Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Sometimes you're at your best, when you feel the worst

Ben had a playdate today.

When I went back, at 5:00, to pick him up, Mrs. N. met me at the door.

"Hi! Come on in. They had a great time! He is so quiet and polite. He said 'please' and 'thank you' and they all played so nicely."

It was just what I needed to hear.

* * * * * * *

This Christmas vacation is kicking my butt.

The weather seems much colder and nastier than usual. If I had tried to send my offspring outside yesterday, I'm sure I would have lost one or two of them to the 40mph winds.

"What's that flying through the school yard?!"

"Pink coat? Curly hair? Eh. It's just the youngest of the Casalo kids. Don't worry, they're like bloodhounds. That one'll smell her way home."

Thank heaven for the 50 degree weather we had on Sunday. I threw them all outside and bolted the doors shut from the inside.

"I wanna come in!!"

"For what?!"

"I gotta peeeeeee!"

"No! That's what the shrubs are for!"

I'm joking. Sort of. I do have a habit of heading them off at the door to assess whether or not their "needs" are just a ploy to get back into the house. They're sly little buggers, ya know.

So the lack of fresh air (and the lack of a giant padded room where we can all run wild) has us battling a big batch of Cabin Fever. Add to that my post-holiday exhaustion and what we have here is a classic case of "Momma's Loony. Steer Clear."

* * * * * * * * *

On a day (or week) like this, when I'm feeling like I'm not on top of anything, it's nice to hear that I'm doing something right. Despite my tough days...the days when I'm cross-eyed with exhaustion....the days when I just can't force myself to play another board game....the days when I count the minutes until bedtime.....despite all of that, my kids are turning out okay.

Thanks, Mrs. N. (and others like you), for the unintentional pat on the back. You might never know it, but it was exactly what I needed at exactly the right time.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Scenes From Our December......

As I sit here on Christmas Eve morning, my mind races with visions of my to-do list. I wanted to stop for a moment, though, and say thank my family, my friends, and the handful of readers who don't know me, yet take the time to visit my blog. I am thankful for all of you.

Have a wonderful Christmas. Be safe. Be kind. And let me leave you with a sweet, simple quote I found many years ago. Soak it up, treasure it, and make it your life motto.....

Hold tenderly that which you cherish.
-Bob Alberti

Monday, December 21, 2009

Images of a Four-Year-Old

*gasp* She doesn't have any teeth!

That was the first thought that raced through my mind when I met my baby girl. Ya know....cuz every infant is born with a full set of pearly whites, right?

After that split second brain lapse, I came to my senses.

Is it really a girl? We have a girl? I'm so glad the sonogram wasn't mistaken! Cuz I love her so much! Not that I wouldn't have loved another boy! But she's a GIRL! I've never HAD one of those before! Whoopee! Plus, she's so CUTE! And she's so TINY! UGH! Can someone please unstrap my arms so I can TOUCH HER?!

About 24 hours before she was born, I had a 5-minute panic attack....I thought the doctors might have made a mistake and we were actually going to have a boy. I even decided that the name would be Alexander. Apparently, I needed to make peace with the idea that those sonograms are not perfect. I didn't want to have some big "surprise" in the delivery room.

* * * * * * * * * *

And now my toothless, maybe-a-boy-maybe-a-girl infant is a full-fledged 4-year-old.

She is happy. She is friendly. She is a good sister.

She assumes that "Giving Momma a run for her money" is her top priority in life.

She is strong. Independent. Sweet. Smart. Helpful.

She loves babies. And dogs. And Dora the Exlorer. And her Daddy.

She is a ball of perpetual motion.

She threw me for a loop. And showed me that I have so much more to learn about being a parent.

Happy Birthday, Alexa. You are loved. And don't you ever forget that.
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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Our lives are made in these small hours

Hm. It occurred to me that, sometime ago, I promised you a proper Thanksgiving post. Here we are, 5 days from Christmas, and I still haven't delivered the goods. Shame, shame, shame on me. Will you forgive me if I bake you some sugar cookies?

What's that you say? You can't be bought with tasty treats? Yeah, well...try the cookies first. They're pretty darn good, if I do say so myself. Plus? Some of them have M&Ms. Uh-huh! I knew I could buy your love!

