Thursday, November 19, 2009

Hiatus

I'll not be around here for a while. I've got things to do, people to see, miles to drive and images to implant in my memory forever. I planned for this blog to be a daily thing, and up until now it has been for the most part. But it just won't be happening for a while. Sometimes life gets in the way. I'll be back when I can. XOXO

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Ready

I'm not ready for this phase of my life to start.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Irrational

As I have written about before, the kids go to an IB school. Each month focuses on a different profile, one which the kids are taught about and shown how to emulate. Personality traits that won't just make them good students, but make them successful members of society later on in life. One of them is being a risk-taker. I like to think of myself as risk-taker, as an open-minded person. That I am willing to try anything. Of course, I'm not really as much as I would like to be. I just want to put myself in that category.

I have irrational fears, some so laughable they amuse people. There are many things that repulse me. That I find abhorrent. And just plain gross. Some of them are justifiable, at least in my mind. Not sure that really matters in the grand scheme of things, but it helps me feel better about my issues.

Anyone who has been around me long enough knows most of these things about me already, and will find it funny that I am airing them publicly for anyone to read.

  • I am terrified of injuring my hands or eyes. This one, I really believe, is a legitimate one. Though I might take it to a whole new level, that is. People who are double jointed make me shudder, especially if they can do it with their hands. Aidan already knows this, and he has a good time with it. He pulls his fingers backwards just so I will make that face.
  • I am even more weird about my feet. I don't have any issues with people touching them, so long as they aren't tickling me. I know many women who can't stand to have pedicures because it grosses them out. I'm fine with it, but don't mess with my toes. They bend one way only, and if the good lord wanted space between them, he would have put it there from the factory. I can't do toe spreaders. And the idea of someone moving my toes upright freaks me out.
  • I have serious control issues when it comes to any form of transportation that I am not in charge of. I almost always drive when we go somewhere, partly because I like to drive. But mostly because I can't stand to be a passive sitter. I don't do well as a passenger. I'm about this close to needing anxiety medication to ever fly. It's that bad.
  • I have issues with certain foods. Brussel sprouts are just gross, but beets are the all time biggest offender. I have friend who swear they are delicious. That's fine. I'm not eating them. And I won't even eat anything they touch, since it will be contaminated with red beet juice. Yuck.
  • I can't eat anything off a bone. Just. Can't. Do. It. I don't have issues making the food for other people. I just can't gnaw. Blech.
  • I have to smell everything before I eat it. This one is totally justified. If you've ever had food poisoning, you know this is a good thing. Of course, I probably err on the side of caution a little more than truly necessary. I will throw out any food that doesn't smell right to me, even if it's not close the the expiration date. Drives my husband crazy. Every so often, I catch one of the kids doing it, and I have to laugh. I know where they got that one from.
  • I have a totally irrational fear of potato peelers. I can't say for sure that this isn't a direct result of some childhood injury, but I sure don't remember one. I am constantly thinking that I am going to hurt myself with them. I'm way overly cautious when peeling potatoes, and it takes me forever to do it. Anyone who has ever offered to help me make dinner knows that the first thing I will delegate out is peeling.
I think we all have strange things we are afraid of, or that weird us out. At least I hope we all do. We all do, right? Right?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Cheap

At the request of a friend, I am throwing some fast, easy and cheap dinner recipes on here. Times are tight, but you gotta eat, right? Here are some super fast go-to dinners, quick and pretty well-balanced. All can be made for 4-6 for about $10 or less with little preparation time.

Papa's Casserole
- one can peas, drained
- one can corn, drained
- one can reduced sodium cream of mushroom soup
- one pound browned ground beef, cooked with a tsp of dried onions
- combine all the above in a casserole dish, cover with mashed potatoes
- bake at 350 for 20 minutes

Chicken Tacos
- 1 pound boneless chicken
- 1 pkg low sodium taco seasoning
- 1 can tomatoes, half drained
- combine and put in crockpot, cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4.
- shred chicken, put in tortillas with beans and shredded lettuce.

One pot spaghetti with a twist
- brown 1 pound ground beef, drain and set aside.
- cook 1 pound pasta, drain and return to pot
- add one large can or jar of spaghetti sauce, meat and a drained can of corn with peppers, stir to combine and heat through.

