Monday, December 24, 2012

'Twas the Night Before Christmas.

Dear Michaela, Jenna, and Alec,

This is a special Christmas Eve edition written by Dad. 

Christmas Eve is a special day that we look forward to all year.  We enjoy spending time as a family, finishing last minute wrapping and baking, going to church, enjoying a family Christmas Eve party, and anticipating Santa's arrival.  One of my favorite times of Christmas Eve is right before you go to bed when I read The Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore.  The book itself is very special to me as Mom gave it to me as a Christmas gift in 1995.   (This was the year before we were married.)  She wrote on the first page, "I give this gift to you in hopes that you will give it to our children.  We'll read it every year, it will become old and worn with us.  It is a classic: it is the magic of Christmas."  

Each year as I read it to you I think of how grateful I am to have three beautiful, healthy children who make us so proud and a wonderful wife.   I couldn't have imagined how wonderful my life could be and you are all a major part of that.  "Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!"  I love you!



Saturday, December 22, 2012

Nostalgic Break in the Action.

Just for a moment, as I was driving with our three kids in the car to go to the mall and pick up the last of the Christmas Gifts To Be Bought and get some dress up shoes for the girls to wear on Christmas Eve, just for a moment I profoundly missed being a kid at Christmas.

I missed the feeling of excitement about the holiday. I missed the anticipation, the sense of time standing still when we were celebrating, and the feeling of fullness afterwards.

I miss my grandma.

I miss her rum balls and Russian tea cakes that she she made every year (but I never ate), the Swiss Colony petite fours that she bought every year and I also never ate- scorned them, actually, until the day I tried one and realized how good they were.  I miss the refrigerator cake she made every year. I miss all the traditions she and my mom kept alive year after year after year.  I miss her keeping us in line when Brian and I were totally sugared out and bouncing off the walls.

I miss the party we had every Christmas Eve at our house, the Christmas tree up on a card table to keep it out of my brother's curious reach, the glass cart we pushed around the living room with appetizers on it, the bookcase in the living room that held our stockings.  I miss opening our gifts on Christmas Eve because that's how they did it in Germany.  I miss seeing the pile of presents on the piano in the living room.

I miss getting a new dress for Christmas and feeling all dolled up.

I miss my parents.

They are two and a half hours away in a hospital in another state.  I miss having them 90 seconds away.

I miss the Christmas of my youth, when no one was sick, when everyone was alive, when I didn't have to plan the holiday, bake all the goodies myself, buy and wrap all the gifts and in general fret about making a wonderful holiday for my family.  Though I usually enjoy being Master of My Domain and Making all the Decisions, a little part of me misses the lack of responsibility.  I feel like I can close my eyes and be back in our old, old house and I am nine years old again, opening up a Laurie Walker doll who seemed larger than life with her navy and white pinafore dress and reddish hair.

I feel just like Clark Griswald does when he watches the old home movies in Christmas Vacation

I feel happy and sad and wistful and blessed, blessed, incredibly blessed that I have these memories I can pull up at a moment's notice.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012


Dear Michaela, Jenna, and Alec,

One of the main reasons I write this blog is to not only chronicle your growing up years and our family life, but also to allow me the piece of mind that you will always have a clear sense of who I am, what I believe, and of course, that you all know how utterly in love I am with all of you and how you all truly are the center of my being and the loves of my life.

Something happened last week that is so remarkable, so incredibly well-timed, there is just no other explanation for it except to say that it was God Himself reaching down from Heaven and directly touching our lives.  I want to document it here so that you can always and forever be able to look back at this and say that your mom witnessed a miracle, and that all that stuff she brought you to Sunday School and church to learn about is, in fact, quite true.

I was driving around doing errands on Tuesday of last week while Alec was in preschool.  As I approached a stoplight, it hit me that this week was American Education Week, the week of school that parents are invited in to see their kids in the classroom and eyeball the teacher in action.  I had done nothing to prepare for this.  Not one thing.  I was pretty sure that it was today and tomorrow, but had to look that up; I had to check to see if Gammie could watch Alec for me while I went; I had to forgo Bible Study and email the teacher that I wasn't coming; I had to call Alec's speech therapist and rearrange her therapy time; I had to contact Jenna's teacher and see when her class was accepting visitors for American Education Week and make sure they didn't overlap; and most of all, I had to check with Michaela that it was still okay for me to come into her classes.