* * * * * * *

You've surely heard the phrase "don't sweat the small stuff", right? Good advice, wouldn't you agree? It's not healthy to get so worked up over little bits of nonsense.

On the flip side, however, I'm a firm believer in appreciating the small stuff.

It goes without saying that I'm thankful for my friends and family......the roof over our heads.....the steady paycheck that arrives every Friday...the food on our table. These are the Big Things that our lives revolve around.

I'm referring to the details. The little stuff. The minutiae of life.

I'm thankful for the following:

My new fuzzy bathrobe. It's fuzzy. And warm. And pretty. What could be better than that? Nothing, I tell you! Absolutely nothing.

The 7-11 that's within walking distance from my house. Not in the mood for a Grocery Store Experience? Just run to 7-11 and pick up the milk! Or bread! Or eggs! Or 9 volt battery! Or a Santa hat that's green and has the word "JETS" embroidered on the front!

Milk. Bread. Eggs. Cheese. Apples. At least one meal every day consists of those items. I consider it my mission in life to make sure they leave this house with a tummy full of healthy breakfast food.

Facebook. No, I'm not joking. I resisted the movement for as long as I could. When I finally relented, I discovered this technological gem that has allowed me to be in much closer contact with my family. There are 34 people on my side (siblings, in-laws, nieces, and nephews) and we are scattered from coast to coast. I adore this big group, but it's tough to keep track of everyone's lives. With facebook, I was able to see my niece's baby bump pictures, chat with her about the pregnancy, and see photos of the baby within a few hours of her birth! Amazing.

My new digital camera. Seriously. I'd need to take out a second mortgage to pay for the film and developing if I were still using my old camera.

Bedtime. The key to my sanity is knowing that I can stop being Momma at some point during the day. Rachel is asleep at 6:30. Alexa, by 7:00. Ben, by 7:30. Nicholas is in bed, reading, at 8.

"Criminal Minds". That's the show I'm currently obsessed with. I looooove it. I used to loooooove "CSI" (the Vegas one). I fell OUT of looooove with it when Grissom left.

Howard Stern. He makes me laugh when I desperately need a shot of humor in my days. Being a stay-at-home-mom for nearly 10 years can have it's difficult moments. (Gawd, that's such a huge understatement.) His radio talk-show is just what I need. I don't give a rat's butt that some people find him to be crude, offensive, obnoxious, etc. He. makes. me. laugh. And that's all I honestly care about.

My iPod. And iTunes. This teeny, tiny little thing holds all of those songs? Really? AND I don't have to carry around 29 CD cases in order to listen to my favorite music? AND I don't have to buy an entire CD just to get the ONE song that I like?! AND I don't have to be all annoyed that my favorite song is ruined because the CD got scratched?! Shut UP! That would make this the best invention EVER!

The twinkly, white lights on my Christmas tree. They're just so pretty.

Rob Thomas and Matchbox 20. It's like candy for my ears.

A love of quilting that was passed down to me from my Grandma Johnson.

My birthday. Becoming another year older doesn't bother me. Yet.

My blog. It feels good to wake up my sleepy brain.

* * * * * * *

I'm sure I could continue. But you get the idea, right? Remembering to appreciate that the little stuff is just as important as the big stuff.

What kind of "little stuff" are you thankful for?

* * * * * * *

Even pre-schoolers can catch the Thankful Bug....Alexa made this Thanksgiving project in school last month.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The times they are a-changin'

A funny thing happened this past weekend.

We went to a Breakfast With Santa, which was organized by some of the moms at our school. (THAT'S not the funny part. I'll get to it in a minute.) I love that they took time out of their busy lives to pull this together for our families. The kids had a wonderful time...and Rachel didn't fall on the floor crying when she looked at Santa (which is what happened the weekend before at a different Breakfast.)

So I was standing there, chatting with someone, when I looked over to see my friend holding someone's itty, bitty, adorable, little girl. She might have been 4 or 5 months old. She was wearing a tiny red dress, white tights, and teeny-weeny black Mary Janes. Her head was covered by the thinnest layer of wispy hair and she was chewing vigorously on two of her fingers (teething?).

"Awww! She is so cuuuute! Omigawd!" I continued to babble incoherently. "Who is the cutest widdle baby in the whole wide world? Is that you?! Yes it is! YOU are the cutest widdle baby in the whole wide world!" The baby-daddy was standing nearby, probably wishing he had the number of the local mental health facility on his cell phone speed dial.

