Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Year In Review

Here is the short version of what went on this last year. Enjoy!

January: Hallie became a co-chair for Families Supporting Adoption (FSA). We returned home from California. Landon learned to sleep all night (yay!).

February: Mike shaved his goatee, and Landon didn’t recognize him, so he decided to grow the beard back. However, Hallie encouraged him to get rid of the moustache (she doesn’t like prickly kisses).

March: After what locals characterized as a snowy winter, the first faint signs of spring began to emerge. While winters in Utah are cold, we now understand the meaning of “dead of winter.” Must . . . Conserve . . . Energy.

April: Landon got circumcised. He also started Storytime at the local library. Spring flowers began making their appearance in our backyard, and we tried to plant a garden.

May: We traveled to Utah to finalize our adoption. We were sealed together as an eternal family, and we finally gave Landon his name and blessing. Landon began to smile for the camera, he learned to roll over, and he began to crawl for real.

June: Landon was a hit at Girls BOOT Camp. Mike created a trend among the bishops at a boot-themed fashion show by “camping” (vamping?) it up. Go Prez O!

July: We went to Kirtland, Palmyra, and Niagara Falls when Hallie’s parents came. We also went to Greenfield Village and the Henry Ford, and Landon saw his first Tigers game!

August: We traveled down to Indianapolis for the annual regional FSA adoption conference. We went to Chrysler’s Arts, Beats, and Eats to sample goodies and music. We started our monthly tradition of attending Macy’s 2nd Mondays at Greenfield Village and the Henry Ford.

September: Hallie’s Grandma Maygren died. Hallie went to the funeral, while Mike played “single” dad at home. We attended a Great Big Sea concert at the Michigan Theater. We got rid of our cable TV. Hallie and Landon went to the Detroit Zoo. We went to an apple farm and petting zoo. Landon started walking.

October: Landon really took off walking at church during General Conference. We went on several autumn outings: pumpkin patches, apple cider, cake donuts. We took a road trip up north to see the changing leaves. Hallie hosted a soup party for enrichment. We attended our friend Josh’s football games. Landon’s finally got his first haircut and celebrated his first birthday. He dressed as a bull calf (NOT a cow!) for Halloween.

November: Mike attended the UCEA Conference in Orlando, and Hallie played “single” mom. Hallie helped prepare an adoption fireside. We were on local TV for all of 30 seconds telling about our “boo-rific” time at Hallowe’en Nights at Greenfield Village. We had our first homemade Thanksgiving.

December: Landon had a visit with Santa. We set a branch goal to become a ward. Hallie helped conduct an adoption banquet.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Welcome, Welcome Sabbath Morning

This morning we woke up to the sound of strong wind gusting outside our bedroom window and strange blue lights in the sky. Clouds had blown in, and the temperature had dropped from a comfortable mid-50s to the 40s and falling. We turned on the radio and heard the report that the winds during the night had knocked out power to about a quarter million Metro Detroiters (We found out later that while we weren’t affected, a chunk of the branch was, including our building). After listening to the morning news and hearing about the power situation, Hallie, Landon, and I piled into the Buick and drove down to church to find out whether the building was without power and to drop me off for morning meetings if we determined that everything was fine. Once we got to the church, we had our answer. The security gate was without power. I climbed under the gate to check out the building and found that the security system was on battery power. A low whiny from a warning alarm on the security panel indicated that the furnace/AC unit was off. I called members of the branch presidency and PEC to let them know we wouldn’t have our morning meetings, and then we drove back home. Upon hearing that DTE would not be fixing power lines until the wind died down, I made a few calls to the stake and then drove back to the church. About an hour before sacrament meeting would have started, I went ahead and cancelled church. Hallie and I reflected on the decision a little later today. She made an observation that bears repeating. If we had been pioneers, we probably would have gone ahead and had church. We probably could have made at least sacrament meeting work. Granted, everyone would have had to park on the street and climb over or under the security fence (powered gate—have to rethink that one), but we could have forced the issue (not the gate—we’ve tried that before). I managed to turn off the interior alarm, so we wouldn’t have had that sound in our ears as we sang to the music played on the piano that we would have brought from the primary room. The rooms would have been quite dark. Our building is built like a fortress (or prison?), and our windows are few and far between. In each classroom, the space for the window has a bullet-proof panel of glass at the top and the bottom of the window frame with a large filled-in wall space in between. Kids have to crane their necks to see out the narrow windows to daydream. We do have emergency fluorescent lights in the hallways, bathrooms, and cultural hall on battery power which is nice (and which was waning by 10:15 this morning when I left). Still, we could have soldiered through and at least had sacrament meeting (of course, once you’re there, you may as well stay for the whole block), but we didn’t. It’s a strange feeling making the decision to cancel church. One member suggested families get together for cottage-style devotionals, which I think could be coordinated in the future. Anyway, happy Sunday to you, and Happy New Year on this now sunny, if brisk, Sabbath day!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Homey Christmas

