Thursday, December 23, 2010

In An Attempt to Be Cool (And Fashionable)(And Cheap)

And now for a break from my normal blogging fare.

It's not that I don't know what's in style or what the latest fads are. It's not that I'm afraid to dress in fads. It's not that I don't want to spend money on clothes that make me look and feel fashionable.

It's just that it's so not practical.

I don't have a job and on average I leave the house only once a week without the kids. Otherwise they are always with me. So there's a rotation. A rotation of really good-fitting jeans and really good-fitting yoga pants paired with cheap tank tops under cheap long-sleeved t-shirts of all different colors. Sometimes I go wild and wear a cardigan. But that would only be for special occasions. Like going to the nice grocery store instead of the cheap, ghetto one that more fits our budget.

And then there's these or these which I wear every single day. Why? Because they slip on. Who has time to tie shoes when there's two kids tugging at every ligament by the back door?

Then there's the whole money thing. It just doesn't seem right to spend money on fun clothes that I will wear only a handful of times per year. Plus there's that whole thing about my kids needing to eat. And it's usually nice to have heat during a Minnesota winter. And I don't want to get too greedy but a box of diapers every few weeks really makes my life feel full of riches.

But with all those reasons going against me, something set off a spark anyway. Maybe it was buying all the new clothes for Christmas for EVERY ONE ELSE. Or maybe it was the ridiculous holiday discounts I found. Or maybe, and let's be honest, this is probably the most likely, it's that the days are inching closer and closer to my 30th birthday and I'm desperately trying to defy time by saying, "No! Look! I don't look like a 30-something mom yet! I can still be a cool 20-something-er!"

So here's what I did. I hauled two squirmy kids into the dressing room with me. And pulled them up. Zipped and buttoned. I did a few squats to really make sure everything fell into place. Lucy looked in the full-length mirror and copied me. I turned around and looked at my back side. So did Lucy. No muffin top! I made the leap and bought them. Maybe only because they fit. Maybe only because they were $15. Fifteen dollars! My first ever pair of skinny jeans.

Then I was on the hunt for the perfect pair of tall boots to go with them.

Wait. Scratch that. Do-over.

Then I was on the hunt for the perfect pair of cheap tall boots to go with them.

Turns out such a thing does not exist. Or at least it doesn't exist in a size 8 1/2. However, if you're a size 6 or a size 10 you're golden.

But when God closes a door he opens a window. In my case He opened a window to reveal a pair of patent leather red pumps. Gorgeous! On sale from $60 to $18. Eighteen dollars! Gorgeous-er!

What's that you say? You want to see pictures?

Totally not almost 30, right?

Comments, suggestions welcome.  Teasing, disparagement is not.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Embracing Christmas

During the busy-ness of these holiday months I will randomly stop and wonder if, and hope that, we're doing it right.  It's tough living a sacred life in a secular world.

I don't think there's any other religious holiday that is so embraced (in ways good or bad) by the secular world.

I have friends and family members who celebrate Christmas on either side of that sacred/secular line.  I know families who don't acknowledge a Santa Claus.  I know families who don't go to church on Christmas.  I know families who don't put up a single Christmas decoration until the season of Advent is over.  I know families who aren't sure there is a Christ to worship but who celebrate a holiday known as Christmas anyhow.

Once I had children of my own I had to stop and think about it:  What was Christmas going to mean to us?  What were our own Christmas traditions going to be?  What was going to work best with our values?

If you come to my house you will find:
  • a fully-decorated tree that was put up around the beginning of December and will stay up through the Epiphany.
  • a Nativity set without a Baby Jesus until Christmas Morning.
  • an Advent wreath.
  • Christmas music of all kinds playing in the background.
  • an Advent prayer guide at my bedside.
  • the book 'Twas the Night Before Christmas sitting next to The Christmas Baby.
These were also the types of households both Brian and I were raised in.  We remember Christmas fondly.  We remember it being magical and delicious and a time to break the rules and a time to believe and a time when almost anything could happen.

Of course there were indulgences in consumerism.  But there were also lessons in giving and in patience and in self-discipline and in hope and in believing in the impossible.  These were the traditions given to us and these are the traditions we hope to continue.

This year Santa Claus will visit my children.  But, at four years old, if you ask William what he's most excited about come Christmas Day, Santa will probably not be at the top of his list.  He might tell you he's excited to find out where Daddy hid the Baby Jesus.  He might tell you he's excited that I'll finally let him wear that red tie to mass.  He might tell you he's excited to go to his Nana's house to play with all his cousins.  Or he might tell you he's excited to eat all the cookies Mommy's been saving.

But if you ask William what Christmas is, he will always, always, without hesitation, tell you that Christmas is Jesus' birthday.

And while these are the traditions that work for our family I still refuse to believe that a solely secular Christmas, one that embraces consumerism and one that may forget the CHRIST in Christmas, is all bad.  For at the heart of any Christmas celebration there is a common theme.  To give.  To give to others.  To give to our families.  To give to those less fortunate.  To give of ourselves.

And nothing reminds me more of Christ than to give.

So you see, even if it seems we've forgotten to remember Christ in Christmas, I know God is bigger than that.  He's found a way to allow the Holy Spirit to work within us all.  He's found a way to make us so excited we can't sleep the night before and we can barely eat our breakfast because we just can't wait another minute for Christmas to come.  He's found a way to inspire us to help those in need.  He's found a way to bring families together.  He's found a way for us to feel loved, to find peace and to be blessed.

So even if you may have forgotten that He is the reason for the season, He will never forget that you were the reason for His.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Cookie Cheer

It's become an annual tradition around here.  One where I bake and bake and bake some more.  Then I send my little elves out for some special neighbor-ly delivers.

It's my way of saying thanks.  Thanks for those tools you let us borrow.  Thanks for having William over to play.  Thanks for watching out for our home while we were away.  Thanks for being a friendly face to live by.
 This year the spread included:

Friday, December 17, 2010

Pay It Forward Friday

I know that this Friday post has been on hiatus for quite some time.  And it's not because there haven't been any people paying it forward.  It's because my Fridays have been cah-ra-zee.  I really should utilize the auto-post option more often.  Moving on...

