Sunday, January 31, 2010


I'm staring at a ring, spinning it around my finger, right now. It's mine, but it wasn't always. It belonged to my Grandma Doll. It's a ring that conjures up all kinds of thoughts for me. All kinds of memories. It's a beautiful piece, a remnant of a time when details and intricacy were far more cherished than the refined, clean lines of our times. Simply put, it's magnificent. It's not the size of the diamond. It's not the brilliance of the cut. It's not the purity of the metals used. There is something more to this ring. Something special.

It was given to her many years ago, I believe for an anniversary. Although, knowing my grandfather and his propensity for bringing home jewelry spontaneously on any average day, I can't be certain. It was to be an upgrade from her original wedding band, a modest engraved white gold ring. She wore it, of course, but kept her wedding band on too.

It was my grandmother's ring, and she gave it to me. More correctly, she gave it to us. To Tom and I. We were young college students, in love but without vast financial resources. She gave this set to us in case we didn't get together enough extra money to buy new rings. Tom was touched greatly by the gesture, but I think in some ways it strengthened his resolve to buy me a ring. And he did.

He bought me a modest wedding band set before we got married, and my grandmother's ring moved to my right hand. And for many years it stayed there. It stayed there until I received another ring. A beautiful claddaugh ring, something that I had always wanted. Tom got me one for my birthday a few years ago. And the ring, my grandmother's ring, was tucked safely into a jewelry box. The box that rests next to a clock. That clock is a story for another day.

I wear it occasionally. I usually wear it for special occasions. I have worn it for the Baptisms of all my children, and at the First Communion of my oldest child. On those days, I also wore a necklace. A necklace, which you may have guessed, is also a story for another day.

I am wearing my grandma's ring today. I am wearing it because the ring I usually wear needs to be repaired. My upgraded wedding set needs to be taken in. One of the prongs is loose on the center diamond, and until I can have it fixed, I can't wear it. I wore my original wedding ring for a while, but it gets too tight. One of the unfortunate side effects of the unfortunate fact that I now have high blood pressure (thanks genetics!) is that my hands swell. When my grandma's ring was moved to my right hand, I had to have it re sized, since my right hand is bigger. And it's for that reason that the ring now fits on my left. And until I can get my ring repaired, I will wear it.

Every time I look at my hands, I see it. I don't know about the rest of you, but I often find myself looking at my rings. And every time I look at this particular ring, I think about her. About my Pap. About the beauty not just of this ring, but also the beauty of their love. It was unwavering and complete, and it lasted, I can say with absolute certainly, long past the day he gave her this ring. Until death do you part, the promise made to each other. For them though, death did not part. A large piece of her went with him that day, maybe too large. She never really lived again after he was gone, I don't think. It wasn't until she passed too that they were brought back together, complete again.

Someday this ring, along with other pieces of her jewelry, will be passed down to my daughters. I will share my memories with them. I will tell them the stories. I will hope that they can find beauty in what she loved. And see the value, not in the item, but in what it means.

Saturday, January 30, 2010


For most people in this world, the days of the week on the calendar remain the same all year. Five weekdays in the middle, cushioned on the edges by the weekend. I don't have one of those calendars.

For most people, today is Saturday. A day off. A day of rest and relaxation. A day to spend time with your family and friends, go places, see people. Things like that. And last weekend, this day of the week was like that for me. For us. But not anymore.

Not for a while.

It's tax season. The time of year where Saturday mornings mean that the kids wake up every single week and ask me where Daddy is. They start to wonder why he is gone all the time. They are off school, he should be home too, right?

It's the time of year where birthdays and holidays, parties and celebrations must all be squeezed into one day a week. Ashley has never had a birthday party on a Saturday. If we make it to the St. Patrick's Day parade, that only means that he must work on Sunday. It's a good thing Easter already falls on a Sunday. Because if it didn't, we'd move it. We have to. There are no days off, it seems. Not now.

