Monthly Archives: December 2011

Cookies, Cousins, and Crockery

by Kate

Caught up in the chaos of Christmas, we have entirely abandoned this blog, and our Christmas narrative. I offer my fulsome apologies, and plead illness. Shortly after the untimely demise of Mary’s beloved dog, we were beset with sickness. The baby got croup, the cousins had pink-eye, Mary was knocked out for days with a wicked case of bronchitis, and I was cursed with a ferocious and nasty case of canker sores. Horrid, wretched canker sores. I shake my fists to the heavens and defy them. It has been nothing but broth and mumbling for me for a week. I am just stumbling my way back to some semblance of normality here in the big city. However, let me take you back a week or so to a remote ridgetop in the driftless region of Western Wisconsin, deep in Amish Country…..

where we visited my sister-in-law Aurora, my brother Gabe, and their four children. Olympia was thrilled to spend time with her cousins. I was glad to have the chance to visit with Aurora, and to marvel over the incredible skill she has for decorating her home and creating beauty in her life.

Gabe and Aurora designed the house together, and Gabe built the whole thing- with the help of his brothers. He built the island in the middle of the kitchen as well. Aurora did an incredible job designing and decorating the house. Their home is very remote, and very beautiful. Olympia loved it.

We visited Gabe and Aurora on the night of the Cashton Christmas Pageant. The older cousins were getting ready to perform, and Aurora was making chocolate chip cookies for the reception in the Community Hall.

The cousins were eager to assist.

Perhaps a bit too eager.

In fact, definitely too eager.

You may not be surprised to learn that shortly after this picture was taken, the wooden bench went flying, toddlers and all. Aurora’s vintage crockery baking bowl hurled through the air. The small children landed safely in a startled heap but the bowl shattered, ruining the last portion of the cookie dough.

We wiped up the tears and tossed the dough. Thankfully, there were plenty of chocolate chip cookies ready to take to the Pageant. The cookie making was quite a bit like the whole Christmas for me, in fact. Some shards of glass in the dough, some tears and a broken bowl- but in the long run, a beautiful memory, with lots of chocolate chip cookies for everyone- except me. Stupid canker sores.

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Good Bye, Baby

Baby. Bub. Mate. Dekembe. Abe. Henry.   I could go on and name the numerous titles given to this dog, but in the end, he was Baby-and he was Mary’s Baby.

He was a dog full of life and unmitigated joy, and he was completely in love with Mary.  For all my grumblings, I know that he was a smart dog.  He just had no time at all to listen to me, and preferred to spend time riding around in the car with Mary, windows down, and country music playing.  He was a trouble-maker, no doubt, but he had the strongest sense of loyalty one could wish for.

From the moment he was brought home, late at night, a little ball of black fur with soft dark eyes,

to his last days, flitting around under and over and upon the numerous Slattery siblings, he brought smiles to people’s faces.  His goofy face and exuberant gallop never failed to lift spirits.

He was just a puppy, but when I came home for Christmas break, I could see the type of dog he was growing into.  He was intelligent and was a handsome dog in his last days.  Mary was the one who always saw that potential and loved him for it resolutely.  Sadly, Mary’s Baby and our Bub died last night, hit by a car on the road next to our house.  Good bye, Baby, you will be so missed.

Christmas in the Clamor and the Chaos

by Kate

Having converged from the city in the East and college life deep in the South, the siblings arrived on the ridge last night, laden with bags and boots.

There was an immediate rise in clamor and chaos, with hooting and howling, sisterly spats and a friendly wrestling match or two. Colleen headed straight for the old upright piano in the music room.

There was homemade bread and soft butter on the table, and a plate of garlic and onions from the farm ready to slice into chili simmering on the woodstove.

The woodstove was roaring and so were the Slattery siblings. My own roaring reached a personal screeching pitch after two hours of attempting to put a very excited toddler to sleep while a very noisy impromptu gathering of teens raged in the next bedroom, and the darkness was  punctuated by periodic visitors thowing wide the door to let in the bright light of the hall. The fifth time this happened just on the verge of Olympia falling alseep, Cale strode in strumming a guitar and singing at a high volume. I stood up and ran at him howling.

This morning I headed down the steep stairs to find my father seated at the head of the huge Amish built dining room table, cutting the heads of a bucket of fish. We are miles from the nearest stream, and no one in my family fishes. I have no idea where they came from. I shrugged and headed into the kitchen, absently noting a heap of rubble piled high and filling our entire side yard. It appears to be the remains of a home or possibly outbuilding of some sort, not from our property. No one has commented on it yet.

I am home for Chrismas, amidst the chaos.

In case you missed the recent Slattery sisters posts about Christmas, see here:

Christmas and Coming Home

Dress Drama

We’ll All be Home for Christmas

The Spirit of Christmas

We’ll All Be Home For Christmas

By: Clare

I’m sure you’re sick of Christmas posts. But….one very pesky eldest sister is pushing me and prodding me to write something, and, well, if you haven’t noticed- IT’S CHRISTMAS TIME!

There is no way to describe the way it feels when all the siblings come home for Christmas. The air tingles of excitement and happiness, the atmosphere one of cozy companionship as we form a ring around the stove, each trying to get the warmest spot possible without burning a hole in our pants or recoiling away with a stinging burn. In one room someone could be shedding tears, while ten feet away several people will be laughing over a merry jest. It’s a happy time, Christmas time.

