Monday, November 22, 2010

Darlin's get their gobble on

This week is often obscured by the impending black friday sales, football games and hysteria of getting everyone in the same place to share a meal. My goal each year is to spend the days before building up to the tradition of being grateful. thankful. together.
The darlins' had their chubby fingers in red paint today to make handprint turkeys which we've made since the first darlin' came along six "short" years ago. I like the sweetness of holiday tradition crafts I'll admit but I am hoping that these annual holidays are more than glue on paper for my children. I read that children get their esteem not from being praised, or playing a sport, or being in the "in" group of their peers but rather by being part of a culture at home. The more stable and fulfilling the home, the more centered the child. I believe the culture of the home is rooted in these holidays and their traditions. I think it helps children to see the extended arms of their family and know to whom they belong.
This is what I am thinking of while glue is smeared, paint is wiped and paper is crumpled in the sweet effort to make these turkey handprints. You don't have to tell me that I am a terminal idealist. ;-) We talk to the darlin's about being grateful and what it means to appreciate what they ALREADY have instead of what they can get at the end of next month, which by the way isn't their birthday anyway. We help them write their name and what they are most thankful for on the back. For the baby darlin' who can't tell me yet, I am contemplating "I am grateful for slobber". What do you think? She always looks happy with it streaming off her perfect pout of a mouth onto my pearl necklace. Yes, that's a whole separate blog, isn't it?
My oldest darlin' asks me what I am grateful for. He is always equitably applying my standard for him back to me. It keeps me honest and I appreciate the metric. I am grateful for so many things this year. Indeed, I am grateful for many things each day. Here are some that come to mind.
I am grateful for the love of my husband and children. I am grateful for my parents, to know who they are as people and to appreciate them for their experiences. I am grateful for the unfailing grace of my grandparents and their encouraging, generous, and gentle ways. I am grateful for my sister and her sweet humor, selflessness and easy-going manner. I am grateful for the memories of my deceased brother that I can always rely upon to bring a smile to my face. I am grateful for my in-laws and their example as a unified and faith-filled family. I am grateful for my church, how comfortable I feel when I am there despite the hysteria of taking young ones to mass. I am grateful to be able to homeschool my children to raise them to love learning and always seek out what peaks their interests. I am grateful for my friends, old and new, who comfort and inspire me. I am grateful for books which give me solace and fill my spirit. I am grateful for home, for what it means to have one, for how I enjoy taking care of my home and making it a place that is welcoming to family and friends. I am grateful for freedom and those around me who vote and serve to preserve it. Most of all, I am grateful for God, for his love, forgiveness, and direction. I am grateful for how he welcomes us back and gives us freedom to stray. I am grateful for the bonds he paved for us here in this world. I am grateful to be able to serve him in my small way.

Enjoy this interesting and different video on the first Thanksgiving:

May your table be surrounded by the laughter of family and friends, the nourishment of wholesome food, and the blessings of God. Happy Thanksgiving to your family from ours.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Learning gets real in darlin'ville

