Saturday, November 30, 2013

Ornie Competition: Extended Family 2013

As long-time readers of this blog know, our family participates in an annual tradition known as “The Ornie Competition.” It was begun many years ago by the family of Jeff’s stepfather, and we’ve participated ever since our marriage in 2006, more often than not via internet-based video conferencing. Each member of the family picks out a Christmas ornament that represents his or her year, then presents it to the group. The patriarch (Jeff’s stepfather) decides in advance who will judge the competition, and a determination is made as to who has the best ornament that year. Criteria vary from year to year (often depending on the judges’ personal preferences), but factors that generally work in favor of particular ornaments include whether or not it was handmade, the ornament’s attractiveness, how well it fits the theme identified by the individual who chose it, and—the key factor—the quality of the story and presentation that accompanies the ornament. The competition traditionally is held on Thanksgiving Day or, in recent years, the day after Thanksgiving.

There were several amazing ornaments this year—I am grateful that I was not chosen as a judge! I don’t always tell about all the ornaments here on the blog, but they were so good this year that I do want to mention all of them.

The toddler's ornament, photo courtesy of my mother-in-law

Our first ornament was from our newest participant: the toddler son of Jeff’s stepsister and her husband. This adorable little boy loves to “cook”—he pulls out pots and pans, fills them with real and pretend food, and stirs away. His favorite toy is his kitchen set. This budding chef’s ornament was a highly appropriate pan, with a fish inside it. Since one of his few words is “fish,” and he says it excitedly whenever he sees the ornament, it was even more appropriate.

The father's ornament, photo courtesy of my mother-in-law

This little boy’s father is a television producer. He had a rough year, from late last year to earlier this year. We don’t know the details because of a nondisclosure clause in the final settlement, but he was sued by a very powerful man and spent the year working and hoping for justice and waiting for this difficult chapter in his life to close. Now, the chapter is closed, and he seemed satisfied with the (unknown to us) details of the final settlement. His ornament was an open book, with the scales of justice resting on the pages.

The mom's ornament*, photo courtesy of my mother-in-law

Jeff’s stepsister told us that she has settled into motherhood well. Her life and job are full of stress, and her favorite moments of the day are those spent with her little boy. He grabs a book, brings it to her, and sits in her lap while she reads it to him again and again. These moments of peaceful bonding with her son are commemorated in her ornament: a brunette woman reading to the little blond-haired boy in her lap.

My mother-in-law's ornaments, photo courtesy of my mother-in-law

Jeff’s mother gave us all a scare a couple of months ago. She went into the hospital for an angioplasty, with the intent of having a couple of stents put in. The relatively routine surgery took a drastic turn for the worse, however, when her blood vessels demonstrated their fragility by breaking during the procedure. She was rushed by ambulance to a nearby hospital that was equipped to perform the emergency double bypass surgery that saved her life. She submitted two ornaments this year: an ambulance to commemorate her first (and hopefully only) ride in an ambulance; and a handmade one that shows a heart with a stitch in it (representing her mended heart) on one side and, on the other, the name of the cardiac center where the emergency surgery occurred. She showed it to one of her rehabilitation specialists, who asked her to make one for her as well. My mother-in-law’s doctors will be receiving these ornaments as a small thank you for their dedication and skill.

The husband's ornament, photo courtesy of my mother-in-law

My mother-in-law’s husband has been wonderful, both during the emergency itself and during her recuperation thus far. He ensures that she rests at home, with him doing the bulk of the household work, and that she gets the precise amount of exercise that her doctors recommend for her rehabilitation. He comforts her, reassures her, and encourages her. He already had committed to moving away from an area he loves so that she could be nearer to her grandsons, and now with her health situation, he has committed to doing even more of the work involved in that move (which has been delayed for an undetermined but planned-to-be-short period of time while she regains her strength and they wait for their house to sell). His ornament memorializes the work he has done as his wife’s caregiver since her surgery.

By luck of the random draw, our little nuclear family—Jeff, Alexa, and myself—were the last three to present our ornaments this year.  I could include ours in this post, but it’s getting a little long, and I’d rather devote one post to just our ornaments. Stay tuned; ours is coming up next.

Related posts:
Our Lives in Ornaments: 2012 Edition

* I edited the photo to remove the toddler's name. I'm just not comfortable sharing the names of children who don't belong to me. I left in the name of Jeff's stepfather, however, as it's been shared on the blog before and his wife told me it was ok.

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