Friday, January 27, 2012

Alec's Latest Obsession.

And it's a strange one, one that begs to to be chronicled in the blog forever.

 He loves playing with my iPhone, and while at first I was super strict about him NOT using it, I have fallen into the trap that every parent who has an iPhone and a kid under five has also fallen into: KIDS LOVE iPHONES.  And it keeps them entertained and still and quiet for juuuust enough time to get something accomplished.  Not a big thing, but something.  Like posting on their blog.

I have a YouTube app on my phone and when you touch it, it automatically loads a short video that was linked to an email my brother sent out from his church.  It's a great video with two guys talking about going to a candlelight church service and what it means.  It's funny and real and effective.  But that's not what he loves.

Linked to this video (I'm assuming one of the suggested videos on the right hand side) is the new object of his affection: a video posted by some southern evangelical-y church inviting the masses to its Christmas Services.  It starts out with a nice, hearty, "Hello, everybody! We welcome you with open arms to Redeemer Baptist Church!" and then the wife chimes in with her silky Southern drawl, "... we are offering three services this Christmas Eve, at 2, 4, and 7 pm..." and that's as far as I've heard before Alec starts the whole thing over and I hear "Hello, everybody!" all over again.  Sometimes Alec starts it over three or four times in a row, so it sounds a little like some kind of bizarre DJ remix: "Hello, every-Hello, every-Hello, everybody!"

But that's the power of the Holy Spirit combined with modern technology... and a two year old:  I, a housewife in upstate New York, have the Christmas service times memorized for a Southern Baptist church that I've never ever heard of.   I think God has the most wonderful sense of humor.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

January Bits 'n' Pieces.

Here's the latest from Libutti Land:

Michaela... has a new "boyfriend" at school named Matt, whom she has pined after since she arrived at Eagle... tonight is her Winter Concert at school for choir... is doing the school's Lip Sync program on Friday night, complete with dance routine and custom outfit... actually wears and sees much better with her new glasses, proving Mommy wrong... is thinking of making a fabric model of a bottle nosed dolphin for the Whale Museum they have at school every year... is a great big sister... signed up for softball in the constanty harassing me to give her my iPhone... is attending her last year of vacation Bible school during Feb break- next year she'll be a helper.

Jenna... had her first filling today and handled it like a trooper... weaseled her way out of a few hours of school on Monday morning, saying that her "tummy felt angry" but was actually fine... when asked why she was giving me a hard time about me going out for a bit with a friend of mine answered, "You don't need playdates. You're a MOM."... loves being a Girl Scout... just started having spelling tests at school... is refusing, once again, to sign up for anything over the summer... is happy that I am doing Junior Achievement in her classroom for the next four weeks... loves playing with her dolls and Barbies... is also in  Lip Sync group and did awesome at the dress rehearsal- smiling, sashaying and dancing up a storm... still struggles with going to bed without a 40 minute struggle to do three things: brush teeth, go to the bathroom, and put on jammies... backs up so much when I help her brush her teeth that the other day we ended up in the peppering her vocabulary with the word "like" a little more than I care for.

Alec... is doing great in therapy and is making slow but very steady and noticeable progress... is obsessed with his sisters' 3DS and loves watching Bob the Builder... had a terrible, horrible week two weeks ago with us and the therapists and is much better after getting it all out of his system...still loves SpongeBob... and trains... and Cars... while playing with the Little People farm the other day during Speech Therapy made everything lay on their side and go to sleep, including the farmer's tractor... is trying more to say more... is sleeping through the night every night... is registered for preschool this fall (gasp!)... still lives on love, strawberries, popsicles and occasionally pasta... has FINALLY started to agree to wearing a coat when he leaves the house, and it's last year's coat.  Which is not even a winter coat.  But it'll do.

Dan and I... are close to renting a house for a summer vacation on Cape Cod (where we haven't been since 2008!)... bought, put together and started using our treadmill...  really like the treadmill... have hidden the key that starts the treadmill so littler people in our house (and I mean ALL the little people) can't turn it on by themselves... are trying to lose a little weight... are desperately trying to keep up with the activities in our family.  And are very happy. 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Alec Monkey Shines.

Here's what Alec has been up to lately:

Learning the finer points of Angry Birds, or "A! B!" as he calls it.

