Category: Christmas (page 1 of 2)

Family Christmas Letter, The 2014 Version

Hello, Dear Family and Friends! We have an update on our tiny, happy world:

Jana (19) shows university no mercy. She’s super successful in all her BYU studies, and after earning top marks in her first-year classes was asked to work this year as a TA in the economics department. She’s learning plenty of life lessons by living with roommates, and has found unsurprising personal strength as she faces grown-up challenges and makes adult decisions. When she comes home, everyone is thrilled and delighted. She makes our home happy when she’s there.

Katie (17) is plowing through her senior year in anticipation of her acts of World Domination to come. She excels in her courses (including 3 AP classes and 3 college courses), and anxiously awaits all the college acceptances. As soon as graduation is finished, she’ll throw her mortarboard hat into the air and board a plane for three weeks of European adventure. This she’s funding through her job fiddling on the Heber Valley Historic Railroad and teaching her 13 violin students. She works hard, she plays a little, and she impresses one and all with her wit, her talents, and her general fabulousness.

Ellie (13) rocks the 8th grade. She is an amazing student in all her content areas. One thing she’s loved is learning to play guitar at school. Her teacher occasionally lets her play his electric and his bass. She’s pretty much a rock star. She played goalkeeper for her competition soccer team this year, and has loved that experience – with all the practices, the wins and losses, and the ice cream after matches.

Matthew (11) has taken fifth grade by storm. He’s in a dedicated gifted classroom, and he’s pretty sure he’s the luckiest kid in America. He’s playing club basketball, trumpet, and piano, to all of which he dedicates before-school practice time. He loves to cook, and often spends Sunday afternoons making something delicious. He loves great books, movies and games, his sisters, giving gifts, pretty girls, and expensive cheeses.

Scott has been working most of this year on a super-secret project of his own devising. He’s been doing tons of research, writing, filming, editing, business-developing, networking, and general passion-following. It’s a joy to see him eagerly at work every day, creating and discovering happiness.

I love teaching high school English so much that it constantly surprises me that they pay me for it. I’ve come to grips with the fact that I no longer do anything very well. I do a lot of things not very well. It used to make me sad, but now I’m okay with the not-so-impressive situation at least half the time. I’m surrounded by a healthy, beautiful family. I know I can’t ask for more.

We feel hopeful and glad and grateful about the state of our lives. We live in peace in our home. We love God and are grateful for His Son, the reason for the hope and the gladness. We hope you feel the hope and the gladness, too. Merry Christmas!

Love, the Wilhite Family

Look! IT WORKS.

I’ve had ever so many great ideas of blog posts in the past 3 weeks. And I’ve had an interface problem for each one of them. Boo. But there’s this principle that we mention a whole lot at our house: “Ask for what you want and you might get what you want.” I asked for help, and look. It’s a BLOG. I know, right?

Life is good. Family is great. We had a lovely Christmas break. It was practically perfect. Work is good. It’s been a little snowy. Also, I’ve been writing a little bit every day on THIS:

It’s a 1935 Underwood, which just happens to be JUST LIKE the one my Grandmother-the-published-authoress used many years ago (and she died years before I was born, but I love that we have this thing in common). It’s clacky and noisy and sometimes I pound the keys hard enough to make holes in the “O” letters. There’s no #1. You use the “L”. And the apostrophe is above the 8 key. It’s so cool. I’m truly loving it. My husband gives really good Christmas gifts, you know.

MOVIES. I’ve seen two. I’ll give them their own posts, because I have thoughts.

BOOKS. I’ve ordered a few. And I’m re-reading POISONWOOD BIBLE because it’s been years. I can take as much time as I want to. I can ingest it sips at a time. It’s a beautiful piece of writing.

CLASSES. I finished the English ones I needed to get through this first year of teaching. I got a 96% on my last final. Nailed it. I remembered that I love Miss Emily Dickinson. And discovered Amy Lowell. Lady Poetesses. They’re the Goods.

INCHES of GRADING to ACCOMPLISH. There are about 12. Inches. Of grading to do. This week. All of which I totally asked for. I’m eager to read their journals and book reports (I have the students read a book [generally a novel, but I can be flexible] of their choice and write me a response paper to it. Honors kids have to do that plus another one for a classic, also of their choice [including modern classics]). They impress me, in general. Some of them try to Make Idiotic Choices (like copying paragraphs directly from SparkNotes, when hello? I introduced you to SparkNotes, you silly sophomore), but I try to talk them out of those particular choices.

