Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Holidays Are Almost Over

Our weekend was sort of busy. On Saturday, all of us helped my mother prepare the house and food for today, when several of my mother’s relatives were lunch and dinner guests.

Whenever we could spare some time, my brothers and Josh and I would get on the floor and play with my nephew. He loves it when we play with him, and talk to him and laugh with him. He loves it when we give him piggyback rides and swing him through the air. He likes lots of attention.

Apparently he had a ball on Christmas morning. He tore through his presents like a house on fire (with a little help from my middle brother). He became so excited that, after his gifts had all been opened, he could not even eat his breakfast. I wish I could have been there to see it.

It is fun to watch my nephew react and interact with my parents. He can tell that his grandparents love him devotedly and without limit, and he plays up to that, always looking and smiling at my mother and father. He likes it when my parents watch him, and keep their eyes on what he is doing, and talk to him, and he likes it when they stop what they are doing and pick him up and hold him in their laps.

He did not like having lots of guests today. He viewed my mother’s relatives as interlopers on his playground, and he was torn between two conflicting reactions: wanting to keep an eye on them, at a respectful distance, and wanting to be as far away from them as possible.

Much of the day my brothers and Josh and I kept my nephew in the downstairs family room, where we played with him and the dog. However, my nephew kept asking us whether the strangers upstairs were still there, and every half hour or so we would have to take him upstairs so that he could have a peek for himself, at which point he immediately wanted to go back downstairs.

My parents and guests ate lunch and dinner in the dining room, but the rest of us took our meals in the kitchen, where we normally eat. I don’t think my nephew ever figured out who the guests were or why they had been invited into his house. He appeared to be relieved when they departed and he could have his house back.

The holidays are almost over, hard as it is to believe. The holidays always seem to pass too quickly, but this year they passed more quickly than ever before. Happily, we will get to see everyone again over Presidents’ Day Weekend, because we all decided to congregate in New York that weekend. Northwest is having a fare sale, and we have already booked our tickets.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

To Stay Our Minds On And Be Staid

O Star (the fairest one in sight),
We grant your loftiness the right
To some obscurity of cloud –
It will not do to say of night,
Since dark is what brings out your light.
Some mystery becomes the proud.
But to be wholly taciturn
In your reserve is not allowed.

Say something to us we can learn
By heart and when alone repeat.
Say something! And it says “I burn.”
But say with what degree of heat.
Talk Fahrenheit, talk Centigrade.
Use language we can comprehend.
Tell us what elements you blend.

It gives us strangely little aid,
But does tell something in the end.
And steadfast as Keats’ Eremite,
Not even stooping from its sphere,
It asks a little of us here.
It asks of us a certain height,
So when at times the mob is swayed
To carry praise or blame too far,
We may choose something like a star
To stay our minds on and be staid.

Robert Frost, 1947

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Christmas Preparations

Our weekend was very, very nice.

On Friday evening, Joshua and I had my parents over for dinner. We baked a small ham. While the ham was baking, we made homemade applesauce. Then, while the applesauce was finishing up, we made potato pancakes and glazed carrots. At the very last minute, we steamed some peas. It was a very nice dinner, as it turned out. For dessert, we ate some date/nut Christmas cookies that my mother had baked on Friday afternoon. They come from an old Norwegian recipe and they are one of my mother’s specialties—and they are my personal favorite kind of cookie. I could eat them every day.

On Saturday morning, Josh and I moved over to my parents’ house so that we could help them complete their Christmas preparations. The Christmas gifts Josh and I had ordered online had been delivered to my parents’ house last week, so the first thing we did was wrap and package the gifts for Josh’s family and take the package to the Post Office.

When we returned, we wrapped the remainder of our gifts and we helped my parents wrap their gifts, getting that out of the way. After lunch, Josh and I cleaned rooms upstairs while my mother did work in the kitchen. My father went back and forth, offering assistance as needed.

On Saturday night, we went out for dinner and, after a quick meal, we helped my parents do a little Christmas shopping. We were looking, mostly, for interesting toys for my nephew.

Today, after church, Josh and I finished our work cleaning rooms upstairs. When the job was done, there really was nothing more for my parents to have to worry about before my brothers arrive on Friday night. My mother will do some food shopping this week, and do some last-minute vacuuming and dusting, but otherwise she and my father are fully prepared for Christmas, more or less.