But here's where the funny part came in. I did my babbling and staring, went about my business, and NOT EVEN ONE TIME did I think to myself, "Aw! It would be so nice to have another one."

This is a huuuuge breakthrough.

I'm not kidding, people. Not even a HINT of baby-fever. On the contrary, I looked around at my kids....they were running around, having fun, playing with the other kids, chatting with the parents, getting their own food when they were hungry, and just being independent. And I was thankful.

For as much as I loved my babies and I do miss their infant days, I'm starting to accept the idea that their growing up is a good thing.

There's less "gear" in my more swing, pack-n-play, infant car seat, exersaucer, booster seat, gates, changing table, bottles, binkys, etc. Rachel will be out of diapers soon. We haven't used the stroller in several months. My schedule no longer revolves around naptime. They all sleep through the night. They can all drink from a regular cup. They can all speak in full sentences. Rachel can follow directions like, "Please get your coat out of the closet. We're leaving soon." She can run to the van and climb into her seat and even partially buckle her seatbelt. The boys walk themselves to school every morning. Alexa can unload the dishwasher. The physical demands of parenting are dwindling as they become capable of doing things for themselves....and for their siblings.

So while I sometimes grieve for the days that passed far too quickly, my eyes are beginning to see that this phase of our lives has it's perks. Instead of looking back, I can see certain milestones on the horizon.....and I'm eager to see what's in store for our family.

* * Rachel and Momma...April 2007 * *

"Come gather 'round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'."
(Bob Dylan, copyright 1963)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Beware of conversations with a 9-year-old boy

Me (after watching one of the girls trip over a plastic gun):
"Whose gun is on the floor?"

"I farted."

Clearly, we have a breakdown in communication.

Friday, December 11, 2009

You say it's your birthday....


Is that even possible? When we met, you were barely 24. Remember how I threw that little surprise 25th birthday party for you in Cagney's on Steinway Street? That was 16 years ago!

Well, in case you didn't hear me the other 83 times I said it today, Happy Birthday. I look forward to spending many more of these birthdays with you.

* * * * * * * * *

I don't think it's any secret that I can easily put my thoughts into written words. For as far back as I can remember, I've been able to write. (Speaking? Is another matter entirely. My mouth generally cannot form a coherent thought. I have a habit of leaving people slack-jawed as they contemplate, "Did she seriously just say THAT?")

And yet, there's one topic that eludes me. It's a subject that rolls around in my head like an oiled bowling ball that I can't get a good grip on. Even now, I'm staring at my computer wishing a magical genie would put the words down for me.

Most of the thoughts I come up with make me gag.

You're the light of my life and your love leaves me speechless.

Ew. I think I just threw up a little in my mouth.

In our 16 years together, I've purchased countless greeting cards and painstakingly wrote my own personalized message in each one. When I go back to read them, I cringe. Thank heaven I married a man who is un-sentimental about such things....he's thrown most of them away.

And I finally learned my lesson. I don't buy cards. Neither does he. (So stick that in your pipe and smoke it, Hallmark.)

I know, in my my the deep recesses of my brain, that actions speak louder than words, anyway. So why am I trying so hard to find the words?

I don't know.

Maybe it's because I'm so lucky and so blessed that I want to shout from the rooftops.

Maybe it's because the newspapers are chock-full of philandering dimwits like Tiger Woods and I want to keep that poison from infecting us.

Maybe it's because I never want a day to pass in which I didn't show or tell my husband how much he means to me.

I just feel like there should be SOME way to say it. There should be some words. But I can't find them.

I don't have any fancy way to say it......

I can't imagine being such a sap for anyone else but you!

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Happy 41st birthday...
to the best husband...
I'm so glad you're on my team.

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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

That's what friends are for

There's an idea that's been rattling around my head for many months now. It's a concept that I forget about from time to time, but eventually I come back to it.

It's like I have a blindfold on and I'm in a big empty room. Most of the time I wander around aimlessly in this room, alone, forgetting that the walls are there. But eventually, I bang into something and I'm reminded that, "DUH! There's that wall again."

Somehow, in my brain, that analogy does make sense. Doesn't always translate to the written word, however.