Chili
- brown 1 pound ground beef (I add dried onions to the meat)
- one large can chili beans
- one can finely diced tomatoes, drained
- 1/2 small can tomato paste
- Combine all ingredients in crock pot, season with desired pepper and chili powder. Cook on low for 2-4 hours, until bubbly.
- we eat it with fritos and shredded cheddar cheese

Chicken and dumplings
- 2-4 breast or other boneless pieces of chicken, cut into small pieces
- 2 cans cream of chicken soup
- one small onion, diced
- 1 stalk celery, diced
- 1/4 cup carrots, diced
- bay leaf
- one chicken bouillon cube
- 2 cups water
- add all to the crock pot, cook on low for 6 hours
- tear refrigerated biscuit dough into 1 inch pieces, roll into balls and drop into cooker. Cover, cook on high for 30 minutes.

Teriyaki stir fry
- defrost one frozen bag of stir fry vegetable blend
- cut up 1 pound boneless chicken into bite size pieces
- cook in 1-2 tbsp oil on stove on high until chicken done
- add vegetables and heat through
- toss to coat with 1/2 cup teriyaki sauce (I like Yoshida's gourmet sauce too)
- serve with steamed white rice

Chicken fried rice
- cook white rice, set aside
- dice 1 pound chicken, cook in oil on high until done
- add thawed frozen mixed vegetables, cook through
- add 4 cups rice, 2 tbsp butter and 1/2 cup soy sauce, toss and heat.

Homemade chicken nuggets
- Crush 3 cups corn chex cereal
- add 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp seasoned salt
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- combine all dry ingredients
- cut chicken into bit size pieces, coat with melter butter and roll in crumb mixture
- bake at 400 for 20 minutes, check for doneness.

Chicken noodle soup
- dice two chicken breasts and one small onion
- cook in vegetable oil until onions are clear and chicken is done
- add 8 cups chicken broth, 3 diced stalks celery, 2 large diced carrots and 2 cups pasta of choice - bring to a boil, then cover and reduce. simmer for 3o minutes.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Pile

As much as I hate cliches, they really do come about for a reason. Someone once uttered some saying for some valid reason, and it stuck. Because someone else picked up on the phrase, and noticing the same thing, repeated it.

The one that seems to come to mind the most for me this morning is that if you want something done, ask a busy person. Especially after the week I've had, that saying sure rings true in my head. When you combine the facts that I have four children, help with three classrooms, will drop whatever I am doing at the mere suggestion of coffee or lunch with a friend who needs it, and my general inability to say no to helping with just one thing, it adds up to a lot. Because the one thing that someone needs is never really just one thing. And there's almost never just one person that needs it.

But, as the saying goes, ask a busy person. They will find a way to get it done. They will figure out ways to squeeze more things into their day. Between the obligatory minimum of three trips to school and my seemingly weekly trip to the doctor, I've made homemade chocolate chip cookies and homemade pumpkin pie in the last week. I've sorted and distributed case after case of popcorn. I've graded papers for school. And more, and more, and more. It comes with a sacrifice though. My carpet desperately needs to be vacuumed and my bathrooms need cleaned. I just haven't had time this week, because I've been too busy making time for everything else. For everyone else.

Add to all of the things I have to do the reality that I am completely and totally preoccupied with something else. Someone else. And things that are far away from me and that I have no power to change. Yet, the thoughts that endlessly swirl around my head. That make me spend time replaying times in my past, wishing I could go back and relive them. That make me wish that I had not always done things the way that I did. That make me long for another time and place.

I've got a lot on my plate. So if you need anything right about now, feel free to just pile it on. I'll get it done.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Sand

Time is an interesting concept, and our relationship with it inevitably changes as we age. I can remember being a kid and thinking that summer vacation would never get here. That Christmas was forever in the future. As I get older, those days arrive on the calendar sooner and sooner. Times speeds up more and more.

In the last few weeks, it seems like the sand has been running through the hourglass even faster than before. I feel like I've watched myself age visibly. I've had more than my fair share of gray hairs for years now, but they seem to be multiplying nightly. And they are spreading like wildfire, through the front and side of my head, to the places that I can see every time my reflection glances back at me in the mirror.