There were so many acts of kindness I witnessed this week that I'm afraid I'm going to miss some.  Here are few off the top of my head.

1.  My neighbor borrowed me an egg when I started a batch of cookies at 8 p.m. only to realize all the eggs were used for French toast the day before.  Brian was gone and the kids were in bed.  What's a Suzie Homemaker to do?  So I called my lovely neighbor and not only did she have an egg for me but she brought the egg to me!  In the below zero temps.  Love her!

2.  If you're not from a snowy region you probably won't understand my love/hate relationship with the city snow plows.  I obviously love them because they clear the roads for us so we can get from Point A to Point B without worrying about needing a tow truck to help us turn a corner in a one and half feet of snow.

But when you live on a city side street, as we do, your road is not their top priority.  So the plows usually don't make an appearance around our house until several hours after the snow has ceased and several more hours after we've shed blood, sweat and tears trying to plow our own driveway and sidewalk.  When the huge plow finally comes by he leaves a wake of rock hard snow boulders blocking the entrance to your neatly-cleared driveway and sidewalks.  It's maddening because it always seems to happen the moment you take off all your snow clothes and settle inside to get warm.

This happened Monday morning.  Thankfully our car was parked on the street because Brian was in between client appointments.  He had to leave right then but he told me to leave the mess the plow made and he would clear it when he returned.  These were strict instructions from him after weeks of me complaining about my back.

But did I listen?


As soon as Lucy went down for her nap, William and I geared up and went outside.  I started working on the pile of snow in front of our driveway right away.  A few minutes into my work a large pickup truck with a snow plow drove past.  I saw two men in the truck and I made eye contact with them and batted my eyelashes a few times.  A little damsel in distress, you know?  They drove past me, put on the brakes, and then reversed.


The driver rolled down his window and asked me if he could clear the snow for me.  Could he?!  I stood back and in two swipes the snow was gone.

Of course, when Brian returned I played it off like I did the whole thing myself before I finally gave in and told him how I charmed a couple of guys into doing the work for me.

3.  Brian paid #2 forward by helping numerous drivers out of the snow this week.  He worked on one car for at least an hour before our neighbor chimed in and attached a chain to the back of his pick-up truck and yanked the car to freedom.

4.  On Sunday, the day after our Blizzard, I saw two boys around the ages of 11 or 12 walking around the neighborhood just to see if anyone needed help.

This, my friends, is why I love living in Minnesota.  The snow and cold can be a huge pain, but the kindness of each and every resident is unparalleled.

Your turn!  What acts of kindness have you seen or been a part of the last few weeks?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Things You Should Know

1.  Lucy pulled down our Christmas tree.  To the floor.  Not a single thing broke.  Except Lucy's feelings.  She hasn't touched the huge, prickly, green monster residing in our living room since.  Who says toddlers can't remember cause and effect?

2.  William had his Christmas Program at school today.  I was very proud.  Especially the part during "Rudolph" when he picked his nose.  And then decided he was hungry.  Seriously, whose kid is that?!  That's what I asked the person sitting next to me.  And then pretended he was a crazy person when he came running up to me afterward calling me mommy.

I'm kidding, of course.  About the "pretending he's not mine" part.  Not the booger-eating part.  That was for real.  Here's the video.  (I apologize for the jumpiness.  It's hard to take a video when your 19-month-old simultaneously thinks she's a professional chair climber.)

3. YOU GUYS! Guess what?!?!  I totally got an early Christmas present.  Two, actually.

First, I got a new camera from my mom for Christmas.  I knew which one I wanted and it was on sale through the 25th so we jumped on it.  I couldn't fully plunge into the whole DSLR movement because I can't imagine myself hauling around a camera that big and breakable and, well, kinda scary.  So I found a happy medium between a point & shoot and a DSLR and I'm pleased as punch.  This is the one I got.
Here's a cool-looking shot Brian took.  No editing here.
OK, and now for the best part. So I was playing around with the camera, reading the manual, uploading some photos and such when for some reason or another I found it necessary to open the Recycling Bin on my computer's hard drive. When what to my wandering eyes should appear but -- ALL MY 2009 PHOTOS! The ones I thought I lost on my scratched DVD! Apparently super awesome Me never emptied out the Recycling Bin after I burned and then deleted the photos. All I had to do was highlight and click Restore and there they were, all pretty and neatly organized back in their folders. It was awesome, I'm telling you. Now we have proof that I did indeed give birth to Lucy.  And also proof that St. Anthony totally rocks.

That's it from me.  Tell me about you.  What's going on in your life that I should know about?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Things We Like Best About Daddy

William: "He's big and he's funny."

I couldn't agree more, William.

Happy birthday to my much better, much funnier and much bigger half.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Blizzard of 2010

Are you sick of me talking about Minnesota and our winter weather?  Here she goes again.

I know, I know.

But here's the thing.  This was the fifth biggest snowstorm in the history of the Twin Cities.  Ever.  So if I don't write about it, someday my kids will be all, "Mom, what's with not even mentioning the biggest snowstorm of our lives?"  And I'll be all, "Well, I always wrote/complained about the winter weather so I didn't want to lose readers because I bored them to death."  And the kids would be all, "Yeah, but mom, seriously.  It was the biggest snowstorm of our lives!"

