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The Real Christmas Card

17 Dec
The Real Christmas Card

(idea shamelessly lifted from my friend, Ellen)

Anyone with small children (or pets!) knows that getting a good photo of a clean, still and shiny small person/pet is nearly impossible.  If I made my Christmas card using the actual photos I’ve taken over the last year, it would look something like this…
card
Clockwise from top left:
  • Blurry memories.  How many of my photos are blurry?  All of them.  Kids don’t sit still.  And if they do, it is only to stare at a television.
  • Pistachio’s ultrasound photo.  Or Skeletor’s.  Or something.  Who the hell can see anything in these?
  • Photos of cute sibling love always end up being of injuries, or other dangerous kid behavior. (Her eyes were fine.)
  • Don’t take my picture! #1
  • Pickle’s Actual “Smile” Face
  • Violent Kid Love.  Hug or choke hold?  You be the judge.
  • Plum’s Actual “Smile” Face
  • Don’t take my picture! #2
(I have left out the entire collection of photos my husband has taken of me and the kids this year.  First of all, there are about 8 photos.  When the kids get older they’re going to wonder where the heck I was during their entire early childhood. Second of all, he tends to take photos when I am grumpy, not expecting a photo shoot, or sans pants. Or all three.  Awesome.  You’re thankful I left these out, trust me.)

 

Note: I found this cute card template on Shutterfly.

Resolutions 2013 Revisited

24 Sep

Time for the yearly check-in to see how I am doing with those pesky New Year’s Resolutions.  Remember, I set the bar low this year – and good thing I did.

1. No face or neck tattoos. Not even temporary ones.

SUCCESS!

2. Avoid Diet Coke, monkfish liver and Pitbull concerts.

SUCCESS! Though I admit, I’d probably have a lot of fun at a Pitbull concert.

3. Learn to play an instrument (maracas, kazoo and tambourine count).

FAILURE.  Though we did buy a piano.  Which doesn’t make too much sense, since none of us know how to play.

4. Shower most days.

SUCCESS!  Except some Sundays, but that doesn’t really count.

5. Read one book, and see one movie in a theater.

SUCCESS!  I read the very long 11/23/63 as well as some others, and I saw Silver Linings Playbook in the theater.

6. Figure out how to listen to my podcasts in my car.

FAILURE.  But I’m giving myself a pass, since my house was broken into and my iPod (among other things) was stolen. The good news?  The police found the perps and all of my stuff.  The bad news?  They still have it in evidence.

Crime scene, dusted for fingerprints.

Crime scene, dusted for fingerprints.

7. Avoid reality shows about the Amish, and/or large tumors.

SUCCESS!  I’ve actually avoided most TV (except for Sesame Street and the ever-annoying Caillou), and most reality shows.  I have seen the entire first season of Orange is the New Black (love!) and I’m working on House of Cards now.  I call that a TV win.

8. Sleep. At least some.

SUCCESS! Kind of! We are in that magical place where both kids nap at the same time.  So that means Sunday naps for me. My kids are still up a bit, but that is slowly improving, and I’m up a bit (more on that later), but I’m still going to chalk this one up as a win.

9. Remember every family member’s name, every day.

SUCCESS!  We even lost and then added kitty family members. And I still remembered everyone’s name.

10. Organize the hall closet by April.

SUCCESS!  Done!  Twice this year!  Why this teeny closet get crammed with weird junk I don’t know.

Things to work on for the remainder of 2013 include: more time with friends, better breakfasts, and less clutter.

What are you working on?

 

Full or Fumes

25 Jan

You’ve just filled up your gas tank when you see the sign “Next Gas Station 6 Miles – Last Services for 9,000 Miles”.

Yeah, that’s what parenting is like.

Fumes, I tell ya!

I may be a little slow on the uptake since it took me nearly three years to figure this out: the breaks don’t come when you need them.

You get a breather, but it is at mile 0.25 of the race, not mile 10.

