The five objects I would save if the house was on fire...

But first, here are some pictures from Thanksgiving...
These are the turkey cupcakes I made for Brigham's class "feast"

Brigham's preschool class all dressed up as pilgrims and Indians. They even had pilgrim and Indian names- Briggie was Squanto!

My twin cousins Thomas and Charles, who remind me of Fred and George from Harry Potter- one of them dressed up in an inflatable Santa suit after Thanksgiving dinner. The boys were a little confused as to why Santa supposedly lives at the North Pole and yet has a pronounced southern accent...

Eric and Brigham changing the oil pan gasket in our car...

This was a giant gingerbread house that they had at Wild Dunes for all the kids decorate. They each got a little tray with icing and some candy to stick on. Great idea!

And here we are, earlier tonight, decorating our Christmas tree, which we cut down all by ourselves, using a combination of sawing and chopping (little Eric just really, really wanted to use an ax). Interestingly, the two states in which Eric and I were born are the number one and two producers of Christmas trees in the U.S.- Oregon (#1) and North Carolina (#2).

And that brings me to the inspiration for this post. The five objects I would save if the house caught on fire. Our Christmas stockings. There are very few domestic pursuits in which the women of my family distinguish themselves. In fact, there is exactly one: knitting. My Mom, grandmom, aunt and cousin can knit absolutely anything, and they have. But the pinnacle of knitting achievement in our family is the Christmas stocking. You're not a real member of the family until you have one. Before my Mom and Jeff got married, we used to say of her various boyfriends, "What do you think? Does he have stocking potential?".

If you're really exceptional, you even have two stockings, like me:). Actually that's because my grandmother knitted me one when I was born (which is the fifth object, not pictured), but my mom accused her of using inferior wool, which is a grave insult, and knitted me another one. And thus was born, the Bird Santa (pictured below). It's a Santa, in the shape of a bird, as you can see. My mom can do two styles of Santa, the Bird Santa and the "traditional" Santa. We all have Bird Santas- they're the coolest. My brother and Brigham both have camels on their stockings- those are pretty cool too.

So thank you, Mama, for the gift of always knowing that of all the people in the world, I have the best Christmas stocking there is, complete with the original Bird Santa and a cashmere panda! I'm sure I'll never live up to your incredible knitting prowess, but I know I've got to try, in case you ever start trying to use substandard wool ;).


Green love, tenacious curls and a pair of strumming Erics

Yesterday we packed up the kids and went to tour the Duke Smart Home, which is an experimental house that will open as a dorm/live-in lab on campus this spring. It was SO COOL! Aside from being beautiful, in a mod sort of way, every aspect of the house was intelligently designed. For example, the exterior walls are covered with fibrous cement panels that never have to be painted or maintained in any way. There are 2-3 cm gaps between the panels. Normal houses, which are built to be as water- and air-tight as possible, inevitably do let some moisture in, which then can't evaporate, and ends up causing mold and other yucky problems. In the smart home, there is a waterproof "membrane" (very sci-fi) under the panels, but because of the gaps, water that gets in evaporates easily, and you never have things growing in your walls. The roof was designed to collect rain water and store it in two huge tanks next to the house. The water is then filtered and used in the toilets and washing machine. To me, the most impressive feature wasn't even technological: a trellis on the front porch planted with grape vines. They'll produce food, and in the summer, cut down on cooling costs by shading the house. Then in the winter the leaves will fall off and let light and heat through. So smart! Anyway, the whole experience was incredibly inspiring. At the end of the tour, they handed out compact fluorescent light bulbs- and since we had our kids with us, plus Carson and McKenzie, whom we were watching while our friends were out of town, we got enough for the five recessed lights in the boys' bedroom. It's ever-so-slightly blinding when you flick the lights on in there now, but the new bulbs use one-fourth the energy of the old ones, so we feel very virtuous:). Follow this link if you're interested in learning more: www.smarthome.duke.edu.

Having four kids for three days turned out to be amazingly fun, especially since McKenzie and Carson are SUCH good, sweet kids. Carson is a koala bear- he literally just stays clamped to you all day like one of those little clip-on koalas- it's as cute as it sounds. And McKenzie was SO patient with my fixation on doing her hair. Apparently fifteen years of straightening my own hair has made me a little cocky. When her mom, Lindsay, who has beautifully straight, shiny hair right out of the shower, complained about how impossible it is to straighten McKenzie's curls, I smugly concocted a plan to present her with a perfectly stick-straight McKenzie when she got home. So the curls and I went head-to-head. I used matrix shampoo and conditioner, followed by iron-smoother and straightening serum on the girl- she probably had a full ten dollars worth of product on her head. Finally, after twenty minutes with the blow-dryer, her hair was somewhat straight. Then she shook her head for some reason, and the curls came right back!!! I never did get the chance to try a flat iron though, so I'm still holding out hope for the next time they go out of town....

Here are the kids, all clean and ready for bed- note the curls!

Post-straightening...some progress

And they're back. But she's still adorable:)

Little Eric (or "small Eric", as McKenzie calls him) turned six last week. For his birthday he asked for and got his very first guitar. True to form, Big Eric found himself incapable of buying just any guitar, and had to (with help from Grammie, of course) get a half-size Martin. When the boys are interested in something that Eric happens to love, they must not have sub-standard equipment! I only hope we can get ourselves through grad-school before he starts building them thousand-dollar bikes. In all honesty though, it's incredibly cute to watch them playing together. Even worth the anxiety of one more thing the dog must be kept from destroying. Briggie is pretty uninterested in the whole guitar thing...I see him playing a brass instrument...maybe the trumpet or the tuba...and since I've already consumed an unhealthy amount of chocolate icing while writing this post and I should really stop, I'll leave you with that adorable mental image. :)