Thursday, December 23, 2010

Things I Want to Remember About This Christmas. (And it Hasn't Even Come Yet.)

... how good it felt to start shopping early this year... how Michaela repeatedly called her Christmas blouse "Dutch" because it has puffy sleeves... how grown up Alec looks in his Christmas vest and corduroys... how fun it was to find new spots for old decorations at the new house... how cozy it felt the night I addressed our Christmas cards: tree on, fire roaring, feeling peaceful... how happy I was to discover a new cookie recipe: tender gingersnaps... how angelic the kids looked in the Christmas card... how nice my mom was to babysit while I wrapped gifts... how good it feels to be all done by December 23rd... how much I'm looking forward to being with family on Christmas Eve and Day... how excited Uncle Jimmy is for Christmas to be at his new house... how chaotic Christmas Day will be with three one year olds and three other kids... how Alec is starting to walk but still looks drunk when he does it... how fun it was to look forward to the Christmas specials with the girls, especially Charlie Brown Christmas... how many times the girls worriedly asked if they were getting coal for Christmas... how beautiful the soft light of the candles in our windows look at night when we go to bed... how Michaela asks me to turn her candles off every night because she apparently doesn't find their glow as beautiful... how good the oranges sent by my aunt and uncle were this year... how Jenna asked me many, many pointed questions about Santa yummy the fudge we made was... how Alec seems to enjoy Christmas M&Ms as much as I do... how much I am blessed... how much I love my friends and family... how much I treasure every minute of the holidays with my (growing) little family.

Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Recent Conversations at 3am.

This week, with Christmas looming large before us, we've had some interesting nighttime adventures with the kids. Well, with Michaela and Jenna, since we threw Alec into his crib a few weeks ago and let him cry it out, which he did with little gusto (certainly nothing like the strong will and anger that his five year old sister displayed when we did the same thing to her four years ago) and now he sleeps through the night.

No, this is the Big Girls, who slither into our bedroom with the carpeting softening their footsteps to near silence, so when they get to my side of the bed (and why is it ALWAYS my side?) I am generally still sound asleep and when they lean over me, mere inches from my face and say, "Mom?" I wake with such a terrified start that it takes me 30 minutes just to get my heartrate back down.

Finally last week I laid down the law: IF you HAVE to come into our room at night, stand at the doorway and call my name, because you're scaring the bejeepers out of me.

And these are the reasons I have been startled out of a sound sleep:

"My ear feels empty."
"My hand is asleep."
"My nose hurts."
"I can't sleep."

My recent favorite came at 10pm, when Michaela came downstairs and told me this: "Spit is squirting into my mouth and when I swallow, more squirts in."
"Why don't you get a drink of water?" I suggested.
"No! I don't want a drink of water!"
"Well, Michaela, I don't know how to fix this problem. Go back to bed."

The other morning Michaela woke up super early- around 5:45am- and came downstairs where I was laying on the couch with Alec. Shivering, she pulled her arms out of her sleeves and hugged herself. "Grab a blanket, Michaela, if you're cold," I told her kindly. "No! I don't want a blanket!" she replied. Well, okay then.

This is what I call a Posterity Post: When the girls are older and ask why I have so much gray hair, or they have their own children who pull these kinds of stunts, I can smile sweetly and point them to this entry.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Taking a Moment.

O Holy night
The stars are brightly shining
It is the night of our dear Savior's birth
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary world world rejoices
for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Fall on your knees!
O hear the angel voices!
O night divine; O night that Christ was born.
O night, O holy night, O night divine!

Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
and in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we
Let all within us praise His Holy Name.

Christ is the Lord! Forever, ever praise thee!
O Night that Christ was born.
Noel! Noel!
O night, O night divine.

And that's what Christmas is all about.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Haircuts and Cookies.

My baby boy Alec, who is quickly becoming less and less a baby each day, got his first haircut on Monday.

Our hairdresser Erin, who performed the first haircuts on the girls, did a great job.

He is now neat and trim, just in time for getting his picture taken today at Picture People. That also turned out adorable: Alec standing up, on his own, against a black background.

We did a little Christmas shopping and then came home to bake some cookies.
Alec helped.

Here is some photodocumentation of all these events.

Monday, December 13, 2010

On Being Worn Out.

I, like most of America, was pretty fascinated by the interview Oprah Winfrey gave last week to Barbara Walters. I have grown up watching Oprah, from afterschool to after work to on maternity leave to being home and looking forward to it as a time out for me. Nowadays I can watch maybe once every two weeks, as the four o'clock hour in my house has become increasingly chaotic with afterschool homework, discussions about the day at school, beginning dinner preparations, and caring for a one year old.
I honor her desire to strive for greatness, her motivational speeches, her work ethic, her honesty, and her integrity. I think she's a great human being.
Part of her interview was about what she wants to do with her life, and how she wants God to wear her out: use up everything she's got to help other people.

And all I can think of is how obvious it is that she is not raising children.

