Tuesday, January 28, 2014

My Favorite-est Holiday of All.

Thanksgiving!  Love it. Love everything about it. Love it, love it, love it.

A new tradition was started last year (and don't be fooled about what a big deal it is to mess with my fave holiday) when Dan ran in our town's Turkey Trot 5K.  This year he convinced Michaela to join him.  Because she is 12, adorable and in good shape, her entire preparation consisted on running a mile on our treadmill the day before.  I love that kid.  I, on the other hand, would have had to start training in March.

It was a chilly day, even for late November in the Northeast, and I wasn't sure if she would stick it out.

But she did! And she did really well.  I think her time was roughly 35 minutes.  We were really proud of her.
After the run, we ate cinnamon rolls, drank our hot chocolate, watched the parade and opened our presents.

The girls started by opening their matching gifts: gift cards to get Christmas mani/pedis.
It was well recieved by both girls.

Then it time for Alec to open his. I got for him the DVD of Monster's University, which he had seen over the summer and instantly became obsessed with, talked about all the time, bought all the toys for, etc., etc., etc.  I felt I had a sure winner on my hands. So he starts to open it...


 And I swear that the exact moment after this picture was taken, he burst into giant, gasping sobs.

Mommy: Oh my goodness, what's the matter? Are you hurt?
Alec: No. No! This isn't a present.  This is a MOVIE.
Mommy: I know, but you love this movie!
Mommy: I know... but now you can watch it anytime you'd like!
Mommy (incredulous): Really?
Alec: Yes.  I don't want it.

Okey-dokey.  So Mommy was 2 for 3 on the day.  And let me tell you, I thought about this outburst every time I shopped for a Christmas present for Alec.  I was really worried how Christmas morning would be at our house. (It was fine.)

Moving on.... I had promised my mom I would bring dessert and other parts of the Thanksgiving meal, so I was busy the day before getting ready.  Here's a picture of my kitchen, in the thick of things:

And here's the veggie platter I put together thanks to Pinterest for one of the appetizers (sorry it's sideways):

 And then it was time for dinner.  We had a wonderful time, as always, at my mom's table- it was relaxed and happy and full of goodness. This isn't a great picture but I love the feeling it captures:

And here's one a little more posed:

It was a great day, all in all...
a great day to remember all of the ways we have been richly blessed this year.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Grief: My New Roommate.

It has now been seven months since my dad passed away, and I am always so touched when people ask me how am I doing.
And how I answer very much depends on the day.  Or week.
Because the bottom line is that I was doing much better right after it happened and then it got worse.

The sense of relief I had after he was freed from that horrible body and illness was so great that it carried me through for months.  The suffering was so great, and watching him ebb away from us was so frankly terrifying that I was overjoyed for him, for my mom and for myself to be free from it.  And I am so happy that I was protected those first tender months from real pain, real grief, real shock as I gathered up my life and started to try to restart living again.

And I was able to restart on many levels: the trip to Disney was healing, starting school right away was a great distraction, and jumping into softball and choir and activities demanded attention every day.  The only real manifestations of grief I had was a completely messed up sleep cycle in which I was up half the night watching horrible television and then had to drag myself out of bed in the morning.

The kids' birthdays were hard for me because they were the first celebrations without him there- supervising Michaela as she lit her birthday candles, singing happy birthday in his deep voice, making a big deal about their presents.  Every holiday and family gathering has something that is missing.  And then when December came along, I was kind of a mess.  All the hymns I remember him singing in church, my own Christmas memories of him, and the general arrival of an overwhelming grief I was anticipating landed on my heart.

But I threw myself into getting ready for the holiday and jumped into finishing our basement and that helped distract me and move things along.  But I realized that grief had moved into my head and my heart and my house and I had to deal with it and move through it.  Grief was my new roommate, and like all roommates (well, I guess more like the little roommates I live with now), sometimes it required a great deal of attention and managing and working while some days it faded quietly into the background, but was always there.

A gift was given to my mom and me in November when we were invited to attend a symposium hosted by my dad's doctor sharing the latest research and news about treating his kind of cancer.  We traveled out to Worcester once again, buoyed by the prospect of returning to a place where we had always felt safe, cared for and supported.  Seeing Dr. Lambert and hugging her again was healing for both my mom and me on so many levels.  We got to see Deb, the manager from Hope Lodge where we had spent many nights while he was hospitalized and where we felt part of a larger community fighting this disease.

All through November and December, the image that kept creeping into my head was that of Haley's comet... you are close to it and see it, but in time it travels far away from you, out of sight.  But after a while it begins to come back, coming closer and closer to you and once again it feels fresh and recent.  That was my experience with the grief and the shock that it had happened at all: in the fall it had traveled away from me, but by late November it was coming crushing back.  The anniversary of my dad's surgery on the 18th of December was an awful day- so raw and familiar, like I was experiencing it for the first time all over again.

Christmas was quite lovely here in every way and was made easier for me personally because I was separated from both my parents last Christmas so this one- having my mom here and in my house- was better.

As we've been finishing our basement- a project my dad was really supportive of- Dan and I talked about how excited he would have been to see it come together.  Dan and I had quite a few laughs imitating what he would have said at each stage of progress. Right before we put the last piece of drywall up, we wrote a small note to my dad on one of the studs for the next person who renovates it to find.

So now the holidays are over, the basement is 99% done (HUGE post about that coming soon!), and we are back onto a regular schedule. The things that need to get done are getting done. The pain that I felt in the last few months is definitely ebbing, but some days what I really would love to do is spend all day in bed reading and watching Downton Abbey on a continuous loop.

