Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Sounds of the season.

Ahhh... Christmas carols.

I love, love, love Christmas music. As soon as Thanksgiving hits, two radio stations near me switch to an all-holiday music format and I eat it all up. I love that the girls are starting to enjoy the Christmas music, too, and we can take a short-lived break from the Disney CD we have been listening to in the car for the last year and a half. (Maybe Santa will bring me some new CDs...)

This year I discovered my new favorite Christmas song: Christmas Canon by Trans Siberian Orchestra. It is Pachobel's Canon in D with Christmas lyrics set to it, all with a lush orchestral setting. It's beautiful, and sentimental for me, too, as I walked down the aisle to Pachobel's Canon in D when we got married. Awwww.

Another favorite is Sting's haunting Gabriel's Message from A Very Special Christmas album back in the 1990's (and I discovered a month or two ago that it is based on a hymn and it's in our hymnal at church- wild!) which gives a beautiful account of Gabriel giving Mary the news of what was to come and includes a portion of the Magnificant.

Yet another favorite is Josh Groban's O Holy Night. I LOVE THIS SONG. I think O Holy Night is the best of the traditional, popular holiday music, because it actually has such a beautiful message... who cannot be touched by the lyrics: "Fall on your knees... o hear the angels' voices! O night divine! It is the night of our dear Savior's birth..." Josh Groban does such a gorgeous job with his version- reverent and deep and shivery. Later in the song the chorus changes to "Noel! Noel..." and every time I hear it I wish my name was Noelle. (In fact, we know a Noelle and I think of her every time I hear this song.) (Semi-related tangent: if we had a daughter who was born near Christmas, I would have pushed very hard to name her Noelle. I think that's ADORABLE.)

The other highly cheesy reason I love this song is this: back in college, when I and my entire dorm floor watched Days of our Lives (seriously- we scheduled classes around this show) there was a storyline in which a baby was kidnapped (so soap opera-ish!) and on Christmas Day, one of the characters was singing this song in church, all hushed and quiet, with the grieving parents sitting in the front row, worried sick about their baby and dreading spending a Christmas away from her, and who comes in but another character CARRYING THE MISSING BABY. Of course the parents were sitting in the front row of the church and we got to see the look of joy on their faces as they are reunited with their child, right there in church, on Christmas, with O Holy Night being sung in the background. I almost cry just THINKING about it. And then I get all mad at myself because it's so ridiculous. But it was a beautiful moment.

I am also a big fan of I'll be Home for Christmas mostly due to it's wistfulness. I once saw Dan's grandmother hear this song and she was completely transported to another place and time. I don't know what she was remembering- a past Christmas, her deceased husband, a lost family member- but she was engulfed in a memory and it was sort of beautiful to witness that.

I have mentioned the group The Roches before and they have a beautiful Christmas themed album with a few original songs. One of my favorites is an acappella song called Star of Wonder and describes the dilemma of a shepardess who has seen the Star of the Christ Child: should she go and see the Child or stay with her sheep and keep them protected? "In the morning they'll come looking for that shepard on the hill/ what would make her leave her flock for surely she must love them still /Star of Wonder in the heavens/wonder what you want of me/ shall I follow you tonight? Star of Wonder/ shining bright..."

Hope you can listen to a couple of these favorites and enjoy them. If I was really cool, I'd be able to link this post to audio clips, but I'm just not that cool. So go ahead and google them.

We are spending Christmas Eve with my family: we're going to see the girls sing at the 5pm Christmas Eve service and then going to my parents' house for a party. We'll open gifts here Christmas morning and then head down to Dan's Dad's house for the day with his family. I am tremendously looking forward to both days and being with the people I love best in the world. I am excited for the girls to open their presents and for Dan to see the surprises I have up my sleeve. I am also quite excited for the girls to see the Pooping Reindeer stocking stuffer I got them (push on it's head and candy poops out)... 'cause that's what Christmas is all about.

Merry Christmas to you and best wishes for a meaningful, happy and wonder-filled Christmas Day!!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Pre-Christmas chaos.

