Category Archives: the famdamily

It’s the Thought That Counts

Over Thanksgiving dinner with the family, I made a very important announcement.

“I will be making all y’all homemade Christmas gifts this year.”

The conversation immediately ceased. Forks were suspended in mid-air and silence reined in the dining room.

“Yeah, I’m a crafter now,” I explained to my peeps. “That means someone who does crafts.”

“I do remember you posting something about cutting and gluing awhile back,” my mother-in-law offered.

“That was child’s play,” I said. “I’ve graduated to actually sewing stuff together using a needle and thread.”

“That’s wonderful, Rima!” my mother exclaimed. She’s always been my number one fan, and she’s been pushing for simple, grassroots Christmases for years.

Just to prove how serious I was, I explained that I’d made one test craft gift already, a present for a friend’s newborn.

“What did you make?” the family wanted to know.

“A teething ring,” I said.

“That’s interesting,” my mother mused. “And you sewed it, you said?”

“Yeah, I sewed up a tube out of some fabric scraps and stuffed a bunch of wooden beads in it separated by knots. And I sealed the whole shebang off with some hot glue, which has hopefully cooled off by now.”

“Did you say, ‘wooden beads’?”

“Yeah, all sewed up inside some fabric with a big old bow I hot glued to seal it shut.”

(Contemplative silence.)

“And the baby sucks on the fabric with the beads in it?” my aunt needed some clarification.


“That’s kind of gross.”

“Not to mention a choking hazard.”

All of a sudden I started feeling kind of bad about my handmade teething ring. I guessed it was probably not the optimal choice for a first attempt at a sewing craft, what with it being a potential choking hazard and all. My mother was still being pretty supportive about it, but I noticed that other people in the room – such as one of the Brothers-In-Dawg – was snickering over his digestif.

“You know what?” I said. “Forget it. As soon as my friend opens the package – which by the way I handcrafted – I’m going to intercept her and throw that stupid teething ring in the trash!”

“You wrapped it up already?” somebody asked. “Like you were actually going to give it to her?”

“Well, yeah. But forget it. I’m just going to rip that teething ring right out of my friend’s hands when she opens the package and throw it out!”

“Well, wait a minute, now, Rima,” someone offered. “You don’t have to throw it out.”

“Yeah, just tell the mom it’s a hood ornament.”

Well. I ended up gifting that teething ring, after all, but I told my friend that under no circumstances should she ever give it to her child. “It’s kind of a choking hazard,” I said.

She seemed to understand.

But I’m not giving up. I already made my friend V her handmade Christmas gift, and gifts for all Jonas’ teachers’, too. I also made a funky little flower pin which Twitter confirmed looks vaguely communistic (you can see it on my sidebar), so clearly no one will be getting that. I’ve been AWOL in blogland because what I do now is just wander up and down the aisles at Jo-Ann’s crafts, stalking the other crafter ladies to see what they have in their carts.

I would share some of my creations here with you, but they’re gifts, so it’s a surprise.

But just remember, family, when you open your Christmas gifts this year: It’s the thought that counts.

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Tales from the Trailer Park

One thing I learned on my recent road trip is that a person’s vacation is only as good as her ability to roll with the punches. I was presented with an opportunity to put this philosophy into practice when I first stepped foot inside our rented RV and got the distinct impression that people had lived in it before. But instead of relishing the feeling of a gritty floor beneath my feet, I railed against it.

“This RV is a piece of crap,” I announced to the P-Dawg after the rental guy had gone back inside his office. “It’s nothing like the one he showed me when I booked it!”

I had to turn away then, so the P-Dawg wouldn’t see the tears welling up in my eyes.

But my husband is a glass half full kind of guy, and whether he was truly blind to the dirty floor and the stained upholstery and the brown schmear on the wall of the kids’ sleeping loft, I will never know.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said as he re-attached a piece of wood paneling. “This is going to be awesome.”

It took us longer than expected to load the entire contents of our two-story colonial inside the thirty foot long RV, but soon enough we were bouncing along the Ohio turnpike, headed east. Once we were on the road, everyone’s spirits rose. The children for their part loved the freedom that the spacious table and couch seating afforded them, each choosing spots diametrically opposed one to the other. And the P-Dawg and I loved the fact that the motor rumbled so loudly, we couldn’t hear a thing either one of them was saying to us.