darlin' designed math game 

In my former life I used to do various and sundry adult tasks, one of which was adult training or "andragogy". Far away in a land and time before the darlin's, I learned about how adults learn. How's that for a circle? It was interesting to dissect the learning process. It was nice to draw parallels between adults who learn out of necessity and those who learn for the pure joy and accomplishment of acquiring new bodies of information. I reflected at the time on the differences between how adults learn under the microscope of academia and the reality of how I remembered learning and performing in school as a child. This is akin to something called metacognition. It's basically the awareness of how one learns-the structure, the techniques, the preferred routes taken to retain the new material. I believe, although some may disagree, that adults and children learn in much the same framework. Both require a motivation, a preparedness to learn the subject at the given level, an environment conducive to learning, and all the safety and security requirements of the social realm. Let me share a training secret: if you can train an adult, you can teach a child. Adults don't fool around. Most adults don't put themselves out for a gold star on a board. If they seek out information, they want it. Most of the time, it's for their own gratification or for advancement. If children must be taught, it is usually something that has not already occurred to them in their exploration and is therefore "someone else's idea" and even though it may also be for "advancement", most children will resist being led in this way. I took a lot of psychology in my undergrad field but I was not prepared for how much psychology would come in handy with the darlin's. I didn't realize how much impact psychology has on learning until the darlin's came along and taught me a thing or two outside the theoretical walls of academia. What I have found in my own experience is that authenticity matters. If I can frame a learning situation where they must perform a skill in order to get something real accomplished, I can "control" learning objectives while giving my children a meaningful learning experience. I have found these ideas come to me in the routine running of my day and I try to exploit them as much as possible. We do math when we count out snacks, divide fruits, and measure to cook supper. We write letters to Santa, thank you notes to friends, and type on the computer to "find" sites of interest. We make things to give to others with our hands. We scavenge the neighborhood for nature's treasures and look at them under the microscope before hunting down their names in the encyclopedia. We read the names on food labels, road signs, newspaper articles, store names... We are a house of books so that they can learn contextually. The research with which I am familiar indicates that learner driven authentic learning experiences are retained. If they want to know about something, they must help me find the answer. If they want to know the "secrets" of a book without pictures, they must help me puzzle together the sounds that makes the words. If they want to buy something, they have to save and count their money and budget to get it. I hope in addition to teaching them how to read, write, and calculate, that I am also teaching them to look around as they go through their day and appreciate ordinary things. When I finished this Master's degree and left the US Army Corps of Engineers to be a stay at home mom, my colleagues asked me if I was going home to "experiment" on my children. It is possible that I have always been so interested in the ways of people that I sought out to homeschool my darlin's. Then again, it is possible that the darlin's were so interesting to me that I simply couldn't share the joy of seeing them learn something new, at their own motivation, over and over again with someone else. However you approach education for yourself or your children, we can all take comfort that God has primed the mind for learning and that he has given us a wonder-filled world in which to make meaningful connections that we can use throughout life.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Post election analysis guest blog by "Poli Sci Southern Fried"