Thursday, January 28, 2010


I think that in this life, there are essentially two kinds of people. I'm not talking about men and women, positive and negative, Type A and B. I'm talking about something else, something entirely different. I think either you are the kind of person who needs to be rescued or you are the one doing the rescuing. Either you are sitting in the water waiting for someone to throw out that rope, or you're the one throwing it. Though there are certainly times that people can switch from one to the other, those are generally brief episodes, triggered by some event of huge significance. And people will revert back to their true personality with time.

I'm not one to be rescued. Never have been. I've spent my entire life being fine. Really. From the time I was a kid, I was the one helping other people get out of the situations they got themselves into. I've broken up fights. I've helped people work through tragedies. And I have even talked a couple out of suicide. When the earthquake happened, I was the first one back in the house. Gary's medicine was in there, and I dug through 4 feet of rubble in the kitchen to get it out. I'm just that person.

It's not to say that there haven't been times that I needed other people. I have. There really are only a few times in my life that I can think of when I truly needed help to get back up and keep going. And as I sit here and reflect on those times, I am realizing that in most of them, I helped myself get right more than anyone else did.

While I don't need others to help me, and I don't rely on them for that help, it is nice to know that there are people willing to offer it. People who truly care and want to help. I've learned, often the hard way, that most people aren't like that. At least not at their core. They may want to be. They may pretend to be. They just aren't. And I don't fault them for it, honestly.

You are who you are. It's a pretty hard thing to deny. So, which are you? Are you throwing that rope, or waiting for it to come?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


We've officially reached the ugly part of winter. The time of year where all seems lifeless and desolate. When it snows so rarely that the earth beneath is revealed for all it is in the dead of winter. Brown. Dry. Ugly.

It's the time of year where you start to wish that it would snow. But it doesn't. The air is too dry and too cold. Even knowing that it won't melt quickly, even knowing that shoveling will be a necessity. You wish for it to snow. Just so that everything can be pretty again. Clean. New.

Green is months away, though it will come again. Until then, I'll wish for snow.

Sunday, January 24, 2010


Through experiences in my life, I have learned many interesting things. Some that I could have never imagined in my wildest dreams. One comes to mind today, mostly because I drove past the inspiration for the lesson yesterday. As absolutely crazy as it may sound, I am convinced that there is magic in the most unlikely of all places. Taco Bell. Hidden deep within the layers of beans and cheese, wrapped carefully in a warm tortilla, is something mysterious. Who would have ever guessed that a burrito could have healing powers?

Burritos? Healing power? I told you it would sound crazy. And here you are, nodding your head in agreement. She's lost it. Kelly is nuts.

It's the truth. Taco Bell can heal. I can't be sure why. I don't know what they put in that stuff. All I know is that when Tom was sick, Taco Bell became an important part of my life. It became a necessary part of the daily routine. Every day after radiation, Tom had a one hour window of opportunity. While he was nauseous and sick almost all the time, he'd have about an hour in the afternoon where he could actually eat. He was hungry. And though I tried to get him to eat just about anything and everything I could think of, all he ever wanted was Taco Bell. Specifically, he wanted a bean burrito.

And so, every day, after leaving the oncologists office, we would head to the drive through. I rationalized it at the time, thinking that I should be grateful he was eating something. It was a decent source of protein, had lots of carbohydrates and a reasonable amount of fat. All in all, if you're eating only one thing a day, a bean burrito isn't really a bad choice. It kept him going. It helped him fight. It gave him strength when little else would. Ever since then, Taco Bell has held a special place in my heart.

It came as no great surprise to hear that my Dad now frequently requests Taco Bell. I really don't know what they put in that stuff. But, I'm telling you. It's magic. Don't underestimate the power of the burrito.

Friday, January 22, 2010


As I'm sure you have noticed, I changed the blog again. I have a deep and long standing love of redecorating, one that obviously applies here as much as anywhere else. As much as I liked the last background, it was a little hard to read with the colors, and it was a little dark. I'm hoping that this one works better, is easier on the eyes, and greets me with happiness each day.

It was a strange coincidence that I changed the background yesterday, on the same day that I was reminded of something from my childhood. I changed the color scheme to green here, and later the same day, green was on my mind for other reasons.

I love green. Always have. Well, okay, maybe not always. As a little girl I loved pink and purple, as most little girls do. Those were my favorite colors until my parents made the mistake of telling me that there was a color in the universe called "Kelly green". That was it. From that point forward, I had a new favorite. I even made my parents paint my room that color.