So here's what you should know/what I should mention:
  • Six inches of snow is a pretty big storm.  It will slow traffic quite a bit.  The city will call a snow emergency to clear the roads.  A few events and/or schools might be delayed or canceled.  Overall six inches is a pretty big mess when it comes to city living.  Now triple that.  ON TOP of the snow we already had, which was a lot.  And add in blowing and drifting snow.  And some below-zero temperatures to boot.  That's what we got.
  • It is no exaggeration to say that it crippled the Twin Cities for two full days.  We didn't even get mail on Saturday.  Through rain, snow and sleet but not blizzard, I guess.
  • We have shoveled/snowblowed about six times.  Once in the middle of the storm so Brian could start a path to follow once the storm was over.  Again when the snow finally stopped.  And then four additional occasions for each time the plow came by and left a mountain in front of our driveway and sidewalks in its wake.
  • The "side of the road" is now about three feet from where the curb used to be because when the snowbanks can't go up anymore, they go out.
  • An average drift in our backyard comes up to William's chest.  He can sit on our tree swing and comfortably rest his legs and feet out in front of him like a snow ottoman.
  • We walked to church on Sunday morning dressed like Eskimos.  The attendance resembled that of a weekday mass.  There was no choir and those who did make it filled in for missing lectors, ushers and Eucharistic ministers.  The priest, however, lives next door so he had no excuse.
  • Brian is officially a champion car-pusher having saved countless people on our block who have found some need great enough to get in their cars and venture out only to find themselves stuck in front of our house.
  • I was one of those people who stupidly ventured out to the Post Office today to mail our Christmas Cards.  The Post Office is a few miles from our house.  Round trip took me one hour.  Twenty minutes each way plus another twenty minutes circling the parking lot trying to snatch one of the five spots.  The other fifteen spots were occupied by snow.
  • When I returned I wasn't shocked to see that the plow had come back again blocking my entrance to our garage and to my sidewalk.  Don't worry.  I had my mountain-climbing gear in the backseat.  I threw a rope over and propelled that baby, no problem.

But here's some bright spots of the storm I want to mention:
  • Our snowed-in weekend was a lot of fun.  We played Christmas music nonstop, drank lots of hot chocolate, made three different kinds of cookies, decorated our Christmas tree, snuggled, kept warm by the fire and slept peacefully.
  • The kindness of other Minnesotans is really incomparable to anywhere else I've been in the U.S.  Complete strangers help one another without being asked and they do it with a smile and a laugh.  I'll have more on this later this week when Pay It Forward Friday returns.
  • If you don't have to be anywhere fast and if everything in your house is in working order and giving you a warm spot to rest your head a night, the whole outdoor scene really is majestic.  There's a stillness, a crispness and a wholeness to it all that isn't felt any other time of the year.
  • And finally, it's fun!  William and I got outside for an hour or so today and the kid could not have been more happy if you told him Santa was coming today.
So that's it!  There's my obligatory post on the 2010 Blizzard.  I mean, I think that's it.  January and March are still our snowiest months so there may be a second-parter to all this madness!

Minnesotans: What of your own experiences do you have to add?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

How Much Snow Did We Get? This Much!

It's true.  We're in the midst of Blizzard clean-up around these parts.  More on that later.  But for those not around here wondering how much snow we got?  I leave you with this video.  Yes, it really is as crazy as it looks.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

One Of Those Cheater Posts

1.  I am extremely tense these days which has little to do with preparation for Christmas and everything to do with pains in my back.  My mom used to have a lot of problems with her back and I'm hoping I haven't inherited this from her.  I remember a few times when she couldn't get out of bed for a few days.  The most memorable part of those days were my dad's cooking skills (none) and how he used to style my and my sister's hair.  He knew side ponytails were cool before anyone else.

But seriously does anyone have any recommendations for me?  There seems to be two issues causing me pain.  One is a knot like feeling right under my right shoulder blade.  The other, I think, is my sciatic nerve which started on and off when I was pregnant with Lucy.  It's a shooting pain that goes from my left lower back into my butt and down to the back of my leg.  This pain has gotten so bad that there are some nights I literally have to crawl on my hands and knees up the stairs.

I would get my sorry self to a chiropractor ASAP if it weren't for our sucky insurance.  One of the downfalls when your husband works for a company with less than 30 people.  What should I do?  Should I bite the bullet and pay for the chiropractor and hope she/he doesn't tell me I need to come back 10 more times before it's better?

2.  We finally painted our dining and living room this past weekend.  Yay!  You'll be happy not to see any more paint swatch swipes in the background of my pictures.  We also hung a giant clock above our mantel and put up our Christmas tree.

3.  While said painting was getting done, Brian and I locked trapped secluded the kids on the porch to play with their toys.  When the weekend was over it looked like hurricane-strength winds had whipped through there.

As I was weeding through toys and putting things away I gasped when I saw a DVD lying face-down on the floor.  Written with a Sharpie the label read: 2009 Photos.  As in ALL THE PHOTOS I TOOK IN 2009!  2009 -- The year Lucy was born!

I flipped the DVD over and saw a pretty substantial scratch.  I said some quick pleading and begging prayers and popped the DVD in my computer.  Nothing.  Then I tried the DVD player.  Cannot Read Disk.  $#*%!!!!!

Hubby and I have looked up a few solutions via a Google search but haven't tried anything yet.  I wanted to ask you, the great Internets, if you've encountered this problem or how you think I might solve it.  I'm not desperate to get all the pictures back but I am desperate to get a few back.  Please!

4.  Last night William went to bed with Pink Eye, an ailment he experiences a few times a year.  This morning he woke up with Croup, another ailment he experiences a couple times a year.  I'm not complaining.  Both are easily treatable and go away relatively quickly.  But when we were eating breakfast this morning he told me:

"Mommy, my sick eye made my voice change."

Gotta love four-year-old logic.

5.  When I'm thinking about the season of Christmas and how much is spent I think I spend more on food than gifts.  Is this true for anyone else?  I make about six different batches of cookies, make fun holiday cocktails, try to bring appetizers to all parties I'm invited to and want to treat my own family to a lavish meal before we venture over the river and through the woods.

Or maybe it's not that I go big on food but rather that I go too cheap on gifts. :)

6.  I'm about 80% through with my Christmas shopping which means wrapping has begun.  The other day I opened a brand new tube of wrapping paper and as I unrolled a bit I noticed the loveliest thing.  There was a grid printed on the back side to help with precise cutting.  Genius!  How has no one thought to do this until now?  No more uneven edges or sloppy ends.  I bet this year even Brian could wrap a mean present.