Looking at the election results now, several days after the fact, puts it all in a little sharper focus even though the results in some states and districts are not final.  This much we know:  Republicans and the Tea Party won big.  Both winners have much to thank each other for, and much to be suspicious of as well.  It is an uneasy alliance.  Republicans picked up 60 plus seats in the House, giving them a healthy majority and dethroning Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Democrats still control the Senate, but that should be little comfort to them.  It is not likely that very much will get done in D.C. over the next two years.  That is a good thing.  Right now it may be the best of things. 
House districts all over the South and Midwest went Republican, leaving few in the hands of Democrats.  In fact, white Democrats nearly were swept from the political landscape in the Deep South.  It mattered not that these were among the most conservative Democrats in Congress.  It mattered not if they voted against the health care and cap a trade bills.  It mattered not that some had been in Congress for years and held key leadership positions.  What mattered, and what did them in, was their membership in party of Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama.  Angry citizens watched the Democrat's agenda unfold in the White House and Congress over the past two years.  When they spoke out against the Democrat's agenda at town hall meetings or through phone calls, they were treated with scorn and contempt.  These same citizens watched as so-called conservative Democrats voted yes to some of the most unpopular legislation ever considered.  As votes were cast and bills were passed, it became clear in the minds of many that the existence of conservative Democrats might be merely a myth.  It is no longer even a myth.  Angry citizens got their revenge at the ballot box and the Blue Dog conservative Democrats paid the highest price of all for the hard left agenda of the Party's leadership.  When the Democratic Party in Congress reconvenes on January 3, 2011 it will be simultaneously smaller and more liberal.  There will be very few in Congress who will even attempt to call themselves conservative Democrats.  The Blue Dog kennell will be nearly empty and for those that remain it will look like a shelter for kicked puppies.
If there was any silver lining for Democrats it was in the Senate, where they remain in control.  Majority Leader Harry Reed, though down in the polls, pulled out a victory in Nevada, which means he will likely continue in his leadership capacity.  Having Reed continue as the Democrat's leader in the Senate, however, might be more of a benefit to Republicans than Democrats as he gives them a target to continue to blame for the excesses of the past two years.  Republican wins narrowed the margin of Democratic control, and given the way the Senate operates, it really makes little difference who wields the gavel.  Nothing of consequence is likely to get done the upper chamber, and whatever passes there, will most assuredly die in the House.  Likewise, any legislation that passes in the Republican controlled House will either languish or be defeated in the Senate.  Gridlock, blessed gridlock, will be the result.  Where Senate Democrats will still have some measure of power is in confirming judicial appointments.  However, with a number of those so-called conservative Democrats in the Senate up for re-election in 2012, they will be far less likely to support controverisial nominations than they were over the past two years.  Most likely no more Sotomayors or Kagans will be confirmed.  One hopeful result of this past election is that it has put the fear of voters back into the hearts of politicians.  Maybe.  Just maybe. 
So, what about the big winners?  One of the ways that Democrats and their allies in the media tried to spin the coming election was to claim it was going to be an anti-incumbent, rather than anti-Democrat, election.  It was, to a certain extent, but that played out almost entirely in the primaries with some spill over to the general election.  The primaries went well for Democratic incumbents.  The general election was an outright disaster.  While Democrats lost over 60 House seats on Novemer 2, Republicans lost only 3.  In the Senate, Republicans picked up 6 seats, while Democrats picked up none.  Without a doubt, voter anger was aimed overwhelmingly at Democrats.  There is just no other way to spin this now.  For Republicans, it was an anti-incumbent primary.  A number of Republicans had to face Tea Party challengers and some of the incumbents lost.  Bob Bennett lost in Utah.  Lisa Murkowski lost in Alaska.  In Delaware, Mike Castle left his House seat to run for Joe Biden's open Senate seat only to lose in the primary to Christine O'Donnell.  In Florida, standing governor Charlie Crist announced he would run for the Senate seat vacated by Mel Martinez, but was challenged by Marco Rubio.  Crist eventually dropped out of the Republican race and ran as an independent, losing to Rubio in the general election.  In Nevada and Colorado, Tea Party candidates Sharon Angle and Ken Buck beat the Republican Party nominees for Senate in the primaries in those states.  The November results were a mixed bag.  Tea Party candidates O'Donnell, Angle, and Buck lost to Democrats in the general election.  In Alaska, which is still undeclared at this time, it appears that Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski, who ran a write-in campaign as an independent, has defeated Joe Miller, who had beaten her in the primary.  Some members of the Republican party have been openly critical (or in some cases anonymously critical) of Tea Party candidates who they believe cost the Republican Party control of the Senate.  However, establishment Republican candidates in California, Connecticut and Washington state also lost.  Carly Fiorina, the establishment GOP Senate candidate in California, lost by 9 points to an unpopular Barbara "Don't Call Me Ma'am, Call Me Senator" Boxer.  Linda McMahon, the estblishment candidate for Senate in Connecticut, lost by 12 points to a likewise unpopular Democrat, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal.  In Washington, Republican challenger Dino Rossi lost a close race to Democratic incumbent Patty Murray, another weak candidate whose win was the result of heavier than expected Democrat turnout in King County (Seattle).  If the establishment GOP candidates did so poorly against fairly weak, although well known, Democratic incumbents, why are Tea Party candidates being singled out as costing Republicans control of the Senate?  Tea Party enthusiasm was the engine that drove the train of anti-Democrat sentiment.  And anti-Democrat sentiment did not mean pro-Republican sentiment.  That Republican incumbents were being challenged at in a number of primary races should make it clear that voters were less than happy with the GOP.  Furthermore, a large number of independent voters, and even some registered Democrats, were involved in and supportive of, the Tea Party.  Without the Tea Party, it is questionable how much success the Republicans, who are still held in disrepute by many Americans, would have had.  It was failure on the part of the GOP that led to liberals running amok in D.C.  It was liberals running amok that led to the Tea Party movement.  It was the Tea Party movement that led to massive gains by Republicans in the election last week.  Looking at this way, it is tempting to use President Obama's tiresome "keys to car analogy."  But let's not take it that far.        
