Saturday, November 24, 2007

Needles in Hair - Christmas Tree Search is about the Experience

The quotes on the flier caught my attention:
“Say no to sawing and hauling”
“No needles in your hair”
“No muddy shoes”
“No heavy lifting”
“No sore sawing arm”
“Reduce holiday stress now by selecting your Christmas tree now and we deliver later.”

All you have to do is select what size you would like and what style you prefer, and for a mere $ 100, you could let another person do all the dirty work, delivering a holiday tree right to your doorstep.
Maybe we should call it a Drive-Through McTree Service.

Alas, something is amiss in our lives if we view going to get a Christmas tree (wherever that might be) as a hassle, as stressful, as just one more thing to do, relegating it to a drive-through experience to get it over with.

Because we’d be missing out on precisely what this ad boasts about-- the needles in the hair, the muddy shoes, the sawing arms – that is, the experience, the story.

And that experience, a tradition that my husband Chris and I have done year after year with our children, now ages 4-17, is something that our family looks forward to every Christmas season. The kids ask us about it, when are we going and what time are we meeting grandma and pa at Starbucks and we’ll talk about if any of the cousins or friends are joining us, as sometimes occurs.

The tradition is to go the day after Thanksgiving (no getting up at 4 a.m. to stand in long lines for Black Friday shopping), and this year was no exception though Thanksgiving came early.

Mount Hood National forest is our destination, first stopping at Estacada Ranger Station for a $ 5 Christmas Tree permit. Five dollars for a Christmas tree! We could see, as Augustin calls it, “Mountain Hood” crystal clear visible against the clear blue sky day framed by white snow as we climbed higher and higher toward our final stopping point.

Once be arrived, we put on our snow boots and hats and mittens and jackets and marched right through the thick snow to look for the perfect Noble Christmas tree, one for us and one for the refugee family from Sudan.

I am pretty picky and after we finally settled on a 10-footer for us and a 7–footer for our friends, Rachel, 17, asked for the honors of cutting the trees down. It was fun to watch her saw through the trunk and listening to her comment about how much harder it is than it looks; then she and brother Ryan, 16, helped haul the trees up the hill through the thick snow. We all broke out a sweat.

When we reached the top of the hill the twins, 10, and Augustin, 4, who had stayed back with the grandparents (who found their tree closer to our cars,) had started creating chairs out of snow -- and you thought snowmen were creative -- these were snow-chairs, complete with a place to put your drink. What fun. They had big brother try their chairs out to see which he liked better, and they compared it to the Three Little Bears story. Indeed, Augustin made one as well, a little chair out of snow. What fun stories to share.

I pulled the kids away long enough to snap photos in front of our Christmas tree before settling into our sack lunches in the sunshine glimmering on the bright snow setting.

We had very few pine needles in the hair and our boots were wet – not muddy – from the snow.

And Rachel said nothing about having a sore arm from sawing, though it would not have mattered. The experience is one we would never trade for a quick drive-through tree service.

We’d miss out on the story.

~ Cornelia Seigneur

Thursday, November 22, 2007

WriterMomMusings: AMAZING GRACE The Movie - To See Thanksgiving

WriterMomMusings: AMAZING GRACE The Movie - To See Thanksgiving

AMAZING GRACE The Movie - To See Thanksgiving

Last night, Thanksgiving Eve, our family gathered on our cozy couches to view the movie, Amazing Grace, fresh out on DVD. It tells the story of antislavery pioneer William Wilberforce and his friendship with John Newton, an ex-slave trader turned minister and abolitionist, who wrote the lyrics for the hymn Amazing Grace.
That is one of the best made, most meaningful movie we have seen. It had action, suspense, purpose without preaching, reflection, sweet romance. Amazing Grace never sounded so good.