7.  Today is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.  Don't forget to thank our Blessed Mother for saying, "Yes!"

Monday, December 6, 2010


I have to say that I am a total and complete genius.  I had so. much. fun reading all your responses to the question I posed in my first ever giveaway.  They were cute and funny and endearing and it really made me ponder the memories I'm making for my own kids.

And now for the fun part.  Thanks to the winner is commenter #52!

Congratulations to Autumn B. who said:
I remember the year that I got an electric blue ****portable*** phone for my room! I was in heaven & my parents even got a "teen line" put in - do you remember when they called them that? In the phone book it had my parents number and then under that it listed "Teen Line' with my number...oh they days before cell phones. Anyways, I thought I was so cool and that the phone was awesome, it had MEMORY dial =)
I totally remember teen lines.  Do you?  I never had one but I always dreamed of having one.  We didn't even have a separate line for my Dad's fax machine!  Remember that one episode of Full House when D.J. got her own line?  Ahh...the days before cell phones.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Cold climate moms have more stress than warm climate moms.  It's a fact.  Not really.  I don't think.  But someone should check into that.

This year the snow and cold came out of nowhere.  Well, not really.  It's all pretty normal.  But when you have record highs one day and a foot of snow the next, it feels like it came out of nowhere.

And it's all fun and games until you have to go somewhere.  And not just up the street for a cup of coffee.  I mean really go somewhere.  In a timely manner.

At the beginning of the school year I really thought that William's preschool being just a little over a block from our house was a super plus.  Now I'm not so sure.

The problem is that the distance from our house is such that it's really ridiculous to ever drive there.  But the distance is enough that I can't just slip out the door with my robe on and wave goodbye.  So we walk there.  Twice a day, two times a week.

But in order to do the walking I first must do the bundling.  This, my friends, is where I tell you I miss having an infant.  An infant who needs no shoes, and an infant who can simply be put into a complete outerwear unit with one single zip.  No messing with hats, silly mittens or even boots.  I could lay her on the sofa, zip her up, scoop her in my arms and we were out.  The inventor of the snowsuit bunting is pure genius.

I kid you not when I tell you that from the time we are all ready in the morning it takes us an additional fifteen minutes to get out the door.  Fifteen minutes!

William is self-sufficient for the most part not including getting the zipper on his coat started and getting on his second mitten.  And if it's a tennis shoes day he needs help with the tying.

My most trying days are the ones when I he's all set with a hat, coat and mittens and I send him to the back door to put on his Velcro shoes because I haven't got time to tie his tennies.  It's then that I realize I've made a horrible mistake that will cost me an extra few minutes.  I've already put on his mittens.  He will do one of two things.  He will either try to put the Velcro shoes on while wearing his fleece mittens (try it, I dare you) or he will fling his mittens off in the dining room on the way to the back door and forget to put them back on until we're already out of the house and I've locked the door.

Then there's Lucy who, bless her heart, loves to wear hats.  But that's it.  Hates to put on her coat.  Refuses to push her hand into her mittens.  Won't step her heel all the way down into her boots.  Insert gigantic audible sigh.

Why has NOBODY thought to make a better option for toddler mittens?!  [And if they have, please send me a link where I can buy some.]

We already have the kind without thumbs which seems to help a little bit but they are still impossible to (a) push on and (b) keep on.  Can't someone invent a wrap style mitten with a Velcro close?  Maybe that's the ticket to my million dollars right there.  Don't steal the idea, now!  Actually do.  Just make the mittens, I'll buy them, you can have your millions and I'll take back those extra fifteen minutes each morning.

In an effort to not make this post sound all seasonally depressed I have to say that I really do love having a winter.  I know it's long and it's not without it's hassles but I really would miss it if it never came.  Kind of like being with family over the holidays.  You could never imagine not being with them.  And the first few days are so. much. fun.  But then it gets long.  And you miss your routine.  And your own shower.  And your own bed. And your own cooking.  But all the same, you're glad you came.  And you're glad when it's over.

So I know it's not your fault, Winter.  And I still appreciate thee.  I just think I wouldn't complain as much if I didn't have to leave the house.

Monday, November 29, 2010

A Giveaway! A Giveaway!

For a long time I've struggled with the idea of having a contest or giveaway on my blog. I'm not against blog contests at all. In fact, I enter them whenever I get the chance.

But the thing I always have to remind myself is that I'm a writer first, a blogger second. If there were no such thing as blogs or even the Internet, I'd be writing anyway. It's in my nature and it's what I've always done since I knew how to write the alphabet. (No, seriously, ask my mom. She's kept all the stories I wrote when I was in elementary school.)

A good writer never writes for the money or the fame. I truly believe that when other motivating factors come into play, the quality of the writing suffers greatly.

That said, it sure does feel good when someone thinks you're a good enough or popular enough writer that they want to give you monetary resources to do so.

So a few weeks ago I said yes when Time To Play invited me and a few other Minnesota mom bloggers to a private toy shopping event at Sears in Mall of America.

At first I was really nervous to attend. I am not the kind of mom who hunts down the hottest toy in town just so my child might be excited for two minutes come Christmas morning. I tend to buy things my kids need (think undershirts or toothbrushes or fun underwear) and have them pose as presents. I will then buy one or two big ticket toy items that I know will stand the test of time. Last year William and Lucy received a play kitchen set from Santa and that thing still gets played with almost every day.

But instead of getting bombarded with toys that need 16 AA batteries and are loud and obnoxious (there was that too, don't get me wrong) I was pleasantly surprised to find The Toy Guy and Sears very balanced in their suggestions.  Instead of Christmas being all about the quantity and cost of presents he stressed that kids appreciate gifts a lot more if they received only a few quality items.  And isn't that the truth even for adults?

So to get your Christmas shopping started Sears has offered to give away a $50 giftcard to one of my readers.