I am grieving the profound loss and just trying to wrap my brain around all of it happening in the first place.  This is what grieving looks like; this is what it is. And I am getting through it, step by step.

And just like God whispered to me back when this whole mess started... it is going to be okay.

It will. It is.
I know it.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Parent Snack.

Right before Thanksgiving, Alec's preschool hosts a Parent Snack in which parents are invited and we all eat snacks (applesauce, goldfish, popcorn, and Skittles) and then watch the kids do a short, quite adorable performance of singing and playing on the rhythm sticks.

(Loyal readers of the blog may feel a sense of de ja vu when looking at the pictures below because Alec wore the same exact shirt in last year's Parent Snack blogpost.  I liked last year's shirt so much that when I found it at a Gymboree outlet I bought it all over again. Last year's size: 3T. This year's size: 6. The kid grows scary fast.)

So after the snack and before the sticks performance, some of the kids were running around and generally being four years old.

I texted Dan and wrote: In case you are wondering, the kid doing the pretend Ninja fighting by himself is your kid.  And the half-inch-too-short pants he's wearing are not adding to his overall coolness factor. (See scary fast growth comment above.)

Dan's response: So proud. So proud.

It was really cute and the headdresses are always a challenge for Alec.  But he did great and wore it at the appropriate times.
And he rocked on the rhythm sticks. And good musicians are always cool.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Ninja, the Witch, and the '80s Girl.

And before we knew it, it was Halloween.
This year we had a GI Joe Ninja (which is an unfortunate choice when you have speech issues and can't clearly say the "g/j" sound... I had to translate the answer to the What are you going to be for Halloween? question quite a few times), a witch, and an '80s Valley girl in our house on October 31st.

(When I told Michaela that girls I went to school with regularly dressed like this in Middle School- not as a costume- she kind of rolled her eyes at me.  But then again, half of what I say to her causes her to kind of rolls her eyes at me.)

In my opinion, any year I can keep Michaela from wanting to be a "sexy nurse" or "sexy vampire" or "sexy anything" is a rousing victory.

Another fun thing we did this year (and last year- a tradition is born!) was go to the house of an older couple in our church who set up an absolutely amazing Dept. 56-themed display all over their living room and dining room.  You can stand there for hours taking it all in.  Both girls brought friends this year to show it off.  Amazing.

Pumpkin carving time!  As the girls get older, they want to be in charge of more and more, and I have to admit it's kind of nice.  I drew the design on the pumpkin and I was still in charge of the knife, but they cleaned it all out and did some touch up carving with close supervision.  Overall, there was much carrying on about the guts of the pumpkin by all three kids.

Sometimes I think that Jenna is my own personal American Girl Doll and I get to dress her up for holidays and show her off.  Michaela does not let me do this anymore. Sniff.  And I can't believe that Alec will really ever let me put Halloween-themed curly hairties in his hair.

Halloween was also great this year because Dan took the two little kids out trick or treating and Jenna's best friend went with them and I got to stay home with her mom and gab the whole time.  Treat for Mommy, as well!!  They stayed out for about an hour (the weather was a bit cold and sleety) but got enough candy to declare the evening a success.  Michaela went with her usual trick or treating crowd and was successful but did not beat her record-setting haul of last year.

There's always next year, my love.

Monday, January 20, 2014


With fall and all of its yumminess comes great celebrations of my big girl Michaela and my baby boy Alec.

We once again paid Michaela to not have a friend birthday party- an arrangement that we are both thrilled with- and Alec is not quite ready to have a birthday party as he can barely name any of the kids he plays with at school.  But we had a blowout family party for both of them with friends and relatives and great Italian food for everyone.  It is one of my favorite events of the year... having everyone close at hand, laughing and playing and talking and eating.  Because it is hard to find party themes that would be agreed upon by a 12 year old girl and 4 year old boy, I went with a Halloween/ black and orange theme, mostly because we've already done SpongeBob parties about three times.

Alec had a party in his preschool classroom and like his sister Jenna gave me very specific instructions about the cupcakes and decorations.  He got to wear his yellow crown all day and seemed to enjoy his school party.

For gifts, Alec asked for Legos, Legos and more Legos and was pleased with his haul.

Michaela is in middle school so school cupcakes were out of the question but since she had confirmation class that night I made cupcakes for her confirmation class.

Michaela asked for a Pandora bracelet and a birthstone charm and we were happy to get one for her.  They are so pretty and a great personal gift.

My mom had little birthday celebrations with presents and cake at her house for each birthday child.  My kids love these mini-parties because she always gets them great stuff and makes them feel special!


All in all, we enjoyed great celebrations of two great kids!

Alec J. Libutti, Soccer Star.

Well, not quite.

While it is indeed true that we signed him up for soccer this fall, calling it "playing soccer" was a bit of a stretch.

What he did do- quite repeatedly and with great gusto- was wave and wink to us fans on the sidelines, making us laugh and smile.  What he didn't actually do was kick the ball, pass the ball to another teammate, score any goals, ever have possession of the ball, or really understand what EXACTLY he was doing out there.

But man, he looked cute.  He would run around with the other kids, usually a foot or two behind the pack (no need to actually come in contact with anyone!) and any time he sensed he was near us, he would point and wave like he was the Grand Marshal of the Bethlehem Rec Soccer Parade.

He would cycle out so he could rest and drink his iced tea out of his Thomas the Tank Engine water bottle.   He usually distainfully skipped the halftime oranges but always enjoyed the post-game popsicle.  But he did it and generally had fun.  We were really proud of him.