So, after finding out that all of that was juggle-able and that Michaela did, in fact, want me to go, I set the plan into place. I would go in at about 9:45 and stay until 1:45pm, when I had to leave to get Alec and meet his therapist at our house.

I went in, attended two classes, and saw Michaela's Girl Scout troop leader, Dana, who I've known since our daughters were 2.  She was there for the day and because our girls have lunch together, we would be together in the "Parent Break Room" during lunch.  (The school didn't want us parents gumming up the works in the cafeteria.)  I was excited that I'd have a few minutes to chat with her.

When lunch time came around, I kissed Michaela and sent her off to the cafeteria and went in search of my Parent Break Room.  As I walked in, I didn't see Dana yet but I saw my friend Mandy, whose son went to preschool with Michaela and whom I don't get to see much- except in Walmart, where I seem to run into all my mom friends- but keep up regularly with on Facebook.  She was sitting in the desk behind me, so I turned and started chatting with her. 

We were very pleasantly talking about a whole range of topics- staying home vs. going to work, living with Middle School aged kids, volunteering at school, etc, etc... just very general, fun Mom chit-chat.  It happened that Mandy knows my mom because my mom watched Michaela for me when I worked part time after having Michaela and Mandy and my mom got to know each other from picking up the kids at preschool.

"How's your mom?" Mandy asked.
"Oh, good, she's good.  I don't know if you know this, but my dad has cancer, so she's pretty focused on that right now."
The usual "Oh I'm sorry to hear that" ensued, and I briefly said that he is getting chemo and actually is having a CT scan today to check on the progress of the treatment.

"What kind of cancer does he have?" she asked.

 "Oh, it's this really rare cancer that started in his appendix and now is in his abdomen.  He has tumors and the tumors excrete a mucus that is building up in his belly and makes him really uncomfortable."

"His appendix? I've never heard of that."
"Yeah it's really, really rare... there's only about 1000 cases a year that are diagnosed worldwide."

At that moment, another mom who is sitting behind Mandy and to her right leans forward and says to us, "I don't mean to interrupt, but did you say appendix cancer?"

"Yes, I did," I answered.

"Because I had appendix cancer three years ago.  I had the same thing.  I had the surgery... is your dad having the surgery? Where is he being treated?"

"He's seeing a doctor right at St. Peter's Hospital... he gets chemo every two weeks."

And then a flood of information came out of this stranger: information about a doctor in MA who is a oncological surgeon who specializes in this exact type of cancer, information about her surgery, about the recovery, about how rare it is.

Mandy rushed to get me some paper and I scrounged through my purse to find a pen to write all the info down.

"My heart is beating like a drum!" she said.  "I don't mean to listen to your conversation, but I couldn't believe it when you said he has appendix cancer!  Getting the diagnosis is like getting struck by lightening..."

And that was exactly our experience with PopPop... virtually symptomless except for a loss of appetite and some fatigue and a feeling of fullness in his belly.

Later this angel sent to us gave me her name, her phone number, her email address, and the name of a research foundation dedicated to finding treatment and cure for this type of cancer, which is called PMP, and their very helpful website.

I thanked her profusely and marvelled at the chance that we were placed in the exact same room on the exact same day.

And as all this was happening, PopPop was getting a CT scan done of his abdomen to see where things were at compared to when this all started in July.  And when he returned on Friday, the information given to me was even more important, as the CT results showed that the tumors were still there- not growing, but not being destroyed either.  His doctor recommended that the chemo be stopped.  There was nothing else his doctor could do.  While this was a relief to PopPop- the last round of chemo had made him impossibly fatigued and the strange side effect from one of the meds, extreme cold sensitivity, was getting more and more troublesome- it removed a key method of fighting the cancer from our arsenal. 

If God had not intervened at that moment, we would have been adrift.  And hopeless.