The concept I'm talking about is community. That's the word (or the walls) that I always come back to. You know the phrase "sink or swim"? Without the help of a community, I can safely say I would sink. After parenting for 9 1/2 years.....I KNOW that I would sink.

I am a hugely independent person. I pride myself on this independence. Yet I don't honestly believe that parenting is a job that can be done alone (by myself or anyone else, for that matter). There is a sense of well-being and peace that comes with knowing there are people around who are on my team. Your community might consist of your siblings, neighbors, friends, church members, or anyone else who is interested in the well-being of your family. Mine grows a little more every year as I meet more and more parents from our school.

Today, this concept was front-and-center again. My boys had a half-day of school, due to parent teacher conferences. They got out at 11:20. Alexa was in school and she got out at 11:30. Their schools are 15 minutes apart....when it's not pouring rain. Which it WAS today. So when I dropped Alexa off, I asked Mrs. A if she could bring her home for me. Alexa was thrilled because she adores Mrs. A's little girl. If not for her help, I would have needed to pull the boys out early so we could make it to Alexa's school on time. Or Alexa would need to sit with her teacher and wait for us to get there.

(And the best part? Mrs. A's daughter will be going to our elementary school and they live only a few blocks from here, so I know we'll continue to be in contact for many years....helping each other as needed.)

We had a busy afternoon lined up and I called on Mrs. L to see if she could do me a favor. Nick was coming home from work early so we could attend conferences at 1:30 and 1:45 and then take Benjamin to a follow-up appointment at the pediatrician. The boys are very good at sitting quietly during all of this. And Rachel is such a shy Momma's girl that I know she'll sit quietly on my lap. Alexa, however, is the unpredictable variable.

"Mom. I have to go potty."
"Mom. I'm thirsty."
"Mom. Did you bring anything to eat?"
"Mom. I'm thirrrrsty."
"Mom. When can we go home?"
"MOM! Iiiiii'm thirrrrrrsty!"

So Mrs. L and her 2 children entertained Alexa for the afternoon. I could hardly contain my happiness.

Need more examples of how priceless and necessary-as-the-air-we-breathe this idea is?

After Alexa was born in December of 2005, my mother stayed with us for a month. Besides saving our sorry butts from the Laundry Pile of Doom, she walked Nicholas to and from school every day. When she left at the end of January, I was faced with the task of walking to school twice a day, in the bitter cold, with an infant Alexa and Benjamin (who was 3 1/2 at the time). Our friends, Mr. and Mrs. T, stepped in and offered to walk with Nicholas every day until the weather brought warmer temps. My mother, Mr. T, and Mrs. T all came to my aid in the same way when Rachel was born in April of 2007.

We've also managed to save money by relying on our circle of family and friends. My sister-in-law gave me her crib when Rachel was born. Alexa was only 16 months old at the time and not ready to move out of her crib yet. The same sister-in-law lent me her double stroller for the girls. My neighbor's daughter lent us another, larger double stroller when the girls got bigger. Mr. and Mrs. T gave us the bike and scooter that their girls outgrew. We've received hand-me-down clothing for the kids.

And do you know what I enjoy most in this whole thing? When I'm able to pay it forward. I've passed along countless bins of maternity and baby clothing, a swing, a playpen, an infant car seat, a booster seat, a bike, a scooter, a vacuum, a recliner, a leather loveseat....the list goes on and on. When Mr. and Mrs. S when away for an anniversary weekend, their son stayed with us from Friday afternoon to Sunday morning. When our neighbors went to Florida for a wedding, their adorable mini-Schnauzer stayed with us for the weekend. When my mother stayed with us and mentioned how she'd love to see a Broadway show, I gave her tickets to see "Chicago" for Mother's Day.

So is this what it means to become older and wiser? This sort of give-and-take can't possibly be a new thing in my life, right?

I think it's always been there, but I haven't always been this aware of it.

Well if this is the sort of wisdom that comes with age, then I'm thrilled to be another year older soon.

I'm excited to see what other things I'll be learning.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

We Are The Champions, My Friend!

Today, among the millions of other blessings in my life, I count technology as one of the things I am most thankful for.

How else would I be able to share this with you, less than 2 hours after the game ended:

So call me superficial, if you'd like. But thanks to a digital camera, a memory card, a computer, and the internet, I'm able to share my son's 9-2 roller hockey victory (and to brag for a moment about his 3 goals. That's called a hat trick, I'm told. I do not speak the language of sports.). Not shabby, considering his team only won 1 game in their last season!

