Friday, December 29, 2006

New Year's Resolutions

Do you do them? Resolutions, I mean. I do think of the new year as a fresh start, and as a logical place to make a change.

According to those who know, the majority of all Americans make the same 10 resolutions each year:
1. Spend more time with family and friends
2. Get in better shape
3. Lose weight
4. Quit smoking
5. Enjoy life more
6. Quit drinking
7. Get out of debt
8. Learn something new
9. Help others
10. Get organized

And, according to others who know, there are 5 key things to do to make your resolutions successful:
1. Create a plan.
2. Create that plan NOW.
3. Write down your resolution and plan.
4. Think "year round", not just New Year's
5. Remain flexible.

I would add a sixth -
6. Remember it's a journey, not a destination


What to do with all this information? I don't need to quit smoking or drinking, but all the other "top 10" are enticing. I am handling numbers 2, 3 and 8 all in one fell swoop by starting Tae Kwon Do in January - Ty, his teacher, and other parents have talked me in to giving it a shot. I don't think I need to tackle all 10 items on the list in one year, do I?

More to come ....

Thursday, December 28, 2006


Well, I was at Barnes & Noble today and overheard one clerk say to the other "Are you working Harry Potter Day? It's most likely 7-7-07, you know."

The excitement builds ...

Sunday, December 24, 2006

African Christmas

Just a week or so ago, we received a care package for the holidays all the way from Tanzania! We saved the goodies until Christmas Eve to open. The first gifts for the boys were two genuine ostrich eggs. I made them close their eyes and I handed them over - you can see Ty is excited but Ben isn't too sure!Once they got them and opened their eyes, they examined them thoroughly ... (I don't know what Ben hears in there, though!)Each of us got some African products ... Karen got a towel and bag,Steve got a T-shirt with a logo of Tanzanian beer (he held it up so high you can't see him behind it!) and a beaded key chain,And Ben & Ty each got some quills (we think? help us out here, Carla!) and a lightweight throw (I'm told they are called "shukas") in addition to their eggs.

Asante Sana, Hillmans!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Christmas Part I

Here we are, before opening our gifts. Thus no bows on our heads (another family tradition. This year, thanks to my inability to get the camera to work, the bows-on-the-heads photo didn't turn out, it's all blurry.)

Mary, your spot is supposed to be behind Ben, to Grandpa's right.

We send our love to you and all the family in Ireland.

When you get home, we will celebrate Christmas again, and I will bring enough bows that we can do another family portrait, with bows, and with you.

Christmas Part I: The Greatest Gift

Conor may be 15, but he is truly a kid at heart - he takes after his Grandfather that way! He was so very excited to see that the biggest gift under the tree was for him. His grin can be seen from the moon, I think, if the night is clear (especially since those pesky braces are gone now!)

His yell was so loud and his actions so animated when he saw what the gift was, that he scared poor Colby half-to-death and he (the dog, not Conor) shook for an hour!

The gift was a Halloween gadget .. a floating, talking ghost head in a ball. Conor adores Halloween. He revels in it. He lives for it. And now his 2007 Halloween Party will have a new addition, thanks to Ben & Ty.
If only he would share how he's feeling a little more .....

Christmas Part I, continued

Some more photos of gift openings. My camera was being weird on me, so many of the pictures I took didn't turn out well at all - most were blurry or dark.

Some might offer an opinion that it was user error, but we know that couldn't be it.

Christmas, Part 1: Dumb Clothes

Tonight we celebrated Christmas with the Holt side of our family, although we keenly missed Mary who was home in Ireland after a death in the family.

Every year, Grandma Sandy gives everyone "dumb clothes" - so named by Conor when he was just a wee tyke, and now a term used by everyone. It starts as soon as they walk in the door.

"Oh, that box looks like dumb clothes." "Yup, there's one with my name on it, too. More dumb clothes."

Actually, as the kids get older there is more excitement in their voices when they see those telltale boxes, and Grandma knows how disappointed everyone would be were there no dumb clothes at the family celebration!

Usually, Mary and I get identical boxes with our dumb clothes - different colors but same style - so I really missed her when I was opening my dumb clothes all by myself.