But instead, we have the name of a doctor who specializes in this.  Gammie and PopPop looked her up online and she looks excellent  They called her and have an appointment to see her in a few weeks.  They have sent all of his medical paperwork to her for her to review and see if he is a candidate for this surgery.

We have hope that he will get more time with us.

And this is what makes this even MORE amazing.  I had been struggling the last few weeks, searching for God in all of this mess.  Not understanding why this would be His plan.  Not feeling His hand in this.  And all of my anxiety and anger and pain was being sent to one vertebrae in my back and getting me all balled up.  I was in real pain, seeing a chiropractor and getting some relief, but felt that there was more emotional work to be done to help.  I started going to a Restorative Yoga class, all about gentle deep breathing and clearing your mind and really focusing on long, well-supported poses.  Turns out this yoga class makes a wonderful time to pray.  So I did.  I started praying for God to bless me, open me- both open my back and open my heart- and to touch me with the Holy Spirit.  Just give me some sign that You are there and help me to relax and give it all up to You.

This was the prayer I prayed, and the next day was the day I went into the Middle School and met this person.

Michaela, Jenna and Alec, do you realize all the pieces that had to fall into place for this chain of events to occur?  This moment in time was years in the making, and had dozens of moving parts that had to align juuuuuuust right for me and this woman to meet and exchange information.  But do you know what I KNOW it was? It was God.  It was the Holy Spirit blessing this whole nightmare and moving us forward.

This story will be even better and more amazing if PopPop does turn out to be a candidate for the surgery and has it and is healed.  But for now, just this is enough. 

Enough for me to see God's face smiling at us and His hands guiding us. 

Remember, the Holy Spirit told me on the day of PopPop's first oncology appointment that "it's all going to be okay."  I have since realized that what that meant was not neccesarily that PopPop was going to be okay.  Whatever happens, it may not be the outcome we desire, but will be okay.

God is with us.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Halloween Baking Night.

We had a Halloween Baking Night a few days before the actual holiday, spurred on by my daughters and their friend Isabel helping me unpack all the Fall/Harvest/ Halloween decorations (trust me- there are BINS FULL), finding every cookie cutter, sprinkle set, cake pan and paper cupcake liner I own and asking me, "Can we DO SOMETHING with all of this??" 
"Uhhh, sure... we can have a baking party," I answered.  And a new tradition was born.

 We had some successes and some failures, but all were lots of fun.

I think the girls loved doing their own decorating.

We even tried our hand at chocolate pumpkin shaped pops.  Fun, easy and delish.

We were about halfway through, covered in sprinkles and frosting and hearing the beeping timer going off on my oven and jockeying items around in my fridge to find room to cool the chocolate pops when Isabel declared: "We're going to do this EXACT SAME THING for Thanksgiving!!"

And we are.  This afternoon.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Birthdays, birthdays, birthdays.

September/October/November brings a 1-2-3 punch of Alec's, Michaela's and Dan's birthdays and we celebrate them all with gusto. Michaela had a big gift this year: she finally, after years of being denied her RIGHT to text, FINALLY got her iPhone. And she loves it. We got the whole thing set up for her and then hid it under our family room recliner. Dan called her phone from his phone and we called her into the room saying that we were hearing a noise that we couldn't identify. After telling us with not a small amount of condescension that it was clearly one of our phones, we told her no, it wasn't, look, we said, here are our phones, why don't you go back behind the recliner and see what it is... and then it dawned on her what was going on. And she was thrilled.

 And this angle of the top of her head is pretty much all I've seen of her since that day.

Unlike the craziness of last year's neverending birthday celebration (I think I sang Happy Birthday to her like, nine times) this year's was more efficient and just as fun.  We had cake and a special dinner on her actual birthday, and paid her $75 to not have a kid party.  She was thrilled and so were we.  A few weeks later we had a family party for her and Alec and celebrated both of our special kids.
Aunt Tammie did her usual magic and created two beautiful cakes.

Alec really loved opening presents this year.

Dan's birthday is November 10th, and we don't usually make too big a deal over it, except that this was a big one: Dan turned 40.  He was exceedingly gracious about it and weathered my good natured teasing well, though a day or two before the actual day, he gently reminded me that my own 40th birthday will be here before I know it, and those who live in fairly sensitive glass houses should maybe not throw teasing stones.