My love affair with green might stem from another source though, one that is a little unusual. As a baby, I got a Kermit the Frog stuffed plush toy. The sun set and rose on that little felt frog. No idea why I was so attached to the strange little animal. But I was. Whenever people got me baby dolls, I always took the clothes off the doll and put them on Kermit. He went with me everywhere, all the time.

The most notorious Kermit appearance was at church. I had taken some of my brother's baby clothes and put them on Kermit, including shoes. If you've ever had a Kermit, you know full well that he doesn't actually have feet. Instead, he has flat felt webbed things sewn onto the bottom of his legs. Regardless, I insisted that he needed to wear shoes. At the front of the church, right after my parents had received communion, Kermit lost a shoe. And the congregation burst into laughter.

I left Kermit at my Grandma Doll's house once, and you would have thought the world had ended. After many tears and long days of waiting, he finally arrived home. Safely packed in a box, she had mailed him back to me. He had been shipped with snacks and the boxes was riddled with air holes.

With time, I outgrew Kermit. He went from being my constant companion, to being a thing stuffed under my bed, to being saved in the closet, then the attic. At some point, most likely when I was in high school, I dragged him back out. And he sat on a shelf for a while. Until it was time for me to grow up and leave home. Then, again, he went into a box. He's in a box today, though for different reasons. He's not there because I don't want to play with him or because I am embarrassed by having a toy or any of that. He's in that box because I still need him. And unlike the other stuffed animals that I brought from home and let the kids have over the years, he is mine. Just mine. And I want to keep him that way. I need to.

Now, to the coincidence. After changing things here, making them green, and in my world, happy, Kermit showed up in the most unlikely of places. Facebook. My husband took a quiz, one that told him which of the Muppets he was the most like. And the answer, by now, must not be a surprise. He is Kermit. And it's only fitting that he is. I've been in love with the guy for as long as I can remember. And I'll love him for the rest of my life. It may not be easy being green, but it sure is appealing to me.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


There are a great many things on my mind this morning, most of which revolve around the fact that people I love are hurting. The things that happen to us on this journey through life are not always fun. They are not always fair. I find myself questioning why things happen the way that they do.

I keep reminding myself that things always happen for a reason. One which is divinely guided and that we have no control over. And that we have no power to change. I keep trying to remind myself of it anyway. I struggle with believing it. I need a little help with that this morning.

I cannot comprehend why people with the purest of souls, the best of intentions and with more love to give than anyone else does are left wanting. And why others, with no rhyme or reason, are blessed with gifts that they don't appreciate. That they don't want. That they don't care for. Help me to understand.

I cannot comprehend how it's possible for our bodies to turn inward and attack. I understand the science of it all, for sure. I just don't get why. If we are truly created in the image of something greater, then why are we so terribly flawed? Help me to understand.

There are times, like today, when I am almost envious of those who are blindly faithful. Who don't need help to see the reasons. Who are content to go on, believing that these are things we are not to know. And that find peace in not knowing. I'm simply not that way.

It's not that I am a non-believer. It's not that I have no faith. I do. I just wonder why sometimes there seems to be such a great inequality in the woes of the world. Why the struggles always seem to rest a little more squarely on the shoulders of a few. If there is an answer for that, I would venture a guess as to why. It's because there is some truth to the saying that God will never give you more than you can handle. I guess I just wish he didn't always feel so compelled to test me, to test those I love.

I know that I will never receive an answer for my questions, at least not while I am in this life. I know that someday it will all make sense. I just need to have a little more faith.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


I'm going back to Cali. For a few days anyway. I'll be out there alone, away from all my kids and my husband for a while. I've got a list of things I need to get done while I am there. A longer list of things I'd like to do. And a list still of people that I would like to see. Whether I can squeeze it all into the time I am there remains to be seen.

I'm more than a little nervous about leaving them all. Four kids is a lot, even for me, and I'm used to it. Let's hope that the house is still standing when I get home, that no trips to urgent care are required and I'm not forbidden from ever leaving again.

