stop’.

I’ve never been there, but ‘I left my heart in Missoula’ has a certain charm.

Oh my stars, she is a riot. ¬†I don’t know that I want to know the stories behind those– but I’d like to submit my own:

I left my heart in Charlottesville -or-

I left my heart at Foxfield -or-

I left my heart in Western Christian Thought discussion with the TA who was, in fact, a Canadian rockstar.

(Not as pithy?)

Israel’s out of town, but he might say:

I left my heart in the OC (the Old Country, that is) -or-

I left my heart in the old Yankee Stadium

Perhaps my brother Will would say:

I left my heart at Wilderness Ranch -or-

I misplaced my heart in the back of my filthy truck!

What would you say??