So, to the Wide World of Technology, this is one Momma who is sending you a big sloppy kiss on the cheek. *muah!*

Monday, November 30, 2009

Two trailer park girls go round the outside

I'm being tortured.

By my own brain.

For the last week (yes, the entire week), I've had a song stuck in my head. The same song, all. stinking. week. long.

Can you just hand me that soup spoon over there? I'm gonna gouge out my ears. Oh...wait. That won't help cuz the song will still be rolling around inside my brain. Hm. If I stick my finger in a power outlet, do you think that would ZAP the song out?

Anyway. Where was I? Oh yes. So to add insult to injury, the song in question isn't some respectable little ditty like "Oh, When the Saints Go Marching In". Noooo.

I'm stuck on Eminem's "Without Me."

Really? Would that be considered Gansta Rap? And why does using the word gansta make me feel like a big dorka?

So infecting my brain, I have lyrics like this:
"Now this looks like a job for me
So everybody, just follow me
Cause we need a little, controversy
Cause it feels so empty, without me."

That's just about all I can quote cuz the rest of the song is, well, not so family friendly. In fact, when I read through the lyrics, I'm mildly horrified and I make a mental note to skip over this song when I'm listening to my iPod with the kids in the van.

Am I trying to relive some hip youth (which I never really had in the first place. Me? Hip? AHAHAHA! That's a good one!) by having this little gem on my iPod? I'm painfully aware that a 35-year-old stay-at-home-mom is not exactly part of Eminem's targeted demographic.

Believe it or not, I have a sentimental attachment to this song. (Can you stop laughing long enough for me to explain?!)

Way back in June of 2002, I had a 3-week-old baby boy named Benjamin who liked to get up several times a night for his bottle. During these feedings, I used the tv for company. His early-morning feeding was normally around 5am-ish. So every morning, I brought him downstairs, warmed the bottle, and we settled into the recliner with the remote nearby.

At that time, VH1 ran a show in the morning called (I think) "Cardio-Video". I believe the idea was that people could use these songs to accompany their workouts (at this un-godly hour of the morning?! Who DOES that?).

So every morning, I turned on Cardio-Video and nearly every morning, "Without Me" was on. It grew on me. Plus, the video is funny. Make me laugh at 5am and I'm ALL YOURS.

Yeah. You can relax. I'm not going to suddenly shave my head and show up with my pants hanging off my behind, sporting a "Gansta 4 Life" tattoo on the back of my neck.

I just enjoy the memory of sitting in the recliner with my new little boy. Listening to him gulp down his bottle. Kissing his long, wrinkly fingers and toes. Running my hands over his whispy hair. Patting his back and cracking up over the giant burps that his tiny body produced.

That was over 7 years ago and my tiny, wrinkly boy is a 2nd grader. So if it takes Eminem to remind me of the early days, so be it. Thanks a million, Marshal Mathers!

* * * * * * * * *

On an unrelated note:

I had to share these 2 photos with you. I took the girls with me last week to run some errands. Alexa said she was "huuuuungryyyyyyy", so I gave her a bag of goldfish to snack on. She fell asleep on the way home with her hand inside the bag.

Tired vs. hungry?

Apparently tired won.

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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Oops, I did it again

The Husband's 41st birthday is coming up soon. (Is that even possible?! I met him when he was a whopping 24 years old.)

When I got my Shiny! New! Calendar! at the end of 2008, I immediately filled in the family birthdays. I wrote it on the correct day, in red marker, and colored over it with highlighter. These are very important days in our house and I wanted to make them really stand out.

As the keeper of all family information, you'd think I'd know my own husband's correct date of birth.

You'd be wrong.

Exhibit A:

His birthday is on the 11th. Not the 1oth.

I don't think I'll live this one down any time soon.

* * * * * * *

Please make me feel better. Share with me your recent acts of sheer stupidity. Please? PLEASE?!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Share the Wealth

Hi, Family and Friends!

I have every intention of putting together a belated Thanksgiving soon as I'm feeling human again. The Husband and I have matching cases of strep throat this weekend and child #3 went to bed last night, at 7pm, with a slight fever. The good times never end 'round here. You're so jealous of our awesomeness, aren't you?