Fun, right?  I means Sears has anything you could ever need to help widdle down your Christmas list.  Appliances and kitchenware and linens and toys and clothes and, my personal fave, LANDS END!  Who wouldn't want a Sears giftcard, right?

Here's how to enter:

1.  Leave a comment telling me the most memorable gift you received as a child.  If you don't answer that question your comment will be disqualified.  For this first entry you may only leave one comment per person.

2. Please remember to include your email address in the comment form so I know how to contact you if you win.  (I will be the only person who can see your email address.)

3.  The contest is open until Monday, December 6  at 8:00 p.m. Central Standard Time after which the winner will be chosen at random.

And, since it is my first giveaway ever I'm going to allow two additional entries per person that are entirely optional but you must complete the first entry above to qualify.  You can do both, one or none.
Option #1 - Link to this post via your Facebook page.  Leave a separate comment telling me you did so.

Option #2 - Link to this post via Twitter.  Leave a separate comment telling me you did so.
Good luck to all!

Sears provided me with one $50 giftcard for myself and another to give away.  However, opinions are still all my own.

**UPDATE: Congrats to Commenter #52, Autumn B., who won the $50 Sears giftcard.  This contest is now closed.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Nash Christmas Cards Through the Years

William was born very close to the holiday season and I remember when we finally brought him home I thought, excitedly, "I can do Christmas cards this year!"

Of course, you can do Christmas cards without kids but it's just not the same, is it?  I just love going to the mailbox in December and opening up everyone's photo cards.  Many of them come from friends who I don't get to see that often.  Sometimes Christmas is the only chance I get to sneak a glance at their little ones.

The year William was born I decided to send out a combo birth announcement and Christmas Card.

2006 Christmas Card

Isn't he just the prettiest baby you've ever seen in your whole life? [Ignore those weird rectangles that mysteriously found their way into that image.]  Lucy was a dang cute baby, for sure, but I don't know if I'll ever have a newborn as pretty as William was.

I remember coming home from Church one day, putting him in his bouncy seat and snapping away on my camera.  Afterward I uploaded all my photos to Shutterfly and made my cards.  I was so excited to drop them in the mail and show everyone my brand new baby boy!

The following year I clearly had way too much fun with my little boy because I included four pictures in our Christmas card.  And only one of those pictures was taken by a professional.  How could I choose just one?!

2007 Christmas Card
And 2008.  Who could forget that year?  That was the year that I announced we were expecting another baby by including a sonogram photo.  A college friend of ours told us it was the coolest Christmas card he had ever received.  Yeah, us!

2008 Christmas Card
And then there was last year when we had two children to brag about.  Last year was tough getting the perfect picture with Lucy's head surgery being so close to Christmas.  I love how their individual pictures turned out but I'm still not happy with the one where they are together.  I tried a thousand different takes but it just wasn't happening.  So I finally picked one that was good enough and went with it.
2009 Christmas Card
This year I'm really excited because for the first time we took professional pictures of all four of us together.  The picture-choosing process is going to be really easy.  And so will the card-making process!  Every year I've used Shutterfly and every year I've been happy with the results.

I like that Shutterfly offers chic and modern card designs at every price point.  Because, let's be honest, most people throw those cards away after the Christmas season has passed.  While that cardstock might feel so good in your hands and make your pictures look so pretty, I just have a hard time justifying spending hundreds of dollars on something that will be in the trash in a month!  But spending half that price without compromising taste to put a picture in the hands of a friend or relative who see my kids rarely or ever?  That I can live with.

What about you?  Do you do Christmas cards yearly?  Sometimes?  Never?

P.S. You'll have to wait until Christmas to see our 2010 card!

**In writing this post Shutterfly has offered to give me 50 free holiday cards but thoughts and opinions are all my own.  Want 50 free cards of your own?  Click here to find out more!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

An Interview With A 4-Year-Old

Today was William's birthday.  Four is so old, isn't it?  Full-fledged kid for sure.  Their own mind.  Their own words.  Their own thoughts.

I thought it would be fun to capture it all in a little interview.  So after dinner one night, while his dad and sister were already upstairs for bathtime, I asked William some questions.  He was quite the little interviewee.  He got all upset if I wasn't writing every little thing he said.

"Mommy!  Write that down!"

So I did.  And when it was over I asked him if it was OK if I typed this on the computer so that other people could read it.  And he said, "Sure!"  So here it is.  With his permission.

Q: How old are you going to be?
A: Four!

Q: What's your favorite color?
A: Green

Q: What's your favorite food?
A: Noodles

Q: What's your favorite show on T.V.?
A: The Cat In The Hat [Knows A lot About That]

Q: What's your favorite movie?
A: Toy Story 3

Q: What's your favorite thing to do outside?
A: Play on the swing

Q: What's your favorite book?
A: The fairy tale book when Daddy reads it

Q: What color are your eyes?
A: Blue

Q: What color is your hair?
A: Um, I don't really know that one

Q: What's your favorite thing to do with your sister?
A: Play Hide 'n' Seek

Q: What's your favorite thing to do with Daddy?
A: When he pushes me on the swing

Q: What's your favorite thing to do with Mommy?
A: Hug her!

Q: What's your favorite game?
A: Candyland

Q: What's your favorite song to sing?
A: California Gurls

Q: What do you dream about?
A: Ellie {a dog} and Halloween

Q: What do you want to be when you grow up?
A: A policeman

Q: Who is your favorite person that babysits you?
A: Uncle Jo-jo

Q: What's your favorite sport?
A: Football

Q: Where is your favorite place to go?
A: Trader Joe's

Q: What's your favorite treat?
A: Chocolate

Q: What's your favorite part about church?
A: Walking there down the alley {I thought this was really funny.  It's like saying recess is your favorite part of school.}

Q: What's your favorite season?
A: Winter.  I love the snow!