We hope you had a Merry Christmas with your family and friends. We enjoyed a bountiful brunch with friends, including our missionaries (all six burly boys with appetites to match). Hallie prepared a spread that included egg soufflé, a ham, salad, sweet rolls, funeral potatoes, and a homemade peppermint cheesecake. The day was crisp and sunny, with the remnants of this week's snow all around. Santa must have had a wild ride on Christmas Eve, because the wind blew and blew all night! Fortunately that meant we had dry sidewalks (the one peeve Mike has about winter is slippery, icy, sludgy, and otherwise hard-to-navigate sidewalks and roads). We chatted with family members in the afternoon and evening, and Landon showed off a few of his new tricks. He received a train he can ride on, and he decided it works much better as a diving platform. Fortunately, we have foam rubber floor tiles in the back room (TV room? den? play room?). The kid narrowly avoided face plants all day. As we reflect on the birth of our Savior, we feel grateful to realize something that at first will sound a little weird: this year's Christmas felt like an ordinary day in a lot of respects. Perhaps this is why: since living in the branch and having some of the experiences we have had, we see a lot of the Christmas spirit year-round. This is not to say that every day has felt like Christmas (far from it). Mike grew up with the idea that you shouldn't act one way on Sunday and another way the other six days, and that idea has found extension with the Christmas season. Christmas felt ordinary (and this is a good thing) because it was a lot like a lot of days we’ve had this year with family and friends. We had a nice gift exchange, we reflected and laughed together, we shared in Landon’s enthusiasm, we enjoyed having people over, and we caught up with our family. What could be better? We are grateful to you (yes, you) who read our blog and share our journey with us. We see the example of the Savior’s life in yours as we all try to learn how to become like Him together. Thank you, and Merry Christmas! 

Monday, December 22, 2008

Reality Check

We did not come to Detroit completely naive to her problems, but the following AP News story speaks to some of the stark realities of living here during this period in the city's history (see below). We sometimes experience a peculiar feeling knowing that we need to be in a place we might not normally choose for home (although we find Michigan to be a beautiful place, even in this cold weather), and knowing Detroit's woes enhances the feeling we have that we're here for a purpose.

Motor City's woes extend beyond auto industry
By David Crary And Corey Williams, Associated Press Writers