Happy Monday! I have one kid in preschool with a runny nose, one infant sleeping in his bouncy seat, and one 8 year old home sick with a stomach bug that she got last night. I am baking cupcakes for a Brownies meeting tonight, sewing a fake Snuggie for my godson, and trying to get my chocolate cookie dough truffles blanketed with melted chocolate. I am going to lunch with Jenna and Alec and meeting a friend of hers from preschool and her mom and sister. Michaela has an orthodontist appointment at 2:45pm. I finished mailing out my Christmas cards today. Michaela has Brownies tonight (if she makes it), and we have Jenna's preschool Christmas Pageant tonight at the exact same time. I have about 5 presents left to wrap, fudge to cut up and package, and a few more desserts to make for Christmas. I have a load of laundry in the washer, a load in the dryer and a load in the basket that needs to get folded and put away. I have to go shopping one more time for one more person. I have to frost the cupcakes for tonight. I have to unload the dishwasher and clean up from my baking.

I am looking forward to Thursday and Friday, when all of this nonsense is done.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


It's 10:06 pm.

I have spent the last 75 minutes paying various bills (yay, Christmas! And dentists! And cell phones! And cable television! And mortgages! And garbage pick up!) while listening to glorious Christmas music on my iPod.

I wrote out three checks to the hospital where I had Alec and the doctors who safely delivered him into this world and into our lives.

Grand total: $ 1,172.08. (And yes, we have good, mainstream health insurance who paid for the other roughly $7,000.00)

He is worth every penny.

I am thankful we have him; I am thankful we can pay for him; I am thankful that we are both healthy; I am thankful we are a family of five this Christmas.

God is good all the time.

Christmas miracles.

Christmas came early to the Libutti household, and it's full of awe and wonder: Jenna is now potty trained.

Interestingly enough, she did it at almost the exactly same age as Michaela, which either points to a shared genetic quirk of extremely late potty training or my total ineptitude at training them. I am their mom and live with them and even I think it's a toss up.

I guess I take a very laid- back approach after introducing it to them. I read them the books. I bought the pullups and the pretty underwear. I get the little potty out, quite hopefully. I offer and offer and offer some more. And they both steadfastly refuse to have ANYTHING to do with it. And at that point, I'm out. I let them decide when they are ready.

To me, the whole potty training thing is a wonderful way to feel self-righteous if your kid does it early and also is a way to really sock it to us moms who have late trainers. I just refuse to engage in a battle with my kid about their body and bodily functions. If they don't want to engage, you are just beating your head against a wall. I really liked my pediatrician's advice at Michaela's 4 year old physical: "Don't ever mention it again to her. She'll do it when she's ready."

And that's just what happened.

Jenna has followed the same trajectory: the same books, same pullups, new underwear, same potty, same hopeful offers. And she did the same thing: totally refused to have anything to do with it.

Then a few weeks ago, Jenna developed a diaper rash and I used this as a teaching tool. So last Thursday I said very quietly to her, This is your skin telling you that it is time to start going on the potty and not wear diapers anymore.

And she said, "Okay. I'll start on Saturday."

And Saturday came, she put on underwear, and that was that. She's had one accident and done an absolutely beautiful job. No struggle. No begging. No resistance. It has been such a wonderful joy to not have to change two kids diapers anymore and not have to deal with soaking wet diapers and a four and a half year old's poop up close any more. I feel... cleaner.

The best story out of the whole thing was this: on Tuesday afternoon, she found some diapers of hers we kept for emergencies in the center console of our car. "Oh! These are diapers!! I remember when I used to wear diapers... " she said with a knowing, wistful laugh.

Ahhh, yes... that was AGES ago.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Good enough.

If I had to name the biggest lesson I have learned in the last two and a half months, it's this: when you have three kids, it doesn't have to be perfect. It just can be good enough.

(And the other lesson is that a glass of wine or a good beer can smooth out lots of edges, but that's another post.)
(Just kidding.)
(Sort of.)

I am not a type A personality by any stretch; I am generally pretty laid back and anxiousness is not in my nature. I spend most of my days talking Dan and Michaela off the ledges of anxiety. Jenna and I are more on the same wavelength, personality-wise; a little more go with the flow; a little more "it's going to be fine". But there are certain details I pay lots of attention to and want to be perfect. The clothes my kids wear. Anything paper- my pictures, invitations, birth announcements, Christmas cards. Party favors for the baptism. Anything that I bake. That kind of stuff.

And in the last two and a half months, some of my personal pet projects have just had to be good enough. Because I simply don't have time to obsess over them anymore. It's hard for me to feel like I'm letting some things go, but it makes everyone-including me- infinitely happier.

So for now, I'm aiming for good enough. I can strive for perfect, but not be upset when something doesn't work out exactly right.

And I'm betting that it bothered NO ONE that the holes I punched on the baptism favor tags were a little off center.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Moments when it's totally worth having kids.