He had a great birthday and got a new road bike, biking gear and some new workout clothes as gifts from us.  Dan started biking over the summer and has gone almost every Saturday or Sunday morning for 15-17 mile bike rides.  He has his sights on a 48 mile ride on Whiteface Mountain that he and a friend are planning to do next spring.  He also has been running 5 mornings a week and is running in his first 5K on Thanksgiving morning.  He has lost about 45 pounds this year and is in better shape than when I met him 17 years ago.  I am super proud of all he's accomplished!  He is in a great stage in his life and said that turning 40 doesn't bother him at all.

(I'm kind of a one-trick-pony with the FunFetti cakes, aren't I?)
We celebrated his actual birthday by going out to dinner with his brothers and their wives to an awesome steakhouse while Dan's dad was gracious enough to watch all six of our kids.  We had a blast.  The next day we had a small get together with some of our friends at our house.  Very fun.  And we didn't even set the smoke detectors off with all the candles!! Hahahaha!

We are blessed to celebrate these milestones as a family, with lots of love and laughs.  God is good to us.

Thursday, November 1, 2012


By far the biggest triumph of this Halloween was that it happened at all: two days before The Big Day, a giant hurricane stormed up the East Coast and was predicted to make landfall in NJ, which, while far enough away from us to avoid a full-out panic, is personally a little too close for my comfort for a hurricane to hit.  So we spent the weekend before battening down the hatches, getting extra food, water, batteries, and cash just in case Hurricane Sandy did indeed disrupt our lives.  Well, I am happy to say that we were completely spared and didn't even lose power, and the only casualty we had was a gust of wind knocking over our fairly substantial grill just like a bully on a playground.  Poor thing landed face down on our deck.  But I picked it up, brushed it off, and told it I would speak to that wind and make sure it didn't happen again.

My biggest job the weekend before Halloween by far was to prep my girls that the holiday may not happen- that we may be without power, it could still be raining, and every other scenario I could think of.  And, in true kid fashion, Michaela and Jenna's biggest concern about the whole Approaching Hurricane was this: what about the candy, MOM? WHAT ABOUT THE CANDY?  Because if we don't go trick or treating, how will we get any??  And I assured them that upstairs in my closet, safely stashed, was multiple bags of every kind of candy they enjoy, and if we didn't go trick or treating then I would just GIVE THEM MINE.

I have never seen Michaela so gripped by the Weather Channel as she was the few days leading up to Halloween.

Let me also add this tidbit to my post about Halloween: it was worth every minute I have spent raising my son, the pain of childbirth, the hours of therapy and meltdowns, every sleepless night and every moment of worry I have endured about him to see the look on his face when I explained to him what Halloween was all about.  And basically I just touched on the dressing up/ going to the neighbors/ ringing the doorbell/ getting candy routine.  He was, quite literally, gobsmacked.  It was adorable.

Thankfully, before the Hurricane Sandy came, the girls attended several parties and got to wear their costumes: both had huge parties at their schools, our neighborhood had a picnic and Jenna had a party to go to. So even before Halloween we had a few dry runs of the costumes.  Michaela chose to be a '50's waitress/carhop, which I was thrilled did not in any way resemble a slutty goth vampire-ette, and Jenna was Little Red Riding Hood.  The mean/practical mother I am did not buy a costume for my sensory-sensitive son but his grandma took pity on him and bought him a Thomas the Tank Engine costume that was perfect: it just slipped over his head, had no arm holes, and was topped off by a jaunty little cap.

Anyone who knows me and my girls knows that we see Halloween merely as a chance to do hair and makeup, so we took full advantage of that. And here they are last night, in full get-up:

This was them on the previous Friday night, when they were attending their school parties.  Both the elementary school and Middle school put on fantastic parties with DJs, haunted houses (which are amazing), games, food, crafts and activities.  Jenna wore her costume but Michaela was a bit apprehensive of how her carhop outfit would go over so we whipped up a black cat costume for her the week before.  I sewed her a nice furry stuffed tail onto a wide elastic waistband and then also made a deep furry pocket on the waistband to hold her phone.  Because surely you can't imagine for a moment that she would go to the Halloween party without her phone!  Heavens!

