Monday, January 31, 2011

Just Needed to Pop In To Tell You...

Those of you who are faithful readers of my blog will remember the incident I had with one of my grumpy old neighbors last spring.  I haven't written much else on him besides his attempt at an apology three weeks later.

There have been new stories about him that I chose not to write about here because it involved him and his next-door neighbor who we are very close to.

In summary, those neighbors were building an addition onto their house and grumpy old neighbor was concerned it would affect the value of his own home.  The city came out and assessed and determine, in fact, that it would increase the value of his home.  That point, however, did not get across to him and for four long months he has harassed every single worker who came to their home.  Multiple times he caught our neighbor, a mother of four young children, as she was going to and from her car and would verbally attack her using countless profanities.

This mother was more gracious than anyone I've ever met.  She knew his wife was struggling with Alzheimer's and was quick to point out how much stress he was under and that that surly was the reason for all of his dramatic outbursts.

This neighbor phoned me this afternoon to inform me that grumpy old neighbor had unexpectedly and quite suddenly died last Thursday.

We talked for more than an hour today about our mixed emotions.  We felt relief.  Honestly, who wouldn't?  But we felt sad too.  Sad that neither of us could ever quite figure out how to mend things with him.  He really was a stubborn old man who just didn't listen to what others had to say.

But he had a sweet side too.  One that I never knew about.  My neighbor informed me of the years before Brian and I had moved into the neighborhood.  How he brought flowers each time they had a new baby.  How he gave the children Christmas gifts and spending money for vacations.  How he would shovel their walk when, really, he was the elderly one who should have been the one being shoveled for.

I don't know what the true cause of his aggressive verbal attacks were.  I never will.  But I hope his ailing wife finds good care.  I hope his sons and daughters find serenity in their hearts.  I hope he's found peace in a better place.  And most of all I hope, I really, really hope, for a bright, shining new face to move into that house.

Friday, January 28, 2011

How We Got Happy and Not Rich

Ironically, after I posted a little bit about not having a lot of money yet being super happy, Oprah had a show all about happiness yesterday.  I know what you're thinking, Andrea, but it was a decent show and Brian actually watched it with me which provided for good discussion.  And anyway, I wasn't so much interested in what Oprah had to say but rather was her guest/expert (author of this book) had to say on the matter.

So without giving away too many specific personal financial details about our life, let me explain a little bit about where we used to be just a couple years ago.  We made good money.  Aside from our mortgage and low-interest student loans, we had no debt.  We had a large sum in our savings account.  But we hated the house we lived in.  A tiny two-bedroom townhouse.  And we hated the suburb in which it resided.  A suburb that celebrates no originality, no individuality.  A value we didn't fully realized we possessed until we lived there.  We hated Brian's commute.  We hated commuting to anywhere else in the metro, really.  Everything was just a big fat blah.

So, with the housing market in the absolute pits, we made a leap of faith and sold our house for a loss.  A loss that came directly out of that massive savings account we were so proud of.  But in return, we bought a house we are absolutely in love with in a neighborhood that is to die for.  (Seriously, I have the property tax statement to prove it!)

Just a few months later we examined other factors in our life.  Like I said, Brian made good money.  With gooooooood benefits.  But he worked in a job that never fulfilled him.  It was another big fat blah point in our life.  So we made another leap of faith and he went from that whale of a company to a tiny shrimp of a company.  A company that has horrible benefits.  A company that still has great pay, but is pay that is dependent on a healthy economy.  It's a company that doesn't keep him chained to his desk or the phone.  A company that enables him to grow.  And let's his voice be heard.

When we filed our 2010 taxes last week we were shocked.  We knew the number would be lower than previous years but we had no idea it was that low.  We reflected on the past year and tried to put two and two together.  We both agreed it was one of the happiest, most stress-free years we have had since we were married and yet, we were the poorest we had ever been.

I first must admit that we are not poor.  I know there are families out there that are truly struggling and for me to say that we are poor is disrespectful to their situation.  All our bills are paid for on time.  We still have no debt.  We eat good food and we eat as much of it as our bellies desire.  And we all receive proper health care when we need it.