We listened to one piece of music all weekend, a work with a Christmas theme—the first, and probably the only, composition of Christmas music this year for all of us—but what a piece we chose: Hector Berlioz’s “L’Enfance Du Christ”, a three-part telling of the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt. Is there a more sublime composition appropriate to the Christmas season?

The recording we listened to was the Colin Davis recording on the Philips label, with Janet Baker, Eric Tappy, Thomas Allen, Jules Bastin and The John Alldis Choir and London Symphony Orchestra.

I have always loved “L’Enfance Du Christ” and I have always loved this recording. Janet Baker and Thomas Allen are in marvelous voice and make a tender Joseph and Mary. Eric Tappy, with his distinctive and slightly tangy voice, is a distinctive narrator. Jules Bastin’s recorded voice has always seemed to me to be too dry—my parents say that he was just as dry-voiced in person—but his role, Herod, disappears after the first part.

What holds this performance together is Colin Davis, as good a Berlioz conductor who has ever raised a baton. His performance is delicate and sensitive, but it is also pointed, where necessary, and it maintains its concentration beautifully. “L’Enfance Du Christ” is a very difficult work to bring off—performances are often either too pastoral to the point of blandness (John Eliot Gardiner), or they try too hard to relate the work to Berlioz’s overtly dramatic works (Charles Dutoit And Charles Munch)—but Colin Davis conducts this work better than any other conductor, past or present. His work is expressive and contemplative, focused but not in a hurry, and he maintains the momentum of the story, an almost impossible task, all in all. Davis in “L’Enfance Du Christ” makes Dutoit, Gardiner and Munch in this same work seem clueless and inept, unstylish and inelegant.

Until this weekend, Josh had never heard “L’Enfance Du Christ”, and he did not like the work the first couple of times we played the discs. By the third or fourth listen, however, Josh started to like the work very much. By this afternoon, as soon as the 100-minute work concluded, Josh was ready to press the “play” button immediately in order to start the work anew.

On Saturday, Josh and I will fly to Oklahoma. Things have been interesting recently in Oklahoma, what with the snow and ice storms, another of which hit this weekend. Josh’s family has been without electricity a couple of times over the last week, and I told Josh that he needed to find out from his family whether he and I were still welcome as Christmas guests. My worry was and is that things in Oklahoma are still in disarray, and that our imminent arrival might become nothing so much as an unwelcome burden upon Josh’s family.

Josh’s family assured us that Christmas was still on, bad weather or not, and that Josh and I were expected to come, as planned—as long as the Oklahoma City Airport was open.

We are looking forward to spending Christmas with Josh’s family. I am looking forward to meeting Josh’s aunts and uncles, and spending time getting to know Josh’s family better.

Josh and I will get our things together for the trip this week. On Friday night, we will help my parents collect my brothers and my older brother’s family at the airport, and we will go to my parents’ house and have a preliminary Christmas celebration, during which Josh and I will exchange gifts with my family. Josh and I will give everyone our gifts to them, and everyone will give Josh and me their gifts to us. They will save the rest of the gifts until Christmas morning.

My mother is still trying to decide what foods to have for dinner Friday night—she wants to have something special, but she does not want to duplicate Christmas dinner. I suggested that she stick with something very simple and very easy to prepare, but she may not heed my wishes. She will, no doubt, have a very special dinner that night, both to welcome everyone home and to send Josh and me on our way.

This will be my first Christmas away from home. I think this will be very hard on my mother. According to my father, my mother does not look forward to my absence, to put it in the mildest possible way. Happily for her, she will have everyone else to make a fuss over while Josh and I are away. Further, Josh and I will be back two days after Christmas, and we will spend the remainder of the holidays at my parents’ house.

Compared to last year, this year’s Christmas preparations have been a snap, I think. Last year, it seemed that we spent the entire month of December preparing for the holidays.

Things were much more complicated last year for three reasons. First, my mother wanted to have a very special Christmas last year: we had missed out on Thanksgiving (we had been in Germany over the Thanksgiving period); it was my nephew’s first real Christmas (the previous Christmas, he had been only two months old, and he had been nothing more than a sleeping machine); and it was Josh’s first Christmas with my family. Second, having had no Thanksgiving last year, we had made no Thanksgiving preparations that carried over to Christmas; this year, in contrast, my Mom and Josh and I did a lot of work preparing for Thanksgiving while my Dad was in Zurich, and our Thanksgiving preparations carried over to Christmas, making things much simpler this year. Third, my parents had observed Josh and me performing our Christmas shopping online last year, and this year they decided to do the same, at least insofar as possible.