I am struggling right now with the question of What Is My Purpose On Earth, and I completely and fully embrace and adore that God has blessed me with three healthy children to raise. But is there more? Am I so exhausted by meeting the day to day demands of these little miracles that I can't even imagine life beyond their childhood? I trust that God has a wondrous, meaningful plan for me that will become clear as time goes on: if anything, God's plan has always been fairly clear for me.
Because I want God to wear me out, too, and use me for greatness.

But after waking up at 5:45am, making breakfasts and lunches for the kids, sending them off to school, giving Alec a bath, getting myself and Alec dressed and out the door, going grocery shopping, managing Alec's first haircut, taking pictures of my suddenly grown-up-looking boy, grabbing some lunch, going to my parents' house, making 15 pounds of fudge for Christmas parties and gifts, coming home, checking my mental to-do list, unpacking groceries, answering emails, talking to the girls when they get home, putting some new family pictures in frames, getting dinner ready, helping Jenna with her homework, reminding Michaela to practice her viola, negotiating too-numerous-to-count peace treaties between the girls, making dinner, clearing the table, doing the dishes, talking with Dan about his day, supervising two reluctant shower-takers, one in one bathroom and one in the other, getting their jammies on, drying their hair, blogging, playing with Alec, and putting the girls to bed.... I am completely worn out and totally used up.

Mom greatness is just different than Greatness-With-a-Capital-G-Greatness.
It's not flashy, it's not breathtaking, it's quiet and it's a marathon.
It is ego-less and it is not about me in the least.
It is not about MY greatness, but Michaela, Jenna and Alec's Greatness.
And I love them.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Nothing's Wrong; I'm Just Blonde.

I was super excited to get an early start on my Christmas card this year.
I got the Christmas outfits early, got the picture taken early, and in a rapid-fire swirl of efficiency, made up the card online and had them printed.
When I proudly showed off my creation to Dan, he said,"Mmm, nice pictures. But you didn't put OUR names on the card."

Ooooooohhhhhh, right.

I just signed them "With love from Michaela, Jenna and Alec John".
Well, no biggie, I thought. People will certainly make the jump that it's from our family.
Which would have worked out well, except for this little detail: halfway through assembling the cards, I realized that the return address label I was using was a preprinted label I got for free from Disabled Veterans, labels I was (trying to be) so proud to be using instead of my usual plan of buying new custom labels. We did buy a new house this year, you know. And these labels read: Cheryl B. Libutti.

So here I thought I was really ahead of the curve, on a train to Practical-ville, when it hit me: Dan's name is NOWHERE on this card. Nowhere.

So if you knew us from our old neighborhood, it is entirely possible that you will get our card and think, "Oh, how sad. Made that move and that must have done their marriage in."
Or, "What the heck happened to DAN??"

So let me assure you 100% that we are 1) still very happily married; 2) healthy and all alive; 3) a thoroughly intact family.

And we ALL wish you a Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Meet the Sicky McSickersons.

Four out of the five of us have a stomach bug. A bad one.
It has been a miserable few days.
Michaela is the only one unscathed.
Alec started on Tuesday night by puking all over me at dinnertime. (Side note-now all three of the kids have puked directly on me.) Then it was Jenna, then me, then Dan.
I feel like I've been hit by a truck.
The silver lining: I stepped on my scale today and have lost about 8 pounds.

Jenna, Alec and I hunkered down all together on the couch for a three hour nap yesterday. When we all woke up, Jenna looked around and asked, "How long did we sleep for? Have we been sleeping for, like, three days? Did Michaela go back to school?" And it took me quite a while to convince her that it was the same day.

I am wishing I could sleep until next week and wake up all better.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Turkey Time Out 2010, Part 2.

In my somewhat bucolic description of our weekend, I forgot to mention that the girls were utterly fascinated by the turkey timer-popper-thing and insisted on keeping it after we carved the turkey. So we washed it and gave it to them.

Jenna chased her brother and sister the rest of the weekend, wearing thin cotton gloves they use when they are playing doctor or dentist, waving the timer-popper in her hand, saying, "It's time for your flu shot! Come get your fluuuuuu shot!"

And they both screamed and ran/crawled/creeped away from her in terror.

It was the kind of moment when I thought, "You know, sometimes these blog entries just write themselves."

Turkey Time Out 2010.

So we just wrapped up a fabulous, restful Thanksgiving weekend. And I had to promise Dan that we'd only be eating leftovers from Thanksgiving dinner two more times.

After I got back from my Chicago weekend away (and let's take a moment to remember diaper changes for FOUR DAYS!), I got right to work baking and cooking for Thanksgiving. I made apple pie, soft gingersnap cookies, some Christmas cookies, yeast rolls, and Pilgrim hat cookies with the girls. (It was a wonderful flashback to the kinds of hats my people wore back when I was a Pilgrim. Ahh, memories.) I also of course had to clean, get the table linens ready, grocery shop several times, etc, etc, etc- all the stuff you do to host a holiday. It all went really smoothly and before I knew it, it was Thursday morning. After our traditional holiday breakfast of cinnamon rolls (and it seems like each year we all eat more and more of them, but I blame that on the fact that every few years we add another mouth to feed) we watched a little of the parade (watching the Rockettes do their line kick kind of makes me cry with happiness, and I can 't quite put my finger on why) and the dog show while we started cooking. Pumpkin pie, cranberry sauce, brie en crote, dips, sides, gravy, turkey, stuffing, cucumber salad, mashed potatoes- all of it got ready and made it's way to the table.