TRAVEL PLANS. I’m making them. For a city place. And an international place. And I’m excited.

BOOK WRITING. I’m working on it. I’m glad to be doing so.

So I hope I can show up here now and then, and maybe even have something to say once in a while. It may take some work to get back into the groove, but I’m a girl who can do some work.

Things I Did Not Do While Substituting This Week

1. Write. Yeah, nothing.

2. Publicly mock. I threatened to, but it never happened. (As in, Dear Beginning Drama Classes, When you read your parts in these plays, don’t be lame. If you are lame, we will publicly mock you.)

3. Totally humiliate my Kid 1. Oh, wait. Yes. I did. Over and over, apparently. She survived and will continue to soldier on. It’s who she is.

4. Knock heads together. Tempting, but I managed not to do it.

5. Cry tears when the principal came in and sat through 30 minutes of my AP English lecture. (The kids were worried about me, so they stepped way up with the discussion and the commenting. They rule. Turns out he was just making sure we were all right, and our AP essay discussion was so ENGAGING he couldn’t walk away.)

6. Christmas shop in person. But I did a little online (not while I was ACTUALLY substituting) and I hereby declare my love (again and always) for buying gifts on Amazon. Te adoro, Amazon. Je t’aime. Ich liebe dich. I luuuuuurve you. And so on.

7. Very much laundry, cooking, housekeeping, or pre-Christmas deep cleaning. But nobody went actually hungry, and each of us wore clean(ish) clothes every day, so… WIN. Also, we had turkey dinner on Sunday. Win again.

8. Prepare for Kid 4’s ninth birthday, which is today. Yesterday afternoon, I asked him, “Hey, do you want a birthday cake?” and he shrugged and said, “Not if it’s inconvenient for you.” Then I kissed his face and made him Tres Leches, because it’s his favorite. And I love him. And Tres Leches cake. But mostly him. His oldest sister took him on a breakfast date this morning, because she has to work for the next 12 hours, and he’s as happy as boys get, I think.

9. Christmas cards / letters / photos / neighbor gifts. Can I beg off this year? Is that allowed?

10. Lose pounds. Some busy weeks I manage it. Not this time. Turns out standing in the same room all day and panicking doesn’t burn as many calories as I manage to eat. Alas.

What did you not do this week?

Christmas Cheer and Stuff

We’re in it deep here, friends. The Christmas cheer, I mean. An overload of presents, treats, menu plans, and giddiness. Yesterday was the Kids’ first day off school, and we spent it all together. Library, grocery store, bank [1], baking, eating dinner, Sleepless in Seattle, Chex mix… it doesn’t get a whole lot better than having them all want to be together, all day.

I would like to announce that for what may be the first time ever, I didn’t read the Kids’ gift books before wrapping them this year. Can I say? I’m excited for Sunday. And the following week. A steady diet of cold cereal meals and new books. Sounds perfect.

Decided to spend writing time this morning as a little devotional. I wrote my testimony. Committed it to paper. I don’t do that very often. Or maybe ever. But it felt good to do. And right, for the season and such. It’s a gift to have one, and a gift to share it.

Should I stop telling you how much I like kids? Mine, in particular? Because I maybe tell you a whole lot. But they are a whole lot awesome. All of them. Kid 1 is awesome. And Kid 2 is awesome. And Kid 3 is awesome. Also Kid 4 is awesome. See what I’m getting at? A whole lot of awesome.

And last night I read them David Sedaris’s “Six to Eight Black Men” as a little bit of Christmas cheer. I have managed difficult things in the past, like unmedicated childbirth and stuff, but I have to say, reading that out loud without laughing is a feat I am seriously proud of.

Speaking of feats. And feet.

(Look. I want. Don’t they make your feet happy? Or make you want some orange sherbet? Or something? I don’t know. But I want.)