The result: this year’s Christmas preparations were completed, soup to nuts, in two weekends, and two weekends alone. I think that this must be a record for my family—and, moreover, my mother hardly had to lift a finger (except to do some baking, which she loves to do anyway).

This week will be a busy one for Josh and me. We have Christmas parties on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights, we have to get our things ready for Oklahoma, and we have projects to complete at work before we go (both of us will be working every day this week). It is good, therefore, that my parents are taken care of.

Everything has fallen into place.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Christmas Is Drawing Closer!

This weekend Joshua and I will help my parents complete their Christmas preparations.

Tonight Josh and I will have my parents over for dinner. This will give my mother a break from all the cooking she will be doing over the next three weeks. I think we may bake a small ham. Tomorrow my mother can boil the remaining meat and bone for an hour, and give it to the dog—the hambone will occupy him for a couple of hours while the rest of us are busy working throughout the house.

Now that Christmas is drawing closer, Josh and I are starting to get excited!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Getting Ready For Christmas

We had a nice weekend.

On Friday night, Joshua and I had my parents over for dinner, and our agenda for the evening was to try to select as many Christmas gifts as possible before the evening was over.

Per Joshua’s choice, we gave my parents the same dinner he and I had prepared two nights earlier: chicken noodle soup, chicken boiled in herbs, baked-macaroni-and-cheese, homemade stewed tomatoes, butternut squash and lima beans. We had gingerbread for dessert.

We succeeded in deciding upon a good portion of our Christmas gifts for everyone. Some of the gifts we ordered online Friday night, and we ordered more gifts online Saturday night.

I think a couple of trips to a mall will be all Josh and I will need to do in order to complete our shopping for the season, although my mother, I fear, will probably make half a dozen shopping outings between now and Christmas.

As for me, my only hope is that everyone will enjoy the finger-painting kits Josh and I picked out for everyone!

On Saturday morning, Josh and I moved over to my parents’ house for the weekend to begin Christmas preparations. First thing, over breakfast, we made a long list of things that will have to be completed over the next two weekends.

Then we set about getting things done.

First thing, while my parents stayed in, drinking coffee and catching up on the newspapers, Josh and I went out to do some food shopping for my mother. We had a long list of things to pick up, including all kinds of flours and fruits and nuts and other baking items my mother will need for her Christmas baking.

When we returned from the food store, Josh and I oiled furniture in the living room and dining room and foyer, and we oiled the staircase in the foyer, and we laid down wax on the floor of the foyer and the front stairwell. This latter task was not easy to do, because another member of the household wanted to get into the midst of things and leave a paw-print motif on the floor of the foyer and on the stairwell. Finally, just to get the job done, we had to put him in the living room and close the doors that separate the living room from the foyer. The dog remained on the other side of the doors, barking and whimpering in turn, because he had been shut out of our fun.

When we were done applying wax, we all had a quick lunch, and then we all went out to get the Christmas tree. My mother selected the tree she wanted, and we brought it home and erected it in the living room.

Afterward, Josh and I laid down wax on the downstairs hallway, on the center stairwell and on the upstairs hallway. My parents had to keep the dog in the kitchen until we were done, because the dog would have made a mess of everything. He carried on the whole time, because he knew that he was missing out on something. He remained in the kitchen until the wax had dried, at which point he had to run around all over the house and inspect everything in order to see what Josh and I had been up to.

Josh and I rested for an hour before dinner, and so did my Dad. He had been oiling kitchen cabinets and kitchen furniture while Josh and I had been oiling and waxing other parts of the house.

For dinner, my mother gave us prime rib and baked potatoes, along with a garden salad created with what seemed to be dozens of different fresh vegetables. We had raspberries and ice cream for dessert.

After dinner, Josh and I oiled furniture in the downstairs family room, and then we pretty much called it day, at least in terms of getting the house ready for the holidays.

On Sunday, after church, we decorated the Christmas tree. We also polished all the furniture we had oiled on Saturday, and polished the floors and stairwells we had waxed on Saturday. By Sunday night, most of the house, except for upstairs, was ready for Christmas. A little touchup vacuuming and dusting is all that will be required between now and Christmas.

