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!*