Sneaking verrry quietly into the pantry, grabbing the Oreos, opening cookies,
licking the cream filling out, and discarding the cookie onto the floor.

Doing his best to charm me when he gets caught.

And if Mommy has the audacity to put the Oreos up high where Alec can't reach, no prob-
 he drags a chair over and gets them himself.

Mastering his sister's Nintendo 3DS- he loves to stream Netflix through it
and watch the first two minutes of as many shows as possible. 

Looking adorable.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Holiday Wrap Up, Part IV: The Gifts.

Sometimes you have to look past all the mushy, sentimental, overdone, overwrought, "giving is the greatest joy of all" riff raff and get down to brass tacks: everyone gets gifts on Christmas, and that is awesome.
So, what did Santa leave for us under the tree?

(Side note: last month we had The Talk with Michaela about Santa Claus, and she took it all in stride.  Now she has a loose tooth and asked us the other day about the Tooth Fairy.  "Tell me the TRUTH," she said.  Oh, how quickly the dominoes of childhood dreams fall once the first piece is knocked down...)

In no particular order...

 The girls loved their new American Girl Dolls, Marie Grace (for Jenna) and Kaya (for Michaela).  Jenna got every gift but one from the American Girl Doll catalog: the doll, clothes, bitty baby diaper bag, accessories for Julie, and a Marie-Grace matching nightgown.  And a beautiful sapphire blue dress from Gymboree that is stunning.

 I was beyond thrilled with my gifts- an iPhone, lipgloss and a bottle of Joseph Carr Cab Sav, signed by the vinter Joseph Carr himself.  I also got an AMAZING outdoor fireplace from my parents which I am dying to use.  Other great presents included a pen and ink drawing of our house, a gorgeous Beekman Brothers cookbook, a giftcard to a restaurant Dan and I are dying to go to, and another volume of my blog published.   Lovely, personal and thoughtful gifts.

 Michaela got four Lego sets and had put all them them together by December 27th.  She really loved doing them, and worked with both Dan and my dad to assemble them.  Good quality time.  I hope she stays interested in them.  Michaela also got some American Girl doll things, a new book, some shirts, and a photo album to put all her pictures from her weekends with Aunt Jaime and Uncle Michael as well as her Girl Scout camping weekends and Nature's Classroom.  Jenna and Michaela also both got Nintendo 3DS systems from their grandma and grandpa, which were a big hit.

 Alec got a wonderful assortment of cars, trucks, more cars, Cars stuff, Toy Story stuff, cars, books about cars, books about Cars, and the chop saw featured in the above picture, which he loved.  The kid LOVES cars, Cars, and tools.

 This was the scene on Christmas Day, when our normally empty living room was taken over by little brown-haired Italian children. And Alec.  And they all had gifts to open.  Very fun!

 Hmmm. Legos.  Looks like Alec is pretty interested in his sister's stuff...
These are four of the six fleece-backed Christmas blankets that I made for all my nieces and one for Alec.  I tucked a winter/ Christmas book inside each blanket.  This idea seemed much better in October, when I came up with it, and less so on December 23rd when I finally stitched up the last one.  The girls all seemed to like their blankets and Alec hardly glanced at his.  He could NOT have been less interested in it.  Win some, lose some.

And Dan? Dan got a bit of the shaft this year.  Yeah, he got an iPhone as well, and he got a new personalized calendar lovingly made by his wife, filled to the brim with pictures of his adoring kids, and a new Christmas tree ornament, but do you know what else he got?  New boxer shorts. 

It was a great Christmas.

Friday, January 6, 2012

We Interrupt the Holiday Wrap Up with This Brief Story.

The Scene: Dinnertime.  We are all sitting around the table.  Dan is explaining to the girls, who had endured a particularly combative afternoon with each other, complete with Shut up! and half hearted face slapping and consequences, the importance of being kind to each other.  He illustrates his point by quoting Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, that wonderful movie from 1989 that launched Keanu Reeve's career.

Dan: Girls, as one character in a famous movie said, "Be excellent to each other and party on, dudes."

Michaela: Wait- who said that?

Jenna, excitedly: I know! It was Martin Luther King, Jr!

(Dan and Cheryl laugh and cringe at the same time, all the while saying silent apologies to MLK)

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Holiday Wrap Up, Part III: Christmas Eve Service.