Lessons can and should be learned from this election.  If the Tea Party is going to continue to influence national politics it will have to make some choices.  This is easier said than done for a grassroots movement with no real leadership.  Perhaps the most important choice is this:  Is the Tea Party going to work with the Republican Party or offer a third option outside either major party?  There is a great danger in breaking off from the Republicans and forming a third party.  The risk is that it splits would be Republican votes and almost assures victory for the Democrats.  Working within the GOP is going to be frustrating.  Some of the Republican leadership is hostile toward Tea Party upstarts and the situation is only going to grow more tense as likely candidates jockey for position in the upcoming presidential primaries.  The Republican Party, especially the leadership, must realize and acknowledge that without the Tea Party, they might well still be in the minority in both houses of Congress.  An attitude of "thanks for the votes, but go sit in the back and shut up now" might be all it takes to ensure that Barack Obama wins a second term.  The Tea Party must be careful as to which candidates it supports.  It matters little how conservative a candidate is if they have no chance of attracting enough votes to win.  That said, some of the struggling Tea Party candidates in this election might have stood a better chance if the Republican Party had gotten behind them and supported them.  Instead, many in the GOP were simply embarrassed by them.  In some cases, the establishment candidates actively sabotaged their Tea Party rivals.  Mike Castle refused to endorse Christne O'Donnell (and the Republican leadership was openly hostile to her), Lisa Murkowski ran as a write-in candidate against Joe Miller, and Charlie Crist quit before losing to Marco Rubio to run as an independent.  Sore losers indeed.  The Republican leadership needs to swallow its pride and find a way to work with the Tea Party.  The simple solution is to embrace the Tea Party platform, which, afterall, is nothing more than the traditional Republican Party platform:  Lower taxes, smaller government, less regulation, less intrusion.  Many Republicans have grown too comfortable in D.C.  Like adolescents in junior high, they would rather be in with the popular kids (their colleagues across the aisle, the mainstream press, the lobbyists, the powerful, the sophisticated, and the beautiful) than hang out with the awkward and ungainly nerds and dorks of the Tea Party.  The real problem is, many Republicans would rather remain in the political minority than govern in the majority, or in the White House, if doing so means associating with the likes of the Tea Party riff raff.   And that is truly disgusting (and downright unAmerican).  It's time to decide where loyalties lie.  Both sides have a common opponent, and the sooner they decide to join forces, at least until Obama is defeated, the better for them and for the country.         
On the Democrat side of things, it seems Nancy Pelosi wants to run for minority leader in the House.  Since most of Democrats who would oppose her have lost, it is quite possible she could remain as face of the Democratic Party.  This would be not only a departure from tradition, but also an absolute rejection of any responsibility for the loss her party has just endured.  But then, responsibility was never Pelosi's strong point.  Besides, it probably does not trouble her at all that over sixty of her party members got fired.  She used them to get what she wanted--radical legislation that under any other circumstances would have never passed.  Once she forced them to take career ending votes, she left the to die on the political battlefield.  She will continue to lead her diminished ranks, shedding no tears, and feeling no remorse for the pawns she lost.  Once touted as the most powerful woman in the world, and the most powerful and productive House Speaker ever, Pelosi has probably become the most hated person in America.  Having her, along with President Obama and Harry Reed, reminding voters who really calls the shots for Democrats should be an extraordinary blessing to Republicans in 2012.  That is, IF Republicans do not kill off, or drive off, their own Tea Party pawns. 
A few more thoughts:
There are two new black members of Congress--Tim Scott in South Carolina, and Allen West in Florida.  Both are conservative Republicans.  Both are from overwhelmingly white districts.  How many black Democrats represent majority white districts?  How many represent very white districts?  I would venture go guess very few, if any.
There were a number of Hispanic Republicans who also won.  
Republicans also won in a number of districts with large Hispanic populations. 
Christine O'Donnell received more national press coverage than any other candidate, despite the fact that she trailed her Democratic opponent by double digits for practically the entire race.  No, what really matters, at least to many journalists and political commentators, is that O'Donnell dated a Wiccan in high school, spent years going to college before she finally graduated, and has had money problems.  She was crowned worst candidate by the media, and by many members of her own party.  You know what is really funny about this?  Mike Castle, and by extension the anti-Tea Party Republican establishment including Karl Rove, got beat by her.  :-)  If O'Donnell was as bad as she was made out to be, what does that say about Castle and his cronies?  Way to go, Christine.  By the way, O'Donnell won in two of Delaware's three counties.  Just sayin'.
Sharon Angle nearly toppled the Senate Majority Leader.  When someone with as much clout as Harry Reed nearly loses to a heretofore unknown candidate something has gone terribly wrong for the party in power.
Michelle Bachmann was the Republican incumbent that Democrats identified as their number one target to defeat.  She won by 12 points.
Disgusting Democrat Alan Grayson lost by 18 points.  18 points.  Surely, a more vile excuse for a human being has never skulked through the halls of congress.  Well, except for John Dingell, who was re-elected to the seat he has held since 1955.  Before that, his district had been represented by his father since 1933.  Truly astonishing. 
Chris Matthews is an embarrassment to field of journalism.  He proved it again on election night when interviewed Michelle Bachmann.
And, not necessarily related to the election last week, New York mayor Michael Bloomberg was reported to have said that Obama was the most arrogant man he's ever met.  Good grief, if Bloomberg thinks you're arrogant....