I'll see you in a few days. Wish me luck. But more than that, wish Tom luck. He's going to need it.


Being a parent is hard. Really hard. It's especially hard when something bad happens and you find yourself entrenched in an inner struggle. What kind of parent am I? What kind of parent do I want to be? Should I be?

Bad things happen. Terrible ones too. And even some unimaginable ones. These things don't happen only to adults. They happen to children. There are sides of our world that are dark and evil. Places that no person should ever find themselves in, that no child should ever be subjected to. Sometimes these things can happen truly with no warning. Sometimes there are pure tragedies, wholly unpreventable. But how many of the tragedies that occur were truly without warning?

A convicted sex offender was just released in an adjacent neighborhood. A violent one. One that has already been judged likely to reoffend. He's served his time, and he's out. No restrictions on his activities. No prohibitions. He can hang out in school parking lots, in parks, wherever he wants to go.

The police department held an information meeting for parents here, and though I was unable to go, I wanted to. I would like to know what he did, and to whom. How much of a threat he poses in my life, and in the lives of my children. I know what he looks like. I know where he lives. I know what his usual victim is like. But do I really know? Of course not. I won't kid myself into thinking that I can really know anything about this guy. I can't. And I'd rather not, to be honest.

Instead, I will teach my children how to stay safe. I will know their friends, and the families of their friends. I will know their teachers and coaches and other adults in their lives. I will teach them to recognize times when that safety might be in jeopardy. And as much as is possible, I will protect them from harm. However I need to do that, I will.

I didn't go to that meeting, but not because it wasn't important to me. Far more parents chose not to go for another reason. They assumed that he was a boyfriend, and the charges were pressed by a reluctant girlfriend at the behest of her parents. It's easier to think that. It's easier to want to believe that this man was forced to pay the price for a stupid, but consensual, choice. Because when you believe that, you can sleep easier at night. You can let your children roam the neighborhood without limitations. You can let them walk home from school, assuming that they will get home unscathed. You can send your children to slumber parties at the homes of their friends. Because they will be fine. Too bad one of his victims was a friend of his sister, and was at one of those slumber parties. She wasn't safe. And he's out.

There are scary people in this world, in my town. People like him.

Finding a balance between being too relaxed and too paranoid is a hard one. Finding some place in between, some place where concerns are legitimate, limits are reasonable, freedoms permitted. You can't live your life in fear of what might happen. But you can't stick your head in the sand either. It may be easier to believe that danger doesn't lurk out there, but it does. And living in denial of it only places your children at risk.

One of the things we are charged with as parents is the safety of our children. Even if it puts you on edge. Even if it makes you uncomfortable. Even if you don't want to think that these things could happen to you, to your kids, they can. Give them the tools to be safe. Protect them. And don't kid yourself. He's out there.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


I grew up watching The Tonight Show. Even as a kid, I was always a night owl. My parents gave me a television in second grade, one for my very own room. I was never a huge tv watcher, but I do have fond memories of that 13 inch black and white screen. One of the very first things I watched on it was the last episode of M*A*S*H, when my parents thought I had gone to bed. Yes, I was 6 and watched M*A*S*H. What can I say, I was a strange child. And I watched Johnny almost every night.

I remember watching the last show Johnny hosted, and I remember being skeptical about the new guy. Jay. I vaguely remember the drama involving David Letterman, but I didn't pay too much attention to it at the time. With time, Jay grew on me. Until I got to college and started watching other late night shows. Jay started to seem too mellow, too self-important, too blah. The other guys were just funnier. And Conan was one of them.

We continued watching the Tonight Show for years, mostly because we liked Jay better than Dave. He just seemed too East Coast, and we didn't get a lot of the jokes since we'd never lived there. There's not too much else on in that time slot, the better shows were on later. Conan and Craig. Weirder. Edgier. Funnier.

I was pretty glad when they announced that Jay was leaving and Conan taking over the show. I've always liked Conan, and felt that he had more than paid his dues over the years. He had played second fiddle for a long, long time. And finally, it was his turn. Sure, some people would be upset about the change. They would lose some fans, especially in the transition stages, but that was to be expected, right?