Kid #1: Michaela was very sad that Uncle Brian had to leave and return home on Monday. After we said goodbye to him on Sunday, she started crying in the car. She cried all the way home, asking questions like, Why does he have to go home? Why can't he stay here? Why does he live so far away? and we answered her and comforted her the best we could.
She continued crying all during getting ready for bed, putting her pajamas on, and taking her medicine for the strep throat.
Finally, laying on our bed, starting to calm down, still sniffling a bit, she told me somewhat dramatically, "I don't think I can brush my teeth... I'm still really sad."
"I don't think so," I replied. "Get up and brush and go to bed."
I guess she figured it was worth a try.

Kid #2: Jenna has picked up lots of things we say around the house, and since she still can't say the K sound or G sound and replaces it with a T, she puts her own spin on it.
A few days ago she got out the Swiffer sweeper and Dan stopped her, asking,"What exactly are you going to do with that?"
"What the het, Dad??? I'm duh-na tlean!!" was her exasperated reply.

Kid #3: And Alec has been doing this a lot lately:

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Alec John is baptized.

Alec was baptized this Sunday and it was a beautiful event.

The enormity and wonder of the whole day really hit as we were pulling away from the reception site: it was late afternoon, cold and crisp outside, and the light was just gorgeous. The sky was gray and the palest of pinks and blues, almost otherworldly, and everywhere you looked was a gleaming white from the snow that had fallen the day and night before. All five of us were in the car, totally sated from a day spent focused on our little boy, this bundle of love and smiles and warmth and miracles, baptized by his uncle, sponsored by his aunts and uncles, celebrated by his family and friends, now a true child child of God's.

Everything went really smoothly. The service was exciting and breathless for us; my brother did a great job, as we knew he would, and I think it was a pinnacle moment for my parents to see one of their children baptizing the other's child. Even though we were in front of a church filled with 200 people, the moment when Brian was holding Alec felt intimate and loving. There were a lot of us up in front of the church: Alec, his parents, his two sisters, his uncle who baptized him and his four sponsors (Aunt Jaime, Uncle Michael, Aunt Michele and Uncle Jimmy) and it felt like we were all surrounding him with love and security and pride.

After the service, we took lots of pictures and headed out to the reception site. The room was decorated for Christmas and looked beautiful; it had windows on two sides that provided panaramic views of the golf course and beyond. Everything was gold and green and wood, and there was even a warm fire in the fireplace. The food was delicious and plentiful. We got to visit with our guests as Alec slept and then when he woke up, he tolerated being passed around to both adults and kids.

The time passed quickly, as it always does at big events like these that you spend months planning and anticipating. And then it's over and you are left with pictures- both on paper and in your head- of little moments that you will never forget. Smiling at my brother when we handed over Alec to be baptized. Walking into the reception room. Hugging a family member. Talking with a good friend. Pulling away from the country club, seeing that sky and hearing Christmas Canon on the radio and feeling incredibly blessed and full.

May God bless you richly, Alec, and always keep you in His care. Thank you for coming into our lives and know how much your family and friends love you and pray for you.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Randon Crap: December Edition

Wow. Where the heck have I been? I feel like starting a confessional: Forgive me blog, for I have neglected you. It has been over a week since my last posting.

In any case, it has been busy but good here at the house. Here in no particular order is the latest lowdown:

1. Michaela had her first orthodontist appointment today and got molds made of her teeth. She cried before the appointment, convinced they were going to slap her braces and expanders in today. I did my best to reassure her and we headed out. When we got there, she got a little overwhelmed by the whole thing and started crying again. "What exactly are you afraid of?" I asked. Just then- and I swear this is not made up- we heard a kid in a treatment room cry out in pain or discomfort or something. Michaela looks at me and says "THAT'S EXACTLY what I'm afraid of!!" Thankfully, that broke the ice a bit and she settled in and ended up doing fine.
We made our next four appointments, and at the third one, in late December, she gets the hardware cemented in. Should be a blast.

