This Bird Does It

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#NaBloPoMo experiment FAIL! And other December reflections.

Yeah, I tried the post-a-day project for November pushed by BlogHer called NaBloPoMo. I tried, I really did. I failed. Spectacularly, I think. And as any good scientist will tell you, a failed experiment is still very valuable. I leaned some important things. First, I have NO BUSINESS trying to write a post every day. It’s obnoxious to me, to my family, to my readers (those who stayed), and just generally silly. I just don’t have that much interesting to say and that’s okay. It was never the intent of this blog to document in excruciating detail the operation that is running this house and raising this family and trying to record SOMETHING every single day just makes the things I do post feel forced, or boring, or whatever. I mean this blog to record our lives as my kids grow up, that’s true, but no more than any generation before the blog, I don’t have to remember everything, and it’s okay for some days to just pass in anonymous blurs. If I try the experiment again (and at the moment it’s not looking likely), I’d choose some kind of theme and just stick to that. Post a description of a single moment of each day, or one thing I’m thankful for each day (though, I have issues with that I wrote about here), or a genealogy tidbit, or maybe just a fashion question each day. Anyway, the open “write something” thing just didn’t work for me.

Second, I learned that a few folks WILL check in everyday if I write everyday. Not a huge following, but a few folks will read whatever I write and I appreciate it. Thanks, guys.

And lastly, I need to let things brew a while before I try to write about them. With the possible exception of the lists of things I want my children to learn and not learn from me, and maybe the Thanksgiving Eve poem, I don’t think I wrote anything of much value during the challenge. I’m not saying that lots of my posts before the challenge were super excellent, but I’m at least a little proud of some of them. Not so much during the challenge. As one regular reader told me recently, I’m never gonna win a Pulitzer, but still, it should be at least a little interesting.

Moving on from the NaBloPoMo, IT’S THE HOLIDAYS! December slipped up on me in the same way it does every year. Suddenly, it was Thanksgiving and BAM! time to put up the tree, shop, bake, decorate, fill up the calendar, blah, blah, blah. And then I blinked and December was sliding by in a hurry and it feels like I’ve been getting ready for the holidays for weeks on end and they’re almost over. I suppose part of it is because of the tree.

Ah, the tree. Maybe you remember when I wrote a completely self indulgent, lengthy but loving, post about MY Christmas tree last year. My tree means a lot to me. I invest a lot of emotional energy in that tree each year. I attach a lot, maybe too much, emotion and Christmas spirit to my tree. In short, I REALLY love my tree.

wpid-2014-12-17-10.21.29.jpg.jpegWe put our tree up as usual this year, purchasing it on the first Saturday in December, which was a little late this year, December 7th. We declined the vendor’s offer to put a fresh cut on the trunk, took it home and cut six inches off the bottom to make it just the right height. The tree seemed unstable when we got it in the usual stand, so thinking that the 15 year old stand had just seen better days, we used another stand we happened to have on hand. There was a weird trunk split about a third of the way down that caused the center of gravity to be slightly off, but carefully secured in the stand, everything seemed normal and stable. Off I went on my annual light extravaganza! I strung some SIXTEEN strands of light on that sucker, including an addition this year of three strands of C4 sized LED Phillips Warm White 60 count lights. I can’t afford to make the switch to LED in one leap, but I think the colors have come a long way and I thought I’d add some depth to the tree by adding some of the larger lights. It was magical. The camera doesn’t really capture the complete beauty, but it was as pretty a tree as I’d ever had. Once again, I felt like I’d captured some magic for my family and put it on display in the living room.

wpid-2014-12-17-10.27.03.jpg.jpegWe went on with the month of December and all it’s craziness. The second week of December is the last week of preschool, including the funny, silly program of preschoolers singing the same funny songs in all their sweet, frilly glory. There really isn’t anything cuter, unless it’s the one who doesn’t want to sing rubbing his belly. Sorry I didn’t get a better picture.

I worked my butt off on Friday to FINALLY get all the decorating remnants cleaned up and everything dusted and vacuumed and ready for company and parties over the weekend. I was thrilled to have gotten it all done on Friday evening, including haircuts for everyone! Saturday came and we packed the kids off to the grandparents and headed off to not one, but TWO parties with friends, and then even had dinner together with completely adult conversation before making it home for a decent bedtime on Saturday night.