But we have little in our savings account.  And when something out of our regular budget pops up (car or house repair, a bachelor party, a girls weekend etc.) we have to rearrange the numbers in a way we never had to before in order to make it work.

There were a few stressful situations this year, for sure, but at the end of the day none of it ever took a toll on our happiness.  Every night we go to bed in a house we adore.  Every morning Brian wakes up to go to a job that challenges him.  Every day we live in a neighborhood that makes us scream out in delight.

It's true that we almost never indulge in extras.  Extras that are probably not even considered extras for most families. I don't have a smart phone.  Or an iPod.  Or a shiny new iPad.  Our family car is five years old.  Brian's car is a 14-year-old rust bucket.  We won't be going on a beach vacation this year.  Our sofa is a piece of crap.  And so is our dining room table.  Books come from the library and movies from a cheap Netflix plan.

As quickly as the temptation for those impulse buys comes, it goes.  I stop.  I think.  Will the inability to have those things make me unhappy?  Probably not.  But would the inability to live in this house with this family make me less happy?  Probably.

Dan Buettner, the author I linked above, closed the Oprah show by saying that his studies showed that true happiness was a direct result from (1) where you live, (2) where you work, (3) who you married and (4) memorable experiences in lue of material possessions.

I've always hated that cliche saying.  You know that one.  But I think it needs a makeover.  Because the truth is that money did help us buy some of our happiness.  We paid off our old house.  We bought our new house.  Brian's pay check, however low we might think it is, still allows me to stay at home.  Instead I think it should read:  More money can't buy you happiness.

Try not to let those excuses creep in.  I challenge you to really think about it.  Don't tell yourself: If I can just buy X, then it will make me happy.  Those statements could go on for infinity. Instead, ask yourself:  If I can't buy X, will it make me unhappy about my future?

There was so much more I really wanted to say in this post but I already found it too wordy and long.  Please, enlighten me with your experiences of money and happiness.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Reader's Choice

I feel like I should write something here but I'm not sure what about. My last few posts have been well thought-out but it's been a week since I've uttered a word.  That happens to me a lot.  I get tons of inspiration and write good posts in my head and then I take the time to articulate all that on the keyboard  and then I get really great feedback in return and then I kind of feel like I owe you a light-hearted post even though my mind is still swirling in the really deep stuff like:

How after filing our 2010 taxes we realized we'd made the least amount of money this past year since we first got married, yet (and we both agreed on this) we're the happiest we've ever been.  That deserves a post, right?

And then, after some big changes to our public school system, Brian and I are almost 100% certain that we will send our kids to the private school down the street.  I'm sad about this.  I'm relieved about this.  I'm excited about this.  I'm nervous about this.  And probably scared too seeing as this directly conflicts with my first point.  So this, too, deserves a post, no?

And then there's the normal stuff like:

How come Lucy can quietly play with her toys for hours and hours all by herself when William struggles to do this for just a few minutes?  And then also, why, when she's in the middle of the quiet playing, must William disturb her and annoy her?  But is this a whole post or did I just write everything that needs to be said in this paragraph?

And I've also wanted to tell you about how Brian and I have seen six of the ten Oscar Nominees for Best Picture.  This never happens.  We're usually the ones who are watching last year's nominees on DVD when next year's list is already out.  We have plans to see the rest.  Except True Grit.  I'm not excited about that one.  But Brian is, so maybe I'll go to make him happy.  My absolute favorite was The King's Speech, in case you were wondering.  RUN to go see it if you get the chance.  But I don't know. Maybe Oscar nominees to too shallow of a topic for this space.  Is it?

And lastly, I've really been wanting to write about how I fell off the wagon for a little bit when it came to meal-planning and how I found my way back on and then I was going to link to awesome, easy, fast meal ideas.  But the problem is that I still haven't made two of the meals yet so I want to taste them first before I'm touting their greatness here.  So I can't write about that just yet.

What do you think?  Do you like any of these ideas?  Are there other things you want to hear about from me?  Tell it to me straight.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

He's So Fashion Forward

He woke at six bells this morning.  An hour and a half earlier than he usually does.