Anyway, it's become a strong and valued family tradition now to get dumb clothes from Grandma, and here are a few modelling this year's take.
We know Mary can get to a computer over there, so these photos are for her! We really, really miss you!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Upcoming Reading

No word, of course of a publishing date.
But still we can dream ...

Nutcracker Madness

Ben & Ty had fun when we had the Nutcrackers down for the official holiday photo (seen above.)

Here's one that didn't make the cut ... they were "being nutcrackers" here ...

And here one nutcracker has discovered his sword fits nicely into another's armpit ...

Then a really funny thing happened, the nutcrackers all got together and started singing us carols. (Well, all except the guy on the end with the big hat. Hey, that's the guy with the sword. He really needs to work on his holiday spirit.)
Merry Christmas, Everybody!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Mmm, Mmm, Good!

Our artistry at work!

The photo that wasn't

This was supposed to be our holiday photo this year, but when I had them printed out at Walgreen's Colby turned into a big black blob ... totally unrecognizable as a canine. So, though it's a good picture, it won't be going out to everyone in the mail . Sorry!

Gingerbread 2006!

Every year for the past 19 we have built gingerbread houses with some dear friends. The tradition started when Steve & I were dating, continued through the births of our friends' two children and then ours, and then became an even more valuable tradition to us when the wife of this family died unexpectedly 5 years ago. She tended to be the primary organizer of the tradition each year, so now we continue on in her memory and in her honor - she would have wanted us to continue laughing, creating, and enjoying the art of gingerbread. This year was the first year where Ben & Ty really did absolutely everything on our house and train. We use kits for the structures, but really go to town decorating. Past years' accomplishments have included hot-tubbing gingerbread people, reindeer crashing through a roof, cell phone towers, and wood piles larger than the house!
The boys took their roles very seriously - Ben took primary responsibility for the house, and Ty had the train.
Note the billowing smoke coming from the chimney, and the satellite dish for TV on the roof - Steve was so proud!
Ty's train was a zoo train; that's a monkey escaping on top of the engine!

Next year for our 20th, I think I will try to pull together photos from every year and make memory books for both families!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Magical Christmas Tree

Our tree this year reflects in the windows at night,
making it look like a forest of lighted trees.
Truly a magical sight!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Great Video Link

This link was posted in an e-group I read; it's an incredible video of a house with holiday lights set up to "dance" to music. Idid find myself wondering what it would be like to be these people's neighbor ... but if you can get past that thought and lose yourself in the experience it's incredible! Be sure your kids are watching, too, they will love it. (And have grandiose plans for YOUR house next year.....)

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Family Portrait

The Holts had a family portrait taken over Thanksgiving Weekend ... I added the holiday cheer!

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas ...

We have been busy getting decorations out and making the house look festive for the holidays! We put the Snow Village up earlier this week - our masculine village with a gas station, police station, fire station, road construction crew, boys' clubhouse (no girls allowed!), garbage truck, bulldozer, home construction site, Lego factory, and one nice house for Mom :-) We got our tree last night and had fun reminiscing with each ornament...
After I saw this photo I realized I haven't put the garlands on yet, so will get those added and then take another photo. Now to fill up the underneath part with gifts!

Mary Cheney

There was a good opinion piece in the paper this morning, about the significance of Mary Cheney's pregnancy. I was going to paste the link here but apparently it isn't online yet - perhaps tomorrow? Anyway, the main gist of the article is the author wondering what, if anything , will change in the way:

A. Mary Cheney defines her political party affinity
B. Dick Cheney publicly talks about gay marriage and gay parenthood
C. Republicans in general view gay parenthood and marriage.

The official Republican stance seems to be that the sole pertinent variable which determines an individual's ability to parent well is how they obtain sexual gratification. Not their abilty to be a responsible, hard-working, cheerful, patient, creative, loving, committed, nurturing, church-going, reliable, tolerant, accepting, doing-the-best-they-can human being. Not their divorce record, tendencies to violence, abusive habits, addictions, mean-spiritedness, irresponsibilty, lack of concern for others, or any other traits that are proven harmful to children.

Nope, the official stance of the Republican Party is that people can have none of what I listed first, and all of what I listed second, and still be acceptable as a parent as long as they engage in heterosexual relations.

Can you tell how crazy this makes me?!?