On Sunday night, my mother asked Josh and me how she could reward us for our work, and we told her that we would be happy to accept an around-the-world cruise on the new Queen Mary. However, since Josh and I have too little vacation time to go anywhere anytime soon, we decided to settle for some Belgian stew, one of my mother’s finest dishes. It is made from cubed beef, spices, tomatoes, potatoes, corn, peas, carrots, sweet onions, different cheeses—and dark lager beer! It is one of my favorite things to eat in the wintertime—it creates the most divine aroma, and it has an unusual and most satisfying flavor. The dog goes nuts when he smells it brewing, and it is one of the few things my mother will feed him that contains vegetables. Since my mother had spent so much time preparing the Belgian stew, the dog did not get his usual Sunday night chicken, and I do not think he minded in the least.

The dog had a lot of fun this weekend, because he likes to observe and participate in all household activities. The Christmas tree always fascinates him, of course, but the living room is always closed off to him when the Christmas tree is mounted, because otherwise he will knock it down and literally destroy it. He will be allowed to enter the living room for the next three weeks only when accompanied by someone.

My parents learned all about the dog’s fascination with Christmas trees in 2001, the first year he lived with my parents. My parents had erected and decorated the tree one weekend. The following Monday morning, my mother had to step out to run a few errands. She was only gone for forty-five minutes, and before she departed she had specifically told the dog to leave the Christmas tree alone. Generally, the dog is very good about following instructions. However, the Christmas tree must have been irresistible to him, because when she returned home the living room was in a state of total disarray.

The dog had knocked the Christmas tree down. The tree was on the floor, and ornaments and tinsel and lights were strewn across the room. When my mother found him, he was busy chewing on ornaments and tinsel and lights to the point that most were completely unsalvageable. Because there is carpeting on the living room floor, only a handful of the ornaments were broken, happily, or otherwise the dog might have cut himself on broken glass. Luckily, as well, my mother had unplugged the lights before she left the house. If she had not done so, the dog might have electrocuted himself while chewing on the string of lights (which he was in the process of doing when my mother discovered him).

My parents had to discard the tree and most of the decorations and start over. At least the permanent silver and crystal decorations emerged unscathed, probably because they were heavier and sturdier than the non-permanent decorations. My parents were able to keep those. However, because of the mess, my parents had to have the carpeting in the living room professionally cleaned before they could erect a second tree the following weekend. From that point forward, the living room has been sealed off from the dog during the Christmas season.

The dog does not mind not having the run of the living room, however, because he always remains in the room my mother is using during the weekday and he always remains in the room my parents are using during weeknights. When others are in the house, he goes back and forth between whatever rooms people are using, trying to keep an eye on everyone.

When everyone is home, he always enjoys a houseful of people, because that means he has lots of people to play with and lots of people and lots of activities to monitor. For the Thanksgiving period, when extra family members were present for over two weeks, he had a marvelous time.

However, the week after Thanksgiving, according to my mother, he seemed to welcome a rest period, spending a lot of time sleeping or napping during the day. This only lasted for about a week, she said, at which point he was ready for lots of activity again. It was good, therefore, that Josh and I were there to help keep him occupied and stimulated this weekend. He was happy we were there (although he was unhappy when he was prevented from interfering with our waxing of the floors), giving him lots of attention and affection—and snacks.

All weekend, while we worked, we listened to music. We listened to three discs of music, all by great masters. None of us was particularly ready yet for any Christmas music, but all of us wanted to listen to great music filled with spirit and spirituality.

One disc we chose was a recording of Bach’s Goldberg Variations. Since Josh and I had spent the latter part of last week listening to a recording of the Goldberg Variations performed on the harpsichord, we chose a completely different version for the weekend: an arrangement of the Goldberg Variations for string orchestra, performed by the New European Strings under Dmitri Sitkovetsky, on the Nonesuch label. The arrangement is Sitkovetsky’s own, and uses fourteen string players—eight violins, three violas, two cellos and one double bass—and a harpsichord.