"Mommy, I had an accident."

I was coming out of a deep REM sleep.  Brian was already halfway into his routine at the gym.  He's crazy awesome like that.

"Take off all your clothes and put them in the laundry basket," I whispered to him in a hoarse voice.

He rarely has accidents anymore except when he's extremely tired and sleeps like a rock. This time, that was just the case. And, bless his little heart, it happened on the day I had planned to wash sheets anyway.

He comes back to my bedside, naked.

"OK, now what?"

Boys. They know exactly what to do but rarely do it unless they are told. It seems to be true no matter their age. Am I right or what?

"Go get on a new pair of underwears." He's four. He knows the word should not be said as a plural. But still, they remain and probably always will be, referred to as underwears.  (So stop screaming at me Spellcheck!)

"OK. But first I have to go push out the rest of my potty."


Feet down the hall. Toilet seat up. Potty in. Flush. Feet down the hall. Drawer open. Drawer shut.
"OK, I have new underwears on. Now what?"

"Put some clothes on."

"What should I wear?"

"Whatever you want. Jammies or sweats."

Unless it is a school day or we are going out somewhere in public I always let William pick out and dress himself. [I just laughed when I realized I used the word "let." More like "force" "make" "encourage" "bribe" or similar.] His dresser drawers are organized in such a way to set him up for success. One drawer for jammies. One drawer for undershirts, underwears, socks. One drawer for sweatpants. One drawer for shirts. All his sweatpants are grey so it is nearly impossible for him to wear a mismatched outfit.

"OK. I did it!" He said.

Being that it was still dark and not a peep was coming from Lucy's room yet, I followed him downstairs and let him watch The Disney Channel (PBS Kids doesn't start until 7:00?!) so I could get in some more shut eye.

It wasn't until light started pouring in and Lucy started singing for me from her crib that I got a full glance at William and the outfit he chose for the day.

Brilliant.  Pajama bottoms with a random long-sleeve shirt.  It's mostly funny to me because he actually had to push aside the matching pajama top in order to get out the pants and go into a whole new drawer to dig out the shirt he chose instead.

Yes, he's still wearing it and no, I don't care.  It's part of the beauty of a Minnesota cold snap and not seeing another soul outside my family all day long.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Meme By Brian

I've been tagged in a meme by oh-so-lovely and GLOWING (she's pregnant and finally spilling the beans about it) Amy @  Thanks, Am!

I always consider memes cheater posts because there's not a ton of thought or writing skill I have to put into it.  But I've found that I actually enjoy reading other people's memes and I even kind of like to do them myself.  Once in a while, mind you, not all the time.

Tonight I skipped my 8 o'clock yoga class because William is Special Person of the Week at preschool and the whole posterboard project totally slipped my mind.  Brian and I just finished cutting and pasting and taping and arranging at the kitchen table and all the while I'm thinking that I can totally see my future.  William forgetting about a project he has due the next day and me and Brian scrambling to "help" him finish it.  It's just one of many.

So now it's 8:03.  Missed my class by just a few minutes, darnit, but the kids are in bed and I have a few minutes before I totally wrap myself up in The Bachelor.  And since tomorrow will be a fun day with Brian taking a day off to attend breakfast at William's school and coming to our Early Childhood class, I doubt I'll take any 'puter time so I'm going to auto-post this.  I'm writing it Monday night but you won't see it until Tuesday.

Here's the rules:

1. Thank & Link back to the person who awarded you this. [See above.]
2. Share 7 things about yourself. [I'm changing this up.  I'm having Brian share seven things about me.]

3. Pay it forward to 5 recently discovered great bloggers.  [I'm not going to do that because I'm too lazy.  However if you want to play, let me know so I can come see what you wrote.  And consider having your significant other write it for you for a fun change.]

7 Things About Jenny written by her smokin' hot husband, Brian:

1.  I believe Jenny is a creative person.  I know she wouldn't agree.  She insists I am the creative one of the family.  But when she has to think outside the box, Jenny has some really good ideas.  She is quick-witted and smart.  That's why I keep telling her to write that blockbuster of a novel so we can go to Jamaica.