We had 10 people total, and five of them were us: we added Dan's dad, his aunt and uncle and my parents. It was a lovely day, pretty calm and relaxed, and I think everyone had a great day.

Friday came, and as much as I love going shopping on Black Friday and have for years, between Alec's morning schedule and the fact that I really didn't need to BUY anything, I skipped a shopping trip. We finished cleaning up and then started decorating for Christmas. First I had to say goodbye to my favorite Harvest-y themed decorations, which I am ridiculously attached to, and bid them farewell until next September. (Sigh.) But then we started getting out the tree and the ornaments and the garland and the spotlight and the candles and oh, my, it was lots of fun. We got it all together by the end of the day and then sat around our electric meter and watched it spin with all the decorative lights on. Good times!

Saturday and Sunday were quiet days; I tackled my humongous pile of junk and papers and things that need to be filed and whittled it down to a manageable level, all the while promising myself for the 372nd time that I'll certainly never, ever let it get to that level again. The girls went to a sleepover party at my cousin's house and had a great time. Dan and I and Alec went to his aunt and uncle's for dinner and were amazed at how quiet it was without them. And we missed them.
We capped off Sunday night by watching a Hallmark movie called "Christmas in November" about a 8 year old girl with cancer (she lives) whose parents speed up the holidays so she can enjoy them in case she doesn't survive. It was a charming movie, but I cried through the vast majority of it all while holding my sleeping baby and constantly smelling him to make sure he was real and here and not dying of cancer. Gut wrenching.

I have a relatively quiet week ahead of me which I will certainly quickly fill up. But the four day weekend with my family was long and pretty leisurely and we were so happy to host a big holiday at our new house, not only because we can now comfortably fit our extended family into rooms without their elbows touching, but especially because we got to keep all the leftovers.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Little Girl in the Big City.

I am back from my mini-vacation to Chicago and I am happy to report the following:

1. I did not change any diapers while I was there.
2. My children are all still alive.
3. My flights were flawless.
4. The Art Institute of Chicago is amazing. And peaceful. And quiet. And beautiful.
5. My brother and I both love riding the train.
6. I slept through the night each night I was there.
7. There is nothing as comfy as sitting on Brian and Beth's couch, eating M&Ms with your jammies on and a big blanket covering you while you watch Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Heaven.
8. I had a wonderful dose of fresh perspective while I was travelling by myself.
9. Seeing a Renoir painting in real life is indescribable... something about seeing the light bounce off the actual painting makes it appear to glow with dazzling color.
10. Sunset is the best time to go to the 96th floor of the John Hancock Center and enjoy a relaxing drink as the lights of the city come on and twinkle all around you.
11. If you eat at a restaurant in Chicago's Greektown, you will not only taste the best spanakopita you've ever tasted, they will set cheese on fire and it will be a-MA-zing.
12. I was able to sit around a roaring outside chiminea fire on Saturday night and talk to other adults for several hours without once being interrupted.
I had a wonderful time and was happy to come home and see my babies and my honey.
Many thanks to Brian and Beth for making my weekend so special!!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Reason #2.

I just realized that while I'm in Chicago on my vacation, it will be the first time in over nine years that I will not be changing diapers and coming face to face with someone else's poop.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Reason #1 Why I Need a Vacation.

I was woken up by one of my three children at 2:30am, 3:30am, 4:30am, 5:30am, 6:30am, and 7am. That's not sleeping; it's napping while it's dark.

One time I was woken up to address this pressing issue: "Mommy, when I swallow, my whole body feels fuzzy."

Even in daylight, I can't fix that one. It is especially difficult to handle at 3:30am.

At 6:30am I was woken up by Michaela to see if it was okay for her to take a shower.

Thursday night cannot come soon enough.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

On Being Home, Being a Mom, Time, Swimming, and Altered States.

A few days ago I posted on Facebook that it was 1:30pm, I was still in my pajamas, I was doing things around the house, like laundry and changing sheets and Alec was following me around the whole day. I have to admit, I was a bit surprised by the comments I received about this, most of which were incredibly sweet and positive and indicated that others wished they were able to do the same things. I am sure that for someone working, getting up early, with a very structured day, a day of loosey-goosey working-in-my-pajamas activities would sound appealing, but I have to be honest with you: when I posted that I was sort of bored (not that there wasn't anything to do, just not anything that I was looking forward to doing), annoyed that I hadn't found time to shower and get dressed yet, tired of holding a clingy baby and a little lonely.

My friend Judy says it best: There's no utopia, baby. Someone else's life/schedule/stressors always look better than your own.

On that day, I would have really enjoyed being sort of put together- at least bathed and dressed in nice clothing, doing something I was getting paid for, interacting with other adults, working on something that was not immediately going to be undone.