(Sorry, Alec, for posting this horrid picture of you.)

Here was Jenna on Halloween day, all orange-and-blacked out.  She's just adorable.

 Our candy was ready...

 ... and the pumpkins were carved.

And here was the collection aparati for trick or treating: gone are my three matching personalized pumpkin bags.  I really love those bags.  Alec used his (in the middle), Jenna brought hers but brought a pillow case just in case she needed more room for her candy (on the left) and Michaela wants nothing to do with her lovingly picked out Pottery Barn Kids personalized pumpkin bag (on the right).  Just a pillow case for her and her LOOT. Times they are a'changin'.
Whether Alec was going to go trick or treating was a game time decision for him... I asked him a few times during the day if he was going to go and he was pretty quiet and evasive with his answers.  Non-committal.  But when the time came, he did put his costume on and went out with Daddy and Jenna.  And Dan kept texting me with pictures and eventually called me, saying he was witnessing one of the cutest things he's ever seen.  Alec would consult with Jenna about which house to go to next, who was going to ring the doorbell, and they would march up together and get their candy.  For our shy sensory boy, this was HUGE.  He came home thrilled with his loot and he and Jenna promptly spread it all out on the floor and organized it.

Michaela did the same when she returned home 45 minutes later than her sister and brother, and immediately counted out how much her haul was: 192 pieces!

It was a successful night for all.  I had the girls wash off all that hairspray and makeup and get into bed.  Michaela immediately got up because her science teacher, whom I know personally and is a lovely, kind, fun human being, decided to tell really scary horror stories in class on Wednesday, and then told them (according to Michaela) that some of the stories were REAL.

Awesome!  Sure wish she was there at 10:30pm on Halloween night when Michaela got up for the third time and told us she couldn't sleep! Because my day wasn't long and busy enough!

Anyway.  It really was lots of fun.  Here are a few more cute pics from the day:

Sugared- up cutie pie.

Because I love that hair.  And fight with it every day.
 Alec: "Take my pith-ure! My pun-kin ith on my HEAD!"

I swear to you that Michaela came up with this pose all by herself.  Scary.  And she really does have a mole there on her face, but we "enhanced" it a little bit.  She was adorable.

So we survived it all: the parties, the hair, the sensory overload, the candy, the makeup, the trick or treating, the costumes, and the Hurricane.  God is good to us.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Happy Birthday to my Big Girl.

Dear Michaela,

It was 11 years ago now that you and I started this adventure together of being mother and daughter.  And I thought I was really ready for this: we had ourselves a great husband and daddy, he and I were grown up, he and I were gainfully employed, we had a house, and I felt like my whole life until that point had been getting ready to be a mom.  Because that's all I really ever wanted to be.

And you arrived- two weeks late, I might add, and after excruciating back labor- and there you were, looking up at me, completely dependent on me to take care of you for the next 18-20 years.  And I loved you.

And now we are 11 years in.  And I still love you.  So much more than I did when you first came to me.

You are a force, Michaela, an incredible force.  Without intending to, you dominate my entire life- with laughter and love, questions and challenges, jokes and stories.  You love attention and reassurance.  You are full of energy, zipping this way and that, always up for the next "thing", except if that "thing" involves driving in the car for longer than 15 minutes or going somewhere new.  You love tradition and predictability and staying close to home.  You are not that different from your dad and I in that way.  But in so many other ways, you are more outgoing, more energetic, more athletic, more social, more indignant, and more confident than we ever were.

You are growing up so quickly and I am really struggling with that.  I want you where I can see you and know you are safe, and you just as much want to be out in the world, being with other people, on your own.  You started Middle School- the same Middle School that I went to- and I so clearly remember my first days there and how I was uncomfortable with all of this change.  So I, like the insane Mommy that I can be sometimes, instead focused the end of this summer on the Minutae of the Middle School Experience, and bought you four different kinds of locks for your lockers.  Because clearly if I got the right one it would all be okay for you. The first day came, and you handled it beautifully.  "Middle School will be a piece of cake!" you declared to your nauseous mother when you returned home from school that afternoon.