Turns out that Jay wasn't really done. He wanted back in, but his new show flopped. NBC decided in the last few days to push Conan back and give Jay back the coveted post-nightly news spot. Conan decided today that he wasn't going back to playing second fiddle. And I can't help but admire the guy.

Maybe it's just a topic that is a little close to home right now. Working for years towards a goal, paying the proverbial dues. Only to have that goal pushed back and delayed. And you can't help but feel like you worked your ass off for all those years for nothing. When your fate is controlled by someone else, the powers that be, it's hard to keep reaching toward a goal that seems always, perpetually, out of reach. At some point, any rational person would say "enough". Conan did. As for the issue in my own universe, only time will tell. It's not a choice I have to make. It's not my call.

It's easier, I suppose, not to want it in the first place. To be content with mediocrity. To just have a job. But when what you want is more than that, and when you work towards something more for so long, it's hard to just let it go. And it's hard not to see all that time as a waste.

Conan paid his dues. I can only assume that some other network will pick up his show, and that the story will end happily for him. I would think that someday, somewhere, he will be appreciated. I can only hope so anyway. And I can only hope for the same for everyone else who has paid their dues.

Monday, January 11, 2010


In my life, I get about an hour a week of quiet. A whole hour. Monday is the day that Papa picks up Ally from preschool and takes her out to lunch. They get to hang out and bond, I get a few precious minutes of peace. Assuming of course that AJ takes a nap, that is. And at this very moment, he is.

It's amazing how quiet the house can be. And it is even more amazing how content I am to sit and do absolutely nothing for that time. Sure, there are clothes to wash, dishes to put away. But it's quiet. And I like it this way.


Sunday, January 10, 2010


There are many things that I do that drive me crazy. That I wish I could stop myself from doing. The one that comes to mind this morning is that I judge people. And I judge them far before they have had a fair and ample opportunity to do anything that would justify the judgment.

I have a wickedly accurate sense of intuition about people. I can tell almost instantly from the first moment I meet someone new whether I am going to like them or not. Most people pass the sniff test. And it has never been the case that someone who passed that sniff test became a person I didn't like. Sure, there are times that I might have disagreements with people or question why they do or say something, but there are never the times when I doubt my ability and desire to truly be their friend.

Some people don't even get through the initial screening. They fail the sniff test. There are occasionally people that I just have a sneaking suspicion that I am not going to like at some point. There is no rhyme or reason to it. Not attached to anything they do or say. Just a hunch. Trouble is, at some point, whether it is in days or weeks or months or years, those hunches are right.

I can't even tell you how many times it has happened. It's never been wrong. And even though it hasn't ever failed me, I question it. Every time I get that feeling about someone, I try to dismiss it. I try to give them the benefit of the doubt. I try to convince myself that my intuition is wrong. That my radar was just a little too sensitive when I first met this person. But eventually, my intuition is proven accurate. Again and again.

And again, just recently, my hunches were dead on. Maybe someday I'll just learn to listen to them.

Friday, January 8, 2010


I'm not quite sure who first penned the phrase that men are from Mars and women from Venus. I'm sure it was long ago, and I'm sure that whoever it was happened to be an astute observer of human behavior. Men and women are certainly different. In fact, it is mind boggling sometimes that all that separates us from one another is a single chromosome.

I spent the better part of the morning one day this week performing the most hated of all household chores. Cleaning the walls and the baseboards. I only got about 2/3 of the downstairs done, but got the entire banister done as well. It took hours, used up 3 entire Magic Erasers and more than a few fingernails were sacrificed for the cause. The walls and the baseboards look good to me now, at least as good as they can. I need to paint them, really. Getting and keeping them clean when they are only covered with flat paint is next to impossible.

You can imagine my surprise (okay, so I know you won't be surprised....but humor me a little) when my dear husband arrived home from work that evening and didn't notice. He didn't notice that the walls were again the off-white color they were intended to be, no longer streaked with marker, crayon and fingerprints. He didn't notice that the baseboards were white again, no longer covered with scuffs and layers of goo. He didn't notice.