We came home to a dark house and since we didn’t plan to stay up, we didn’t light the tree, or even wander through the front room on the way up to bed. The husband was snoring pretty quickly, but I wanted just one more cookie (that will teach me) so I wandered downstairs and just happened to glance into the dark living room on my way up the stairs.

wpid-2014-12-17-10.41.40.jpg.jpegwpid-20141214_151118.jpgThat’s when my heart sank. There it was, like a big fat dead body in on the living room carpet. My beautiful, wonderful, much loved tree had just dropped while we were out. Fell, fainted, collapsed, prostrated itself, DOWN! I woke the husband, who calls me hysterical when he tells the story. I maintain that I was simply upset, but I can see how it might have LOOKED like I was hysterical. There was glass EVERYWHERE. I was certain that every ornament I’d held dear was broken, that they were all gone. As it turned out there were only a few precious ones lost, most of the broken ornaments were just cheap glass ones I’d picked up over the years to fill it up. The wedding gift egg was the most precious and I might be able to glue it. Still, a sad loss.

But we have to go on, right? Christmas is still coming! When I stopped crying and got a good night’s sleep, we examined the tree and decided it was not salvageable. It was completely dried out. I thought I’d kept it watered enough, but the water had been low, so maybe I didn’t add enough. Maybe it had just been cut too long ago. Whatever the cause, the needles were dropping like it was mid-January and I couldn’t see rehanging my most loved ornaments on this traitor tree. I also couldn’t see buying a new real tree, unstringing the stupid amount of lights I like, and restringing them on the new one. The final solution was to get that awful, evil tree out of my house, and borrow an extra little tabletop model that Mom and Dad had in the basement. It isn’t ideal, but it works. I rode a roller coaster of emotions as I took out the old tree, but I could feel my Christmas spirit rebuilding as I decorated this little dear tree. In years to come, I’m sure my children will remember the “Year of The Tiny Tree” and I hope it’s a happy memory, though it will always be bittersweet to me.

So, the upshot of the whole story is that I have been getting READY for Christmas forever. And now it feels like BAM, it’s almost over. It isn’t, but I know how fast these next two weeks will fly by. We will have “Christmas” with two different sections of the family this weekend and a dinner for a nephew graduating from college (Congrats, Alec!). Plus a bonus piano recital! And then the kids will be out of school next week. Thankfully, their father is off all week between Christmas and New Year’s this year. I look forward to some quite family time, though we’ll probably spend most of it cleaning out the basement and preparing to have friends over for New Year’s Eve.

Through all, I just want to remember that life is so good, I am so blessed.

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Twas the day before Thanksgiving…

Yeah, this is what I come up with when I don’t want to be writing for school. Here’s a little dream I had this Thanksgiving Eve. Enjoy!

Twas the day ‘fore Thanksgiving
And all through the land,
The people were scurrying to come up with a plan.
The news was on non-stop, crying violence and pain;
In hopes that folks could find victims to blame.
The stores were all busy, and tempers flew hot;
While visions appeared of deals to be got!
And kiddies in their pjs and I in my sweats;
Had just sipped the cocoa, as good as it gets!
When down in the basement arose such a ruckus,
I sprang from the couch to see what fuss is.
Off to the staircase I flew like a goof,
The kids were sure fighting and now I had proof!
The toys and the junk in the unfinished space,
Gave the illusion of mayhem, not a thing in its place!
When what to my screen weary eyes did appear?
But a clean little corner of holiday cheer.
With a sweet little cherub, so funny and cute,
And his brother and sister, both smart and astute.
They stood up and picked up and gathered the stuff,
The dolls and the robots, the cars; all enough!
To donate, to sell, to throw away, or just pitch,
They want it cleaned out and they just don’t care which!
To the top of the bookshelf, to the back of the trunk!
Now clean it up, sweep it up, pick up the junk!
As leaves that before the wild hurricane fly
When they meet with an obstacle mount to the sky;
So to the job, these children now turned,
With the dusting and sorting, oh my, they had learned!
And then in a twinkling, I felt such great joy.
They’d each like to donate a favorite toy!
As I sucked in my breath and felt ready to praise
Up the staircase they hurried, these children I’d raised.
They were dressed all in fleece, from their head to their feet
And the oldest’s top and bottom would just not quite meet.
A bin full of toys they were pulling behind,
And they looked like sweet elves, but still didn’t mind.
Their eyes, how they twinkled, their giggles, how funny!
They squeals were like music, their smiles so sunny!
The sweet little creatures moved as quick as the light
And they cleaned out the basement so nicely that night!
The piles of their toys that they knew they’d not need
Were just sitting and ready to be their good deed.
They’d sorted them carefully, marking by age
The dollies, the puzzles, that Minecraft game rage.
They were jolly and sleepy and sweetly alive
And I teared up when I saw them and tried not to cry.
A rub of their eyes, and a twist of their heads,
Soon gave me to know it was near time for beds.
I spoke not a word, but went straight to my work
I loaded the toys, they’d worked hard, I can’t shirk!
And driving to Goodwill as fast as I could,
I thought how I’d never believed that they would
Realize all their blessings and give something back.
But I must remember and not give them flack!
And I heard them but whisper as they started to doze:
“Happy Thanksgiving, Mom!”
They’re good kids, I suppose!