Clearly I know Republicans who do not toe the party line on this issue. I also know Republicans who are uncomfortable with talking about it because while they admit the standard of what is acceptable parenting should not be solely determined by sexuality, they still think gays should not be permitted to marry - or have children. And yes, I know Republicans who stand up tall and state in clear, loud voices, filled with pride, that people who are gay should never be allowed to marry, and should never be allowed to have children.

I try to avoid people in that last group.

African Americans couldn't sit in the front of the bus.
Women couldn't vote or own property.
Japanese Americans had to go to camps during the war.

All were regulations founded on fear. All have been shown over time to be without base.

Gays can't get married.

Discrimination is discrimination.

It takes a while ...

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Holidazzle 2006!

Tonight was warm and clear. So we decided to join the approximately 1,487,927 other people downtown Minneapolis on an 8-block stretch of Nicollet Mall for the Holidazzle parade! The boys & I went with friends Shawn, Pat and Hannah (pictured below with B & T) and though they look semi-bundled up, really it was unbelievably warm - I never buttoned my coat or put on my mittens.The kids wormed their way to the curb; I took these photos by holding the camera above my head and hoping for the best. You don't get to see all the ones that didn't turn out!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Feed My Starving Children

About a year and a half ago, I was at a Peace House meeting and one of the women said she couldn't stay because she had to go to "feed my starving children." I know her kids, and wondered aloud why they couldn't feed themselves, seeing as they are about 15 and 18. She looked at me like I was crazy ... and introduced me to the nonprofit organization, Feed My Starving Children, which is a Minnesota-based group working to end world hunger by creating and distributing dry food packets.

They have developed a nutritionally sound mix which, when mixed with boiling water, provides the needed nutrients and bulk to not only fill starving tummies, but also promote healing within the body to bring the children back to good health. For 14 cents per serving, they can feed a child a good meal. It's amazing when you think about it.

So we had the opportunity to go volunteer there on an MNVA field trip. We went once last year, and again yesterday. We wear hairnets and aprons and have a great time. Here are the boys at work:

Our group of about 20 people packaged about 700 bags - each bag feeds 6, so we made over 4200 meals yesterday. Hooray for us! I love that B & T had fun and are understanding how a little work on our end can make a significant difference in the lives of others.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Twelve Angry Men

Tonight I went to see "Twelve Angry Men" - starring Richard (John Boy) Thomas and George (NORM!) Wendt. It was amazing. I don't know why, but I have never read this play nor seen the movie version. I had a vague idea of what it was about - knew it was about a jury, knew it was a murder case - but knew nothing else.

The play (and this is the original Boardway cast, so it was amazing) is set in one scene, in one room, and with no intermission. In some ways it seemed so much longer than the 90 minutes it ran, in others it seemed to have just started and it was over.

Throughout the play I found myself thinking about the jury system, and how the concept of "reasonable doubt" really is a large part of what makes our country what it is. As I listened to the play, I thought a lot about how bad the accused boy's lawyer in this play was - but how wonderfully the jury was working, to do all the things that the jury is supposed to do in theory, but I suppose in reality it may not always work so well.

I have never been called to jury duty. I've always wanted to be. I hope that I would be able to do the job required in the manner it is meant to be.

Monday, December 04, 2006

The Gift of a Century

Last night we were at my parents' house for dinner and were talking about the age of my parents when I was born (22 and 21.) Ty announced that I had a better chance of living to be 100 since my mom was less than 25 when I was born. We all looked at him and kind of said, "umm, ok..." and the conversation went on. I wasn't sure if this was some kind of new math he had come up with on his own, or some obscure fact he had picked up somewhere (he does read a lot!)

So today the phone rings early in the morning and it's my mom, asking if I have seen the newspaper yet. On the Commentary page, there is an article called "Women's Biological Clock Gets a New Twist." In the opening paragraph, the author talks of a study which shows that women who give birth before their 25th birthdays give their children the gift of a better chance of reaching age 100.

(For some reason Blogger is not letting me paste a link, so here's the URL in case you want to read the article:

I asked Ty how he knew that, and he couldn't remember ... either he read it in his book "1500 Strange Facts" or possibly on the internet, he thought. I hope it was the book, I don't like the idea of him reading odd things online.