DETROIT – One measure of how tough times are in the Motor City: Some of the offenders in jail don't want to be released; some who do get out promptly re-offend to head back where there's heat, health care and three meals a day. "For the first time, I'm seeing guys make a conscious decision they'll be better off in prison than in the community, homeless and hungry," said Joseph Williams of New Creations Community Outreach, which assists ex-offenders. "In prison they've got three hots and a cot, so they commit a crime to go back in and come out when times are better." For now, better times seem distant. Even with no hurricane or other natural disaster to blame, Detroit has — by many measures — replaced New Orleans as America's most beleaguered city. The jobless rate has climbed past 21 percent, the embattled school district just fired its superintendent, tens of thousands of homes and stores are derelict and abandoned, the ex-mayor is in jail for a text-messaging sex scandal. Even the pro football team is a pathetic joke — the Lions are within two losses of an unprecedented 0-16 season. And overarching these and many other woes is the near-collapse of the U.S. auto industry, Detroit's vital source of jobs and status for more than a century. "We're the Motor City," said Scott Alan Davis, who oversees community development projects in one of the worst-hit neighborhoods. "When the basis for that name collapses, that's started to scare people." Among the worried is 81-year-old Warlena McDuell, a retired surgical technician who shares a home with her cancer-stricken daughter. On a recent weekday, she was among hundreds of Detroiters, most of them elderly, filling orange-plastic grocery carts at a food bank run by Focus:HOPE, a local nonprofit. "It's a depression — not a recession," McDuell said, with the authority of someone who has lived through both. "It will get worse before it gets better." Behind her in line, stocking up on canned apple juice and fruit cocktail, was Benjamin Smith, 77, who once held jobs with Uniroyal and Chrysler. Maneuvering his cart slowly, one hand gripping a cane, he was unable to muster much cheer when someone extended holiday good wishes. "How are we going to do well?" he replied. "Everything's busted up." Focus:HOPE's food program serves 41,000 people a month; manager Frank Kubik estimates that's only half the number of Detroiters in need of the assistance. "It's not going to be a nice Christmas for a lot of folks," he said. DeWayne Wells, president of Gleaners Community Food Bank of Southeastern Michigan, said demand is up by 25 percent from a year ago in the region's food banks as auto-industry layoffs multiply. "Many people are first-timers — they have no idea how to navigate the system, how to qualify for food stamps," Wells said. "Last year, some were donors — now they're clients." ___ The roots of Detroit's current plight go back decades. Court-ordered school busing and the 12th Street riots of 1967 accelerated an exodus of whites to the suburbs, and many middle-class blacks followed, shrinking the city's population from a peak of 1.8 million in the 1950s to half that now. About 83 percent of the current population is African-American; of cities with more than 100,000 people, only Gary, Ind., had a higher percentage in the latest census. Detroit's crime, poverty, unemployment and school dropout rates are among the worst of any major U.S. city. The bus system is widely panned; car and home insurance rates are high. Chain grocery stores are absent, forcing many Detroiters to rely on high-priced corner stores. "There's always been a real can-do spirit among our people," said the Rev. Edgar Vann, pastor of Second Ebenezer Church. "That's being beaten down right now. ... These times, unlike others, have sapped a lot of that spirit from them." Vann, in addition to overseeing a 5,000-member megachurch, founded the Vanguard Community Development Corp., which under Scott Alan Davis's leadership is building scores of new homes and offering education programs in the blighted North End. One apartment complex, for the elderly, is rising barely a block from two grade schools recently abandoned by the city, and now sitting empty and ransacked. "It's death to the neighborhood," said Vann, some anger in his voice, as he gestured to homes that had been abandoned and vandalized since the schools closed. He worries that despair and frustration may take a toll as Detroiters see more manufacturing jobs vanish and get no short-term answer when they ask, "What next?" "Somebody needs to hear us before we begin to see a rise of social upheaval," Vann said. "I hate to say that. It's a God-forbid reality." ___ For Mark Covington, as for many of his neighbors, there are two Detroits. One features swanky casinos, opulent hotels and two new sports stadiums, beckoning high rollers and deep-pocketed out-of-towners to a relatively vibrant downtown. Luxury condo developments are opening; an ambitious RiverWalk project is mostly completed. Then there's the vast Detroit of decaying neighborhoods, with weedy, trash-strewn lots and vacant, burned-out houses. Some areas, even close to downtown, have a rural look because so many lots are now empty. "It makes me want to leave," said Covington, 36. "But I figure, if I leave, who else is going to help? Who else is going to do it? People like me are what's going to turn Detroit around." With no job and plenty of time on his hands, Covington has spent the past year working on what he calls the Georgia Street Garden — three empty lots he and his friends have converted into an inner city farm east of downtown. It's one of hundreds of urban vegetable gardens citywide that have taken root on land cleared after the razing of abandoned homes. Covington and his friends did what the city hadn't done: moved trash from the lots to the curbs. They planted tomatoes, collard greens, kale, cabbage, herbs, broccoli and other vegetables, as well as a few fruit trees. "During the time I was out here cleaning up, I thought it would be a good idea for a garden," he said. "Everybody uses this path to go up to the closest grocery store and the closest corner store. I figured if they gotta walk past here. ... maybe they'll pick some food instead of having to go up to the grocery store all of the time." A makeshift, wooden movie screen was erected last summer for outdoor film nights. "I'm seeing camaraderie around here I haven't seen since I was a little kid," Covington said. "It's actually starting to feel like a village again." He just wishes they had more help from city leaders. "I'm proud our downtown is coming back," Covington said. "They've put money into the downtown. We need a downtown. .... Everybody understands that. But what about the people that pay for it? I mean, we pay our taxes. We need city services. It's the crime and cleaning up." "I just don't understand how they, anybody in the city ... the mayor's administration, can ride through the neighborhoods and see the way it is and not want to do anything about it." ___ For all its woes, Detroit has no shortage of residents offering to tackle them. There are 15 candidates for the Feb. 24 special mayoral election necessitated by the conviction of Kwame Kilpatrick for trying to cover up an affair with a former top