You put some gas in the tank but then have to drive until you are limping home on fumes.

With kidlets, nothing quite happens how or when you need or expect it to.

The other day, I had a day all to myself. (That bold font doesn’t add nearly enough emphasis.) The kidlets were at school and my office was closed.  The stars align like that about twice a year.  I had big dreams of a relaxing, yet productive day.   I planned out my day over and over in my mind – the places I’d go! the things I’d accomplish! the wonderful break it would be!

And it wasn’t a bad day.  I took a long shower, got a pedicure, had a nice lunch, wrote some thank you notes that were becoming embarrassingly tardy, caught up on a DVRed episode of Downton while sipping coffee.

But it was kind of like prom.  The preparation and anticipation was the best part.  The prom itself?  Kind of a letdown – just a dance with fancy clothes, with the same people you saw every day.  My day was filled with things I would have done anyway, just over the course of a month and not a day.

My day to myself came at a time when I wasn’t desperate for a break.  The kids were on the mend from the dreaded winter bugs, folks had been sleeping relatively well, work was busy but manageable, my sniffles had cleared, and the holidays were cleaned up and put away.  My parenting mood was more like “I got this, kind of!” rather than, “Help me! I’m drowning!”  My tank was ¾ full.

It is a parenting challenge – perhaps a life challenge? – that I haven’t figured out how to manage.  The breaks, the respite, the calm, the recharging, rarely come when I need them most.  So I don’t feel like I take full advantage, and end up with nothing saved up for the trying days and nights that come so often when raising two very small people, nurturing a marriage, working full-time, managing a household, and not losing myself completely in the process.

I’m not sure how exactly, but I need to work on keeping my tank a little more full.  And embrace those breaks more fully when I do get them.  Another item for the to-do list…

 

Baby Favorites (Giveaway!)

15 Jan

As I switched on the quiet whhhiiiirrrrr of the white noise machine Mr. Pickle’s thumps and yells instantly became background noise.  Plum closed her eyes and drifted off to sleep.

I have my own white noise machine, Plum is a light sleeper, Pickle is loud, and our house is small.  I don’t know why it took me so long to get her her own white noise machine.  She has slept better, and longer with it.  (Of course, the ear tubes and her age could have something to do with that, too.) Add that magical machine to my list of favorite baby things!

What follows is a partial list of my didn’t-want-them/didn’t-know-I’d-need-them/had-no-idea-how-much-I’d-love-them items for newborns/infants/toddlers.

Dohm-DS Dual Speed Sound Conditioner by Marpac

Dohm-DS Dual Speed Sound Conditioner by Marpac

There are cuter ones, but I love this white noise machine.  It creates a whoosh of air, so there are no strange electronic loops.  You can change the tone and speed (volume).  It is very portable and does exactly what it is advertised to do.  The only negative? No bells, whistles, music, lights if that’s what you’re looking for.

Carter's One-Piece Microfleece Zip-Up Sleeper

Carter’s One-Piece Microfleece Zip-Up Sleeper

Cozy, comfy and inexpensive. I love these. We have all sorts of one-piece sleepers and these are my favorites.  When you’re doing a squirmy-wailing-middle-of-the-night diaper change the zipper is a lifesaver – who decided 15 snaps was a good idea?  These wash well and my little ones seem to think they’re great.  Thank you Carter’s! The only negative?  Pickle has big feet, and sometimes his feet outgrew the sleepers before the rest of him did. Also, they aren’t ideal during potty training.

The Happy Frog mobile by Flensted

The Happy Frog mobile by Flensted

I like old-fashioned mobiles. I don’t want big fluffy, chunky animals, music, plastic.  I like airy, elegant, whimsical, floating mobiles. I like mobiles that dance, and balance.  Thankfully, I found Flensted mobiles. LOVE.  I’m considering getting more of them – like the bunnies (BUNNIES!), or the cycling elephants (CYCLEPHANTS!). I want to put funky Danish mobiles all over my house.  The negatives? A little expensive for paper and wire, and sometimes I fear the mobile will get wound up up up when the ceiling fan is on and it circles in same direction over and over and over.