Because I am the youngest I’ve had to watch as one after one, siblings depart to college, or to travel the country, or whatever else they decide to pursue. And so I’m left behind with a few other under-aged dreamers who will also one day leave me. A lonely little child in a three-story farmhouse. Yes, I do have a bit of a melancholic personality, have you noticed? No, it’s really not that bad. But you can now understand how wonderful it is to have us all back together again for awhile.

Except I usually pretend that I’m pretty darn cool and that “hey, yeah, I can do whatever I want”. The following photo is a result of this stupid strategy of mine.

Oof. This is extremely embarrassing. Please remember that I have gotten past this stage and no longer look like this.

And of course we always end up with a new game to obsess over each year. Everyone takes their turn in attempt to be on top and proclaim themselves the “master”. The masters of the game are always James and Raph. Always. I never have a chance at those games. It comes with being the youngest in my opinion.

Yet another Christmas game. They’re quite entertaining.

Mary already covered the dresses. The dresses are oh so interesting. You have no idea how much of an ordeal they are. And you have no idea how much I made fun of Kate for that red dress. There’s also the three or four years in a row when Mary wore the same red velvet dress to Christmas Eve Mass. Mom finally banned her from it after it got a bit shabby and short. Mary was none too happy.

I so look forward to seeing all of my sisters (and brothers!!) together again. The laughter, the rude comments, the deep conversations, and the tears shall be ever so interesting. And I’ll bet you a million bucks Kate will be the one supplying those tears. She’s always the one who cries. About everything.

Christmas cheer to all!

-Clare

If you missed Kate’s perspective on coming home for Christmas see here:

Coming Home for Christmas

Dress Drama

By Mary

Having so many sisters is a splendid gift. It is a little difficult for me to enjoy the splendid gift of so much estrogen at times though, and Christmas always seems to create static within the female family domain.

This photo pretty much summarizes the way I feel about two things that come up every year.

Thing number one: Shopping with my sisters. Lord have mercy, those girls take FOREVER! I can’t handle stores and sisters, it’s just too much. To be fair, I shall note that they can’t handle me either because I always tend to drift off and get lost. In more recent times, I now do all shopping with my brothers. Shopping with them is a quick and humorous event, largely ineffective, but always enjoyable.

The next issue on my Grinch agenda is: Dresses for Christmas Eve mass.

Oh my gosh, each and every Christmas there is dress drama within the house. I tend to duck out of the commotion if I can. The most memorable dress drama happened the year Kate came home for Christmas freshly engaged and ever so proud. Leading up to the visit home with her husband to be, Kate had put considerable effort into buying the perfect outfit. Naturally all her luggage was lost in translation on the trip here. The meticulously selected trendy sweater dress she has specially brought for Christmas Eve mass…..

did  not make it via airport delivery until the following day. Somehow, Kate ended up wearing a startlingly horrid hot red dress from the 80’s that my mother wore for a dance when I was a preschooler. Kate stampeded her foot and sobbed , and I the Grinch, laughed, until I realized that she actually was able to pull the atrocious red number off somehow. In the long run, we made it to and through mass and back home to enjoy candy and eggnog with rum.

As a seasoned vet of the Christmas highs and lows around the Slattery family tree, I am well aware that it is not in my best interests to offer to go shopping with my sisters or provide (what I deem as helpful) fashion advice. After all, karma bites back. And you never know if one day it might be you wearing the red dress.

Merry Christmas to all you readers!

Sincerely,

The Grinch

And I’m Feelin’ Fine(ally)

by Colleen

It’s Finals Week here at the University of Dallas.  I think a bit of this is on everyone’s mind:

Yup.  It’s some fuuuun times here.  I literally can not find a place to study that isn’t full of other people studying.  It makes me feel like a slacker. The campus is fine(ally) settled down.

Every time I sit down, I suddenly am struck by all the things I would rather be doing, and studying on my bed is no longer an option.  Do you know how dangerous it is?  5 minutes into studying for Economics, and my uncomfortable dorm room mattress is suddenly heaven.

Here are all the irrational and assorted things I get the urge to do when I really should be studying:

1. Go for a walk, a long one, with a nice book of fiction that is not an epic poem that is not a thousand years old.

2. Play piano-yes, let’s drag up pieces from years ago.  Might need to brush up on that Beethoven for Understanding the Bible class, right?

3. Watch Arrested Development (actually I have done that when “studying”.  It’s a brilliant show, and I highly recommend it)

4. Look, I suddenly want to write for the blog again!

5. Compile a Christmas wish list in my head.

6. Listen to Stan Rogers and relive my childhood.  I want to “take the Northwest Passage”, and that makes me “an idiot, I suppose”. Ouch.

And lastly, I really just want to go home.  Christmas in Wisconsin, here I come!  3 finals to go…

Christmas and Coming Home

by Kate

This Christmas I am coming home.

 

The past two years we have spent Christmas with our in-laws, who are warm and gracious and welcoming- as is their adopted home state of Texas. Christmas with Casey’s family is calm and quiet and luxuriously restful….. but…….

I missed the blizzards and the beer and my big strong brothers.

I missed the heat of the wood stove and the contemptuous commentary of my little brothers.

I very much missed seeing my little sisters grow more beautiful every year.

I miss my cousins, and sledding down steep driftless hills.

And I miss being surrounded by friends and family.

I miss the church that is just across the country road from our big white farmhouse.

And the view from the choirloft.

I know that my mother has been desperately missing Colleen’s accompaniment on the piano since she left for college.

I have cried in church during the carols every Christmas far from home, missing the other two members of the alto section. Oh Julia Ugo and Mary Weber, I am so excited to sight read complex harmonies and belt them out badly with you between fits of giggling.

And so, this Christmas, I am coming home.