Q: How many brothers and sisters do you think you might want to have?
A: Five.  Their names will be Jake, Lucy, Sally, Samuel, and another girl that I don't know what her name is. {Wow, we need to get to work.}

Q: What do you think you might want for a birthday present?
A: Buzz and Woody

Q: Anything else?
A: Nope!  That's all!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Still Breathing

The last 72 hours have been a bit challenging around here.  The other shoe did drop.  It's been throw-up central.  At least for Brian and me.  The kids are fine.  Which makes it even more challenging, no?

But we're on the other side.  We made it.  I was going to title this post Still Standing.  But Still Breathing gives me a little leeway.  Everything's still a little fresh to be standing for any sort of time period longer than is absolutely necessary.  So we're focusing on breathing.

Which is why I'm going to a yoga class in ten minutes.  To breathe.  Maybe I'll stay in Child's Pose the entire hour.  That would feel good.

Anyway, this is to say sorry if I haven't been responsive to comments, emails, Facebooks or Tweets.

But I'll be back.  In a big way.  For one, there's a certain four-year-old's birthday tomorrow.  For another, Mama Nash has her first ever giveaway.  And it's going to be one everyone can use.  Promise.  Stay tuned.  And stay healthy!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Tiny Cheers

I looked at the calendar today and it said November 16.  It's no one's birthday.  It's not a holiday.  I don't have any parties to go to.  So what was it?  Why was this date etched so deep in my memory?
Then I remembered.

One year ago today Lucy underwent surgery on her skull to correct her craniosynostosis which was discovered during her routing four-month exam.

For two months we knew she needed this surgery and for two months seeing November 16 on the calendar put a pit in my stomach.

I didn't know how I was going to hand over my baby for some surgeon to cut through her precious little head.

But we made it!  I won't sit here and write all about how it was no big deal, a walk in the park, a piece of cake, because it wasn't.  Surgery and hospital stays with a baby are no fun at all.

There were nights she barely slept because her face was so swollen her eyes were sealed shut and they itched like crazy.

There were days I barely recognized my petite little girl who suddenly looked like a sumo wrestler.

And then there was that spunky personality that disappeared for a couple of weeks due to heavy pain medication.  She was in my arms but where was she?

But she did come back.  And we got to say our 6-month-old baby had plastic surgery and isn't that funny?  It's one year later and we made it and look at this beautiful little girl who can't remember a single second of that whole ordeal.  But we remember and we got through it and we're stronger because of it.

Her head is gorgeous.  Her scar isn't so bad.  Really, I think I'm the only one who can see it.  I part her hair on the side instead of down the middle and it totally disappears.  Side parts look better anyway, don't you think?

Our child is healthy.  She always was.  We had a minor blip on the radar.  We're a lucky bunch.  Some are not so.  So we'll cheer for this tiny milestone in our family's story.  And then we'll go back to laughing about how obsessed she is with shoes.  Because, after all, she's just a girl like any other.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

How to Have the Best Family Day Ever

First, you need a pretty big snowstorm.

This is our street.  Not even kidding.  It was almost 70 degrees three days ago.
And that snowstorm has to be be somewhat unexpected.

They said we might get anywhere from a dusting to a couple of inches.  We were just shy of a foot.
Next, when the kids get out of bed and are so excited to see all the snow that you hope they don't wet themselves, you will need to dig through every closet in your home to find any snow gear that might fit.  Seeing as it was 68 degrees just a few days ago, you will be totally unprepared.
William's old snowsuit and non-waterproof boots and mittens.  At least the hat was pink.  A snowsuit's a snowsuit, right?  I may just use this for her all year long.
You'll need some sleds.
And a shoveling husband. (The snow will be much too wet and heavy for that fancy, dancy snowblower you've got.)
You'll need a snowball fight.

And booger noses.

And a giant snowman.

The tears indicate we may have pushed lunch/nap just a hare too far.
And finally, this is the important one, to make sure you have a really, really, really good family day, you must lose your electricity for the entire day and night.
A real, wood-burning fireplace will help.  As will a board game and some hot coffee.

You will eat dinner at the bar just down the street since all of your dinner options require an oven or a stove.  And you're too scared to light your gas stove with a match.

And when you return from dinner you will use the one flashlight with working batteries to help light all the candles in the house.

The battery in your camera will have died by now with no way to charge it.

You will dress the kids in layers for bed and snuggle them in under down comforters.

You will come downstairs to find your husband making you a cocktail.  And just as he begins to stir it you will hear the familiar whir start up again.  And the clocks will blink 12:00.  And some lights will pop on.  And you will sigh.  A sad sigh.  Because it was all kind of fun.

So you will turn off those lights.  You will take your cocktail and sit in front of the fireplace.  You will leave the television off and the candles lit.  And you will finish your game of Monopoly.  And then you will go to bed, shut your eyes and start replaying the events of one of the best days you can remember in a long, long time.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

After Bath, Before Bed

I love this picture.

I love that they are sitting together.  And that William isn't annoying Lucy.  And that Lucy isn't whining because William is annoying her.

I love that William has on his monster jammies.

I love that Lucy is wearing an old pair of William's jammies because who says all her jammies have to be pink and purple and everything girlie?

I love how Lucy is holding Jellycat Bunny.

And that she's draped with her favorite pink blankie.

I love the magnetic alphabet on the radiator cover in the background.  A sure sign that kids live here.

I love the unopened clock in the background that hasn't been hung yet almost one year later because kids live here.

I love William's smile and how he ever so slightly is leaning in next to his little sister.

I love how I can almost smell the lavender from their just-washed hair.

I love how I soft their cheeks look after just being lathered with Eucerin.

I love how Lucy's hair is pulled back but a few stray bangs have escaped the barrette.

I love how patiently they are waiting to watch "just a little bit" of Mister Roger's Neighborhood before I march them off to bed.

I love them so much this time of day.  Just after bath.  Just before bed.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Sometimes, For No Reason At All

On Saturday morning William threw up at a neighborhood birthday party within two minutes of entering the home.  With a red face and my tail between my legs, I walked him back home.

Since then I've been on edge.  Snapping at the kids and at Brian for nothing at all.  But I didn't realize it until last night.