You have gained incredible freedoms this year: riding your bike around the neighborhood, walking to your grandparents' house alone, staying home by yourself.  All of these changes you have handled beautifully and with grace and confidence.  You are trustworthy and responsible.  Which is why we got you your first phone for your 11th birthday.

Oh, the phone! THE PHONE!  It has barely left your hands since you got a few weeks ago.  And I have to admit: I am glad you have it.  Because now I have unfettered access to you where ever you are.  As we have given you more freedom, the phone has provided the lifeline from me to you that I still hold onto.

You, of course, merely used the "but I need a phone in case of EMERGENCIES" line on us while you were lobbying to get one.  What you really love to do is text your friends, take videos and pictures, and post almost every thought/picture/celebrity photo you have on Instagram.  And the Facetime!  You have some friends who Facetime you morning, noon, and night... but to me, it seems that they are equivalent to the girls who used to call me on the phone and we would watch television together.  (Not a bad way to pass some time.  I always found it comforting.)

You are all about One Direction, the newest English/ Irish boy band to hit it big.  You have carefully constructed rules with your friends about who is a true fan and who are just "Directionators", which appears to be the preteen equivalent of the foulest name you can give someone, and spend hours talking about these boys in the band.  I have literally heard you talking about what hospital in England they each were born in.  No detail is too small, no smidgen of information too trivial. 

You played softball this spring and fall and really are a good player.  Offense is your thing: you make contact almost every time you get up to the plate and you are so darn fast that you can steal bases with your eyes closed.  You liked being with your friends and meeting some new girls on your team.  If your team won, you were happy, but if not, no big deal... you were always ready to move onto the next thing.

You are a beautiful girl, like some dark, exotic flower that is blooming right in front of us.  You are still short for your age, but your feet have grown three sizes this year (three sizes!!), and I can see that you are a coiled up spring, ready to let loose and shoot up at any minute.  You will tower over me before long: I am sure of it.  You are tan and healthy and just so pretty. I have told you for years that women all across the country pay big money to have the same hair color that God gave you naturally.

You are creative and helpful and funny and cool.  You are miles ahead of where I was at your age.  You always have "ideas" about things we could do or see.  And at the same time, you can be serious- you are a tremendous help with Alec, you are patient enough to put up with his quirks, and he really adores you.

So here we are, 11 years in.  Did I know, 11 years ago, that this is what life with you would be like? No, I did not.  Did I know that I would love you as much as I do? No, I did not.  Did I know how happy I would feel when good things happen to you? No.  Did I know that I would eventually be told that I am the ONLY parent who makes their Middle School-aged child go to bed by 9pm, when EVERYONE else gets to stay up until 10:30 or 11pm?  No.  Did I know or understand how incredibly frustrated I would be at your seeming inability to bring your laundry basket, brimming with dirty clothes, down to the laundry room? No.  Did I know how exhausted I would be at the end of the day? No.  Did I know how much I would worry and pray about you and your safety? No.  Did I know- have any inkling at all- about how much of my heart and soul and energy and love I would pour into you?  How could I have possibly known that?

You are the first-born, the trailblazer, and whatever you go through, I am going through it with you for the first time.  Everything feels heightened with you because we are learning it together, and, I think, because you are just kind of an intense person, and everything is heightened with you anyway.  I have celebrated every milestone you hit from birth with joy and happiness: walking, talking, going to school, losing teeth.  This year was different for me, though: I am feeling the desperate need to slow things down, enjoy the everyday little moments, and I am just so sad that your time living here with us is more than halfway over. 

I don't want to ever be "done" raising you. 

Life with you is an adventure, Michaela, and you always make it a fun one.  I love you more and more each day. I celebrate each and every victory with you, and mourn every loss and hurt you feel. 

We're in this together, you and I.

Happy Birthday, my love.


Thursday, October 11, 2012

A Letter to my Big Boy.

Dear Alec,

We've gone through quite a journey of a year, you and I.