~ Cornelia Seigneur aka Nellie

Monday, November 19, 2007

17-Year-old neighbor dies in head-on collision

Our neighbor boy, Tom Earhart, age 17, a senior at West Linn High School -- a boy whom my kids grew up with and my daughter recalls playing basketball with outside of our house, and they meandered with another neighbor boy Max Stiglich through the woods and creek by our house. Tom, the boy with the bright blue eyes and blonde hair, the boy who came over for Easter egg hunts in our backyard and who worked at the bakery his parents owned, who was in the same kindergarten and first grade classes that my daughter was in – he died two days ago in a head-on collision with a semi truck.
Tom was the passenger in the Toyota Forerunner that swerved into the semi-truck’s lane, and the family is devastated. Both families. And the community of West Linn is in shock. And so many people love Sourdough Willy’s, the bakery that Tom’s parents own. It is a neighborhood fixture, 21 years here.
It’s a place my 4-year-old Augustin and I walk to during the week for the best chocolate chip cookies and the most amazing sourdough bread. And those Sticky Buns and Grace the mom of Tom lets Augustin sneak behind the counter to assist her and always asks her, “So when are you going to get more bubble gum balls for your bubble gum machine?” and Grace Earhart always responds, “I know, I have to do that.”
And sometimes Tom and brother Al, Grace’s sons, are there at the bakery helping out and I have noticed lately how much those boys have grown and we see Will the baker there and we love that place. And their daughter Gracie, who graduated from West Linn High last year, spent many days at our house, hanging with us, baking Christmas cookies and coming to birthday parties and being like another daughter.
Gracie is the one who called me to tell me the news of her beloved brother, Tom, dying. Through tears making words hard to understand, she told me of her brother’s death. Tom was heading to spend Thanksgiving with his friend’s grandmother, and he did not make it, and he will never spend another Thanksgiving on this earth. It is a dark and rainy day.
And there is so little you can say, you can really say nothing. The only thing you can do is hug them and that is what we did, and they wept in our arms and Will said to pay it forward, to love others, to be there for them. And ask them to talk about Tom and how they found out and what stories they remember.
Grace told me of the knock on the door, when the State Trooper came to her door with a hard knock at 10 at night to tell her the news and she did not know what to think of the police at her door and they told her point blank that Tom died in a head on collision on the way to Klamath Falls and she was stunned. This does not happen to us. As a parent, the pain is so deep and there is nothing that can take that void away, and you feel so deeply for them. My daughter, also 17, drives a lot and sometimes she talks about road trips with her friends and I get afraid for her yet I know I cannot shield her and she has wings and loves adventure, and as parents we are glad our children want to experience life, so we let them go.
And say a prayer to God.
And give thanks for each and every day we have with our precious children, the most amazing gift from God.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Flexibility is Key to Parenting -- and writing - The Oregonian REAL-LIFE MOM COLUMN

Real-Life Mom-By Cornelia Seigneur
"Flexibility is the key fusing parenting and writing"
Thursday, November 08, 2007

By Cornelia Seigneur W hen I'm asked how I keep up with parenting five children alongside my writing career, I realize I have no easy formula, kind of like my mothering. I do a lot by instinct, by learning along the way, by love and passion and prayer.
I have never been one for parenting books by expert Ph.D.s, and I do not think my mother was either. I take after her outside-the-box approach, looking at situations individually and flexibly. For me, there's no book of rules for parenting -- or writing -- or how to fuse the two.
Fusing being a writer and being a mother is like breathing -- both are just part of who I am. And combining the two is something that I figure out day by day, circumstance by circumstance, with a lot of heart and learning as I go.
Take a recent Tuesday. I had been working on a magazine story and waiting for a phone interview with a gentleman from a government agency in Salem; we'd been playing phone tag for days and finally had the chance to connect.
Typically, Tuesdays are my day to focus completely on my 4-year-old, Augustin, and we had planned a walk in the brisk fall air. But then the phone rang and Caller ID showed it was the government in Salem. I needed to take the call.
I told Augustin that we would be going on our walk shortly and he could read a book or listen to music -- OK, watch TV -- while I was in my office for what I promised would be a short time.
After closing my office door and answering the phone, I began asking questions and typing away. Then the door opened and my 4-year-old decided to do a little interviewing of his own.
"Mom, can I take my trike on our walk?" he wondered.
While still concentrating on the phone, I gave a little nod assuring him that he could and I made a sort of wave, trying to indicate I would be with him in a minute.
The person I was interviewing said nicely, "Oh, I hear a little one in the background -- I too juggled being a freelance videographer and dad for years at home."
So much for trying to hide. Thankfully my son was patient.
There have been worse times. I have literally locked my office door during an interview when I heard my 10-year-old twins bickering with my 4-year-old. Sometimes the kids have rattled the door to get in to tattle on their siblings.
I have a glass door to my office, so I've given them the "Don't mess with me" glance that tells them I mean business, or else.
And that works -- some of the time.

Cornelia Seigneur lives, writes and parents in West Linn. Reach her at


Friday, November 2, 2007


A Portland Maine middle school has decided to hand out birth control pills to middle schoolers. We are talking 11-13 year olds here. I have 10 year old twins. Condoms have already been available since 2000 to students at the same school who have parental permission to be treated at the health center. But, receiving the actual birth control is confidential. This is a bad idea. Parents in the end are responsible for their children’s health and the schools should stick with the 3 R’s. That’s plenty of responsibility. Yes, we can send a message to our children to Just say No – and then believe in them that they can and will say no. Handing out contraception just sends a mixed message to kids.

Cornelia Seigneur


Hidden Lake


Cousins bicycling at Champeog Park

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