Tuesday, December 23, 2008

We're Ready!

The cookies are baked....

The presents are wrapped....

Our one token Santa decoration has been put out....

"Is it Christmas yet?"

Most years, I feel like Christmas sneaks up on me, but for some reason this year, I have been successful in trying to really enjoy the preparations and slow down enough to let everything soak in. It has been refreshing to focus on what all the extra activities and busyness are really about:

During Advent and Christmas we have a special time for spiritual reflection, soul-searching, and celebrating the things that are really worth celebrating (if we can separate them out from the many noisy distractions of the season)....listen to the message of the gospel that God comes down from heaven to bless the whole earth with his presence.
John Rossing

Monday, December 22, 2008

Decorations Abound!

Amy has done a great job with the Christmas decorations the last few years. I'm going to start calling her Amy Stewart, or Martha Noll...or something like that. She's good!


We've been wanting to decorate the house in a particular way for the last few years. Thanks to an after-Christmas sale last year and a neighborhood contest this year, I finally went for it. I'm still trying to get the official results because we were out of town when the judging took place, but suffice to say we didn't win. I entered us in the "traditional" category, but the voting revealed that our house wasn't traditional enough. Never mind that the winner had colored lights spattered all over their yard, but I'm not complaining (at least I think I'm not complaining). Truth be told, there were other homes that were more "traditional" than ours. They used wreaths, garland, red bows and spotlights which all seem to fit the category more appropriately. Our overall look would probably be better labeled "classic" because I know they didn't have strings of lights available when the homes in our neighborhood were built.

Even though we lost and the $150 worth of prizes went to someone else, I'm still really glad that we decorated outside as much as we did. Exterior illumination really adds to the festive spirit, don't you think? It's been fun having the lights on at night and all the wreaths visible by day. We didn't spend much money (I haven't actually received an electric bill yet) and I enjoyed (mostly) being outside with our new mp3 player and working away.

Next year I think I'll enlist Gus to help. He is light enough that he can probably shimmy up that peak of the house that I wasn't able to string lights on. It's so steep that I kept sliding down. Maybe he'll have better luck.

Christmas Trees

So, a couple of years ago we found this really cool Christmas tree farm down in northern GA. We cut down a Carolina Sapphire (CS) to try something new and were really happy with it. That particular tree had this really cool luminescence about it when the lights were on. It also put out this amazingly-strong aroma. I don't know how to describe it exactly, but it's kind of like a mixture of pine and citrus. Whatever it smells like, someone should bottle it and sell it every winter. It just smells like Christmas.

Last year, with Gus being as young as he was, we took it easy and just got a tree at a local nursery. It was a very nice tree, but we missed the experience of cutting down our own (so did my wallet!). This year, we had a hankering for another CS so the online search to find that same tree farm began. After what seemed like hours, we weren't having any luck though. We finally gave up and decided to hit a farm a little closer to home.

So, the Saturday after Thanksgiving we set out to cut down the Noll Family Christmas Tree. This year, we were joined by a few of our neighbors, Andrew, Cindy and "Male Baby." They live a few houses over and are part of our meal co-op. It was great to have them along.

After a few detours (it might be time for a GPS unit...and maybe a new co-pilot (Andrew)), we finally arrived and were surprised to find that SAME farm that we had visited two years prior. We came at it from a different direction, and I swear that the name changed, but it was definitely the same place so we were pretty excited. Carolina Sapphire, here we come!

We all wandered around for a while, but it was the Keans that found their tree first. Andrew thought he saw a beam of light shining down from above and I'm pretty sure he said he heard singing as well. No one else had quite that experience, but we all agreed that it was a great tree.

After the Kean's tree was netted and ready for transport, the Noll clan continued on in search of the perfect CS. At this point in the excursion, Gus was frozen from the waist down and was tired of the adventure. He looks pretty happy here, but I think this picture was taken soon after we arrived. Thankfully, Cindy saved the day by entertaining Gus while Amy and I looked for our tree.

We finally found the tree we were looking for. Of course it was in one of the areas furthest from the staging area, but our team motto from the beginning was, "Go big or go home" so there was no getting away from it.

Here, wishing we hadn't come up with that motto:

It was fortunate that I put the rack on top of the car because we wouldn't have made it back home with both trees otherwise. I think Andrew and I had eyes that were bigger than our ceilings at home! Each tree was about 12 or 13 feet tall and both of us had to do a little trimming to make them fit in our respective living rooms. I can't speak for the Kean's tree, but ours was over 5 feet wide near the base!

500 lights later, with the ornaments on the tree and our high wire act complete, we settled in to enjoy our tree for the '08 season.

I think that we've started a tradition that will carry into the years to come. In my opinion, it's so much more rewarding to cut down a tree. You can't beat the price either ($35!). Thanks for coming, Keans! Let's do it again next year! Gus and "Ebenezer" can pick out their own trees while the adults take care of the real business. "Go big or go home!"