Time is a gift. Life is precious. And you only get one shot at this moment. Make the most of it.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Roof

If I don't seem to be writing as regularly as I normally do, there is a reason. And it's a valid one. I'm in the process of losing my laptop. I haven't been able to boot it up at all in days, and I think it is about ready to be roof tested.

So, if I'm not around much, you know why. Hey, Santa....got any spare computers in that bag?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Unnecessary

So I have this friend. We've been friends for over 15 years now. We've made huge decisions about life only after asking what the other one thinks. We've been in each other's weddings. We've shared things with each other before anyone else knew. And we have a rule, one rule, a rather simple one actually, when it comes to gifts.

They have to be totally unnecessary. No matter if it's birthdays or holidays, we have forbidden each other from buying anything remotely useful. We don't ask what the other one needs, because it's completely irrelevant. We get each other the things we won't buy for ourselves. The things that other people don't get us. Things that serve no purpose, really, other than to just be for us.

I got her Christmas present today. And it holds absolutely no relevance whatsoever. There's no significance to the type I chose, other than I know she will love it. Sure, I've bought her about a million purses in the last few years, but none of them were ever practical "mom" purses. They were always cute, smaller than useful, and just seemed like something she'd like. I got her a bracelet with her son's name on it a while back. And though it's tied, by necessity, to her role as a mother, it has no real use at all. It's just cute. And it's not like he wears it anyway.

Merry Christmas Blythe! I hope that you will enjoy this totally pointless and unnecessary trinket. Love you!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Diffuse

Part of my job as a mom is to clean up other people's messes. Over the years, I have cleaned up a lot of them. I'm always cleaning up after the kids, for sure. But every so often I find myself cleaning up the messes that other people make. Not just the physical ones either. Sometimes there are bigger messes than a roll of paper towels and a bottle of cleaner can fix. Yet I find myself following behind, picking up the pieces. I'm like the social equivalent of a trained bomb diffuser. And I wonder why I do that.

Why do I try to fix things? I guess there really is no good answer for it, other than I am being a good friend. I see people that I care about mess things up, and I feel like somehow it is my job to help them put things back right. I've been burned before, more than once. Usually, the people who created the mess in the first place don't even know that I bothered to clean it up for them. They just think that things magically worked out somehow.

Sometimes they ask me for help. And yes, sometimes they just expect that I will do it. And usually, I do. Okay, almost always I do. In fact, I'd be hard pressed to think of a time when I didn't.

There is a word in the dictionary that I say a thousand times a day, yet can't seem to understand in my own world. No. I think that it's just one of those unchangeable personality traits. I'm a fixer. It's what I do. I just wish that sometimes I wasn't.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Panties

It shouldn't surprise me. Really. There isn't much that people can do anymore that really and truly shocks me. But every so often I find myself wanting to bang my head on the wall. I think it's when the people who should know better turn a blind eye that I get the most frustrated.

The parents who aren't just parents. Who have other training that tells them that there really is something wrong. Who work with kids just like their own in a classroom setting, yet can't see the same things reflected at home. Because they don't want to. Even though they know better, or should.

I can't say that I've never been guilty of it. I have. There have been plenty of times that I have really known that there was something wrong and chose to ignore it because it was easier. Because I didn't want to deal with what the problem might be. Because I didn't want to admit that there was something wrong. That I didn't want to be weak and need help.

But I hope that I haven't ever done it with my children. I hope. It's bad enough to live in denial of the obvious when it's yourself. But it's so much worse to do it with your kids. The ones that you are there to take care of, to look after, to watch out for. I'd tend to think that I am the polar opposite of the oblivious people. If there is a chance that something could be an issue, I'd rather find out now than wait. Sometimes I jump the gun. Sometimes there is an issue. Sometimes there might be, but it's too early to tell. And sometimes there isn't a problem at all. But at least then I know.