aide. The winner of the special election only serves out Kilpatrick's unfinished term, and a regular mayoral election will be held in November, burdening the city with a year of political uncertainty and division as it grapples with staggering problems. "There are some good candidates — I've never seen a field as broad and deep," said Steve Tobocman, who represents a Detroit district in the state legislature. "That being said, I don't think there's a concrete vision on how to deal with the real challenges." Solely in terms of municipal government, the challenges are daunting. Mayor Ken Cockrel Jr. said Friday the city's deficit is approaching $300 million, and he ordered all departments to cut their budgets by 10 percent. The Detroit Public School District faces a deficit of more than $400 million, prompting the state to declare a financial emergency. The district's superintendent, Connie Calloway, was fired on Monday. Several dozen schools have been closed in the past three years, and civic leaders worry the system will be incapable of helping young Detroiters prepare for whatever new types of jobs might emerge down the road. "Most of the middle-class parents have disengaged, taken their kids out," said Vann. "We don't have the parent advocacy that's necessary to drive reform." The FBI's latest statistics, for 2007, show Detroit with the highest violent crime rate of any major city. Yet Jeriel Heard, chief of jails and court for Detroit's Wayne County, said jail conditions may deteriorate because of budget-related pressure to eliminate a quarter of the roughly 800 jail deputy positions. Heard confirmed that some offenders, notably those without homes of their own, were now expressing reluctance to leave jail when their sentences were done. He also reported that property crime in some Detroit neighborhoods had stabilized or declined because targets of opportunity were fewer now that most remaining residents are poor and many of the homes have been abandoned and cannibalized. Trying to combat the blight, the city has applied for $47 million in federal neighborhood stabilization money, with half earmarked to tear down more than 2,300 vacant homes. About $8 million would be spent to rehabilitate vacant houses and $4 million to construct new houses. But this effort would make only a small dent. About 44,000 of the 67,000 homes that have gone into foreclosure since 2005 remain empty, and it costs about $10,000 to demolish each vacant house, according to Planning and Development Department director Doug Diggs. Overall, the residential real estate market is catastrophic, with the Detroit Board of Realtors now pegging the average price of a home in the city at $18,513. Some owners can't find buyers at any price. "If you no longer can sell your property, how can you move elsewhere?' said Robin Boyle a professor of urban planning at Wayne State University. "Some people just switch out the lights and leave — property values have gone so low, walking away is no longer such a difficult option." ___ Looking ahead, Detroit civic leaders express long-term optimism but acknowledge the shift away from a heavy-manufacturing economy will be painful. "Up until the '70s, you could come to the city without education, without speaking English, and get a job in the auto industry and instantly be in the middle class, economically speaking," said Mike Stewart, director of Wayne State's Walter P. Reuther Library and an expert on the auto industry. "A lot of folks in the city depended on these jobs for generations — they don't exist anymore," he said. "A lot of Detroiters are unprepared, educationally and technologically, to cope." Another fundamental problem is the gap between the city's circumstances and those in the surrounding region, which includes many relatively affluent, predominantly white suburbs. "The lack of support, the disparities with the rest of the region are greater than folks realize," said Tobocman, a Democrat who served as House majority floor leader. "I'm not sure the system can sustain itself." But he said the conversation on one option — greater regional sharing of local tax revenue — "is not a real active one." Mark Douglas, 41, is among the metro area's most successful African-American car dealers — he succeeded his father in 2005 as president of Avis Ford in Southfield, one of the suburbs bordering Detroit to the north. "Detroit has got to figure out a way to make people feel it's safe — if people don't want to live there, it's tough to develop any kind of tax base," Douglas said. "Whites have to move back in. You've got to have the integration factor. Everyone has to come together." Though Avis Ford is faring better than some local competitors, the recession has taken a toll. It sold only 112 new vehicles in October, down from about 200 in October 2007. Douglas said the dealership is recouping some of the loss in new car sales by performing service work on older cars no longer covered by warranties. His father, Walter, 76, remains chairman of Avis Ford and serves as a trustee of many organizations, including the Detroit Symphony. "This has been the most difficult and challenging time in my recollection," he said. For some community leaders, the drumbeat of bad news seems like overkill. "All of Detroit is not going to hell — we've been hit unfairly," said the Rev. Wendell Anthony, president of Detroit branch of the NAACP. "Our best days are in front of us." Short-term, he said two crucially needed steps would be a moratorium on further home foreclosures and pressure on banks to make loans more available. Another civic leader, William F. Jones Jr., expressed concern that the inevitable auto industry retrenchment might force cutbacks in corporate support of local nonprofits. "Detroit is a very giving community, but it's hard to reach out beyond your capacity," said Jones, who recently retired as chief operating officer of Chrysler Financial and will become head of Focus:HOPE on Jan. 1 "I hope the region is prepared to band together, because we're all in this together," he said. "We won't get through the tough times if we don't have a dream of what's ahead." ___ Detroit's downtown abounds with symbols of past dreams — the still-gleaming round towers of the Renaissance Center of the '70s, Super Bowl XL venue Ford Field, the three hotel-casino resorts with their gaudy exterior lights and cavernous gaming rooms. Yet less than two miles from downtown stands the decaying, 18-story Michigan Central railroad station, built in 1913 and unoccupied for 20 years while developers shied way from the cost of restoring its Beaux-Arts grandeur. Along Grand River Avenue, a six-lane thoroughfare leading from downtown to the northwest, liquor stores and check-cashing outlets alternate with scores of abandoned commercial buildings, some boarded up, others just gutted shells. To the west, in the modest residential neighborhood of Brightmoor, there were five burnt-out houses on a single short block. The facade of one was daubed in red and blue graffiti — some obscene, some gang-related; the charred rubble inside included a battered toy truck. The scene brought to mind the city's motto, crafted by a Roman Catholic priest after a devastating fire in 1805: "We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes".