"That's Not My Donkey..." by Fiona Watt and Usborne Publishing

“That’s Not My Donkey…” by Fiona Watt and Usborne Publishing

It is hard to find books for little bitty ones. Attention spans are short and there are much more exciting things to do, like eating things they should not, sticking fingers in outlets, and tormenting the cat.  However, the “That’s Not My…” series by Usborne has proven to be a huge hit among my under-2 set.  They are short, sweet, tactile, and colorful.  Negatives?  My husband and I disagree about the appropriate emphasis. Is it, “That’s not my donkey, its tummy is too squashy” or “That’s not my donkey, its tummy is too squashy“?  Also, is “squashy” a word?

Giveaway!  Post a comment here and be in the running for two Usborne books and two Carter’s Microfleece sleepers!  Winner will be chosen at random, and can specify age and size of recipient(s).  (No, you don’t have to have kids/grandkids to win! These make great shower gifts, or donations!) (Update: ends at noon EST on 1/22/13!)

Note: I don’t know anyone at Marpac, Carter’s, Flensted or Usborne.  I just think these baby-related items are great.

Speaking of rabbits…

5 Jan

Hot Hat

My house is still suffering from the Christmas explosion.

From my seat, I can observe many things, including: bear slippers, Matchbox cars, unmatched socks, stacks of recycling, bags for Goodwill, puzzles, 2 Fireman hats and an elephant that shoots colored balls out of its trunk.  I am trying to be thankful for the joyful season and abundance, and resist the urge to put stacks by the curb with “free” signs.  (If there were no snow banks, I might actually do that…)

But I can’t find my battery charger.

I read a book.

I took a nap.

I took a walk.

I baked.

I had some cocktails and dinner out.

I listened to some great music, turned up too loud.

I went to bed early.

I rocked my daughter to sleep.

I laughed with my son.

I reconnected with old friends.

I stayed up late in the quiet, puttering.

And I still haven’t been able to recharge my batteries. Energy is running low. Where is that dang pink bunny with the drum, anyway?

It was a very long short week.  Tonight, on the drive home, my husband and I were trying to make a plan to divvy up the bedtime duties while Plum wailed exhaustedly, and Pickle muttered and mumbled requests just quietly enough that we couldn’t hear him.

“What is the plan?” Ty asked.

“Well, I plan to pull into the driveway, put the car in park and then run away screaming.” I responded.

“Shoot,” he said, “that was my plan, too.”

At least we can laugh together.

Sure, it was less than a week ago that we had one of the best days ever, but today we’re feeling tired and worn. That’s how this whole parenting thing works, I think.  The good news is that funks don’t last forever, and one day – someday – we will be rested and recharged. I am thankful I can recognize that.

Under those fireman hats – it’s a good place to start looking for that charger.

Resolute. NYE 2013.

1 Jan

Rabbits! Rabbits! Rabbits!

Hunny Bunny

 

The whole parenting/working/being an adult thing is tough enough.  I feel like I work hard every day to be a good person, a good parent, with an intact sense of humor and some semblance of sanity.  Then, New Year’s Eve comes along and I’m supposed to set some goals for self-improvement.  But heck, I’m not going to strive for things like enlightenment, marathons, vegetarianism, volunteer work, or travel until I can succeed at some smaller things, like peeing solo, making my bed (weekly counts), eating breakfast, and/or going to bed at a reasonable hour.  I need some successes, so I’m setting the bar low this year.

Resolutions for 2013

  1. No face or neck tattoos. Not even temporary ones.
  2. Avoid Diet Coke, monkfish liver and Pitbull concerts.
  3. Learn to play an instrument (maracas, kazoo and tambourine count)
  4. Shower most days.
  5. Read one book, and see one movie in a theater.
  6. Figure out how to listen to my podcasts in my car.
  7. Avoid reality shows about the Amish, and/or large tumors.
  8. Sleep. At least some.
  9. Remember every family member’s name, every day.
  10. Organize the hall closet by April.