In an effort to make the Christmas cheer last and last (and not to have a psychotic episode) I have limited my Christmas Music Intake to what happens when I’m in a store playing canned Johnny Mathis and Brenda Lee. And this is good. Because as you may recall, I have a limit to the Cheesy Songs of the Season. But we need to listen to SOMETHING in the house when we’re doing many dishes and making bread and apple pie bars and whatever. So we’ve discovered Pandora’s “PG Comedy Radio.” And it has saved me. In particular, I can put a load or three of dry, clean laundry in front of my kids as they sit on the floor laughing at Jim Gaffigan, Jeff Foxworthy, Brian Regan and BILL COSBY (“Noah, how long can you tread water?”) and they will fold it all, almost without noticing. Oh, thank you, Pandora. (Also, no commercials yet. Hours of comedy. Not a single commercial. Yet.) I know there are cool Pandora Christmas stations, but very few of the songs do it for me. (Except Barenaked Ladies and Sarah MacLaughlin’s “God Rest Ye…” and Katie Melua’s “Have Yourself A Merry…” and any of the awesome Christmas hymns that we sing around pianos or on porches.)

In the spirit of full disclosure, I should tell you this: Don’t hate me, please, if I am the only woman in the world who isn’t in love with Michael Buble. I can stand up and say it. I’m a Sinatra girl. Always have been. And I don’t know if I always will be, but I’d bet on it. I know it’s unfashionable to Not Adore MB, but I just don’t. I can do a song at a time. Then I need some hours of something else. But Kid 1, knowing this about me, made me listen to MB’s “Santa Baby” and she laughed  with me until our guts ached. Um, really? Mike, we should talk. Someone should have staged an intervention with that guy before the album was complete. Doesn’t he have an agent? Or an editor?

Attention future agent and/or editor: Please. Let me not take such a step. Thank you.

Hey, friends, I hope you have a Christmas full of cheer. I hope the food is good. I hope the family is near. If you’re still in That Stage, I hope batteries are included. I hope peace and fulfillment fill up all the corners. Merry Christmas.

XO,
B

[1] I don’t believe in credit cards. So I transfer all our savings. Somehow that should make some financial sense. Or something.

Wow. Wow. Wow.

Remember how I love the fact that I’m a stay-home kind of Mom? And that I have all manner of time to do whatever I feel like doing, such as baking things, and writing things, and planning things, and wrapping things, and writing some more things, and reading things, and napping and stuff? Remember?

I feel like I’m falling behind a little right now.

I’ve been doing a lot of subbing. I think it becomes 8 or 9 days in a row by the time I’m done. All for the same teacher, who is a good friend and an absolute CYCLONE. She is remarkable in her ability to retain seven thousand pieces of information in her head at any one time. (I do not, in any way, share this ability.) She is also amazing in her manner of coaching young actors. (Likewise, I share very, very little of this ability. I’m pretty good at compliments, though.) Also she just might assume that I’m good at / proficient / capable of comprehending a whole lot of stuff that is, in fact, a mystery to me. But I’m teaching Tale of Two Cities to the cutest AP English class, and when I come right out and ask them, “Who hates this book after the introductory first 6 chapters?” they actually tell me, and I tell them to hold on, because although Mr. Dickens isn’t going to get any less wordy, he is going to get a whole lot more character-driven in the very near future. And then, when I ask, “Who hasn’t been bothered to read this yet?” and they actually admit it, I tell them to get on it, because there’s something coming up that they really DO NOT want to miss. And then we read about Sydney and I sniffle a little in preparation for that which is to come. Oh, Sydney.

*sniffle*

Also, I play. As in, Drama. Teaching drama is a riot of Biblical proportions. Dogs and cats living together, I’m telling you. Oh, so fun. So, so fun. There are some clever and lovely kids I’m getting a chance to know, and I really do like this gig.

And I’m seriously grateful to have it.

Meanwhile, laundry? No. Reading any of the several library books on the nightstand? No. Making delicious, well-thought-out meals? Sorry. Planning / prepping / wrapping gifts (Christmas ones or Kid 4 birthday ones)? Oh. Not so much. Critiquing manuscripts? Don’t make me laugh. And just trust me on this: You do not want to take a close look at my kitchen floor.

Here’s how much I’m not doing: I have a manuscript (possibly finished [for this round]) and a finished query letter. How many agents have I sent it to? Zero. I decided that I need to give this my whole brain, and that means it will happen sometime after the NYC Publishing Industry Month-Long Shutdown.

WHAT? Becca, you ask. What are you thinking?

Well, I answer, I want it to be just right.

How much time do you really think it takes to fire off a bunch of emails? you want to know.