I have loved this arrangement of the Goldberg Variations since the first time I heard it in high school (I received this disc as a Christmas gift from my parents when I was fifteen years old) and I remain fond of this disc even after the passage of twelve years. Sitkovetsky’s arrangement allows the different contrapuntal lines to be heard clearly, in sharp relief, and the players are encouraged to use lots of color, which works splendidly in this performance. In addition to its color, this performance has lots of concentration and lots of energy (and lots of quick tempos, much quicker tempos than most keyboard performances offer). The Goldberg Variations is such a great composition that this Baroque masterpiece can easily survive a vigorous, neo-Classical performance—and neo-Classical is precisely what Sitkovetsky’s performance is. The effect is bracingly modern, if perhaps a little short on spirituality.

Bach purists probably detest the Sitkovetsky arrangement, and I recall my father not being particularly impressed when he first heard this recording many years ago. However, my father enjoyed this recording this weekend, and so did my mother. Josh loved it—in fact, Josh liked it much more than the Gustav Leonhardt harpsichord recording of the Goldberg Variations we had listened to last week, even though he had very much enjoyed the Leonhardt recording while we listened to it—and I fear it may be hard for Josh to listen to another harpsichord recording of the Goldberg Variations any time soon.

Of course, Josh loves Bach above all other composers, and to some extent this is true of my mother, too (for her, it is a contest between Bach and Mozart). My father is very much a Beethoven man, while my favorite composer has always been Brahms.

My mother insists that it is Bach’s music, and only Bach’s music, that babies respond to. According to my mother, babies do not respond to Mozart’s music, or music by any other composer—but babies DO respond to music of Bach. To this day, my mother contends that all three of her babies, whenever unsettled by a mild case of indigestion or whenever tired or cranky or out of sorts, were comforted and soothed by Bach’s music. She says that she could not have raised us without Bach’s help.

The dog, however, seems not to respond to music of Bach, or music of other German masters, either, for that matter. Is this because German Shepherds are actually a breed from the Alsace-Lorraine? He is fascinated, above all, by the music of Erik Satie, particularly the Gymnopedies piano pieces, which he will listen to with utter fascination over and over. Satie’s music must be hypnotic for some animals.

The second disc we listened to was Mozart’s Mass No. 19, his Requiem Mass. The recording we chose was the Odyssey recording made in 1979 in Stuttgart (originally issued by Columbia, then transferred to Columbia’s budget label, Odyssey, and recently made available again on Sony). The conductor is Helmuth Rilling, leading the Bach Collegium Stuttgart and the Gachinger Kantorei Stuttgart, with soloists Arleen Auger, Carolyn Watkinson, Siegfried Jerusalem and Siegmund Nimsgern.

The Mozart Requiem is a difficult work to listen to, because so little of it is genuine Mozart. Many pages of the score are inspired, but even more pages of the score are not, making it a very uneven and, ultimately, not very satisfying work. The edition Rilling used in this recording was the standard version of the time, more Sussmayer than Mozart. Rilling now uses a more modern version of the score, the Robert Levin edition.

We chose this particular recording because we had not listened to it for many years. We also chose this particular recording because it features what is probably the finest quartet of vocal soloists that appear in any recording of the work.

Siegfried Jerusalem and Siegmund Nimsgern were known as Wagner singers, not Mozart singers, and yet this recording captures their voices before the music of Wagner had destroyed their vocal sheen. Both are excellent, and fully in keeping with Mozartean style as practiced in the first three-and-a-half decades after World War II, and the beauty of their voices surely must incite disbelief among those who only heard these artists later in their careers, in heavier repertory.

In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, Carolyn Watkinson was the anointed successor to Janet Baker, and her voice definitely carries the sound associated with the British mezzo-soprano tradition. For some reason, however, Watkinson’s career did not take off, at least at the exalted level many had expected, and she long ago disappeared from the world’s concert stages. My parents heard Watkinson on a couple of occasions, and they believed her to have been a very fine artist.

Arleen Auger has always been my favorite soprano, and this recording was the first of three recordings of the Mozart Requiem she was to make. Her final recording of the Mozart Requiem was made on the 200th anniversary of Mozart’s death, December 5, 1991, under Georg Solti, and that day was to be the last occasion Miss Auger was ever to sing Mozart, at least professionally. Two months later, Miss Auger was diagnosed with the brain cancer that was to end her life so prematurely, thus ending the career of the finest singer America has ever produced.

The soloists are the primary reason to listen to the Odyssey recording. Rilling has never been anything more than a capable Mozart conductor, and this recording offers a capable performance of the work, and nothing more. However, I have never heard a great recording or performance of this work, probably because the inspiration of the writing is too uneven to allow a great performance to be created.