At this time last year, I was raising the alarm to your doctor, the county, my friends, your grandparents- Help! We need HELP!  You were unable to talk, incredibly frustrated that you couldn't, and melting down multiple times per day as a result.  You were sleeping in our bed, waking up in the middle of the night, and in general were a miserable little person.
And so our odyssey began of speech therapy and sign language and special education and sleep training.  Four times a week I would hustle to get you up and ready, the house looking decent, and mentally prepared to see what these wonderful women would have to offer you that morning. 

And what they did- the miracle they performed- was that they brought you back to me.

Because underneath those tantrums, underneath the screaming and throwing yourself on the floor, you are a remarkably pleasant child.  I fell in love with you all over again this year, not only because you are my child, but because I can honestly say that you are just someone I enjoy to be around.  You are funny and gentle and sweet and calm and rock steady.  You have many of the qualities that I love about your dad.  And you are so handsome to boot.

Over the summer, we did a playground program through the town wherein every week we met and played with kids your age.  I remember looking at you at one of those programs and thinking, "Oh, you are just the cutest thing! You are the most handsome kid here!" And then I thought, "Oh, isn't it wonderful that God gives us Mother Love Vision so we ALL think that our kid is the cutest of the group?" And THEN I thought to myself, in a whisper,"Yeah, but my kid really IS the cutest one here."  And then I giggled to myself.  So maybe I don't know how others see you, as I am clearly blinded by my own Mother Love Vision, but I can tell you this: most moments when I look at you, particularly when you are sleeping, my breath just stops and I am amazed that I have been blessed to have you as my son.

This is what we accomplished in this year of your life: you are sleeping in your own bed now.  You are sleeping through the night.  You are sleeping in a big boy bed, spurred on by your amazing adjustment to sleeping in one on Cape Cod in August.  You are talking. You are talking. You are talking.  Turns out you have a little lisp that we all adore.  You are more agreeable, more outgoing, more willing to try something new, and more flexible.  You started school, and while the initial transition into the classroom is still tough for you, you seem to enjoy going.  You tolerated vacations, changes in routines, and improved your ability to put off for a moment what you want right now.

It was a big year.

Now, you are not perfect: you still only eat about 7 foods (strawberries, apples, mini muffins, corn, waffles, pancakes, pasta... protein? Who needs protein?, you ask); you still get awfully bossy sometimes; you have lots of rules about the right way to do things; you have a great many sensory issues that affect our everyday life; you still have the occasional Full-On Level-Five Freak Out.  But you are just three, so I am not concerned... I know that this will pass.  Life with you seems to get better and better, day by day, month by month, and I know from the experiences of raising your sisters that those months turn into years and seem to melt away.

You are a gift from God, and you spoke to me before you were born and told me you wanted to come to us.  You laid on my heart then and you lay on my heart now, and for all our struggles- and believe me, there are moments that I really struggle with you- I know that God sent you to us and I was meant to be your mother.  Of this I am positive.  As I am busy raising you, you help me grow as a person and as a mother, and we are charting this course through life together.

And at this stage of our life together, I am madly in love with you.

Happy Birthday, my sweet boy.


Friday, September 28, 2012

Alec John Turns 3!!

My baby is three!  Can you believe that?  Three! And in preschool! And talking! And making eye contact with people!

He's three.  Three years old.

We celebrated his birthday on Tuesday, even though his birthday was actually Monday, but I had not bought him any gifts and was generally thoroughly unprepared. Poor third child. Tuesday was also the day we brought cupcakes in to school, so I figured we could condense it all to one day for less confusion.

I clearly remember bringing cupcakes in for Michaela's first birthday celebration in preschool and how much I fretted about them being perfect.  Ah, how times have changed- I am an old pro at this cupcake thing now.

The Preschool day started with him getting fitted for his yellow  crown.  You can tell he's not sure about this because his shoulders are up around his ears.

 But by snack time, he was ready to have his cupcakes.  Here he is with his teacher.

Later at home, after a quick dinner (one benefit of having a child who barely eats: no complicated Special Dinner requests on his birthday!) we enjoyed some cake and presents.