In the meantime, I'm going to share a link to one of my favorite bloggers. I know lots of you are my family and friends, so you're here to read only because you know me. You're probably not terribly interested in reading the adventures of someone you don't know. A handful of you, however, are new bloggers like me. You might enjoy reading someone else's work now and then...especially when the writer's block sets in.

Her name is Stacey and she is a stay-at-home Momma with 4 very small children. She is one of the people who inspired me to start my own blog, although she doesn't know that. She has a way of creating eloquent, moving posts out of the most mundane parts of motherhood. You can find her over here. In case that link doesn't work, her blog address is

* * * * * * * * *

For the rest of you, I apologize for my illness-induced silence. As a peace offering, here are some pics of the kids:

In the backyard, on our swingset:

My budding photographer:

My strong, silent one:

The one who loves the camera:


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Look at this photograph....every time I do it makes me laugh

Okay. *deep breath* Here are the pictures taken at JCPenney 2 weeks ago (the woman who took the photos is the same woman we have every single time). Most likely, you'll look at them and think they're great pictures. You'll probably just see my incredibly adorable children (they are pretty cute, dontcha think?).

But, I'm a perfectionist, in case you didn't get the memo. It's a little known fact.

When I look at them, I see a photographer who was in a big fat hurry because there were 43 other people behind me waiting to take pictures and she had to MOVE FASTER so no one would start whining about "hooooow looooong do we have to waaaaaait."

Plus? We've had photos taken at this very same place that were so stunning, so breathtaking, so adorable that they brought tears to my eyes. So forgive me if I seem unfairly harsh. It's just that I'm well aware of what this photographer is capable of and it seems to me that she was waaay off her game this time.

As a side note, please forgive the crummy photo quality. I was too cheap to pay for the photos on disc so I could properly share them with you, oh devoted fans. No. I stood on a chair, put the picture on the table, and took a photo of it with my camera. This explains why you can see my green tablecloth behind the photos. thriftiness knows no bounds.

Anyway, buckle up. I'm about to pick these things apart and it could get ugly.

The first picture is of Nicholas. No, you're not drunk...the picture really is crooked. Not crooked as in "let's be wacky and fun" but crooked as in "aw crap....the photographer was TOTALLY not paying attention."

Also. Do you notice another telltale sign of my cheapness? Keep looking....look closer......THERE it is. The shoes. I hate, with every fiber of my being, spending money on things that will get used once or twice. So I don't spend frivolously on things like dress shoes (or dress pants, for that matter). Not a chance. I put them in jeans and sneakers and hope like hell that the photographer shoots them from the waist up. Clearly, that was not the case here.

And don't even get me started on that background. Clutter is my mortal enemy. Why on Earth would I want clutter in my pictures?! However, we were led into the wrong room....the room with this Christmas-y setup rather than the room with the plain colored backgrounds.

My kids fell in love. And begged, in unison, to "PLEASEPLEASEPLEASE LET US TAKE OUR PICTURES WITH THE TREE PLEASEPLEASEPLEASE!" It was one of those classic pick-your-battles kind of moments. If I said no and herded them into the other room, there would surely be tears and red eyes and snotty noses and pouty faces. So we stayed put. And the only teary, red-eyed, snotty-nosed, pouty face was mine.

* * * * * *

The next picture is Benjamin's. And he apparently has a lamp growing out of his head (?!!?!!?).

That's all I got.

Next we have Alexa. The picture is cute enough, except her dark hair and dark dress blend in with the dark tree. Which wouldn't have happened against a different background. Like a, oh I don't know, maybe a WHITE background. Bitter, much?

And the final individual picture is Rachel's. I almost feel bad looking at that sweet little face and picking the photo apart.


If you were holding this photo in your hand in real life, you'd see the whisps of hair that are in her face. And again, her hair is just dark enough to blend with the tree.


I got this collage-type picture to hang in my dining room. We got something similar 3 years ago, but Rachel wasn't in it (cuz, oddly enough, she was still in ME). So I wanted to keep the old one up, but I wanted a new one with Rachel, too. I don't really have a complaint about this...most of the cluttered up background is cropped out and the pics are pretty cute.

Although, I just have to say, I dare you to find an 8 year old boy who would willingly tilt his head to touch it with his brother's 6 year old head. I think we've finally reached the age where that "pose" needs to be outlawed. With the girls, it's cute. With the boys? kinda looks like they're dating.