And certainly I understand that I have an immense amount of freedom to create my own structure and projects and socialization time. And the ability to bathe and dress myself however I want. I can recreate that for myself, if my baby is able to tolerate me doing that.

But the last few years of my life have been a little like living in an altered state, filled to the brim with needy babies and busy school-age children and broken-up nights of sleep and incredible happiness and fullness and a lack of day-to-day structure and meeting the needs of four other people first and feeling overwhelmed and absent-minded and constantly being interrupted while I'm doing anything and loving things deeper than I've ever felt and experiencing totally uneven levels of productivity. It's like a dreamy, swirly, foggy- and pleasant- universe. I am really only held accountable to my babies, and my husband, and myself, and I have tremendous amounts of leeway to do things when I want, how I want, or not at all. I am protected quite a bit from the big, bad world outside and can easily be comforted by my cozy familiar surroundings. But with that comes this sense of isolation, and the sense of never getting anything done, especially since my clean kids get dirty again, the food I cook gets eaten, the clothes I wash are worn, and the items I pick up always manage to find their way out again.

It all seems able to slip through my fingers, especially time, and while I remember clearly when I stopped working to have Jenna, now I look at portraits of my babies on the wall, and they seem so incredibly big and grown up and I wonder where the time has gone.

And I realize: it has swirled around me all this time and I have been swimming in it, day after day, hour by hour, making and growing these wonderful children and here they are, happy and healthy and seemingly not headed towards being serial killers. Not yet, at least. And this is my work.

A few weeks ago at a party someone met my kids for the first time. "You have beautiful children," she said. "Thanks," I answered. "I grew them myself!" And I felt kind of silly for saying that afterwards, but then I kind of liked it. I did grow these kids myself, and I am pouring my heart and soul into them every day.

The trouble/curse/blessing with being home with little kids and a baby is that the day stretches out before you, full of promise. Or boredom. Or frustration. Or magic. And some days you don't shower, or get as much done as you thought you could or thought you should, and you are rushed or looking for something to do or someone to talk to. It's on you.

You are the master of that ship, and responsible for whether it- and you-sink or swim. I definitely know I am swimming, doing fine, very happy with my place in life. But there are some days when you are barely treading water, and a different life looks pretty good... just for that day.

There's no utopia, baby.

Friday, November 5, 2010


These things have helped me retain my sanity while I manage a weekend ahead without Dan, a bouncy fourth grader, a needy kindergartner who lost her watermelon-scented smencil on the bus today, and Mr. Clingy Von Clingster, who is teething and miserable:

1. Walmart: Okay, Walmart makes me happy no matter what's going on in my life, but I love it around the holidays when they start filling up the aisle displays with baking items, tins full of gingerbread spice cookies, endcaps with stuffing, cranberries and other holiday foods, and of course the ultimate sign of the holidays: bags of red, dark green and light green M&Ms. Something about Walmart's brilliant marketing and anticipating my needs as a consumer makes me feel... well, like I have to work less to buy the things I want. Because it's right there within easy reach. If only more areas of my life had the same devotion to anticipating my needs. Sigh.

2. Shopping channels: Oh, yes it IS time to start watching HSN and QVC. Last night I was beside myself as I flicked back and forth between Colin Cowie and his brilliant entertaining ideas and Bethlehem Nights Seasonal Lighting shows. All of it, I want all of it!!! And the ideas of how to use the items! So many suggestions! Battery powered LED lights and garlands and topiaries and you can set the lights to twinkle or steady and the indoor fireplace that Colin was touting which you hang on the wall and the co-host who I swear said the word, "LITERALLY!" about 382 times. ("LITERALLY, if you can hang a picture, you can LITERALLY hang this fireplace! LITERALLY!") I am mesmerized by the cheerfulness, the eagerness, the call-ins, the whole thing.

3. Christmas Music: I turned on Christmas music today to listen to while I folded laundry. I know it's early, and many, many people get very sick of Christmas music, but I love, love, love it.

4. Travel: Two weeks from today I will be in Chicago with my brother and his family. Hopefully on my third glass of wine.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

My Boy, My Joy.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Halloween: By the Numbers.