Here's his big gift: Switch and Go Dino, which is advertised about 27 times every morning on Nickelodeon and every time, Alec pointed to it and said, "I want that for my birrrrrthday.  You can get it at Walllmaaaaaarrrt."  He also got some Legos, the Shake Shake bridge from Thomas, a Thomas DVD, and an Imaginext fighter plane.  Real boy stuff.

 Happy Birthday to Alec John!

 Blowing out that last candle!
Over the weekend, my parents gave Alec his big gift from them: a train table with a complete train playset on top.  It is AMAZING.  My dad and Dan spent the morning putting it together and we moved the changing table out of his room (first time in 11 and a half years that changing table has been out of commission) and made room for the train table.  We closed the door and let him walk in and see it all set up.  He went ballistic with happiness and didn't even notice that the changing table was missing.  Which was great, since he's not one for much change, and I was a little worried that his room being disturbed would set him off a bit.

The train table has been popular with everyone who has seen it: Alec, his sisters, his parents, his grandparents, and even the neighborhood kids who come over to play.

Overall, it was a great birthday for Alec.  But I still can't believe that my cherubic golden boy- who I can still remember being pregnant with like it was yesterday- is already three.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

How to Torture Your Children in Two Easy Steps.

1.  Announce that since today is Saturday, and since your father was wonderful enough to take Friday off and wash all the windows in the house AND mow the lawn, and we are all together, we are going to engage in a Family Activity in the afternoon.
2.  Announce that the Family Activity will consist of attending the 235th Anniversary Re-enactment of the Battle of Saratoga up at the historic Saratoga Battlefield.

(Allow whining, crying, pleading, and bargaining to commence.)

This is what we did to our helpless children a few weekends ago and actually once we got past the whining, crying, pleading, and bargaining, we actually had a great time.  I will tell you that at one point Jenna, who I swear was laying on the kitchen floor moaning and crying about having to go, was so awful that I had this exchange with her:

"Jenna, call your grandmother and see if you can go there for the afternoon if you are so dead set against going to the Battlefield with us."
"NOOOOO!!!! Then we won't be doing this as a FAMILY!!!!!"

That's what I had to deal with.

So we eventually all hopped into the car and drove to the Battlefield.  It was a beautiful early fall day, just a hint of coolness in the air, and Dan and I were excited to go: this was something we've talked about doing for a while but never could find a good weekend to do it.

It is a National Park, so there is a really neat Vistor's Center staffed by super excited Park Rangers (I have secretly loved every Park Ranger I have ever encountered), but we skipped the Center and went right for the gusto: hopped on the road that winds around the park (it would make a beautiful bike ride) and stopped at the place where they were having the reenactment.  And thankfully we were not the only people there, nor where we the biggest dorks there.

We learned all kinds of interesting info about the war, who was funding the Americans (the French provided uniforms and money to the colonial army) and how difficult it is to ride a horse, draw a sword and actually shift your weight while riding to be able to swing at an approaching soldier on horseback.


Alec thought it was pretty neat.  And so did the girls.

This was the inside of a restored tiny farmhouse where the owner of the farm where the battle was fought resided.

I had a long talk with the cook of the encampment and learned all about what they ate and how it was prepared (look at that pork roasting on the left hand side of the fire- brilliant!).  Turns out they used some of the French money to buy local vegetables from other farmers to feed the troops.  Five men to a tent and each tent got a bucket of food each day that they had to prepare and share.  And also a boatload of rum.  "They were happy soldiers," we were told.

Firing the muskets, which had a 10% chance of not firing at all.

After the encampment was over, we headed down to the Visitor's Center and breezed through the exhibits, even though I could have spent hours reading every line of every placard.  It was a fantastic review of the entire fight for Independence.  And even though the girls carried on, I do think they enjoyed seeing the whole reenactment.

If you live anywhere around us, and are looking for a fun afternoon activity, I would highly recommend the Park.  Even if you didn't care about the history aspect, the Park's scenery is beautiful and easy to enjoy, with beautiful vistas of the southern Adirondacks.  And keep an eye out for our children, who may be there being tortured once again.