I KNOW! "You HAD to go THERE, didn't you?!" Yes, I did. The head touch is cute when you're 3 or when you're dating. Otherwise, it's weird.

* * * * * * *

Okay. So this is the big ray of sunshine among the clouds. Could this be any cuter?

And finally....we have the group shot.

Did she NOT notice how Ben squeezed his face against Rachel's? Or how Nicholas is looking downward? Or how Alexa has a fakey smile? Or that Nicholas is not really smiling at all? Or that there's a nasty shadow behind Alexa?

On the bright side, there's always next year.

Of course, there's also February. Maybe I'll take them back in a couple months when it's less crowded and get some different pics taken.

Cuz these? Are getting promptly filed in a photo album where we can pull them out in a year and LAUGH at how bad they are.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Yummy Yummy Yummy I Got Love in My Tummy - Part 2

The kids had an early dinner of of their favorite meals. Nick got home late from work, so I made us a separate dinner. It was a bit of a peace offering on my meals recently have left much to be desired.

Pizza and buffalo wings? That was last night. Is there any wonder why I'm toting around an extra 40ish pounds?!

So tonight, I made a portobello mushroom salad. On the plate, I put a small bed of romaine lettuce. I put the pan-seared mushrooms on the bed of lettuce. Then I layered on fresh mozzarella cheese, basil, tomato slices, and roasted red peppers. I sprinkled on some chopped up kalamata olives and drizzled on the easiest/best tasting dressing EVER.

Balsamic vinegar reduction. HUH? That's a fancy-schmancy way of saying I poured some balsamic vinegar into a small saucepan and let it simmer for awhile to thicken it up. (If it simmers too long, it becomes too thick and sticky.) Drizzle it over the salad.

And that's it! No fat, no sodium, 38 calories per tablespoon, no weird list of ingredients and preservatives that no one can pronounce, and easy to keep on hand.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Thank You...Part 2

Today, I am thankful for Rachel's extensive vocabulary. Even when she asks me questions like, "Momma, do you have boobth?", I know that she is growing and developing normally. (That would be "boobs", for anyone needing a todler-to-English translation.)

I am also thankful that she's coming out of her shell a little more every day. As a matter of fact, she invites her teacher over to our house every day after school.

I am less thankful for her habit of repeating every. single. word. that Alexa says.

I am also less thankful for her constant interruptions while her siblings are talking. It's time to work on the "Do Not Interrupt" portion of her manners.

But mostly, I'm insanely jealous that she can do THIS:

And I can't.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Mama said there'd be days like this

1:30 am.

That's what time I went to sleep last night. (This morning?) I was working feverishly to finish a charity project. The actual deadline is November 20th. My mental deadline was today. I needed to finish the blankets last night so I could deliver them today to the woman who would be taking them to the dropoff. Are you dizzy yet? Me too. Not enough sleep.

As I stitched away, I watched tv. Let me just say that Sunday night tv must be some kind of programming abyss. There was noooothing on. I finally found an episode of "Sons of Anarchy", but that was the only bright spot in a cesspool of bad tv.

I also watched the tick-tocking of the clock. Oh boy. I know I'm going to pay for this tomorrow. The time whizzes by when I'm working on a project. The downside of such intense focus? My body pays dearly for it. Today, I'm nursing a sore wrist and one achy knee (from standing on a concrete floor for so long). Surprisingly, my back doesn't hurt at all. Over the summer, my hands were nearly useless for 2 months when my carpal tunnel acted up.

So anyway, I met my deadline and this was my finished product:

All of the stitching you see in the pictures was done by hand. It's my favorite part of any blanket or quilt because it's so methodical and relaxing.

I fell into bed at 1:30 and tried not to think about how quickly the next 4 1/2 hours would pass.

* * * * * * * *
This morning at 6:am - My alarm goes off. Oh you can't be serious. I just went to bed 5 minutes ago.

I realize that's an exaggeration, but it was 6am. I have NO sense of logic and proper time-keeping at that un-godly hour of the morning.

Barely bothering to open my eyes, I grab the alarm clock and shut if off. Had I been more conscious, I would have contemplated drop-kicking the clock out the window. Mmm. Bed warm. Pillow soft. Must sleep more. Nick wakes me up 40 minutes later so I can stumble into the shower, grunting and scratching the whole way.