Just recently, we found out that both of the girls may or may not have the same problem with their ears. It's not a full diagnosis of anything yet, but something we have to keep an eye on. Apparently, they both have pressure issues, which can cause hearing loss if it goes on for too long. It wouldn't be so much a cause for concern as a stand alone issue, but in our case there is a family history of it. Grandma Kathi has it too. There seems to be some genetic component to it. We've seen what this can do, and I don't want the girls to go down that road.

I'm not really the wait and see kind of person. I'm not one to go on with life, pretending that nothing is wrong. And I try not to let other people do it either. Sometimes you just have to put you big girl panties on and deal.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Generic

One of the skills that I have refined the most since having kids is shopping frugally. Just this morning, I spent a total of $45 on groceries for the week, saving over $30 in the process. I always love the look on the checker's face when they see the totals on the bottom of the receipt. I've even had a few ask how I do it. Coupons, store sales, specials, and generics. Whenever possible, I wait for something to go on sale and use my coupons then, often stacking store coupons with manufacturer ones. It's really a science. Mostly though, it's about timing and patience.

One of the easiest ways to save money at the grocery store is to buy generic. The store brands, the stuff with limited advertising. The cheap stuff. I buy a decent amount of generic items. For example, canned and frozen food really isn't much different. I almost always buy generic cheese. I've started buy only blocks and shredding it myself at home. Not only is it a lot cheaper, but you get the added benefit of avoiding the preservatives they put on the pre-shredded stuff. Plus, it just tastes better.

Some generic cereal is okay, but some isn't. Some are good, some are just plain nasty. Often the store brands actually have higher sugar contents than the major brands, and with planning I can get those for less than the store brand. Generic ice cream and dairy products are sometimes truly better than the major brands. I only buy store brand sour cream these days.

Some stores have better generics than others. Personally, I love Target's store brands. I've yet to find anything that I don't like, and we have tried many of them. Some of their stuff is actually far superior to the "real" stuff. Their trash bags are much, much better than the expensive ones. And, like I've already said before here, I love the Archer Farms stuff. It really is the best pasta sauce I've ever had. And their Up & Up diapers are great. Not only do they work well and are half the price of the other brands, they are cute!

Of course, there are things that I just can't go generic on. The things that really aren't as good. And the things that will go unused in the house. The things that I will be harassed about if I buy them. Toilet paper. Razor blades. I made that mistake once, and will never do it again.

It's taken me years to perfect it, but I'm pretty good. I've got to put this analytical mind to good use somehow. ;)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Wipe

If I were to ever break down a year into the time spent doing the things that I do, there would most certainly have to be some unexpected categories. Among the predictable facets of my life, there are those you wouldn't expect to add up to any measurable amount of time. But add up they do.

There is the time spent sleeping, which adds up to a lot, I'm sure. But not as much as it probably should. With motherhood comes a lengthy journey with insomnia. Even when I can and should be sleeping, chances are that I'm not. Whether I am up late cleaning, doing laundry, watching recorded tv shows or surfing the internet, I'm generally up late. Add to that the fact that AJ still gets up at least once almost every night and Ally's general penchant for waking with the sun, and I don't get much sleep.

There is the time spent cleaning, which I fear would rival the time spent sleeping. It seems like a neverending process. As the cliche goes, a mother's work is never done. It's the truth. I am never ever just done. Even if I have just put the last soiled items into the washer and put the last clean dish in the cabinet, I'm not done. There is always something.

The time spent cooking is on the rise these days. We almost never go out to eat anymore, and I have really been refining my cooking skills. Trouble is that there are a lot of things about cooking that can't be rushed. For example, I make a killer beef stew. But one night, I started it a little later than I planned and cooked it on higher heat to cut down the time it took. The meat was chewy and the stew didn't end up the right consistency. It seems like I am spending more and more time in the kitchen. And the more I become aware of what scary things are in processed and pre-made foods, I am cooking even more from scratch. Doesn't help that I get my arm twisted by my kids. Mommy, can we make a pumpkin pie like in preschool? Sure, why not. I didn't have anything else to do for the next 3 hours.

Sleeping, cleaning and cooking probably take up almost all of my time on that chart. But there are other categories too. Like the amount of time spent nursing. Though it is much less this year than last, I have spent a good chunk of my time with a kid attached. Especially with a newborn, it seems like that is all you ever do.