Our Christmas Eve service this year was a memorable one. 

The whole service is kid-friendly, kid-centered and featured our incredibly talented high school-aged Praise Band as musicians.  We sang traditional hymns, including O Little Town of Bethlehem, which I especially love because I have lived most of my life in the Town of Bethlehem, and the Praise Band treated us to two songs that they chose and sang so beautifully I started crying.  It was like the Nutcracker all over again.  Sigh.

The kids' choir sang, and one of the songs they performed was written by Michaela, our godson Aidan, and Sara, a dear family friend.  They did a great job writing it and we were really proud of them.

I happened to grab my camera on our way out the door to the service and am so glad I did: I love these pictures from that special evening.  

Pastor Mark getting ready to start

My girls

Creator's Crusaders

During the sermon- all the kids were invited up onto the altar

Pastor Mark delivers his sermon on light

O Holy Night


This is the best shot I could get of Alec holding a lit candle while making sure he didn't burn the whole church down


After the service I was able to grab Michaela and have her pose with the poinsettias

Several side notes about the evening: 
1.  The church service was at 4pm.  The Libuttis started getting ready at 1:30pm.  I can't decide if that's impressive or pathetic.
2.  All the kids had coordinated- not matching!! per Michaela's request- outfits from Gymboree.  I loved them. 
3. Alec was also supposed to wearing a red chunky sweater over his shirt.  And a pair of black big boy loafers.  Neither were deemed wearable by Mr. Alec.
4.  It's hard to tell from the pictures, but Michaela had her hair pulled back tightly and I curled and pinned it into a bun placed right below her left ear.  At one point in the afternoon, I felt like we were getting ready for the Oscars.  She looked gore-geous.  And Jenna looked as sweet as can be with her plaid dress and her hair pulled up in a half french braid.
5.  Speaking of which, you know on the red carpet, the stars all look dazzling, and there is always a slightly schleppy person behind them, directing them on who to talk to and where to go?  My girls were the stars; I was the schlepp.  But I am more than happy to pour all my efforts into them.
6. After the service, we drove to a nearby street that sets candle luminaries along the sides of the road all up and and down the road.  It's so pretty and we have admired it every year on Christmas Eve since I was a kid.  It's a nice tradition that I shared with Dan and now share with our kids.  I'm always grateful to the residents of the street who go to the trouble of setting it up each year.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Holiday Wrap Up, Part II: The Nutcracker.

Around the second week in November, the mother of Laura, a friend of Michaela's, called with a wonderful request.

"Laura is dancing in the Nutcracker in December, and she's actually Clara, which is a dream come true for her.  Since all of our family is in England, we were wondering if you would like to come to the performance and see Laura dance. It would really mean alot to Laura and us.  I can get good tickets for you if you'd like."

Twist my arm.  I was so excited for Laura, who I have gotten to know over the last year and a half, and excited for the idea of having a special outing with Michaela, and excited to see a real ballet performance- of the Nutcracker, no less, whose music I have adored since I was a child-and excited to have this holiday-ish outing to look forward to.  We were in.

So that night, December 18th, Michaela and I headed into Albany to The Egg and eagerly awaited the start of the show.  The theater where it was staged is a beautiful one- all curves and soft lighting and contrasts of wood and concrete.

As promised, we had wonderful seats and browsed through the program as we waited.
And then the curtain came up.
And we were completely blown away.
I am almost crying now just thinking and writing about it.

First of all, it was beautiful.  The dancing was gorgeous, the set- made to look like a grand parlor in a huge home- was amazing, and the costumes were jawdropping: velvet in every color, swirling and rustling, filled with richness and  light.

And there was Laura, our Laura, who has been to our house countless times, who is a great friend to Michaela, who has stood in front of my pantry and announced, "THIS IS MY FAVORITE ROOM IN YOUR HOUSE!", who is creative and dramatic and sweet and just as bouncy and energetic as my Mimi, Laura was dressed in a filmy nightgown with layers upon layers of gauze with cotton bloomers underneath and perfectly tailored to be worn by a little girl.

And Laura was the star of the show.  And she danced with such confidence, such grace, such a beaming smile on her face, without a bit of hesitation or anxiousness, like she was born to be up there, born to be Clara, born to be dancing this huge part in front of hundreds of awe-struck people. 
She was as natural as could be and perfect in every way. Not one missed step.