2.  When she reads, she reads aloud in her head.  I'll give you an example.  Let's say there is a character in a book by the name of Jimmy McMasterson.  I come to that name and quickly think J. Mic or Mic Master and quickly continue on.  Jenny will read and re-read that name and enunciate every syllable in her head as if she were reading out loud.  Needless to say, I read a tad faster than Jenny.

3.  Jenny did a roller blading marathon (a real marathon consisting of 26.2 miles)...with about 1-2 training sessions.  Usually people take a three to four months to work up to that marathon distance.  Not Jenny.  She tells me the race hurt.  Imagine that.

4.  She has an aversion to thermostats, air conditioners, floor heaters, and fans.  Anything to do with temperature.  Cold - put on a sweatshirt.  Hot - take it off. Makes for interesting summers (I hate being hot, let alone smokin').

5.  Jenny has the finest [Word edited it out. Brian obviously ran out of ideas so his mind wandered to where most men's go.  Use your imagination.] in the tri-state area.  She does yoga.  What more do I have to say.

6.  She enjoys her family more than anyone I've ever met.  Not that I don't, but when I have an afternoon to myself I can fill it with games, guitar, piano, movies...hog heaven.  I find a way to give Jenny free time or offer to take the kids away?  She doesn't have it.  She would much rather we spend that time together.

7.  Jenny, much like Bill and Ted, is excellent.  What do I mean by that?  When she engages in an activity or takes on a role she strives to do it to the best of her ability.  Whether that's being a mom, a wife, a project manager, a role model, she really gives all that she is.  Not out of competitiveness or compulsiveness, but just to be excellent at it.

Monday, January 17, 2011

These Old Pictures

While visiting my Grandma for Christmas she gave me a disk of old pictures. A friend of hers took all the slides and photographs my Grandpa had taken all those years when he was a young father and converted them to a digital format. For some reason or another I forgot about the disk until this Sunday at which point I devoured them and took in every last detail.

I don't write much about my dad here. I did it once a couple years back and I think I said everything I wanted to say there. But my lack of mention isn't for lack of remembering. It's so the opposite. He lives and breathes within me so deeply that to write about him so much would be akin to writing about the water I drink. It doesn't occur to me to mention it because it's just my life. Plain and simple.

But looking at these pictures I felt so many emotions.  I felt haunted.  I felt haunted by this boy who lived. He lived to be a man.  A husband.  A father.  But it all ended so quickly.

I look at these pictures and I feel like a fortuneteller.  Knowing how it's all going to play out.  Knowing how it's all going to end.
He's just a baby here. I want to squeeze his fat cheeks.  And hear his giggle.  And cuddle him close.

I want to whisper in his ear.  I want to tell him his life will end painfully short.  But before that he will live an extraordinary life.  He will create life.  He will create life that will create more life.  All because of him.

The logic complicates me.  He never met my Lucy or my William.  They only know him as "Grandpa Joe who lives in heaven."  But he is a part of them.  If it weren't for him, they wouldn't be here.  But he was gone before they got here.  So, desperately, I try to find traces of him in them to reassure myself that he really did exist.  He's not just a figment of my imagination.

I see the picture above and am astounded.  Is it William's eyes?  I always thought he got them from Brian.  But now I'm not so sure.  Brian's eyes are a different color blue.  William's eyes are the kind of blue you want to jump in and swim.
I can look at these pictures of him at age 8 (perhaps?) and recognize him instantly.  Those freckles.  The ears.  The short hair.  The thin lips and the closed-mouth smile.  The crossed arms.  I see it all.

In my head I see him as a giant superhero of a dad.  And old.  He seemed so old to me.  Age 38.  He's permanently frozen in my mind's eye at age 38.  So I wonder, what will happen when I enter my 30s in a couple of months?  A daughter can't be eight years younger than her father.

And what happens when I turn 40? 50? 60?  How will I remember him then?  Will he seem younger?  Will I seem older?  What happens when my own children enter their 30s?  Do the dead still age?  They can't.  But they must.
Here he is with his brother and mother, who, by the way is looking extremely fashionable, don't you think?  Who has the time to look that good with six kids?  How did she pull it together?