Why didn't he notice, you might ask? Most likely because it had never occurred to him that they were dirty in the first place. And why hadn't it occurred to him? One reason, a simple one really. He's a guy. And guys don't care. Never noticed that it was dirty, and he's not going to notice that it's clean.

I suppose that I shouldn't mind all that much. It would be far more exhausting to live with a man if he did actually notice every stray mark on the walls, every dust bunny tucked under a cabinet, the second the toilet went from clean to gross. I notice these things, sure. But do I get to them instantly? Of course not. There is no way that I could keep this house spotless all the time, and the last thing I need is to have someone else point that out constantly. Unless that someone else is willing to help, that is. And clearly, such is not the case in my house.

When I wonder aloud why I bother cleaning, he smirks. He knows as well as I do that I clean for one reason - my sanity. I need to feel like I am somewhat capable of keeping on top of the chaos. I need to occasionally feel like I could actually eat off my floor if given no other option. And yes, I need to clean the baseboards. Even if the only person who ever notices is me.

I guarantee Venus is a much cleaner place than Mars.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


Someone at the school district, in their infinite wisdom, decided that the holiday break needed to be an extra three days longer this year than normal. I'm not quite sure what the motivation was for the extension. All I know is that the kids really, really, really need to go back to school. Or maybe I just need them to.

I wish that the district would have consulted me about the calendar - that isn't too much to ask, is it? If it were up to me, I'd add the extra days to the Spring Break, since that is the time of year that people really want to go somewhere. That I am already planning to go somewhere. Being the brave (or crazy) mother I am, I am planning to drive to California with all the kids alone.

The kids grow antsy being here for Spring Break, since there isn't anything we can really do. Last year, it snowed the entire time. And it's still tax season during that break, so Tom is MIA. Plus,by Spring Break this year, I'll be an auntie - and it's about time for a baby fix. Though it will be a short trip, the kids only have a week off, we will go. I'd like a few more days then, and I'd really rather give these ones back. Thank you very much.

I am craving my normal routine. I am craving the hours, however short they may be, when three of the four of them at off learning and playing. I am craving some alone time with my little man. And I desperately need to clean my house. But I need to clean it without helpers, and without simultaneous destruction taking place in the next room.

Today is the last day of their break. And wouldn't you know, it is snowing. And these antsy kids are stuck inside. It's okay though. Life as normal resumes tomorrow. I'm looking forward to setting my alarm tonight.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


I have spent a lot of time crying lately, that's for sure. But in the last couple of days, there have been far more tears of gratitude than of any other emotion. In the matter of a few days, people from all parts of my past have come out of the woodwork, emerging to offer their concern and volunteering to help in any way they can.

People I have known practically since birth. People I have known only for what seems like seconds in the overall scheme of things. The children of people I have known since we were children. Friends of friends. Spouses, siblings. And even people I've never met.

Many of these people have never met my Dad, but it doesn't matter. They still want to help. For many others, it's been years since they have seen him. But that doesn't matter either. Former neighbors. Prom dates. Lab partners. Roommates. One of my friends in particular used to drive my Dad crazy - he used to teepee my house on a fairly regular basis when we were in junior high together. When I told Dad he was coming out to the blood drive too, he laughed. He figures he owes him for that roll of toilet paper stuck in the highest branches of the tree for months.

Thanks in large part to Facebook, all these people from my past are suddenly back in my life. They have joined the people in my present. And they all want to help. And I love them for that. Thank you.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Just Dance

As I write this morning, I am listening to a live radio broadcast from California. A good friend of mine from way back in the day is the new morning DJ, finally on a station big enough to carry a live streaming feed online. Congrats, Spence. You went and done good.

Sitting here I can't help but be in a good mood listening to the music. I'm insanely happy for the guy. But it's not just that. It's the music itself. It's amazing how much a combination of notes and lyrics can change your perspective. How much it can distract you from everything else instantly. And how it's hard to do anything but start dancing when Lady Gaga sings.

As she says, Just Dance. Gonna be okay.

Saturday, January 2, 2010


Today is the day to take it all down. All the sparkle and the cheer. All the trinkets collected over the years of my life. All the special sentimental things, those placed on display only for the holidays. It's time for the house to go back to just being a house, not the bedazzled version it currently is.