Poli Sci Southern Fried

Monday, November 8, 2010

Something real

Mr Darcy took me to prom
  We go around most of the time introducing ourselves by where we work, how many children we have, who we are married to, where we went to school, or who our "people" are. These associations are just a fraction of our real story. Of course if we went around saying something "real" to everybody we talked to, well, it wouldn't go over so well. Personal "truths" often make others uncomfortable. Here in my little chunk of cyberspace, however, I will share a few of my truths and let the chips fall where they may. It's funny how cyberspace can make you brave like that ;-) 

Seeing England with Mr. Darcy

I like classical music, old rock and roll, and songs that remind me of special places I have been and people I know. I like to waste a day at the park watching the ducks and seeing children play. 

Becoming a mama & having boys

 I love to tuck my children in at night with a story and a song and a prayer. Although I am completely without a singing voice, I am without fear of singing a lullabye to my children in public to calm them.
In Ocho Rios, Jamaica with Mr. Darcy at the Falls for our honeymoon
I like to wake up in the morning and look at the trees outside my window and just breathe. 

Jen & I at homecoming
I love antiques and things that mean something in my house. I collect old accessories and furnishings. This makes me feel like the 1890's all over again. I love old photos, dried rose bouquets, and corks from special events. My favorite color is white and I love all shades of white, while ironically I am a "black and white" type of gal. 

My junior miss pals & BFF, Cynthia

I believe you can feel the positive or negative energy coming off a person while you talk to them. I like to talk to strangers and have something kind to say even if they don’t say it back. I never miss the opportunity to talk to the maid or service guy because they know, really know people, and they will tell you all about it if you simply ask.
Mr. Darcy and I getting married at the Cathedral

I married Mr. Darcy because I love his drive, knew he would be a first rate father, and for his beautiful mind which never fails to engage me. 

My Tinkerbell routine for Junior Miss in high school

I love to help someone with something that is causing them struggle. Helping/doing is my love language. I have pretty high antennae, and people tell me things because they can tell I care about what they are saying. I like to dance when no one is watching and even when there isn’t any music. 

Getting dressed for the wedding at my BFF's house, the fabulous Miss Cynthia!
My macbook is getting heavy from all the use but I still love to put pen to paper and write my thank you letters. According to facebook quizzes, I should have been born in the 1940’s because I am resourceful, patriotic, romantic, and stylish. ;-) Texting has not replaced a good conversation in a coffee shop with a friend. 

My surprise sweet sixteenth birthday
I like to draw and paint and make things. I love to decorate and to keep things fresh and pretty. I love the festivity and traditions of the holidays.  I keep baby books and journals for everything my children do and say. I celebrate every day with them because I know nothing is guaranteed and life is fleeting. 
high school graduation
I used to dress up in my grandma’s heels and slips and make believe I was a "classy lady". She had a fancy phone and I would sit there pretending to talk to someone important on it. I like to watch my darlin' girl do that same thing now. We are both pink on the inside but steel magnolias when the need arises. I like to watch my children sleep. I am fascinated with what they dream about and we talk about it every morning over breakfast. Dreams are the windows to your soul, right? 

Rocking on my grandparent's porch in the cane rockers
I believe in the power of the written word. I think things are connected from the veins in the leaf to the religions around the world. I think many paths can achieve the same end and people should calm down about which one is the “best”. I used to dream that I had wings and could fly when I was a little girl.

High school drama days-I am STILL the maid!!! ;-)
I try to remember my people and to feel what they are going through. I believe everything you say and do comes right back to you in spades. 
last day I saw my brother, Tim, now gone for almost 11 years.
Missed and loved so much!
I still dream about my brother who was five years younger than I and lost at 19 years of age in an accident. I feel his presence when I have a child or I am in desperate need. 

Mr. Darcy and I the day I graduated from Alabama
I love to read and to have books on my shelves that I haven’t gotten to yet. They are like old friends. I love going to the library to sit and read for hours. I like for things to be in their place and I enjoy efficiency because it gives me time back. 