Do you ever feel like you just want to break down and cry but you have absolutely no reason to?

Do you ever feel that you are so exhausted you might collapse even though you got plenty of sleep the night before?

This was me the last few days.

I'm pretty sure Lucy has an ear infection.  But I'm also pretty sure we won't treat it.  It never bothers her all that much and they seem to go away quicker than if we were to bring her in and fill a prescription anyway.

So she was cranky and cried through our an entire family dinner.  And threw all her food on the floor.

"Please get her out of here and in the bath now," I crabbed to Brian.

And he did.

I should have done the dishes while he was upstairs.  Or at least emptied the dishwasher.  But it all seemed so overwhelming.

So instead I brought William upstairs and gave him a bath and put on his lotion and helped with his pajamas.  He took a long nap that day and his mood showed it.  He was so sweet and made no mention of my sour attitude.

"I'll make you deal," I said to Brian, "Wanna clean up the kitchen if I fold the laundry?"

"Sure," He said.

William came downstairs and instead of asking to watch TV or play on the computer before bed he just asked if he could draw me a picture on his Magnadoodle.  But then he decided he'd rather match up the socks in my laundry basket.

After a minute of staring at the basket of clean, unfolded laundry I deserted it and went into the kitchen to find Brian standing at the sink.  I wrapped my arms around him and hugged his back.  Brian is one of those guys who is bigger than he looks because of his fierce dedication to the weight room and it felt good to feel so small for a little while.  Feeling small gave me a reason to allow myself to feel overwhelmed even though I had no reason to feel that way.

"I feel like I want to cry," I told him, "But I have no reason to cry."

"That's OK," he said, "You can cry for no reason."

So I did.  Just a little bit.

I heard William's footsteps come into the kitchen.  His feet stopped for a minute, probably wondering why Mommy was holding on to Daddy's back so tightly.  Then he started again and walked behind me and hugged the back of my legs.

My boys.

I knew I had been on edge ever since William threw up.  Waiting for the other shoe to drop.  For us all to start puking.  Thinking my stomach hurt when really it didn't.  Not wanting to sanitize one more room or wash one more load of laundry or make up one more bed.

It was all silly, really.  Because no one else got it.  It's been almost five days.  Are we in the clear yet?  And even if we aren't, what then?  I realized I had been holding my breath.  And my life.  And in the process I was annoyed.  Which is really silly because who am I to think we can be the exception when it comes to stomach ailments?

So I breathed.  And I prayed.  And He said it's all going to be OK.

Then I went back in the living room and folded all the clean laundry.  And last night turned out to be a pretty good night.  And today turned out to be a pretty good day.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Pay It Forward Friday

When helping out the elderly there is a fine line between being kind and completely crushing their ego.

This Monday Brian and I treated the kids to breakfast at a cafe just before their doctor appointment.  The cafe is located in small, indoor mall.  The cafe is open to the rest of the mall except for a small waist-high wall that serves as its border.  We were seated right in front of this wall.

While we were eating our omelets and Mickey Mouse pancakes I saw a woman sitting behind us gasp.

"That man just fell!" She said.

I stood, peered over the half wall and saw an elderly gentlemen lying on the floor save for the one elbow he had managed to prop himself up on.

"Do you need help, sir?" I asked.

"It's that rug that needs help!" He cried out.

The rug at the entrance of the mall had bunched up causing him to trip and fall.

"I can see that," I said, "Here, I'll help you get up."

The woman who had originally seen him fall was walking all the way around the half wall so that she could get to the man.  But I knew I could get there faster if I simply got over the wall.

So, throwing socially-acceptable behavior aside, I hoisted myself up and threw one leg and then the other over that wall.  Brian would later replay the events for me, laughing.  "You just jumped that wall without even thinking!  That was awesome!"

I got my arm under one of the man's arms and helped him to his feet.  By now the other woman had arrived as well as the restaurant host.

"It was the rug's fault," I explained, "It was the rug that made him fall."

The truth was, the rug did make him fall.  But had it been any other able-bodied adult, they probably would have tripped but not fallen.  Or even if they did fall, they certainly would have been able to pick themselves up quick enough not to draw too much attention.  But I said this because I knew the man was embarrassed.  I knew lots of people were now watching us because of the crazy lady that jumped the wall.  And I knew the man felt like a small, helpless child.  So in an effort to give him just smidgen of his ego back, I blamed the entire thing on the rug.  And that felt good.


This morning I had a Pay It Forward Friday entry sent to me via email.  I will share it here:

Yesterday as I was exiting a Fleet Farm store with two cases of recreational vehicle antifreeze and a duffle bag riding on the top of my cart, the bag and one of the cases of antifreeze fell off the front. No big deal, right? A fella coexiting stopped and said, "Let me help you."  Before I knew it he had both items back in my cart.

When the items fell I immediately thought, "With my sore shoulder this is going to hurt." How did he know?

I thanked him. He said, "Sure." Not only did our eyes never meet, we did not even see each other's faces.


Your turn!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

8 Reasons I Chose To Give my Kids the Flu Vaccine

On Monday William and Lucy had their 4-year and 18-month well-child checkups, respectively.  At this appointment I opted for both of my children to receive the flu vaccine.

There are many, many bloggers out there voicing their reasons for not vaccinating their children or for putting their children on a delayed or limited vaccine schedule.  For those families, that's what works for them.

But often times I come away from those posts feeling like a bad parent for choosing to vaccinate my children with the recommended schedule.  Viewpoints of vaccines have gotten very polarized and I don't feel that the pro-vaccine message is getting heard enough except from sources like the AAP or your own pediatrician.  So here's my own, non-expert, just-a-regular-informed-mother, viewpoint about the reasons I chose to give my kids the flu vaccine.