I didn't put all the decorations out this year. Not even close. They weren't up for very long, as it took me quite a while to find the motivation to do it in the first place. I managed to get almost all of it done in the time it took AJ to take a nap one day. Those brief hours I spent running around the house like a lunatic, feverishly unwrapping and unbubbling the delicate angels and snowmen.

It's time to put it away. It will inevitably take longer to put away than it took to put it out. It will take longer because I will have helpers. The kind of helpers that make things take longer. That make everything take longer. The kids. They will ask me questions. Where was this from? Who gave this to you? Was this mine when I was a baby?

They will beg to leave things out. Can't we just have this one out all year, Mommy? A few years ago, the girls wanted the Barbie ornaments left out. Aidan's lobbied for the Grinch. Last year it was the Nutcrackers they advocated for. If I had to venture a guess as to what it will be this year, I'm fairly confident it will be a book.

A book. Not just any book. This isn't a typical Christmas book, though it contains the most typical of all Christmas stories. The Night Before Christmas. The story that we have read to the kids on Christmas Eve since Aidan was a baby. What makes this particular book so special is that it is narrated with the sound of their Grandpa's voice. This gift was tucked into a suitcase on the way back from California. Something that they instantly realized was special. I knew about the book. I was with my mom when she bought it, so it wasn't a surprise. I made myself a promise though, that I wouldn't listen to it until Christmas Eve. And I waited.

On turning the first page, fully expecting one of us to read it to them, they heard the voice. And their eyes lit up. They sat and they listened that night, and they have sat and listened countless times since then. I have a feeling this will be the thing they beg to let stay out all year. And I have a feeling that I will be just fine with it.

Friday, January 1, 2010


This time of year is filled with traditions. The parties, the football games, the parades. Oh the parades. The biggest of them all is the Tournament of Roses Parade. Every year, we wake up on the first morning of the new year to gather around the tv and watch it with the kids. It's a parade that we have a little history with. One year, we helped decorate a float. And another year, we went to see it.

Tom and I decided to go watch the parade in person. I'm not quite sure what we were thinking, but we sure thought it was a good idea at the time. We ended up taking other people along too, those who thought it would be fun too - both his brothers and his best friend Paul. Here we were, a car full of teenagers, actually intending to sleep on the sidewalk overnight.

We got there and found a place to park, then walked for blocks before we found a piece of concrete not already claimed by sleeping bags and blankets. We set up camp for the night, and suddenly we felt terribly responsible for the safety and well being of TJ and Tim. It was, after all, back in the old days, long before any of us had cell phones. And we were sleeping on the side of the road.

It was cold and it was boring. After a few hours, Paul got too bored and decided he needed to go somewhere to do something - I'm not even sure where he went or what he did. All I know is that he took the car and didn't come back for a really long time. So now we were there, on the side of the road with two younger siblings, no phone and no car. Luckily for us, both Tim and TJ didn't seem phased by it and were able to just curl up in their sleeping bags and go to sleep. At least someone slept.

I don't think either one of us slept hardly at all that night. Paul showed back up at some point, and though Tom was annoyed that he'd been gone for so long, he was also glad the car was back. He was even more relieved that Paul was back.

After what seemed like forever, the sky started to lighten a bit and the sun finally rose. It was morning. We scooted over to watch the parade, only to have other people shove their way in front of us. Apparently, sleeping on the side of the street to see the parade means nothing to those who show up at the last minute. But by that point, we were too tired to care. We saw the parade, with an obstructed view of course, but we saw it.

On the way home that morning, I knew that Tom was going to be a good father someday. He had slept less than I had. He was worried about the car being gone, but he was worried about his friend more. And he was nervous about being responsible for his brothers out there.

What we originally thought would just be a fun thing to do - something that we could always say we had done - turned out to be a source of many good life lessons. Nights can last forever when you are worried about someone. Being accountable for other people is scary. Time spent waiting means nothing to rude people. And it's definitely worth it to buy tickets for the bleachers if we ever go see the parade again.

It was quite an adventure to see that parade all those years ago. But I didn't just see bands and floats that morning. I saw more. Much more.

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