Cheerleader days
I get very creative when I am expecting. I believe in trust even though many experiences say I shouldn’t. I love my sister and would walk through fire for her. I like to see everyone get along. I want everyone to feel comfortable. I think Bama’s colors are “houndstooth” rather than crimson. I believe in duty, loyalty, honor, and service, and a patriot gets me every time. I believe in the calming power of a Catholic mass. 

home from hospital with my grandparents! Love them so much!
My papa used to read me books at night and “leave out” words to see if I would “catch” him. I love old movies... Gene Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart. I've read lots of biographies from this era. I never saw an old movie I didn’t like. 

drama days in high school-good prep for mama drama!

 I love architecture and the great buildings from our past. I love politics, economics, and history and seeing things cycle in and out. I cannot afford to shop cheaply so I have to hunt down the good things at a fantastic sale price. I have learned more in teaching my children than I ever learned for my own sake. 

Sister Carrie, brother Timmy, & I at Easter 
 I believe in angels. I believe that things happen for a reason, and that if you listen to the subtle cues around you, life will be an easier course since you are in alignment. 

Mr. Darcy & I loved Paris
When we went to Paris, I dreamed in French-it was completely nuts! I sang to the top of my lungs when I was a bitty thing as I swung higher and higher on the swing. I thought hurricane Frederick was an angry bird and since I only knew that Sesame Street had a big bird at 3 years old, for years a hurricane meant big bird was angry.

Grandma & I for my first Easter
I never have had trouble finding someone to help me get what I need off the top shelf at the store. I want to learn to play the piano, especially duets. I want to author a book that helps others. I want to travel all over the world with Mr. Darcy and the darlin's.  I want my children to feel the love for a book that makes them always love learning. I want to keep my husband young and my children healthy with good food and vitamins. I want to get my PhD so I can teach one day. I want to learn to dance like a ballerina and tap like Gene Kelly. I want to see my children fly, to know and love themselves and therefore to be able to fully love others. I like to sit somewhere quietly with a good book and glass of wine or a cup of hot tea and next to someone who knows all these things and more and still wants my company anyway. 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Darlin's observe our freedom in action

Today is the big day. The day our ancestors fought and died for. A day many Americans take for granted and often blow off. Today is a day to put your money where your mouth is. Today is a day to have a share in the success of our great country. Today is a day I always look forward to.

The darlin's each have gone as infants and little children to the polls with Mr. Darcy and I to cast our vote. I have tucked each one of them into my little sling and stood in line and proud to have the opportunity to do it. I want them to watch the workings of freedom as early as their wondrous little minds can process it. I believe this is but the first of many responsibilities I hold in helping my children to become productive and contributing American citizens.

We talk about candidates in our home. We talk about the hard choices they must make and what they should do when they "make a bad choice" in representing the great people who have hired them to do a good job. We talk about the honor of public service. We talk about the Constitution. We talk about the Declaration of Independence. We talk about taxation. We talk about the hard won battles and wars fought in becoming a free nation. We talk about the market. We talk about trade. We talk about responsibility as consumers. We talk about the wonderful legacy of LEGAL immigration in this country. We do more than talk.  We research the candidates and we vote in EVERY SINGLE ELECTION.

My prayer is that the people who CAN vote today will do so responsibly so that the America the darlin's grow up in will be as free as our wise founding fathers intended. God bless Americans who take pride in our country and vote!

For some wonderful books on our country, check out Lynne Cheney's patriotic collection. The darlin's favorites are "We The People" and "When Washington Crossed The Delaware". Wonderfully written!
Happy Voting Day to you and your family!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Darlin's get the holiday rollin'

It's that special time of year. You all know about it, right? Take the darlin's in your life to the studio or setting of your choice. Dress everyone up in the garb of your choice. Pose in contortionist angles in close quarters for unlimited snapshots in the unseasonable hot Southern weather. Bribe darlin's by informing them this picture is for our Christmas card that we send to Santa with the WISH LIST. Explain that we all need to smile AT THE SAME TIME to be finished. Watch Mr. Darcy have a full-on meltdown under the pressure of slumping darlin's who he also bribes with toy window shopping. Feel complete elation when the photographer informs you she has "gotten the shot" where everyone is "sort-of smiling" and doesn't appear in the "bursting into tears" mode. Line up the darlin's for the card-makin', envelope-stuffin', label-makin', envelope-stampin', post office line marathon. Jingle jingle, folks. Hope your holiday planning is off to a great start as well.