And the morning begins....bring the girls downstairs. "Momma. Can I have milk?" Fill cups with milk. "Momma. Can I have milk?" Warm it up cuz that's the ONLY way they'll drink it (eww). "Momma. Can I have milk?" "YES! Here's your milk!"

Butter the bagels. Put the bagels on the table so breakfast can commence. Start boiling some eggs. Pack Nick's lunch. Change Rachel's diaper. Dress the girls. Squeeze Rachel...inhale her sweet baby smell. Kiss. "Good morning, Ben." Hm...where's Nicholas? He's usually down here first. Pack Ben's lunch. It's 7:30 already. This might not be good. He DID complain of a headache last night.

Shut off the eggs, get them peeled, cut, and served. "Please sit down and eat. Do not get up from the table again until your food has been eaten. You CANNOT go to school with an empty stomach." (I'm going next week to get this tattooed onto my forehead. Or maybe I'll just cross-stitch it onto a pillow. I haven't decided yet.)

Brush my teeth. Brush the girls' teeth. "Ben. Did you brush your teeth yet?" Today is picture day. I still need to do Alexa's hair. Check on Nicholas. Uh oh. He's too warm. Come back downstairs to confer with The Husband. "Here's your vitamins, kids." I take photos of the finished blankets for my portfolio.

Nick goes to check on Nicholas. "If you stay home from school today because you're sick, that means you'll need to stay home from hockey this evening, too." When Nicholas doesn't argue with him, Nick knows he is serious.

Crap. One sick kid throws off my whole morning.

8:16 am - I give Ben the option to walk to school alone (he usually walks with Nicholas) or wait for me to drive him there. As I'm saying this, I realize we need to be out the door in about 3 minutes and I'm still in my pajamas. I inform him that he'll be late if he waits for me. He still wants to wait. I still have to do Alexa's hair.

I throw on some clothes, grab the hair styling supplies, keys, and purse, and we all run to the van. (Nicholas stayed on the couch with strict instructions to not open the door and not answer the phone.) I poked the key into the ignition and turned. "click click click" What? "click click click" You've GOT to be kidding me. "click click click" CRAP CRAP CRAP! "Everyone out of the van."

8:25 - I have to call Victoria's mom to see if she can take Alexa to school. AAAHH! I still have to fix Alexa's hair. I hope she hasn't left for school yet. I hope I can find her phone number! "Ben, I'm so sorry, but you're going to have to walk to school by yourself because I have to wait here for Victoria's mom to pick up Alexa." My stomach knots up in guilt as I watch him walk down the sidewalk alone. He didn't want to go alone.

I quickly whip up a suitable hairstyle, kiss Alexa, say thank you to Victoria's mom, and breathe a sigh of relief after she offers to bring Alexa home, too.

8:35 - Run back into the house. I still need to figure out what to do with these quilts. Call my neighbor. Not only is he willing to help me on a moments notice, he also knows his way around a car. Awesome. But his wife says he's not home. Not awesome. She offers me the use of her car. Super awesome.

" stay here on the couch. I'll be back in one hour. I have to drop off these blankets. Here's my cell number and a list of 42 other people you can call if you need help for any reason." Why won't my cell phone stay ON? The little light comes on and goes off right away.

Really?! I need phone problems, too?!

"Nicholas. You can't stay here on the couch. Grab a blanket and put on your shoes. I can't leave you home if you have no way to call me on my phone. You can wait in the car when I drop off the blankets, but you can't stay home."

I grab my purse, the blankets, the booster seat, and Rachel. "Everybody out! Let's go!" I lock up the house and we all run across the street to borrow the neighbor's car....which makes me vaguely uncomfortable, but I'm too desperate to give it much thought. Buckle up. Start the car. Back out of the driveway and into the street. Try to drive. What the......? OH! The parking brake is on. WHERE'S THE RELEASE?! OHMYGODICAN'TFINDTHERELEASE AND I'M SITTING IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STREET!

*deeeeep breath* In with the good. Out with the bad. Or something like that.

I managed to get the blankets delivered on time and safely brought back Neighbor's car. Right now, I'm hoping Neighbor gets home soon and that he can help me figure out the problem with the van.

So far, the rest of the day has been better than the morning was.

Lucky for me.