60: Number of pieces of candy Jenna got trick or treating
86: number of trick or treaters who came to our door
350: apparently the number of trick or treaters I was expecting to come, based on the amount of candy I bought
158: number of pieces of candy Michaela got trick or treating
1: number of times it had to hail on Jenna while trick or treating before she gave up and came inside
2: number of neighborhoods that Michaela trolled around looking for candy
15: the number of feet I had to carry Jenna at our YMCA's Haunted Trail, which totally freaked her out
10: number of times I had to remind MYSELF that the Haunted Trail was NOT REAL
Seemed like 20: the number of times on the Haunted Trail that a real person in the pitch-black woods fired up a REAL chainsaw and then laughed like a maniac
60: number of minutes it took to do hair and makeup for Halloween... 'cuz it's ALL about the hair and makeup.
150: number of people at our neighborhood's Halloween Parade and block party
2: number of bouncy-bounces at the Block Party
1: number of 24' climbing walls at the Block Party
7: number of bags of candy I have bought since the beginning of October and rationalized by saying, "This is for Halloween..."
220: number of calories in a Hershey's Cookies and Cream fun size bar
200: number of calories in a Hershey's Chocolate bar
90: number of calories in a Reese's Peanut Butter Pumpkin fun size candy, further advancing my belief that there IS a God and He loves me
3: number of scary-type house settling noises Dan and I heard last night after we watched The Walking Dead on AMC
15: number of zombies we watched get shot at point blank range during The Walking Dead on AMC
0: number of pumpkins we carved this weekend
0: number of times the kids seemed to notice we didn't carve any pumpkins
1: number of trick or treaters dressed as Snooki that came to our door (I LOVED it)
1: number of times my heart broke when Michaela announced she didn't want to carry her Pottery Barn kids pumpkin trick or treat candy holder, she wanted just a plain pillowcase, and I realized that she may be growing out of it (sniff!)
7: number of times I felt guilty because I didn't buy Alec a costume
2: number of Halloween-themed t-shirts that Alec rocked all of October and looked adorable
4: number of pieces of candy that Jenna can eat, very quietly, before I realize she's eaten FOUR PIECES OF CANDY 10 MINUTES BEFORE DINNER
3: number of boxes of nerds Jenna got trick or treating
3: number of boxes of nerds I am coveting
1: number of times I sighed with relief when this crazy weekend was over
4: number of times I told people today we had an AWESOME Halloween

Thursday, October 28, 2010

And that's BEFORE Shipping.

So last night I asked the girls to start thinking about their lists for Santa, mostly because Santa wants to be a bit more organized than in previous years and get the ol' ball rolling on gathering presents. The girls eagerly agreed and asked where the latest American Girl doll catalog was.
They found it on their own and took markers and circled their requests, complete with their initial next to the item. Jenna also patiently explained for me the complex system of looking for the letter near the object you like, then looking down at the writing for the same letter so you can circle it.
I glanced through the catalog and was a bit startled by the sheer frequency of circles I saw. To prove a point, after they went to bed, I took the catalog and a calculator to see how much it would be if Santa purchased every item.

Grand total: $1,795.00.

I told them this morning, and though they only have a passing understanding of money and how much things cost, both grew wide-eyed and giggled. "Let's to to pare it down to your few favorite things," I suggested.

Never a dull- or inexpensive- moment around here.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Bedtime Confessions.

Like most kids, Jenna waits until bedtime- just as you are about to turn off the light and close the door- to say, "Wait! I have to tell you something."
Her poor little head is just swimming with things to think about: starting school, making friends, eating in the cafeteria, pleasing her teacher, learning how to read and write, going to art and gym and music, and managing the social stuff on the playground. It's alot for a five year old to process.
Last week we had two Bedtime Confessions.

The first one she got all tucked in, I came downstairs and a few minutes later we head stirring upstairs. Dan and I now make bets about what the statement is going to be: will it be the famous and a bit overused 'I'm not tired'? How about 'There's a spider in my room'? Or 'I can't sleep' or 'My teeth/legs/ankle/stomach hurts' or 'Can I have one more drink before I go to sleep?'
We were quietly placing our bets when Jenna comes downstairs and says, "I have something to tell you."
"Go ahead," I say.
"Weeelllll... in school today during lunch, the lunch lady told us to clean up our area where we were eating, and there was a straw wrapper on the floor, and I picked it up and I didn't know where to put it and then as we were walking back to the classroom I just dropped it in the hall and now I'm afraid the principal is going to know I did that and that I'm going to get in trouble."
"Hmmm.." I said as I glanced at Dan. "I think the janitors who clean the school picked it up and it will be just fine. But next time put it in the garbage, okay?"
An obviously relieved Jenna nodded, smiled and headed back up to bed.

A few days later, I was tucking her in to bed.
"Mommy... I have something to tell you."
"Go ahead," I tell her.
"Weeeeellll, you know GuHong in my class?" (He is a little Chinese boy who sits next to her and she, of course, calls him DoHond.)
"Well... I was playing with my friends on the playground at recess and he came running over and wanted to swing with me. But my friends all ran away and I kinda wanted to go with them so I ran away from him and now I think I hurt his feelings because I didn't play with him."

So I launch into a whole spiel about playing with friends and including other people, and how hard it is to manage all that stuff. I give her a few suggestions about what she can say to GuHong when she sees him the next day. "Why don't you say to him, I'm sorry if I hurt your feelings yesterday, GuHong. Let's play on the swings today!"

Jenna looks very seriously at me and says, sort of condescendingly, "Mom. I am very shy. I can't say all THAT to him."

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Birthday Bonanza.

On her birthday morning, eating cinnamon rolls and wearing her "Happy Birthday to Me" t-shirt

My big girl Michaela turned nine.
It seems impossible that so much time has gone by since she came into the world fifteen days late nine years ago, but who can imagine life before her?
Michaela is my go-to gal, my buddy, my spirited, funny, cool, friendly, energetic daughter. She is growing up before our very eyes: getting taller, longer, more mature looking, and losing all signs of kid-dom as she careens towards becoming a teenager.
Michaela has been my lifesaver with Alec and he just adores her.
We all adore her.