I’ll report back.  The Amish reality show one is going to be tough.

Extra Ordinary.

30 Dec

Today was the best day ever.
It was really that good.

After a much-anticipated 35th birthday celebration dinner cut short by vomit (not mine), and a night woefully short on sleep, my expectations weren’t high.

 

Snooze Cat

Today we did nothing. And a few things.

We puttered.

We played.

We ate.

We avoided the tummy bug we were sure would sweep the 3 members of the family yet unbugged.

My husband broke out the vacuum. I shifted kid clothes. We had pasta for dinner. We wore our PJs far too late into the afternoon (and I am neither going to confirm nor deny whether some of us are still wearing them). We got some of Christmas put away, and didn’t worry about the rest. We read books. We laughed a lot. My husband and son played in the fresh snow in the dark – Pickle coming back inside with a chapped face and blazing ears “Mama, feel this ear! Now Mama, feel this ear!” Plum, feeling better, graced us with toothy grins and some belly laughs at dinner, and invented a new game of “peekaboo” with her brother. Pickle was helpful, sweet and affectionate, often struck by the need to hug and kiss any family member who was in a different room. He woke up from a luxuriously long nap, good-humored and generous and sat to play with Plum, exclaiming unprompted, “I love my sister.”

We had a few firsts, too.  Plum switched from her quick army-style crawl to an all-fours method.  Pickle started referring to me as his “mom” instead of “Mama.”

Everybody napped.

I read a book, uninterrupted, for over an hour.

I read a book, uninterrupted, for over an hour.

We were not in a rush to go anywhere. We were together, happily together. We accomplished enough to feel like the day wasn’t wasted, but were able to overlook the long to-do list of weekends – cleaning, straightening, cooking, shopping, going, doing.

Today was extra ordinary, and extraordinary. And when so many days with young children feel harried, half done, challenging and tiring, I am so grateful for this day.

Tomorrow I will go to work, and will worry about money, time, and whether we will get that tummy bug after all. But tonight, I will climb into my warm bed, read a bit more, and go to sleep with a grateful, rested heart, thankful.

Fa la la la blah.

21 Dec

I have carved out a little cozy place in my house where I can sit and not see the mess.  The mess is overtaking everything, as Christmas and all of the stuff that comes along with it explodes.  And it is only going to get worse before it gets better.

Tonight, I can’t look at it, and I can’t think about it.  Would it make me feel so much better to just take some time and clear the clutter?  Probably.  But I just don’t have it in me tonight, so I’ll sit and write and clear the clutter in my brain instead.

I need to figure out how to enjoy Christmas.  All of it, or at least more of it.  Not just that one magical moment when my children realize that Santa visited, in the twinkly tree light as the sun comes up on Christmas morning.  I need more cuddles, more cozy, more gratitude, more calm.  Come to think of it, I probably need more of those things all year round, but I digress. I also need more hot cocoa – preferably with Baileys in it. Because it’s the most wonderful time of the year, dangitall!

Mad Rudolph

When someone tells you “You will eat your broccoli and you will like it!” it doesn’t actually make you like it.  So telling myself, “You will be cheerful and enjoy the chaos!” doesn’t seem to be working.

Then again, people tell me that the more you exercise, the more you love it.  And while some part of me thinks they’re crazy people trying to sneakily share their exercise-induced misery, I bet on some level that they’re right. So perhaps if I just wrap more, clean more, carol more, decorate more, and bake more, I will love all of those things more.

Probably not.