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Set Your TiVo

Tune into CBS on Tuesday, December 23 at 8 p.m. EST/PST or 7 p.m. CST/MST
for the 10th Annual A Home for the Holidays Special Celebrating Foster Care Adoption!
Don't miss this heartwarming one-hour television show!
Celebrity performers will share the stage with extraordinary American families who share their joy and their stories of foster care adoption. This year's show features Faith Hill and includes Tim McGraw, Jamie Foxx, Melissa Etheridge, Gavin Rossdale, Keyshia Cole, Martin Short, Kristen Chenoweth and a host of others. There are currently half a million children in foster care in the United States; 129,000 of these children are available for adoption. Each year, A Home for the Holidays raises national awareness about this important social issue and connects waiting children with potential adoptive families. The show is a joint project of CBS, the Children's Action Network, Wendy's International, Triage Productions, Goldsmith Entertainment and the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. Please help us promote A Home for the Holidays in your community. Forward this email to your friends and family or visit to download a ready-made flyer for bulletin boards, offices, places of worship and other public areas.

Monday, December 15, 2008

I Love To Laugh

The bottom line is I love to laugh! Adam Sandler makes me laugh. Well usually until I saw that Zohan movie and I didn't laugh so hard. But tonight as I was convalesing from being sick yet again, I was reading back posts from Bishop Higgins 3rd Ward: News for Mormons. I laughed so hard I almost peed my pants. I know that was probably too graphic for some of you but I just had to really let you know how funny this was. Here is what it said,

This Week's Seventh Most Popular Sin

Lighting baby mice on fire, twirling them around and shouting, "Look, I've got a sparkler."

Oh boy this has got to make the cold go away!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

I Love A Good Deal!

I love it when I get a great deal! This last week I had three great deals, one thanks to Mike's long time friend Stephanie. I was so excited about them I have to share my excitement with you. 
  1. This great deal came several days ago when I read Stephanie's newest entry at Savvy Savings Tucson. It was true! I really ordered a case of The Christmas Box for only $15. Mike and I are so excited to give them away to the folks we Home and Visit Teach and to our neighbors. Hopefully this will be a great way to get to know the folks we never see on the block.
  2. While checking my e-mail this week I received an email from the Melting Pot. I get lots of junk mail from lots of different places, but every now and then it pays off. When I opened the e-mail this week, it said that as long as you made a reservation for Saturday or Sunday between 11 and 3, your food was 50% off. I decided to e-mail Mike with this offer with no intention that we would be able to go--this week was crazy busy. But wouldn't you know it? He made it work, and on Saturday afternoon we went without our bambino. It was a great time for just the two of us, and Landon stayed with a babysitter. Wah hoo!
  3. My final great deal of the week came on Friday. Diamond and I stopped by Aldi to pick up some cream cheese. Near the check out line there were some roses: half a dozen for $3.99. I thought that I deserved some nice flowers for myself, and so I bought them. When we went through the checkout line, my bill only came to $2.48, and that included the 2 - 8oz containers of cream cheese. Then I realized the roses were only 50 cents! Holy Cow! "Diamond," I said, "go get in the car. I have to get back in line and get some more!" A few other people in the meantime had picked up on the deal, which was fine because I still was able to walk away with five more bunches.                                                                              
What a great week this was for deals. Thanks, Stephanie, for your savings blog. I even got the Amazing Grace DVD!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Our Little Character

What is this thing? Should I really wear it? My crazy Papi does.
Better not keep it on too long. May be bad for my reputation.
Well if I am going to keep it on I should adjust it a bit. Or maybe on the side is good.
I will for sure get a great gift from Santa with this smile and wearing a hat just like him.
Alfred Hitchcock has not left the building.