There is the time spent in the car, shuttling kids from here to there. I generally make at least 3 trips to school on any given day. Add in church, scouts, daisies, soccer, playdates and the obligatory runs to the store, and I can put a lot of miles on my car without ever leaving a 10 mile radius. There are times that I feel like I live in the car. And my car shows the signs of being lived in. Like my house, it is littered with dirty socks and shoes, papers from school, coffee cups and snack wrappers.

Speaking of those papers, I spend a lot of time just sifting through the papers from school. Between homework, returned assignments, art projects, PTO papers, announcements from school and monthly calendars, we get a lot of paper. With three kids in school now, it gets overwhelming. I wish the school would figure out a way to streamline the process a little more. Save a tree.

I spend a lot of time pushing kids on swings, reading stories and kissing boo boos. I spend a lot of time brushing hair and brushing teeth. I spend a lot of time negotiating outfits. It can take forever to get the girls dressed in the morning. Though there are times I just give in and let them put together whatever they deem a fabulous outfit, there are times that I stick to my guns. There are just times that you can't wear purple crocs with red tights.

I think the funniest chunk of how I spend my time is wiping. I wipe noses, and sometimes I have to actually chase down kids to do it. I wipe tears of all kinds. Sad tears, hurt tears, tired tears, angry tears. And yes, I wipe butts. I am paged to the bathroom more often than I'd like. "Mom"..."Mom!"... "Mooooooooom, I went poop!" That's one of those milestones I really look forward to with the kids. If I ever added it up, the time spent in there would be shocking, I am sure.

If only they could figure out a way for me to add more hours to my day, maybe, just maybe, I'd get some time for myself. Until then, I'll be busy. Someone is paging me.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

All

I have been down this road before, it's just been a while. I have to remember what it's like, and I'm finally starting to. I'm faced with the reality every day of being the mother of a toddler boy, again.

Aidan was a handful to be sure, but then I had the girls. And though they were challenging in a different way, it wasn't the same. They didn't require constant mom hovering to prevent their demise. They never jumped off the couch just for the fun of it. I didn't find myself constantly preventing injury.

AJ is now and always has been all boy. From the time he was about 6 months old, he giggled at gas. He learned to spit out his food and rub it in his hair as soon as he started eating. Once he was mobile, he started getting into everything. Dirt in the sliding glass door track. Anything round is a ball in his world. And all balls must be thrown. He tips the trash can over whenever he gets his hands on it. We have to constantly move the trash to the opposite side of the gate from where he is. And if we forget, he goes right to it.

If the bathroom door is left open he can create chaos in just a few seconds. Dump the trash, unroll the entire roll of toilet paper and figure out how to get the lid up and play in the toilet. He's just gross.

I had to install the five point harness in his stroller. He can climb out of the three point in less than 5 seconds, no matter how tight I get it. He refuses to sit still anywhere for longer than 2 seconds unless he's confined. He found a crayon and figured out how to use it. Endearing, yes. He does learn a lot from his older siblings. But, really, did he need to color the entire floor under the kitchen table black?

He's recently discovered climbing. He can get on the couch with minimal effort, and that opens up a whole new world. Tables, picture frames, phones, lamps, all within reach now. He's fallen off the couch a few times already. Not that it phases him, mind you. He just gets back up and does it again. He has also started climbing up the railing on the stairs. The outside of the railing. He's 14 months old. What is he going to be like at two?

Being the mom of a little boy has it's perks though. He is fun. He's adventurous. He roars at everything. He already makes the vroom vroom noise when playing with a car. He already knows how to wrestle and takes every advantage of when his siblings are on the floor, usually by sitting on their heads. He is sweet too. He figured out what a hug is this week and gives them all the time. He blows kisses and runs as fast as he can to me.

He's all boy. And that's all good with me.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Things

Even though Thanksgiving isn't even here yet, I'm starting to get in the holiday spirit already. Maybe it's the fact that the kids sing Chrismas carols year-round. Maybe it is the relentless onslaught of catalogs arriving in the mail. Maybe it's that I have started creating lists and budgets. Maybe it's my attempts at looking forward to happy things. Maybe it's just wishful thinking. But whatever it is, it's working. I love Christmas.