When we entered Pennsylvania, we realized it was mountainous and there were many white knuckled moments of barreling down steep, narrow inclines, which I must admit my husband navigated with the utmost finesse. As we approached the campsite where we were to spend our first night, the road continued to narrow until it was nothing more than primitive sort of towpath with a shoulder-less river embankment on one side (mine) and a cement wall on the other.

It was like trying to thread a motor home through the eye of a needle and we got through it by the skin of our teeth, thanks to the P-Dawg’s nerves of steel and my back seat driving credentials, which enabled me to hang my head out the side window like a golden retriever and periodically yell, “Oh, my God! You are WAY TOO CLOSE!!!”

But no sooner did we breathe a sigh of relief, than we were presented with our next recreational challenge: to back the ten foot wide camper into an eleven foot wide spot between two trees at dusk. I got out of the vehicle, and employing an elaborate system of made up hand gestures, guided the P-Dawg deftly into the spot. There was one touch and go moment when I disappeared momentarily from his view and he almost ran me over, but it’s the sort of thing you learn to expect after almost eleven years of marriage.

After we (and when I say “we,” I of course mean, “the P-Dawg”) hooked up all the various attachments which would provide us with basic necessities like water, electricity, and air conditioning for the night, I took the children on a walk around the campgrounds and my husband went down to the river behind our scenic camping spot to gather kindling. When the kids and I returned, he had a nice fire going and was making steaks on the charcoal grill. We ate our steaks at ten o’ clock in the evening with some baked beans and garden fresh tomatoes and cucumbers, and I daresay it was one of the best meals I ever had.

After that, it was time to settle in for our first night under the stars. So we went inside the camper and brushed our teeth with running water from the tap, watched an episode of the Wiggles on DVD, and crawled into our simple pallets made up with down comforters and Egyptian cotton sheets.

As I dozed off reading my Kindle and sipping on some chamomile tea I’d nuked in the microwave, I knew exactly how Lewis and Clark must have felt.



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What This Tree Lacks in Balls, it Makes up for in Character

This year I decided to have a grown-up, matchy-matchy Christmas tree. No multi-color baubles or foam and popsicle stick reindeer for me! I bought a basketful of overpriced monochrome ornaments and pre-approved every one that the kids hung up. When Jonas and V-meister were done, there were ornament clusters hanging like overripe bananas from the tip of every bough and only the lower three tiers were covered. After they’d gone to bed, OCD fairy swooped in and re-arranged the low hanging fruit and voila! – I had my perfect tree. Not quite catalog worthy, but still very nice.

Even so, I couldn’t forsake the mismatched “heritage” ornaments sitting in shoe boxes on the kitchen counter with their thirty plus years of memories safely shut inside. The faded and tattered trinkets that, en masse, contribute to the double-edged joy and melancholy of Christmas. As much as I love taking each one out and examining it in turn, the process is bittersweet, reminding me of fleeting childhoods and loved ones long gone.

There are the faceless ceramic newlyweds my mother-in-law gave the P-Dawg and me for our first Christmas together:

The disfigured drummer boy my husband painted as a child:

"One time, at band camp . . ."

My school picture, circa 1980:

All I Want for Christmas is a Professional Haircut and Normal Front Teeth

The photo of my grandmother with two-year-old Jonas:

I Miss Her Very Much

The bird that always hung on my paternal grandmother’s tree. We used to call her “Other Grandmother,” or “Kita Mo?ut?” because “Mo?ut?” was already taken. Can you imagine? It never occured to us to call her, “Mo?ut? Marija,” which would have been beautiful, and her actual name.  I never used to like the bird, but now it speaks to me:

"Oh, hi there . . . Other Rima"

The V-Meister’s paper doll chains:

The retro skating Santa from my grandparents’ old house:

The book ornament that was my favorite as a child, with real stories inside:

And the pine cones decorated by Jonas and V-meister’s little hands:

We hung them all, and then some, on a miniature tree in the sunroom. Our own little Nostalgia Zone.

And the children rejoiced. As far as they’re concerned, this one is the REAL Christmas tree.

They just might be right.

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