His grandmother is convinced he's a genius!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Little Democrats

I just found this link ... now my problem is, do I order a copy to see if it's for real?!?

Ty's Jokes, part II

Welcome to session two of Ty's jokes.

Today's joke is:
What is the difference between a rabbit and a gorilla?

Give up?
A rabbit looks nothing like a gorilla!

Ha, ha.
That's all for today!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Inspiration for the Day

"You must be the change you want to see in the world." -- Mahatma Gandhi

Can't even remember where I found this quote today .. a senior moment as I just found it about a half-hour ago.

Anyway, I like it. It meshes with my personal feelings of taking responsibility for leading by example, as opposed to talking more than doing.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Music Recommendations

Hey, Friends -- I am seeking music recommendations. Really, this is for you, Calandria, as the type of music I like often involves Spanish-speakers :-) There is something about listening to music and not understanding the words that I really enjoy. Plus the Latin style of music usually brings pleasure - whether it's a lively tune I cannot NOT tap my feet to, or a mellow melody which relaxes me into a hypnotic trance.

Now, I am still a low-tech kind of gal, so I need CDs that I can actually buy, not download on to an iPod. Maybe someday I'll go that route but for now I buy CDs and play them in my car ...

Any recommendations?


Today is November 28. It's raining. This is just wrong.




Saturday, November 25, 2006

Two Day Affair

(So many things to write about this morning!)

I heard something on the news last night that I am determined to turn in to a Peterson Family Tradition starting next year.

Make Thanksgiving a two-day affair.

Day one (Thursday) is for THANKS.
Day two (Friday) is for GIVING.

Celebrate Thursday the traditional way, with family and friends, reflecting on all we have been given in this life.

Then, Friday, do something concrete which gives to others. Shop for an "adopted family" for the holidays. If weather permits, shovel snow for someone who can't. Take a walk in a park and collect trash. Visit as many Salvation Army bell-ringers as you can find and give money to each. Visit a nursing home to spend time with someone who has no family to celebrate the holidays with. The possiblities are endless.

I love it!

'Nuff said.

Another Hero (of sorts!)

You may remember a long-ago post I wrote on Heroes. This morning, reading the newspaper, I found someone else to add. I vaguely remember hearing about this some months ago when it was introduced to the world at large. Stephon Marbury, a professional basketball player (former Timberwolf), introduced his personal brand of sneakers. Following the likes of Michael Jordan, with one very significant difference. A pair of Jordan sneakers costs $179. A pair of Marbury's costs you just $14.98.

He grew up very poor, and can remember, he says, what it was like to not be able to afford good shoes for playing ball. He claims (and all the articles I can find agree) that his new show is basically the same as other "pro shoes" - in fact, he wears them himself when playing games. The standard seems to be that a decent pair of sneakers costs about $12 to make.

So the difference in profit, and the difference that Marbury makes vs what Jordan makes, is quite clear.

When the shoe was announced, many said no one would want the shoes since they were so cheap - that kids would be embarrassed to wear it to school for fear of being teased. That was August. I couldn't find any statistics as to the truth of that, but the article I read this morning was about how difficult it is to find the shoes, and how fast they are selling any time a store gets a shipment. So maybe there are some kids that are embarrassed, but it sure seems that there are plenty who aren't.

Apparently Marbury is not exactly the world's best role model as a professional sports figure, and apparently he isn't even that good of a basketball player. But this effort of his places him, at least for now, on my hero list.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Happy Birthday Ben!

Today my first-born turned 12. Almost a teenager. Almost as tall as me. Almost able to wear my shoes with no slipping at all. Where has the time gone?

Here he is, a few months old, in one of my all-time favorite pictures.

And here he is tonight, snuggling in his new down comforter. I realized he really is getting older when I noted that none of his gifts from Steve and I were toys. He was thrilled to get a queen-size down comforter (even though he sleeps in a twin-size bed!)

He (as usual) chose a birthday pie as opposed to a traditional cake, and blew very gently so as not to get germs from his cold on the pie!

He got a set of hand weights from Colby... what do you suppose the dog had in mind?

Ty rescued him from an entirely Lego-free birthday (phew!) with this gift, the Exo-Force Sonic Phantom.

He spent the day playing computer games (about 8 hours' worth!) and never even saw the sun. It is his birthday, afterall.

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