She had a great birthday party on 10/10/10, where we celebrated Michaela turning 9 and Alec turning 1, which conveniently adds up to 10. Our friends and family were there and ate two delicious, beautiful cakes made by my cousins Eric and Tammie. Michaela received many thoughtful gifts, including super skinny jeans and clothes and DVDs and Wii games and Liv dolls and craft projects.
The Super Skinnies
Alec also had a great time, playing with all the kids, being his usual happy, pleasant self. You could obviously tell he was the third-born child because he handled all the 1st birthday hoopla of a house full of guests so well. He took a good nap in the middle of the party and never really cried. We offered him a big piece of cake but he chose not to have any, probably because he had stuffed himself silly with Twisted Cheese Puffs all afternoon.

It was a birthday bonanza and lots of fun.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Super Soccer Players.


Alec watches the game

Soccer Stars!

There's Michaela: second girl in in the group of four.

Jenna's super soccer kick.

Watching from the sidelines during a break.
Both girls chose to play in our town's recreational soccer league this fall. The season starts in September and lasts through October, with one practice per week and a game on Saturday morning. It is lots of fun and filled with friends and people you know from school and church and preschool and Girls Scouts so not only do the kids have fun, but the moms get to chit chat as well. Michaela and Jenna have loyal fans in my parents and our aunt and uncle, who come to every windy game to cheer them on.
Michaela has requested the same coach every season since she was four and loves him. Jenna's coach is Dan, who started the season on crutches from his knee surgery and as of today (hooray!) is brace-free and walking around without any limp. Both girls have had great seasons and Jenna only asked once to quit, which is a real improvement from last time she played. Alec seems to enjoy getting out and watching the games and getting attention from the other players' older and younger siblings.

We have a few weeks left, and every parent I know can't wait for it to be over. Getting out of the house by 8:45am every Saturday, with the cleats and socks and warm clothes and soccer ball and water bottle- and Popsicles or oranges, if it's your week- gets a little tiring. But then we're just as excited to start again when the signup comes around for the next season.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Annual Post in which I Describe the Ritual of Pumpkin Purchasing.

We, like every other suburban family in our town, hit the Red Horse Farm a few weeks ago to get our pumpkin fix. It is so beautiful there, and homey, and the farmer is about 300 years old. He encouraged the girls to "grab a wagon for your pumpkins!" and the girls took that literally, each grasping the handle of a little red wagon, pulling it over to where the pumpkins are arranged on pallets, and enthusiastically piling pumpkins into their wagons as fast as their little arms could lift them.

"Whoa!-whoa!-whoa!," Mommy The Pumpkin Grinch had to yell. "How many pumpkins are you putting in that wagon??"

(Because while I LOVE pumpkins, being a former Pilgrim and all, I don't need $147 worth of pumpkins.)

And The Pumpkin Grinch made the girls put all but three pumpkins each and some gourds back.

But it was a gorgeous day and a gorgeous farm and we got some great pictures from the visit.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Watch out- I'm on the Soapbox Again.

I am here on a noble, but unpopular, mission to defend the latest, coolest things to bash: Facebook and Jersey Shore.

I reluctantly became a member of the Facebook phenomenon about a year or two ago, dragged by my friend Gina, who is much more up on these things than I am. At first I was horrified to see all the people that I went to high school with, struggled with my posts and pictures, and generally disliked the idea of trying to make my life seem like something it's not.
But then over time, a strange thing happened: I grew to love Facebook.
I caught up with people I went to college with and loved. I saw pictures of their kids and read little bits of their everyday lives and got a sense of their routines. I became friends again with people I went to high school with. I friended people I knew from church and was able to read what they are up to during the week. I pushed the like button on various stores that I shop at. I friended my real-world friends and was able to see more pictures, hear more cute kid stories, and know what were up to today without having to pick up a phone. I have heard about struggles that I never would have known about; I have prayed for people; I have thanked people for their prayers for me. I friended two ex-boyfriends and got to see how their lives turned out.
On the days that are long, or boring, or bad, here with a one year old as my main source of company, I can go check and feel connected to a bunch of people I care about. It's an escape.
People love to bash Facebook for it's superficiality and it's ability to destroy lives or ruin reputations. And I guess those things are true: I know it's a big deal to have lots of friends, so people friend people they barely know. I know that people publish photos that in a few years they will regret. They rant or curse or are in some way inappropriate.
But for me, in my demographic (36 year old stay at home mom of three kids under 9), Facebook is a lifeline to others and a reminder that everyone else has triumphs and struggles just the same. It is an easy, fast and convenient way to keep tabs on the people I see and don't see in real life.
So please don't bash on Facebook. I'd be very sad without it.