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

German traditions

During our trip up to see my folks, we took a day-trip into Baltimore to a German festival at a church downtown.
Here are some of the amazing sights:

They had a train table all set up for Christmas, complete with two different types of trains, one of which produced real smoke! Gus was mesmorized.

Dad treated us all to bratwurst for lunch. Gus stayed busy hanging with the pigeons.

And of course, no trip to the big city is complete without seeing something that you can only describe with a picture!

Monday, December 15, 2008


So Amy's mom gave Gus some boots during our visit to MD over Thanksgiving. Gus REALLY likes them. He had a great time stomping around in them the first day. The next morning, he let Amy's dad know that he wanted them back on right away. He grabbed the first, small pair he found and didn't seem to mind that they were pink and that they belonged to his cousin, Grace! Well, boots are boots, I guess. Ah...to be free of social constructs!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Christmas Parade

Tonight we trooped out in the cold to see the Chattanooga Christmas parade on Market Street downtown. Pretty cold, but totally worth it. Gus enjoyed the entire thing, especially since everything was on wheels!

Things started off on a good note for Gus: two police cars with lights & sirens

Living in a smaller town definitely has perks: we stood right on the street and got a great candy haul!

Our neighbor Erin snagged this fireman's hat for Gus when the firetrucks went by. Following in his great-grandfather Parkinson's footsteps!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Wheel Love

A while back, I read about a study in which researchers were exploring the nature vs. nurture concept. Part of the research focused on infant monkeys and what they preferred to play with. They concluded that the males tended towards things that can be propelled through space (cars, balls, etc.) and the females preferred baby dolls and things that could be held or nurtured. So, while nurture certainly plays a part, it seems that we are inherently wired differently according to our sex.

So Gus, staying true to form (apparently), has been into anything with wheels for a few months now. Every time he sees a vehicle in a book, he points and says, "cah" or "kuck or "cactah" (tractor). If we turn the page and there isn't a vehicle on it, he'll turn back the pages until he's found one again. When we're out walking, he leans over the side of his stroller and watches the wheels. If he sees a vehicle, he watches it drive by or admires the wheels if it is parked. When he hears them driving, he searches for their location. If he hears a siren, the world stops. He carries his toy cars and trucks all over the house and has mastered the "vrooooom" noise. He always points them forward, never "driving" them backwards. I don't know how he picked up on that. It is so amazing. He's all boy, for sure.

Amy has been talking about how excited she'd be to see Gus play with all of the old toys in her parent's basement when we went to visit over Thanksgiving. One of the first things she did the morning after we arrived was to take Gus down to the basement to check out all the options. I guess there wasn't much doubt as to what he'd gravitate to, but they have quite an assortment of options so we didn't know for sure. Well, Gus went straight for the box full of cars and trucks. When he had looked them all over, he went for the larger tractor-trailer trucks up on the shelf. He kept himself occupied whenever we were in their house. He learned very quickly which door led downstairs and would stand in front of it signing, "Please. Please. Please. Please."

He's our little "I love anything with wheels" man.

Big. Small. Tractors. Construction vehicles. Motorcycles. Sports cars. Jeeps. Big rigs. Car transporters. Fire trucks. Even an Oscar Myer wiener car. It was all at Gus's disposal.

He's definitely partial to emergency vehicles and big rigs.

This white big rig was one of his favorites; it was just the right size for him to hold. Not pictured were a pair of "Made in the USA" plastic Jeeps from Amy's childhood that made the top ten list.

He'd almost always have two vehicles with him; one in each hand. Here, while reading a book. Walking around the house. Getting his diaper changed. Taking a bath. At meals. Except for bedtime, Gus was rarely without one of his companions. It was fun to watch.

Dinner Club...for the Weekend

Ok. So if you don't already know, we are members of a dinner club with four other couples that all live within two or three houses of us. We get together once a month to eat together. We also have a dinner co-op with the same group. We share meals every Sunday and Monday and then again every second Tuesday. It sounds complicated, but it makes our cooking lives so much easier. I'd highly recommend it! Anywho, a few weeks back we extended our monthly dinner for a 24-hour jaunt up to a cabin on the back of the Mountain with two of the four couples. It was our first field trip and we really enjoyed it. Thanks, guys, for making time to get away together and for being such great neighbors! We're glad God put us where we are!



Gus enjoyed hanging out with his two Deterding cousins, Grace & Leah, this past week during Thanksgiving. They did lots of side by side toddler playing (at least the two older ones) and got to practice sharing (which by the way, Uncle Jim, I will always associate now with your hilarious story about your nephew Joey saying, "SHARE!!"). They also slept a lot:)

Grace & Gus: pre-zoo powernap