In the spirit of the season (you know, the one we aren't really in yet), I started humming that song. The one about my favorite things. And I started thinking about mine. And I realized that most of my things weren't things at all.

I love super crazy tight hugs from my baby boy, who just recently figured out what a hug was.
I love arguing with my six year old over who loves who more first.
I love my husband's face when he is trying really hard not to laugh at Ally being naughty.
I love the cards my oldest son makes me, and leaves randomly around the house.
I love listening to my kids talk to my dad on the phone.
I love the smile on Ashley's face when she sees me waiting for her at the end of the day.
I love baby toes.
I love holding my sleeping babies, no matter which one.
I love the smell of candles.
I love the first sip of coffee.
I love freshly painted toenails.
I love the smell of a clean kid.
I love my contacts.
I love my dog's obsession with tennis balls.
I love pristine wood floors.
I love a quiet nighttime snowfall.
I love a crisp fall breeze.
I love a book or movie that makes me cry and laugh.
I love bunco. Not the game, but the excuse.
I love swimming, but I love a good hot tub even more.
I love bread.
I love when my car is actually clean.
I love bad TV.
I love perfume. But only in small quantities.
I love to take pictures.
I love to drive fast.
I love the fact that I can clean my house in 15 minutes if I have a really good reason.
I love containers. I really love containers.
I love football and chips and beer. And I really love salsa.
I love Kermit the Frog.
I love peaceful gardens.
I love music that reminds me of a time in my past.
I love sharks.
I love to play the Devil's Advocate.

There are many more things I love, for sure. But these are the things that came to mind just now. As the song goes....these are just a few of them. What are yours?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Know

There are times in my life that I absolutely hate knowing as much about things as I do. I can't just hide my head in the sand when something happens and I know what it means. I can't plead ignorance, though there are certainly times that I wish I could.

Sometimes, I just know things. Whether through my education, my training, things I have helped others through or things that have happened in my own life. I just know.

Life would be much easier at times if it was possible for me to live an oblivious existence. To really and truly embrace the notion that nothing is wrong. But I know better.

There is power in knowledge, but there is a tremendous burden as well.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Witch

It's about that time of day. Any mom out there will know what I'm talking about. The Witching Hours. The time of day when your normally sweet children grow horns. When they are wholly incapable of playing nice with one another. When the whining increases precipitously, until it eventually peaks. When the volume in the house becomes deafening. When you lose what is left of your daily patience.

When you start to hate your husband for being somewhere else. When you start to resent the fact that he is at work or driving home or on a business trip or heaven forbid, doing something fun. When you would give anything for a few precious seconds of quiet. When even the strongest mother will start to crack. When the words "fine" and "whatever" are uttered not from the mouths of children, but from the mouths of their mothers.

It is this time of day that I referred to a few weeks back. I was at school picking up the kids when another mother, her oldest the same age as Ally, glanced up at me with that look of desperation. I know it well. Her kids, they weren't listening. They wanted, needed, had to have right now! They were pushing one another. They were whining. And she was done. Ready to give up and accept the fact that she had brought forth into this world rotten little children. That she had failed as a mother. Ready, that is, until I looked at the clock, and said aloud, "Well, it is almost 4:00, you know?" And she looked at me in disbelief. Suddenly she wasn't alone.

"Wait. You mean, it's not just me??? Your kids do this too???"

Yes, yes they do. They all do it sometimes. Almost always during the witching hours. It's okay though. Daddy will be home soon. He'd better be.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Thankful

November is a time of year for reflection. To step back a little from the day to day struggles of life and see the big picture. To really stop, take a look around, and remind ourselves of how blessed we are. I've been going through a rough patch lately, and yesterday I realized that I need to remember that that glass is half full. Though there are certainly days where nothing seems fair or right or just in the world, life is beautiful.

Here are some of the things I am grateful for today.

I am immensely grateful for my husband. He is a kind and generous man. He is a wonderful father. He's funny and genuine. And he is my life. I am thankful for his health, for his spirit and for his love.