Now, on to Jersey Shore.
I am proud to say that I am a fan of Jersey Shore, the pop culture phenomenon on MTV about a group of people living and partying on the Jersey Shore for a summer (or Miami Beach in the winter). They don't have jobs, they fall in love with each other, they try to hook up with members of the opposite sex, and they drink all the time. And they love their hot tub. People LOVE to bash Jersey Shore as the Certain Sign of the Apocalypse, the last stop before Sodom, a tribute to all that is wrong with America. And I say hogwash.
Jersey Shore is a soap opera, just as lewd and depraved and shallow as the soaps that have been on television for 50 years or more. The characters look different, but the plot line is the same.
And yes, there is a plot line. Don't think that these people aren't playing a part: the first and only REAL reality tv show was the first season of MTV's Real World, back in the 1990's, and some of the people on that show were a little, well, boring. (No romance? No addiction problems? No physical altercations? That guy Kevin was barely even FILMED.) So the producers started punching things up a bit. The characters on Jersey Shore know exactly what they are doing.
Basically, the way I see it, the cast of Jersey Shore is getting paid $30,000 PER EPISODE to hang out, go out partying, not work, and be on television, and we call THEM stupid. Yeah. They're laughing all the way to the bank.

So no, my positions are not popular. They may be very different from people of other generations. And I accept that. But to paint it all with such a broad brush and say it's all destructive... I disagree. It's escapism, pure and simple. And that's been around for a long, long time.

The defense rests.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Catching Up.

The Rundown...
Michaela... is adjusting beautifully to 4th grade... started her viola lessons at school and will have a concert in January... is still brimming with energy but is pretty pooped by the end of the day... shocked us by scoring higher on her math standardized tests than language arts... is super excited for her birthday on Friday... is adored by her brother and sister... started back with her girl scout troop and is happy to be with her old friends... had an impromptu movie night here with three girls from our street last weekend... is learning, through trial and error, the unwritten rules of sitting in the back of the bus... was called a "fashionista" by her teacher on Open House night... loves playing offense on her soccer team... is learning alot about time management, organization, and homework this year... still tries to work us over whenever she can... is just as sweet and good natured and Tiggerific as ever.

Jenna... has fully embraced going to school after a few weeks of crying in the morning... loves her teacher Mrs. Crawley... is starting to correct herself- Hurray!- when she replaces a "k" with a "t"... is back playing soccer and has only asked me once to quit... sings the same "days of the week" song that Michaela learned in Kindergarten... came home with optional homework yesterday and took it very seriously... loves going to art, music, library and PE at school... is totally wiped out by about 8:15pm, a full hour earlier than she went to bed over the summer... has made new friends at school: Skye, Hallie and Elle... has a Gianna, a Jenna, a Gemma and two Emmas in her class- that poor teacher!... enjoys riding the bus and sitting with friends... was nervous about going to Sunday School, because she has a husband and wife teaching team, and the man has a mustache and she told me quite earnestly that " mustaches are tind of treepy"... is just as loving and gentle as ever.

Alec... has now popped his fourth tooth... almost didn't live to see his fourth tooth come in- he was so miserable!... is standing up and creeping around furniture... got his first pair of big boy shoes yesterday... is not enjoying wearing long sleeves and socks... gets into a LOT of things around the house, but is never destructive... is tired of hearing me say, "Your sisters never DID that!"... knocked himself backwards in a chair, pulled down a dresser, and climbed on top of our sofa table... is getting more adventurous in his eating... is done with formula and loves his milk... still hates his bath... loves throwing balls and hearing music... clicks his tongue to get the cat's attention... loves to point and laugh... is easily manipulated by the offer of cheese puffs... is as sweet and handsome as ever.

Dan... is almost done wearing the brace on his knee... goes to PT a few times a week for a few more weeks... has had a great recovery from his surgery... is planning an all-guy road trip to see a Penn State game with some friends... is happy at work... is excited to watch the Yankees playoff series... is back to taking care of Alec at night for me on Fridays. Amen.

Cheryl... is totally overwhelmed by the schedule of two kids playing soccer, church choir, Girl Scouts, church, a teething infant, an injured husband and life... is trying, with limited success, to instill a fairly structured schedule after school... is attending a Wednesday morning Bible study at church and loves it... is thrilled that she no longer has any children under 1 year old- and never will again... keeps going down to the basement to grab warm clothes and has yet to put the summer stuff in her closet away... dropped out of the library Storytime on Tuesdays because the leader irritated her and it was right in the middle of Alec's morning nap... is planning a long weekend ALONE in Chicago with her brother and his family in November- the first time away from the kids except when birthing more kids... looks forward to Sundays because of Mad Men... (and, of course, church)... is so tired from waking up all hours of the night with Alec that when he sleeps until 4am, she actually wakes up feeling refreshed... is totally useless after 9pm. Totally.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Portrait of a One Year Old.

The Cupcakes!

He loved eating his cupcake.

He loves sticking that tongue out and touching his new teeth.
Happy Birthday to Alec!

Monday, September 27, 2010

I'll Be Thelma, You Be Louise.