I want to time warp into that picture and tell her, "Don't waste it!  Don't waste this moment!  Parents aren't supposed to bury their children but sometimes it happens and you just never know.  You just never know."

Sometimes I look at pictures of him and I feel sad for myself.  Or angry for the way things are.  Or scared for the possibility of what else life might throw at me.

But mostly I feel happy.  Happy to show his face to his son-in-law and to his grandchildren.  Happy to give them proof that's he's not just some person I mention here and there.  Happy to be able to give them old pictures to go along with his story.  His story which is completely intertwined with their own story.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

In Which I Declare I'm Not a Very Good Mom

Lately I've been thinking about marriage and being a wife and being a mother and being a homemaker/housewife and all that good stuff. I've read a few blogs that have mentioned the matter lately and then Brian and I had a [really long, really good] conversation about the status of "us."

When I read this confession from Stephanie at Adventures in Babywearing about being a good mom but a bad wife I knew I wanted to write about me. It was so brave of her to make that confession. To admit she wasn't good at it all. Is anyone really? So here's my declaration:

I'm a kickass homemaker, a pretty good wife, and not a very good mom.

Before you're all, "Jenny, you're a great mom...blah blah blah," let me explain. I don't think my children are deprived or will be damaged or, by any means, are neglected. Their needs are met and exceeded and they are loved immensely. But when it comes to everyday ins and outs, I'd much rather them keep to themselves and entertain each other rather than me planning activities and engaging with them in play.* It makes me sad to see myself write that. To admit that out loud for everyone to see.

What I would much rather be doing during the day is dusting, changing sheets, Windexing windows, vacuuming, looking up new recipes on the Internet, folding laundry, writing, drinking my coffee while it's still hot, chopping vegetables for dinner, attending church by myself, reading ALL the blogs on my reader, baking a batch of homemade cookies, putting throws and pillows back in order, wiping down counter tops and getting rid of clutter.

What I would much rather be doing during the evening is having in-depth conversations with Brian about our marriage, our finances, our future, politics, his career, my writing dreams, the economy. I'd also rather be getting gussied up for a date night to a local wine bar or grabbing the latest movie at the theater. I'd also rather be reading my book, snuggled against my personal heater also known as Brian. I'd also rather be watching our favorite television shows while pausing every ten minutes to bring up a point of discussion.

On a recent Date Night.
These are the things I'm good at. The things that come very easily to me. These are the strengths God has given me. But this isn't all He's called me to do or to be.

None of us is ever full-filled in a lopsided way of life. And the weaknesses I listed above, my true inclinations, are only sins if that's really the way I live my life. Which it isn't.

Spontaneity and child's play don't come natural to me. I have to work to overcome it. I have to really think about it with intention. And when I do I fill up plastic swimming pools in the backyard. I make a U-turn to visit a sculpture garden. I turn ottomans and blankets into forts. I decide lunch at Ikea might do us some good.

A recent self-timer photo shoot.
In college I worked as a nanny.  I was the kind of nanny who brought the kids to the pool every day but never got in the pool with them.  They were always dressed, cleaned, fed nutritious foods, their rooms were organized, the dishwasher was unloaded and their homework was always complete.

On one of my last days with that family we went to the pool per normal.  It was the end of summer and the pool was quite empty.  The children didn't have as many playmates as usual so they were pleading with me extra hard to join them in the water.  At last I relented.  They screamed and cheered.  I got in the pool with them and here's what happened next:  I had fun.

I fully realize these choices, these decisions, to jump in with both feet don't come easily for me.  But I also know I don't want to be the mom that sits on the edge of the pool deck while life carries on without me.

How do I continue to be good at my God-given strengths while still being cognizant of the areas I'm lacking?

I don't have it all figured it out.  But I think a confession is a good start.

*Some of you may point out the paradox of my weaknesses directly conflicting with my desire to have a large family.  My only explanation is that I'm a true caretaker.  But not a very good playmate.