Landon has definitely become more cuddly and shows a fun clown like side most days. It is a riot to let him run around upstairs while he yells with delight. Hallie had to run a few errands today. While she was gone Mike took some fun pictures of Landon so we decided to post them today.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Santa Claus

It was another Macy's Second Monday at The Henry Ford, and of course we went. Today we invited Amberly, Sam, and Eric to come with us. We spent the whole time waiting in line to see Santa. Thank goodness there were lots of things for the boys to see while Hallie and Amberly waited in line for well over an hour! Mike was great at chasing Landon around the museum until it was our turn. They took a picture of us with a Polaroid and Landon received a White Horse Beanie Baby that had a Christmas wreath around its neck. The new toy saved us as we drove to Cabela's in DeWitt, MI. What a long day we had. 

Mike is now off to join (I guess) the Board of Directors at the Colin Powell Academy. Should he involve himself in one more thing? The answer is no. Does he need to find things to research which would help him keep his job? The answer is yes. So he is off and running on a new adventure. Tomorrow he will be going to some interfaith thing in Hamtramck that the Stake thinks he should go to. Most people think he doesn't have much of a job, so as the good guy he is, Mike is going. Funny story: our next door neighbor told Mike how she thought it must be nice to just have to go up and teach one or two days a week. Then he told her about how he spends most of his time reading and writing (and going to museums with Hallie and Landon--he didn't say that part). Our neighbor became quite surprised when he told her that if he doesn't get papers published, he doesn't get to kepp his stay-at-home job with the incredibly flexible schedule. On a related note, Hallie's grandma always thinks we need money (we do) because he only teaches one day a week (which he does, plus a few other things).

Christmas Break is coming soon, and I can't wait!

Mom, Landon and I prayed for you and your surgery tomorrow. We know will all will go well. All our love!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Hallie's the Awesome-est!!

(Like awesome-est is a word. But she is!)

Christmas time is here
Happiness and cheer
Fun for all that children call
Their favorite time of the year

Snowflakes in the air
Carols everywhere
Olden times and ancient rhymes
Of love and dreams to share

Sleigh bells in the air
Beauty everywhere
Yuletide by the fireside
And joyful memories there

Christmas time is here
We'll be drawing near
Oh, that we could always see
Such spirit through the year
Oh, that we could always see
Such spirit through the year...

So we've broken out the Charlie Brown Christmas DVD, and we've got the Vince Guaraldi Trio soundtrack playing on the iPod rotation. How much Charlie Brown-ier could we get? Hallie, the ever observant and loving woman she is, saw me spying replicas of the pathetic little tree from the show for sale on line and found a way.

We saw a smaller version of the tree in one of those Running Press books-in-a-box, and I vaguely thought that it would be fun to buy. So today Hallie goes to the bookstore, and what does she bring home? That's right! Books for our niece and nephews. Oh, yeah. And the mini book and tree!

There are people I know who aren't big Charlie Brown fans, which is fine. He agonizes too much (one of our med student friends calls him "clinically depressed"), but we're on a journey with him as he tries to make sense of Christmas, and we all can relate to his angst, at least once in a while. I love the part of the show where Linus explains to Charlie and the other kids what Christmas is all about:

"And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."

That's it. Somehow, hearing the Christmas story inspires Charlie to find a way to make his little tree work. A little magic handwaving by the kids, and sure enough! Things turn out just fine.

It is ironic that I think my wife is awesome for going to a store and buying me a gift intended to remind me that Christmas is not about commercialism and instead about the birth of our Savior and the worth of souls, but such is life in a postmodern age. I juggle incompatible realities like these all the time in my career, so why not in my personal life?

OK, this blog post is trailing off. I don't have anything more profound to give you. Just wanted to say that Hallie's the best. In fact, now I'm going to ruin the mood. Here's a final related bit of something funny we found on YouTube last year. Enjoy! Hey Ya! Charlie Brown Style