 


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TweetPress

I feel like I wrote about the whole coming into the holidays roller coaster ride thing last year. So at the risk of letting this blog turn into a Twitter account, I’ll just say, MAN! How did it get to be Thanksgiving already?


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THIS YEAR!

Finally, the stars have aligned. I’m going to the OSU vs U of M game on Saturday. That’s pretty much all I’ve got for you today. I’ve got to let that sink in before I write more about it. And I will. Oh, boy, I will.


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Christmas Pageant rehearsal

I love kids. I love my kids, and other people’s kids most of the time. I love kids shows, and I love directing amateur productions. But I think I would rather die than direct a children’s production. It’s chaos. It’s insane. It’s WORSE than herding cats.

Thankfully it’s not my job.

But Girlie got a big speaking part in this year’s Sunday School production. So, each Sunday evening until the production, I’ll drive her over to the church for practice and watch her flounder with her lines and experience the frustration of not being able to will her to speak louder and clearer and with better diction. Gah, I have issues!

Still, she’s worked hard already to memorize her lines. And watching kids try to do this is sweet and makes me teary-eyed. And that’s my girl! She’s trying so hard and she’s going to be great.

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Kinda running out of steam

Haven’t missed a day, yet, on this November NoBloPoMo challenge. But I’m just not feeling it tonight.

Punt.

Yeah, I’m tired, I’ve got homework, the Michigan v Maryland game is way more interesting than I thought it would be, and someone has to clean up that pot of white chicken chili on the stove.

I’m sure I’ll think of something to blather on about tomorrow.

Good night.

 


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Congrats, South Carolina!

Marriage equality comes to South Carolina! Though I didn’t keep up with many of them, I knew quite a few LGBT folks in college in South Carolina. Those who stayed there can now experience all the rights and joys of marriage in their home state. I’m so glad for them, though a little sad that Ohio seems so far away from this milestone.

So, it turns out this guy who went to my college is one of the first South Carolinians to get a marriage license with his same-sex partner. They’ve been interviewed on several media outlets and gotten a good bit of coverage. Lots of folks have posted on his Facebook page sharing support, and I joined them. I truly hope they are happy, though I also wish it was no bigger deal than any other marriage of an old college acquaintance. It is a big deal, though! It’s a really big deal. Here’s these two men who have been sharing their lives for 20 years and FINALLY they get to make easy legal arrangements for each other’s financial security in the event that one of them should die. FINALLY they can share insurance plans, assume next of kin, and just call each other “husband.”

Watching one of the interviews I had to giggle, though. My college acquaintance and his partner and another couple, two women, were featured. They are so sweet and unassuming. They are clearly thrilled to have these new rights and watching them, their happiness is obvious. But they are not the activists who were the first to marry in the Northeast or on the West Coast. They are clear that they aren’t trying to change anyone’s feelings about them. They don’t care what anyone else feels about their union, their lives, their sexual preferences. They have the rights they should have and beyond that, they are uninterested in changing anyone’s minds about anything. It made me smile. It made me even more happy for these couples. They’re just like any other couple getting married. Just as they should be, they’re focused on themselves, their own lives, their future.