I'd love to hear your parenting and spousal strengths and weaknesses and what you do to live a more balanced life.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Pay It Forward Friday

I don't know if good customer service constitutes as an act of kindness but I'm going to write about it anyway.

For as long as we've been married Brian and I have had a subscription to Netflix.  We've found that Netflix offers a great service for very little money.  Over the years our subscription plan has changed as our family changed.

In those early months of having had our first child we plowed through three DVDs per weekend without any trouble.

But as we added to our family we found more and more that DVDs were collecting dust and so we reduced our plan to just one DVD at a time with a limit of two DVDs per month.  We pay just $5 for this.  That's a total steal when you consider you'd be hard pressed to go to a theater for anything less than double that.

Recently Brian and I both finished reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  It's a great thriller of read but, fair warning, is not for those who can't handle some explicit scenes. Rarely do Brian and I agree on the enjoyment of book so much as we did with this one.  So naturally we were excited to add the Swedish version of this movie to our queue.

One night, over Christmas break, the kids were nestled in their beds so we opened a bottle of red and settled in to watch our movie only to find that the DVD was completely cracked.  Lucky for us, though, this movie is in Netflix's library of Watch Instantly.  So we plugged in the laptop.  Brian noticed that the movie was more than two hours long and being that we are limited to two hours of Watch Instantly movies per month, he called Netflix's customer service number to be sure the movie wouldn't stop play before it reached the end.

The customer service rep was extremely friendly and even funny!  When Brian asked his question she responded, "Well, now, that would be pretty rude of us to shut off a movie before the end!"

And in response to the cracked DVD she even sent us a bonus DVD in addition to our normal subscription plan WITHOUT US HAVING TO ASK FOR ANYTHING.  That's really the key to great customer service, don't you think?

So, hat's off to Netflix for being a great, affordable company with superb customer service.  You've got a loyal customer in us for a long, long time.

Your turn!  What's your favorite act of kindness in the past few weeks?
**Netflix has given me nothing to write this post and I doubt they even know I'm writing about them.  I just really like to acknowledge good customer service when I see it.**

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Oh The Wonderfulness of Toddlerhood

I just finished balancing our checkbook. Our post-Christmas checkbook. So fair warning if more pessimism seeps in than I normally allow. We never go too crazy for the holidays. We've never been the kind of people that continue to pay off Christmas well into the summer months. But I'm still surprised when I add up all the grocery trips and last-minute liquor store purchases and the I-just-need-to-buy-one-more-gift-card-for-that-person-I-forgot-about. The little adds up to a lot, you know? I'll feel better in February when our bills return to normal.

So what was I going to write about again?

Oh yeah. Lucy.

She's totally going to be that child for me. The kind that are a whole heap of pain in the necks right now but the kind that, they say, turn out to have the best personalities for success later in life.

And Lucy's even trickier because she woos you in with her unbelievable cuteness. Man she's good at that.

Look at the face.  What a sucker I am!

I'm truly in awe of this little girl that God has sent me.  She's stunningly beautiful.  She's ridiculously smart.  And she's such a charmer.

She's also independent.  And determined.  And stubborn.

Those are good qualities to instill in children.  As adults those qualities will bode them well.

But at one-and-a-half those qualities can butt me in the head.  And being that I can also be a little determined and quite stubborn, I will, sometimes, butt her right back.  But she doesn't give in.  So back and forth we go with this little tug-of-war power struggle. Neither of us willing to relent our own way.  And then I pause and get a glimpse of my future with this little lady.  Age, 8, 12, 15, 17... Ey yey yey!  Where's my cocktail?

Today I sensed a little cabin fever among us all and seeing as the sun was shining brilliantly I strapped on Lucy's snow boots and all her winter gear and let her walk the whole way to pick up William from school instead of throwing her in the stroller as I normally do.

She trotted all the way there and chased her brother all the way back home.  We only had a few spats when she decided she wasn't happy about having to hold my hand as we crossed each intersection.  When we arrived at home William opened the gate to the backyard and Lucy figured out what was going to happen next.

"No! No! No!" She yelled as she emphatically shook her head.

"Yes," I said, "It's time for lunch."