See, I reply, there’s more to it. I need to personalize each letter to each agent. I need to double check submission guidelines and statuses. (Also, I should find out if Statuses is a plural, or if there’s some sort of Latin -i ending. But not right now.) I need to send each agent what he or she wants, like the correct number of pages pasted into my cleverly written and totally not misspelled email. Also, I need to build in time to sweat and grow a few ulcers. Because, well, you know.

And I don’t have to be in a hurry right now. Lots of people do. It’s one of the downsides of having an actual contract. Deadlines. All my lines are currently alive, and I like them that way.

Carrying on. And trying to not forget to be awesome now and then. You, too, I hope.

(*Deep breath. Repeat.*)

Singing In

I’m not actually singing. But I am at a little Messiah Sing-in where Kid 2 is rocking the first violin. And I’m totally paying attention. I am. As much as I possibly can.

I was supposed to be singing, too — just in the choir, but I woke up grumpy this morning. So I bailed. Okay, not really. I mean, I did wake up kind of grumpy. And I did bail, but I also have a cold and didn’t fancy coughing and nose-blowing in front of dozens of people. Also I am singing in church tomorrow with Kids 1&2, so I can justify resting the voice. And try not to feel guilt about the six lonely altos up there on the stage.

Kids 1&2 both sing in high school choirs directed by the same little guy (remember Steve from Blues Clues? I’m pretty sure it’s the same person) and he had all the “women” in his choirs learn a three-part arrangement of The First Noel. So I got to learn the second soprano part to sing with the girls, which second soprano part I’m pretty sure is payment for sins past and future. And we will sing it tomorrow.

I’ll be sure to let you know if we were adorable.

Good morning. Ten things:

… And it’s a balmy Seven Degrees here in the Frozen Mountaintops. Frozen nose and fingers. From taking the garbage to the curb. It’s not that far away.

… Started reading the first Stephen King book (fiction, that is – I read ON WRITING and was thrilled) in more than twenty years this weekend. It’s creepy, I tell you what. (It’s the 11/22/63 one about the Kennedy assassination. And I’m scared. The man can tell a story.)

… Kids 3 (10.5) and 4 (very nearly eight) played Catchphrase yesterday afternoon while I was making Lemon Pound Cake. They were so funny. I wish you could have been a fly on the wall, because not much of it translates to blog. They speak their own language, frequently referencing platypus love, obscure MONK tv episodes, and pineapple. They’re cute. You can trust me on that.

… Amazon, get ready. I’m coming back today, armed with a credit card.

… Shopping is almost done. See above.

… Got the lights and decorations on the tree, and candles in the windows. I should take a picture. It looks precious. And I mean that with all the sincerity I can possibly muster. Truly.

… I love the little kids I work with at church. All 80 of them. They are adorable and hilarious.

… Scotch Tape, where have you gone? I mean it. Where are you?

… We sang Christmas songs in church yesterday, and it flipped a switch in me. Suddenly and without warning, I committed to singing in the Messiah Sing-In choir next weekend. The rehearsal last night brought some “who-do-you-think-you-are” eyebrows at our late join-up, but the music makes me crazy happy. To be alive. To worship Jesus. To sing alto. To repeat “we like sheep” until I have to actually put my hand over my mouth to suppress the “baaaaaa” noise. To want to dig deep into Isaiah and understand the Mysteries. Happy, happy.

… Hope is a thing with feathers, Emily Dickinson said. I love to see some feathers fluttering around here.

Going On

Researching (agents and editors. again. forever.)

Reading (chaim potok. oh,chaim. i lurrrrve you so.)

Walking (kids to bus stops, around blocks, around lakes, around neighborhoods, around farms.)

Eating (mostly plants up till dinner time. need to find me a butter plant. coconut oil may replace butter. or not.)

Setting Aside (the zero-draft manuscript [fifth gift] for a week before i start the actual revision process)

Opening (files of other set-aside manuscripts. anything ready to try submitting again? maybe.)

Laundering (natch.)

Shopping (for christmas. just a little. first box arrived last week. tee hee.)

Craving (a part in a musical. we saw “joseph” this weekend and it makes me want to audition for “thoroughly modern millie” next week.)

Weeding (oh, wow — i found my rock wall. *that’s* where it’s been hiding all summer.)

**What’s going on with you?**