2. Thanksgiving was a great day. Dan had told me earlier in the week how much he was looking forward to Thanksgiving morning, eating cinnamon rolls like we do every Thanksgiving morning, and watching the parade. As soon as he said this, I knew it would be a semi-disaster: high expectations bring nothing but disappointment when kids are involved. And I was right: everyone was hopped up on sugar, excited about the day, making messes all over the house, and generally out of sorts. I retreated to the kitchen, where I made cranberry sauce, an apple pie, chocolate chip cookies, and Brie baked in puff pastry with pesto. We watched a little of the dog show and dreamed about the dog we may, possibly, get someday. The girls want a little yippy dog and Dan wants a big dog and I want something in between. (Actually, I don't really want one at all but noone seems to listen to that.) We got dressed in our holiday finery and went over to my parent's house, where we celebrated with Dan's dad and aunt and uncle. We took some nice family pictures while we were still fresh and lookin' decent. Alec wore a button down shirt and a quarter zip sweater over it and we were all dying with the cuteness.
The food was excellent and the company was great and we all hung out until late and celebrated a wonderful, relaxing holiday.

3. Jenna has announced that she will not go on the potty until she's seven. I replied that I am no longer buying diapers after she's five.

4. In a related note, I realized the other day that I have changed at least two diapers a day for the last 8 years. Do you know how many diapers that is? 5,840. And assuming that I use 2 wipes at each change, I have handled 11, 680 wipes since Michaela has been born. I don't think I ever consciously thought about how changing diapers is such a part of my everyday life. I don't really mind it... I'm just impressed with the sheer volume.

5. Christmas preparations are in full swing here at the house. We put our tree up the day after Thanksgiving, and the girls were a riot helping out this year. They divided up the tree so Michaela's ornaments are on the left side of the tree, Jenna's are on the right, and anything pertaining to Dan and I are in the middle. I love seeing the ornaments year after year, and can't wait to add a Baby's First Christmas one with Alec's picture in it. I have been shopping when I can and the girls are mostly done. I have ideas for pretty much everyone else; it's just an issue of ordering things online or hitting a few more stores. I will be working on my Christmas card in the next few days (thank you, snapfish, for the 40% off Christmas cards deal you are running!).
We are very into the Christmas tv specials this year and have a schedule taped to the side of the tv cabinet so we can DVR one at a moment's notice. We have been listening to Christmas music in the car and generally are milking the holiday for all it's worth. And it's only December 2nd.

6. I brought Alec for his two month checkup and he is doing great. He is 24 and a half inches tall, and 12 pounds and 14.5 ounces. This puts him in the 90th percentile for height and 75th for weight. He is, incredibly, growing out of the 3 month sized clothes and I have his 6 month sized stuff in the wash as I type. He got his first round of immunizations and tolerated them pretty well; the only after effect was that his legs were pretty sore that night. He has been sleeping pretty well and even slept through the night twice this week, something the girls didn't do until they were about three years old. He is just an entirely different baby than they were- content, happy, easy, laid back, hungry, and adorable. He started smiling last week and that has melted our hearts completely. I have some pictures I will post soon.

7. Sunday is Alec's baptism and I have been doing various things to get ready for that. My brother Brian is actually baptizing him and we are all excited for this special day. We chose to have the reception at a local country club instead of at our house, and this has reduced my stress levels by about 100000%.

8. We need a new roof. How exciting. We're starting to get estimates and hope to get it done before winter snow arrives. We also need to fix our dishwasher, which is working, but not particularly well.

9. Tomorrow is Michaela's parent teacher conference. I have to admit I'm a little anxious about the whole thing. I know she's doing fine and there should be no surprises, but I want her teacher to love her like we love her and see all of her goodness inside all of that bounciness. Plus, Dan rewards good conferences with a dinner out and I LOVE going out.

10. Tonight is the first Advent service at church for the season. I love Advent services: they help me focus on the right things and are like a wonderful time-out. Plus, they feed us dinner beforehand and I LOVE going out.

11. I weaned Alec from breastfeeding last week, and while I have mixed emotions about it, generally I am just relieved. He is the second child I weaned this year. The whole transition was seamless; I was willing to nurse him a little longer but he lost interest and clearly liked the bottle better. I was unable to sit and nurse him like I did the girls and as a result was unable to produce enough to keep him satisfied. I feel good that he got a solid eight weeks of breastmilk with all the goodies that gives his immune system, but feel a little bad that he didn't get more. And, for all I complained about it with Jenna, it is a special time you have with your child. On the other hand, I certainly feel no less bonded with Michaela or Alec, both of whom I nursed 8-10 weeks instead of the four years I nursed Jenna. And the constant nursing and need to be with Jenna all the time was very, very difficult on me and Dan. So it's kind of a mixed bag of emotions, but I am glad it is over and my body is truly my own again. Added bonus: this will be a great thing that Jenna can throw in their faces as a clear indicator that I loved her best. (Michaela and Alec: I love you just as much.)

So that is life around here. And it's all good.