So instead I’ve developed a plan for bringing back the cheer…

  1. For me, gratitude is is harder when sleep is short.  So that will be step one. Eight hours of sleep. A lofty goal, but Christmas is all about miracles, right?  Mama will settle in for a long winter’s nap, once I find that silly kerchief.* And once I can get the kidlets to bed – a task that is getting more and more difficult by the week.
  2. “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” by Bruce (Springsteen – I figure my regular readers will know who I’m talking about when I refer to him only by his first name).  It isn’t Christmas until I hear it. And I haven’t heard it yet.  Ooh, now that I think about it, perhaps I’ll dig up some “Merry Christmas, Baby”, too.  That one always improves my mood!  Horns make me jolly.
  3. Ask Pickle about all of the people he will get to see in the upcoming week.  Because when I do, he excitedly lists off the names of family members like reindeer. And his pure joy at getting to see aunts, uncles, and cousins is a great reminder of the love and family that we are surrounded by.
  4. Clean up the living room only, and sit with my husband – on the same couch! –  in the quiet of the twinkly tree (with all of the non-toxic, chewable ornaments on the bottom). Maybe we’ll reflect on our year a bit. Maybe we’ll have a glass of wine.  Maybe we won’t do either, and we’ll just be.
  5. Take a few quiet moments during my commute home to send good, loving thoughts to people I know and people I don’t know who are lonely or hurting or sad.  And I’ll try to take an opportunity at some point to do something unexpected and loving for someone I don’t know.  Because I still believe that good will, kindness and love are contagious and more necessary than ever.

I’ll let you know how it all goes.

- Sarky Claus

* I do believe that this is only the second time in my life that I’ve ever typed the word “kerchief.”

Thanks! The Grand Finale!

27 Nov

50 Days of Gratitude

Days 41 through, er, 49

Okay, so clearly calculating calendar dates isn’t my strong suit (even when I use a nifty online date calculator).  What was supposed to be 50 days of gratitude turned into 49 days of gratitude.  I am not less grateful, I am simply less accurate.  I consider it a happy accident, because my very favorite number in the world is 49.  It really is.  Think about it – it looks random and odd, but it is a square!  And the 4 and the 9?  They are both squares too!  Joy joy!  (Yes, perhaps I do have some quirks.)

Back to the list…

188. Lounge wear – Now that I am “out” in the blogosphere – meaning that my family, friends and boss(es) now know about this once-secret blog – I feel a bit constrained.  I feel a bit like I can’t say what I want to say, like here, where I want to write, “When I get home for the day I love my lounge wear because I don’t really like to wear pants.”

189. Feeling rested – Someday I will achieve this again, I just know it. 

190. ShortbreadOh no! I just linked to the Panera Nutrition Calculator! Don’t click on it.  No, really don’t.  But I guess I shouldn’t be shocked that the nutritional info ain’t so pretty when a food is made up of butter, with some butter added. I may attempt to make a copycat using this recipe here

191. Darn Tough socks – These are so great I wrote an entire post about them. Really.

192. Art – Of all kinds… including this kind…

193. Dumplings

194. Lap cats

195. Ice cream – Some ideas for new flavors: raspberry square (oatmeal cookie and raspberry swirl in vanilla ice cream) and trifle (vanilla rum ice cream with yellow cake pieces and custard and jam swirls)

196. Maple trees

197. The smell of the heavy Sunday Times

198. Good bolognese – Having no Italian blood in me whatsoever, I have to turn to my favorite recipe source, Cooks Illustrated.

199. The comfort of my own bed

200. Big band classics

201. Raspberries – These little sweeties are always in my top 3 of favorite foods ever ever.

202. Wildflowers in the median strip and other examples of beauty in unlikely places

203. Museums

204. Relaxation

205. College – Oh sweet nostalgia. It appears have finally reached the age where I can safely say, “Youth is wasted on the young.” Bonus? I can also say: “Get off my lawn!” 

206. New crayons – Is there anything that says “anything is possible!” like a new box of crayons? (Well, maybe a lottery win, but you catch my drift.)

207. My left-handedness

208. My husband – for too many reasons to list

209. EZ Pass – I used to pay the tolls with tokens! TOKENS!  I am that old.

210. NEW COMPUTERS! – Sure, my husband will probably try to get many many miles out of this push present/birthday present/anniversary present but I don’t care!  It’s mine, all mine!