I am grateful for the wonder of my children. I wake up every morning, guessing what Aidan has drawn for me on the whiteboard. Or what notepad he has modified. Or what new character he has invented. He is a sweet boy, one of the most creative people I've ever known, the best big brother in the world and truly a good person.

I am so very grateful that Ashley is finally feeling better. There are few things in the world that can make you appreciate the health of your children more than a serious illness. She fought through it, and she's back. Back to her quirky, normal self. The one that changed the name of Thanksgiving to "Thank You Turkey Day". How could I not love that?

I am blessed to have Ally in my life. She's smart and funny and terribly attuned to the emotions and feelings of others. It's like she has an old and wise soul. She just senses when I need a hug. She genuinely cares about everyone, and is always the first to ask to call family.

I am reminded daily about the gift of children. Of being lucky enough to watch AJ see and hear things for the first time. To witness him interacting with the world. His vocabulary is expanding so much that it seems every day has a new catch phrase. Yesterday, he pointed at everything, saying "this!". As with all things in the life of a mother of a toddler, I never quite know what adventures we will have today. What new things he will learn.

I am grateful for my family. All of them. Even the wacky ones. You know who you are. Though we might not always like each other, we always love each other. And we will always, always be there for each other. That's the thing about family. You just can't help but love them, it's in the fine print. Some I see often, some I see rarely, and some I see almost never. But they are always in my heart. In my thoughts. And I see them in my children all the time. History has a way of repeating itself.

I am blessed to be surrounded by the most amazing friends. Near and far. Old and new. Those who have been though the worst with me, and those who have been through the best with me. Friends are the family you choose. And I have been blessed in my life.

Life is beautiful. Don't be so focused on the trees that you forget about the forest. What are you grateful for today?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Farm

A little over a week ago, we went to Miller Farm. It's a local family run farm, one that I first discovered on a field trip when Aidan was in preschool. It's a full working farm, and part of the trip includes a hayride out to the fields where you can pick your own vegetables. In the class, they would then make soup from the veggies. It was a great learning experience for the kids, and we always has a blast.

The last couple of years, Grandma Kathi got to go on the trip, since I was home taking care of younger kids. I'd been there already, and I wanted her to have some fun too. And then this year, something happened. The preschool was forbidden from going on field trips entirely, and the Farm trip wasn't going to happen. Not content to give up the trip, I organized a little trip. I invited all the preschool kids and their families, but almost no one showed up. Since it wasn't technically a school activity, I guess people didn't feel like it was important. Which is just sad. It was a bit bittersweet, since the rest of the kids weren't there.

It was Tom's first trip out and it was fun to watch. He was just as impressed with the potato harvester as the kids were, and I think he had just as good of a time as they did. I can only hope that the preschool finds a way to get that field trip back next year. It's really a shame that the grown ups in charge of the schools can't seem to comprehend what they are taking away from the kids.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Grumpy

I'm more than a little disappointed in my neighbors this morning. It seems like it gets worse every year. Our neighborhood is no fun. We are the communal equivalent of a party pooper. It's that bad.

When we first moved here, we knew that we were moving into a fairly isolated, relatively small community. New communities tend to be filled with young families, so we were told. What we didn't know was that far more than half the houses in this new development would be occupied by people without kids. Empty nesters, single people, working childless couples and retirees. Those are the people who surround us.

Sure there are families, but we are far outnumbered here. And with that comes a price. One that becomes more and more obvious as time passes. There isn't much fun going on. There was a street last night that had only one house with lights on handing out candy last night. One. There are at least 12 houses on that street.

There were more than a few houses filled with people, people who were home, yet chose to hide out in the back of their houses. Not wanting to be bothered with children. Or just not wanting to be bothered in general.

Nights like last make me miss our old neighborhood even more. Back when we had a neighborhood that actually felt like one. We had haunted houses, fire pits set up in driveways. We went through bags and bags and bags of candy. We had a great time. And here, we have dark porches. Streets full of dark porches.

I think that next year, we might be finding another place to trick or treat. Somewhere that people aren't too wrapped up in themselves to hand out candy to children, enjoying that one night a year where they get to pretend to be someone else. It's just a shame that the place we call home can't be like that.

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