My friend Angel got me hooked on a reality tv show called The Fabulous Beekman Boys, which airs on planet green on Wednesday nights. It is a, well, fabulous show about a gay couple from NYC who were looking for a place to go outside of the city and stumbled upon Sharon Springs, NY, a quaint, tiny, old fashioned little farming town and fell in love with it. They end up purchasing the Beekman Mansion and its surrounding property and becoming gentleman farmers. They embrace the simple life of a slower pace and set out to learn, I believe mostly through Internet searches, how to be competent organic farmers. They also have goats on their property, cared for by their neighbor Farmer John, and make cheese and soap from the goat milk. The show is addictive and super funny and smart and wry and touching. And Farmer John cries on camera in almost every episode, which is just beguiling.

So I have been watching the show, and checked out its website,, and saw that they were hosting the upcoming Sharon Springs Harvest Festival, which they promised to be HUGE. And I was sort of interested in seeing this HUGE harvest fest in a town of about 278 people. And, of course, I am more than slightly obsessed with all things harvest-related, especially Pilgrims, because I was one in a prior life. But I digress.

So I said to Angel, "Hey- do you want to go to the Sharon Springs Harvest Festival?" And she answered, "OF COURSE!" and we counted down the days 'til we could ditch our five children and our husbands and take off for our road trip to Sharon Springs. Which is only about an hour away from here, but since we were child-less and husband-less, totally qualifies as a Road Trip.

So we rode into Sharon Springs, and let me tell you: someone spent a sh*tload of money on pumpkins and gourds because the whole street was decorated to the nines and just looked gorgeous. The Festival was on Main Street, which features several business, lots of history and quite a few worn down empty buildings. The Beekman Boys are clearly the biggest thing to come here since Sharon Springs ran wellness spas in the 1930's.

The American Hotel, a beautiful old hotel on Main Street, was another sponsor of the festival and offered their grounds as a place for vendors to set up shop. There were craftspeople, farmers, quilters, painters, and all types of artists selling their wares and I could have spent about a thousand dollars. One of our favorite booths was manned by Farmer John's sister, who we could tell was his sister by the huge banner on her tent that read: FARMER JOHN'S SISTER. She was a quilter and had lovely things; Angel and I each bought some potholders from her. We also are such dorks that we asked to take her picture, which she seemed a bit taken aback by, but I loved it just the same. "Um, John's coming here around 2 o'clock," she told us, "He's supposed to bring me some lunch." WHAT?? FARMER JOHN'S COMING HERE??? We started giggling and she was clearly sort of frightened by us.

We wandered around, enjoying every moment, and then came back a little after two. AND THERE HE WAS!! And we giggled again and tried desperately to say something funny and friendly and Farmer John looked as surprised at our interest in him as if he'd never been on a tv show and we were just randomly coming up to him, introducing ourselves and asking to take his picture. The picture above is Angel and Farmer John and I think the only times I have seen her smile that broadly was when her two daughers were born.

After we calmed down from the Farmer John meet and greet, we continued to walk around and decided it was time to hit the Beekman 1802 Mercantile- please, don't be pedestrian and call it a store- but in order to do that we had to wait in line. To just get INTO the store.

And it was pleasant to wait- they had several of Farmer John's goats outside in front in a pen, so you could be amused by them as you waited- and did I mention we were two grown women, by ourselves, not having to listen to any whining or complaining or asking for treats or trinkets? And we moved through the line and watched the security men move people through and finally it was our turn. We went into the store- I mean, Mercantile- and it was tiny little basic store, about the size of my dining room, but lovely just the same. We bought some Blaack Onion jam and oogled the textiles and soaps and laughed at the tshirts. But alas, The Beekman Boys were taking a break from their fans and eating a very late lunch when we came through.
Later in the afternoon, when we felt we had seen all that the Sharon Springs Harvest Festival had to offer, we swung by the Mercantile again in hopes of seeing The Boys, whose names are Josh and Brent. They were out front, so after waiting again in a much shorter line, we got to meet them.

And they were absolutely lovely and adorable. There's me, and Josh, and Brent and Angel, all color coordinated in our harvest oranges and tans and grays and the sun shining on us, clearly direct from heaven. Just LOOKING at this picture makes me happy. They asked us where we were from, and we told them and they said, "Oh! You're close! You can come by anytime!" and Brent started telling Angel that she needs to come back in December for their Victorian celebration, and she said Of course! and He said You have to wear your Victorian clothes and she said, Well, obviously! and then later on realized that she actually does not have any Victorian clothes whatsoever, but since Brent had PERSONALLY INVITED HER TO COME, she could whip some up lickety-split. And then she rubbed it in my face the whole ride home that clearly Brent loved her more than Josh loved me since Brent had invited her PERSONALLY to come back.
Well, not to be outdone, I told her how Josh looked RIGHT INTO MY EYES and asked with grave concern and caring, Did you have a good time? How were the vendors? Were they okay? And I answered Oh yes, they were just wonderful and we even bought things from Farmer John's sister. It was just lovely! And so I told Angel the whole ride home that clearly I looked like a discriminating customer to him, someone with wonderful taste, and that's why he asked me if I thought everything was nice.
So she said Well, look how Brent has his arm around me in the picture! And I said But see how close Josh is standing next to me? Not much personal space there!! And we declared it a tie and then talked the rest of the way home about who we thought was cuter.