Congratualtions, South Carolina. I’m proud of the state where I came of age. Now if my own home state would just catch up!


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A late night #TBT

Just thinking about how fast time goes by. Can’t believe this little girl is as tall as my chin, and this boy is right behind her. The littlest guy is almost two years older than the boy in this picture.


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I could complain…

I could whine about how I got nothing done this week in the way of basement cleaning and pre-holiday deep cleaning. I could whine about my headache, or how whiny the kids are, or how I’ve been running non-stop since my feet hit the ground this morning. I could complain about the huge amount of laundry my husband is about to bring home from his week away (though, in fairness, he’ll do most of it himself), or the gear that he will spread out for two days while he carefully packs it away for next year. I could moan about how I really have to wash the dishes before I put them in the dishwasher because the dishwasher stinks and we had potato soup so everything will be covered with potato starch.

I’m not going to, though. I’m just not. The house will get clean and Christmas will come either way. The kids are going to bed before long, and they’ll be fine. Part of their whininess is that they got flu vaccines today and I’m much more comfortable about the beginning of flu season. I’ve got a decent working washer and dryer so the laundry will get done and I don’t even have to haul it anywhere to do it.  All that gear will get packed neatly into a corner of the basement and my husband will not leave for eight days in a row again for another year. We had a wonderful, warm, comforting soup for dinner.

And it might be too early to decorate, but it’s not to early to drag out my favorite Christmas mug for a cup of coffee to try and ease my headache with caffeine. Just can’t forget that life is good.

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The truth about the OUR Family Christmas pictures

I wrote the bulk of this post for LiveJournal in 2007. I’ve been stressing about Christmas cards pretty much every year since I started having children. Some people have cooperative children and get lovely Christmas shots every year. Me? Not so much. These kids are all related to Chandler Bing.

I thought I’d share the stress I found just a few years in and then share a bit of what I’ve learned since. Enjoy.

I have been sending Christmas cards pretty regularly for a couple years now.  Since Annie was born, anyway.  (So, get me your address if you’re one of those old friends I’ve recently reconnected with!)  I love the opportunity to send people I only speak with once or twice a year, a picture of my beautiful children.  I imagine them admiring their sweet faces and placing the card on the fridge where it will gather dust until July or so and then be tossed out with the expired pizza coupons they were covering up.  I know, I know.  Many of these cards end up in the trash within minutes of opening.  Now that’s a sin, don’t you think?  Those beautiful faces in the trash?  I won’t think of it.  And some stay in the Christmas card pile to be thrown out en masse.  I can live with that.  They didn’t look right at my children’s faces and toss them in with the eggshells, or empty milk carton if they recycle. 

I love having my own cards printed.  It seems so personal, but finished.  A big picture of my child(ren), but a message I thought out myself.  Still, I cannot bring myself to have our names printed inside.  I feel the need to sign each and every individual card with a short, but personal message, and my actual name written in my own hand.  Nevermind that I also sign for my children and husband.  To me (and there’s no offense meant to those who send me these cards each year), sending those pre-signed cards with no message says, “Hey, I thought of you for 2.8 seconds this year while I put the stamp on this envelope.”  Especially because most of the time, these cards come with a computer printed label with my address.  In that case, the sender may not even be aware that he HAS sent me a card!  I’ve sent out batches of résumés with more personal thought.

Annie’s first Christmas, the only one for which she was the only subject of the photography session, was so much fun.  My mother helped me get the shot when she was visiting for Thanksgiving.  We dressed my sweet 10 month old in a lovely red corduroy dress with the sweetest matching tam.  We sat her on a white sheet and surrounded her with little colored lights, greenery, and some not-too-breakable tree ornaments.  She was so enthralled with this stuff.  She seemed to know instinctively that it was a pile of stuff she wouldn’t normally be allowed to touch.  She drew the lights up over her head, then down in her lap.  She pointed with her tiny finger at a blue one and starred right at it.  Snap!  Got the shot.  The card was perfect with the caption, “May the wonder of the season stay with you throughout the New Year.”  Sweet, cheery, pretty.  Done.