And all I could think of was how I know her, and her lovely family, and how they drive her to ballet practice every week, and all the time and energy that goes into having your child take on that kind of responsibility, and how long she has been dancing, year in and year out, all culminating to this moment when she is on stage, dancing with the Nutcracker, hair perfectly curled into little blond ringlets as she sashayed around the stage.

I almost exploded with pride.

The second act was just as magical as the first, with the spotlight more on the older dancers- the Snow Queen, the Sugar Plum Fairy, the Waltz of the Flowers, and during the Pas de Deux I was so overcome with the beauty of it all that I started weeping.  The music, the dancers, the precision, the hours and hours and hours of practice and time and sacrifice these dancers have made to make this performance, this very moment, so breathtaking.

We clapped as loud as humanly possible when the show was over and I tried to regain my composure.  But I just couldn't: I was so totally blown away by the whole experience and all I wanted to do was congratulate Laura and her family and somehow begin to process what we had just seen.

We left the theater and waited outside for the dancers to arrive.  Laura first ran to her father, who picked her up off the floor and hugged her.  I could not imagine the joy and the pride and the love he must have felt for her at that moment.   Here they are:

Laura, somehow, was as cool as a cucumber and just smiled and smiled at all of us crowded around her. Laura's two older brothers snapped dozens of pictures and hugged her and offered her congratulations.  Another friend was there with her family as well as her teachers from this year and last.  Laura's aunt had flown in from England to see her, and thankfully she was bawling as hard as I was, so at least I had company.  Laura finally asked Michaela: "Is your mom going to be okay?"  And Michaela assured her that yes, her crazy crying mother would be fine, that sometimes I get a little carried away.

And here is the crowd, all gathered around Laura, our little Laura, who had just been effortlessly onstage without a care in the world.  And blew us all away.

 I cried for a long time that night, with happiness and joy for Laura and her family, for appreciation of what they had done, for Laura's talent and poise, for the beauty that had been revealed to me that night, for the happiness of being able to share this with my angel Michaela, who deemed the whole show "magical", for the music and the dancing and the costumes and the gorgeousness. 

I will never, ever  forget it.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Holiday Wrap Up: Part I.

Let's start from the beginning: I never posted anything about Thanksgiving.

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving here at our house.  My parents and Dan's dad were here with us just like last year.  It's a great number of people: just enough to make it feel like a party but not so many that you have to cook two twenty-pound turkeys.

We started with the cinnamon rolls.

 And hot chocolate.  With marshmallows or without... whatever you choose.

 At 9am sharp, the Thanksgiving Day parade started and we soaked in every minute.  The picture below is the girls watching the Rockettes and Michaela trying out her high leg kick. 

 Even the pilgrims came.  And a turkey made of pinecone that Jenna made in school.

I was cooking and getting the table ready, but managed to pause for some pictures after I finally got myself cleaned up.  I was thrilled- embarrassingly so- that we got some great pictures of Dan and I.  We have so few of them that each one is precious.

And of course the girls wanted in on this action.  They are wearing their special Thanksgiving Day shirts and really got into the picture taking. We have about 20 shots of every possible combination of people in our family.  It was really cute.

Before the guests arrived, I grabbed a shot of my three cherubs. 

 We had a wonderful traditional Thanksgiving feast, with turkey and stuffing and cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, candied yams, peas, corn, crescent rolls and a new cranberry relish, which was tart and citrus-y.  So delicious.  For dessert I had apple crisp and cookies and brownies and a pumpkin pie that I completely forgot to bake.  But that was fine: between the many appetizers, the dinner and the dessert, we were all too stuffed to notice.  After dinner, Alec succumbed to the dreaded Triptophan Malaise:

Some of the cookies were sugar cookies and I got some frosting and Christmas-themed sprinkles for the girls to decorate the cookies.  Jenna really loved doing that, and it's written all over her face...

 The night before, we attended a church service and I was able to get all three kids to sit still and smile on our stairs.  It's one of my favorite pictures from the whole year.  Church was lovely: full of beautiful hymns and thanksgiving for the blessings God has heaped upon us.

And at the end of the day: perfection. A gorgeous pink-purple sky right outside out front window to see.  

 It was a day of plenty, and we are grateful for every last piece of it.