I picked her up to bring her in the yard and she assumed the classic tantrum position.  Legs go weak, back arches, arms outstretched.  It's super fun to try to hold a kid in that position.

So I attempt to go inside but she's still thrashing about and demanding to stay outside.  I finally came to my senses and wondered what I was fighting for.

"Fine," I said, "Stay outside in the cold.  William and I are going in for lunch."

Before you get on the phone to Child Protective Services you should know that our backyard is completely fenced in and I could see everything that she was doing from my perch at the kitchen window.

First she walked straight into the deepest part of the snow in the backyard.  Of course her little legs were no match so she fell face first into the snow.  I saw my opening.  I ran to the backdoor.

"Lucy, did you fall?  You want mama to help wipe off your face?"

"No," was all she replied.

I saw her spit out some snow and continue on.

When I had the lunch sandwiches ready I became a little worried that she really wasn't going to give in.  She wasn't going to get tired of the cold or the wet that surely had to be getting to her by now.

So I sunk low.  Low, low, low. Bribery.

"Lucy, William and I are going to have a cookie after lunch.  Do you want a cookie?"

"Cookie?  Yeah, cookie."

And she came toddling over to the door.  I scooped her up quick but when she realized she wasn't going to immediately get a cookie and that she would not have the option to eat said cookie outside, she threw another little tantrum.  This time, at least, we were indoors.  I shut the door, locked it and let her have her fit right there in the entry way.

A few minutes later she wandered in the dining room as if nothing had happened.  She easily agreed to get into her chair and eat lunch.  And things were great once again.  Until she decided she wanted to do the yogurt all by herself.  And around and around we go...

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Back To Your Regular Scheduled Program

I took an unannounced and unplanned break from the 'puter the last couple of weeks. Brian's company allows to him to carry over only 40 hours of vacation time which meant he needed to use some of it before the new year. It made sense that I would do the same.

Unlike some of my last blogging breaks, this wasn't due to lack of ideas or lack of time. It was just a mindful way to immerse myself in my family and in the wonderfulness of Christmas without getting sucked into the time trap that can be the Internets.

On Monday morning Brian texted me from work:

"It feels weird not to be with you today."

It was his first full day back since December 22. And I had to admit, it did feel weird to be without the head of our household.

Just thinking of our Christmas Vacation warms my heart like a cup of hot chocolate on a cold winter day. It was the kind of break where I came away feeling like I have a stronger marriage. Feeling like I'm a better mom. A better in-law. A better, everything.

And somehow, to try to write it all out, to try to replay the events of the last couple of weeks, to try to get across to you, my readers, what it really felt like to be with my family in complete mind, body and soul would, I think, diminish the value of those days. So I'm not going to write about the dancing and the eating and the talking and the love and the beauty and the hilarity and the spontaneity of it all. I'm just going to leave it back there in the corner of my heart that I reserve for the happiest of happy memories.

But I will share a few photos that make me smile from ear to ear.
Self-timer, family portrait.

Best Christmas present reaction ever, right?

Christmas morning.

In the high  feather bed, Papa reads a bedtime story to a few of his grandchildren.

She had a million other things to do.  But at that moment Nana took Lucy aside for a spa date.

There will never be a day this photo won't make me laugh.  It was a huge poker tournament with all the Nashes.  To capture it I set my camera to take 10 photos in 3 second increments.  Brian and his brother pretended not to notice but they changed poses for each shot and what I got in the end is a series of pictures that could be put into a flip book.  This photo was in the middle of the series.

Brian and his beautiful older sister (by two years).  They tell me of all six siblings these two have never had so much as a disagreement with each other.  I believe it.

On a spontaneous trip to a neighborhood diner for lunch, William picks out his muffin of choice.

Still at the diner, Brian and I linger to finish a second cup of coffee.  Our lovely waitress gave us two bags of animal crackers, post meal, to entertain the kids.  Here, I'm animating a monkey for Lucy.

And to finish, not one...

...but TWO smiling kiddos.  Who doesn't love an ending like that?
Now tell me, what part of your Christmas Vacation brings a smile to your face?
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