  

The next year, I started trying for the elusive Card Picture around the first of November.  I wanted to get it all done and printed so that I could take my time signing and addressing, by hand of course.  I chose some sweet holiday-ish outfits for the kids.  Annie, now 22 months, in a sweet flannel Stausburg dress of blue checks, and Sammy, at 7 months or so, in his holiday snowman sweater with the sleeves rolled up.  For our first session, I dressed the kids and put them on our red couch, gave them each a giant jingle bell and starting shooting.  Thank heaven for the digital camera.  I would have ruined a lot of film!  They grabbed the bells from each other.  Sammy put them in his mouth.  Annie grabbed Sam’s cheek so hard, she left red marks.  Session over.

  

  

Session Two came up by accident.  I realized one day that Sammy had on a dark green and red plaid one piece thing, and Annie was wearing a black sweater with a big pink snowflake on the front.  The session went about as well as the first, but in the end, I think the picture we used came from this day.  There were several more “sessions” of chaos, but nothing I want to remember.  Why does a seven month old child get SO upset when you aim a camera at him and want him to sit next to his sister for .8 seconds?  And WHY must a 22 month old girl hug the STUFFING out of her little brother just because you picked up the camera?  Around the second week of December, in desperation, I ordered 50 copies of the best snapshot in the bunch and stuck them on some of those photo cards you can get at Target.

  

Last year, I got smart.  I began dressing the kids in outfits that looked good photographed together on a regular basis.  I always had the camera at the ready.  I snapped HUNDREDS of pictures of them together in an attempt to get that one Card Picture.  Anytime they were even close to each other, I’d try to get them both looking at the camera.  There are files and files on my hard drive of pictures where their hair is sticking up, they’ve food on their faces, or the background is a baby gate or something equally as attractive.  Eventually, I got a semi-decent shot.  I ordered beautiful cards in two patterns from Vistaprint.com and I loved them.  Great, huh? 

Except now the bar is set.  The pressure is on.  It’s not even Halloween and I’m OBSESSING about these damn pictures already.  Like I have NOTHING ELSE TO WORRY ABOUT!  Somebody, please talk me back from the edge!

Those were just the first THREE years! The next couple years didn’t go much better. The next year these were the best of the bunch.

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In 2009 we moved to a new house with a big fire place and hearth. I was sure that I could get a wonderful shot in front of the stockings and poinsettias.  HA! I dressed them up and stood them there. After an hour or so of frustration and tears, both mine and theirs, I gave up. In the end, I sent a photo collage with a whole lot of laughable out take shots.

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In 2010 we had new a new baby. In the fall, we hired a photography student to take family portraits of our family, including my parents and my brother. I put together a card with some of those images, and I was fairly pleased with the result. Easiest year of all, I guess, but I can’t afford even a student EVERY year. And even she had trouble getting a great shot of all three of them! (She’s working as a professional now, and I’m happy to send her some business. Her name is Ashley West, and I don’t even get a kickback.)2010 card

2011 came and I snapped this shot on Thanksgiving. I printed wallets of this and each of the kids’ school pictures and put them in small cards. Done. Call it a punt.

2011 card

2012 we went to Disney and since they make it so easy to have pictures taken with your whole family, I sent wallets of one of the shots the Mouse took. Again, punt.

Animal Kingdom pass

2013 I felt like I needed to step up my game, so I went back to the folly of trying to get a great shot of all three. I tried for weeks. We hadn’t spent real money on cards in several years so I was willing to order nice cardstock  prints this year, I just needed to get the right shot. Dozens of tries. Gave up. Fine, I’ll just put separate shots of the kids on the card. Again, no luck. Finally, I drug them out in the yard before school and told them to smile. I got lucky, I guess. I ordered them THAT DAY!Fullscreen capture 11182014 10841 PM.bmp

 

This year, I’m not willing to spend a fortune since I did last year. But of course, I got great shots in the leaves a couple weeks ago. Yeah, it’s more fall than winter. Yeah, you’ve all already seen them. I don’t care! They are great shots and they are going on the cards!

 

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