211. Baby bath time

212. Coconut cake – One time, on a rare trip to my parents’ cellar – a dark, scary, dirt-floored, spider haven – I found a half-eaten coconut cake on the bench. What a mystery!  It turns out, my father was sneaking down to the cellar to eat coconut cake out of the view of me and my mother who were on diets.  It has become a family joke. And coconut cake is still a favorite.  Do yourself a favor and treat yourself to a Smith Island Coconut cake – they are incredible. 

213. Maps

214. Whimsy

215. Sunglasses

216. Long weekends

217. Belly laughs

218. Lemonade

219. Those potette travel potty things – Yes. It’s true. I’m thankful for a travel potty.  But seriously, when your 2.5 year old says, “It’s time!” That means IT.IS.TIME.  Our trip back and forth to New York City was made infinitely easier because we had one of these along. 

220. The Majestic – A magical view of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade from our 4th floor perch above the crowds.  I’m pretty sure I was more excited than my too-small-to-remember children.  It was awesome.

Pickle and Spidey

221. Kids who travel well

222. King sized beds

223. Cherries

224. My family

Central Park – Late Afternoon

225. My friends

226. Love

227. Hope

228. Peace

229. Kindnesses

230. Humor

I have all of my teeth, so…

20 Nov

Two front teeth? Check!

With that checked off of the list, I’m feeling free to put some other crave-worthy items on my Chrimbo list.  Chrimbo.  That is the abbreviated version of Christmas I heard my friends from Down Under use on several occasions.  Those crazy Aussies (and Kiwis too, to some extent) just love to shorten their words and make ‘em cute.  Australian? Aussie. Breakfast? Brekkie.  Presents? Prezzies. Barbecue? Barbie. Christmas? Chrimbo.  I always felt like that last one was a stretch.

Here are a few items that are on my list this year. Nothing crazy and exciting. I’m hoping I’ve been more nice than naughty this year.  I do admit that as I spoke stern words to Pickle the other day (just put yer dang pants on!) he said, “BE NICE, MAMA!”  I’m hoping Santa didn’t hear him.

(Click on the photos for links to the items.)

LL Bean Washable Wool Plaid Blanket in Rustic Purple – Not sure why this speaks to me but it does.  I picture picnics, 4th of July Fireworks, campfires (not that I camp), and passing this down to grand-kids.

LL Bean’s Washable Wool Blanket in Rustic Purple

 

Sonia Kashuk Make Up Brushes – I don’t have any makeup brushes.  Okay, to be honest, I don’t get too far past running a regular brush through my hair most days.  But my sister has lovely makeup brushes, and they make applying makeup so much easier.  I like the curve of these, and the price!

Sonia Kashuk Tools Limited Edition Starter Set

Rubio Balsamic Vinegar – It is Chrimbo! The one time of year when asking for a $32 bottle of vinegar doesn’t seem totally crazy.  I love this stuff. I can make a bottle last (almost) a year.

Rubio Aged Balsamic Vinegar from Salumeria Italiana

Crate and Barrel Parker Nesting Bowls – I have a set and I’m wearing them out!  Time for a new set in some great colors before my first set bites the dust.

Crate and Barrel’s Parker Nesting Bowls

UncommonGoods Felt Birdhouse – I love cute and interesting and useful all rolled into one.  And I love felt.  Something about these cute little bird houses just speaks to me. UncommonGoods is great for a browse on a lunch hour.  Interesting products that you won’t find elsewhere.  It’s like a cool little boutique!

Felt Birdhouse by UncommonGoods

Part of me wants to ask for a good vacuum (we really need one) but I fear if I ask, I might actually get one!  And who wants a new vacuum for Chrimbo?  (She says, sheepishly raising her hand.)  Honorable mentions go to gift certificates of any kind, housekeeping services, a new pepper mill and perhaps a set of mittens with a hat.

What’s on your list?

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