The third disc we listened to was a recording of the Brahms Serenade No. 1, performed by the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra under Leonard Slatkin, on the RCA label.

It is amazing how many Leonard Slatkin discs my father owns, considering how little regard he has for Leonard Slatkin. The reason my father owns so many Slatkin discs, I believe, is because he used to buy most major releases on most major labels.

The Slatkin RCA performance of the Brahms Serenade No. 1 is not bad, and it is superior to the contemporary release of the same work by Michael Tilson Thomas on the Sony label.

RCA and Sony tried out Slatkin and Tilson Thomas in the music of Brahms by having them record the two serenades as tests before embarking on complete Brahms symphony cycles. In both cases, RCA and Sony decided not to carry out the projects after witnessing the results of the serenades.

I love the Brahms serenades, and Slatkin’s performance of No. 1 is very lovely, but mostly because the playing is so fine and not because he brings anything special or notable to this repertory. The Saint Louis Symphony plays beautifully in this recording—it was a far, far finer ensemble in the late 1980’s than the mediocre body it is today—and the recorded sound is rich and clear and mellow.

It is regrettable that great Brahms conductors like Eugen Jochum and Herbert Von Karajan and Bruno Walter never bothered to record the Brahms serenades. There are lots of versions that have been made—Boult, Haitink, Kertesz, Slatkin, Tilson Thomas and others—but great Brahms conductors always seemed to have given these charming works a pass. I cannot understand why. I would give my right arm to hear a Karajan version of these works, what with his wondrous command of orchestral timbre, texture and color, surely ideal for these works.

Nevertheless, we enjoyed hearing the Slatkin recording very much. Despite the dark coloration of the orchestration, Brahms revealed sunniness and charm and wit and whimsy in this delightful work.

Josh had never heard the Brahms Serenade No. 1 until this weekend, and he loved the work. My mother loves this work very much, too, and it was a perfect complement for the Bach arrangement and the Mozart mass.

Next weekend, we will get the rest of the house ready for Christmas, and get the gifts wrapped, and help my mother with baking, and perhaps do a little shopping, mostly for my nephew (it is more fun to buy toys in the toy store than to buy them online). And, by the end of next weekend, we hope to be ready for Christmas, more or less.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Tentative Plans

It is already December 4. Christmas is exactly three weeks away, and Joshua and I have made no Christmas preparations whatsoever.

Neither have my parents, and all of us need to make amends.

My parents have done nothing but relax since Thanksgiving, and I think they have enjoyed having a quiet period, with the house to themselves, for a few days between holidays.

Josh and I, having spent last weekend in Washington, will have to devote the next two weekends to getting things ready for Christmas, because we only have two weekends to get everything done before we head to Oklahoma.

Josh and I had dinner at my parents’ house last night, and this was the first time we had seen my parents in a week. They were very happy to see us, and so was the dog.

We told them about our trip to Washington. They loved hearing about the art exhibitions we attended, especially my mother, and I think my mother would like to see all three exhibitions we visited. Since the three exhibitions we viewed will begin to close, one by one, in January, my father told my mother to think about going to Washington the first weekend of January. My mother would like that very much.

We also talked about getting ourselves organized for Christmas, and we made some tentative plans so that we can get everything done the next two weekends without running ourselves ragged.

On Friday night, Josh and I are going to have my parents over for dinner. We are all going to plot our Christmas-gift selection that night. By the time the evening is over, we hope to have most of our gifts selected, and a good portion of them ordered online.

On Saturday, Joshua and I are going to move over to my parents’ house for the weekend. We are going to devote the weekend to helping my parents get the house ready. One thing we will do on Saturday afternoon is go pick out the Christmas tree. On Sunday afternoon, we will decorate the tree.

The following weekend, Josh and I will go over to my parents’ house again, and help my parents finish getting the house ready and help my parents wrap gifts and do assorted other things that will demand attention. By a week from Sunday night, my parents will be ready for the holidays, mostly—or so is our plan.

My brothers will be home on the evening of the 21st, but the following day Josh and I will be off to Oklahoma to celebrate Christmas with Josh’s family. Josh and I will return on the 27th, and we will spend the rest of the holidays with my family.

I cannot believe that Christmas is only three weeks away.