1.  We live in Minnesota.

Time and again Minnesota [and many other states in the North] ranks as a state with some of the highest flu statistics.  Outbreaks, hospitalizations and deaths.  I blame our climate.  From mid-October through mid-April you can bet every house in this state has their windows shut tight and doors sealed from any of that cold air seeping in.  This means that every indoor building receives very little circulation.  And you know how the flu spreads?  Through the air.  So even if you're diligent about dodging germ-prone areas or constantly washing your hands, you still can't hold your breath all day long.

2.  My kids go to school.  But that's not a good reason.

William being in his first year of preschool factored zero into my decision to vaccinate.  A lot of times I hear "my kid isn't in school" or "I don't send my children to daycare" as a reason not to vaccinate.  Unless you lock yourself in your house for seven months, you are exposed.  Do you go grocery shopping? Do you go to the library?  Do you have playdates?  Do you go to church?  Everywhere is sure to be a germ factory.

3.  I don't like playing the odds game.

If I don't vaccinate, what are the odds my child will get the flu?  Pretty low.  If they do get the flu what are the chances that he/she will be hospitalized?  Even lower.  And, really, what are the chances that they will die from the flu?  Virtually nill.

But you know what?  I've lost many, many times at the odds game so I don't like to play it.  What are the odds my son would have a spontaneous hole in his lung following birth?  What are the odds that an easily-curable hole in his lung would turn into a critical, life-or-death, so-not-textbook case?  What are the odds my daughter would need skull surgery at the tender age of six months?  See what I mean?  I suck at the odds game.

4.  I don't get mad at the flu vaccine for not doing what it wasn't intended to do.

So many people don't even know what influenza is.  Influenza is not the stomach flu.  It does not protect against the so-called "24-hour stomach bug" or food poisoning.

It also is not a common cold vaccine.  It does not protect against your everyday sneezing, coughing and runny nose.

Most people have never even had the flu.  The flu has common cold symptoms and is combined with extreme body aches, tiredness, and a high fever.  The flu often lasts a week or longer and most of the time prohibits the patient from maintaining their normal daily routine.  My brother had it last year and I think his comment sums it up best: "It feels like I'm going to die."  Probably a little sarcasm mixed in there but you get the picture.

5.  I know that the flu vaccine won't cause my kids to subsequently get the flu.

This is a fact, people.  Sometimes the person vaccinated will have a short bout of some mild flu-like symptoms.  Following his shots William had aching legs, a slight fever and was irritable.  All were manageable with Tylenol and all symptoms were gone within 12 hours.  Lucy had no side effects.

It's true that the vaccine does not cause you to have the flu.  However, this does not mean that you can't get the flu after having the vaccine.  Do not confuse the two statements.  The vaccine is not 100% effective and only gives you better immunities against fighting the flu.  It does mean, however, that if you are vaccinated and still contract influenza, you will probably experience more mild symptoms or you will be able to get well faster.

[Quick side story:  I breastfed William exclusively (meaning no formula supplementation) for 13 months.  But no matter how much I read about how much healthier it made him and how it protected him against all kinds of illnesses the kid still managed to get chronic ear infections.  I made my complaint to my pediatrician wondering if breastfeeding was doing any good.  She reminded me that if I wasn't breastfeeding who's to know if he wouldn't have double or triple the amount of ear infections and that he would have probably needed the surgery to insert tubes.  Bottom line, William's body was prone to ear infections but supplying him with antibodies through my breastmilk helped ease the severity to which he experienced these.]

6.  I've followed the money.

It is relatively easy to get the flu vaccine for free.  If the vaccine is combined with a preventative care appointment most insurance companies will pay for it.  In my mind, those big, bad, money-making insurance companies know what they're doing.  They've done the research.  They know the statistics.  They know that paying for an inexpensive vaccine will actually save them money in the long run.  If they can increase their chances that a patient won't get the flu then they can also increase their chances that the same patient won't have an office visit or be hospitalized.

Same with many workplaces.  Many employers are giving their employees flu shots for free.  Why?  Because they know if they protect their workers against the flu it means less sick days taken and more money in their pockets.

Whenever for-profit companies are offering something for free, you have to ask yourself what their motive is and what kind of research backs it.

7.  I'm not mad at the big, bad pharmaceutical companies for making so much money off the flu vaccine.

In fact, I feel pretty lucky.  Having big pharmaceutical companies that make a lot of money means that they can mass produce large quantities of vaccines and they can do it for cheap.  It means it's easily accessible for all.

Think of places like Africa where so many people die each day of easily-curable diseases.  Many of which have been completely eradicated from the United States thanks to vaccines.  I bet some of those developing countries wouldn't complain a bit if a Pfizer or GlaxoSmithKline opened up shop in their backyard.

8.  I trust my gut.

Let's face it, you can dig up information to back almost any vaccine stance you want to take.  But in the end you have to make a decision from your gut and from your heart.  For me, I'd rather do everything in my willpower to keep my kids healthy than watch my kids get sick and wish I had decided to do more.

In no way was this post meant to bully anyone into doing something they don't want to do or make them feel bad about their decision.  Rather, I felt the need to defend my own position.  But still, I'm curious: Did/Will you give your children the flu vaccine?  Why or why not?

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Through A Mother's Eyes

She sits on my lap in the porch.
Even though the temps are frigid the sun pours in as if it might be 80 degrees.

She sits there, playing with the remote control.

The sun glows on her skin.

Her cheeks are pink and plump.  I wonder if I might sneak a taste.  Just one.

Her hair, smooth and shiny.

She wears a ridiculously large bow to hold back her chin-length bangs.

Her lashes curl just so and are a million miles long.

Her lips are perfectly pink and pouty.
I am in awe.

I rush for my camera hoping not to waste the moment.

She senses its presence and offers a smile.
 Then, suddenly, she pretends to be shy.
There are days I can't believe this beauty was born of me, born of my mother, born of my grandmother...

Will she ever see herself as beautiful as I do?

Will I ever think of myself as beautiful as my mother did when I sat on her lap, bathed in sunshine and perfectly ripe?

Did my mother ever think of herself as beautiful as my grandmother did?

How much better we would all be if we could see ourselves through our mother's eyes.
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