Thursday, November 29, 2012

From MaMe's House to Yours...

#26 Today I am thankful for: real mail (and comfortable shoes, gentle reminders, and uncluttered spaces).

Most days, I generally prefer not to check the mail. Between bills and junk mail, there's not too much in the mailbox to get excited about.

Occasionally, however, I get real mail, mail written just for me--

Like the birthday card that my grandma sent me this week.

Without fail, every year, she sends a sweet card, with all the words underlined, and with a personal message telling me how much she loves me.

I love her.

And, I love cards.

That's why, no matter how busy I am during the holiday season, I still try to get my Christmas cards in the mail.

This year, I saved some time (and some money) by using Shutterfly to make our family's card. They have some great deals right now, including discounts on cards and shipping.

The hardest part?

Choosing a design from the hundreds of options in their gallery!

Here's MaMe's 2012 Christmas card creation!

Photo Card
View the entire collection of cards.

In return for sharing this card on my blog, I will receive a coupon for future Shutterfly purchase. I was already a happy customer; finding out I could get an additional discount by sharing a great product was like a bow on an already perfect gift!

Friends and Spies

#24 Today I am thankful for: the relationship I have with my parents (and Sour Patch Kids, sushi, and heat).

If you know me, then you know it pretty much goes without saying that I am extremely close to my parents. Marty often jokes that it is time for me to cut the metaphorically "cord."

We live within 20 minutes of them, and while I don't see or even talk to them every day, I love them dearly--not just as my parents, but, now as an adult, as friends.

Tonight, all went on a "double date" to see the new Bond movie, Skyfall, and next week, when it's time to celebrate my birthday, they'll join us for dinner and a show.

As I look forward to the future, I pray that one day Emily and Drew will have a similar relationship with us. We'll always be their parents first, but it sure would be nice if they also consider us cool enough to hang out with as friends.

#25 Today I am thankful for: new traditions(Christmas music, crock pots, and trash cans).

Last year I finally bought into the whole Elf on a Shelf phenomenon despite the fact that my kids were way too young to be coerced by the threat of a creepy, nosy elf who spies and snitches to Santa on their comings and goings.

This year, after a particularly rough day alone with toddlers, I was willing to give it a go.

As we read the book that goes along with the set, Emily and Drew appeared fascinated by the little plastic doll.

When we got to the page that tells them not to touch the elf, well--I re-read that page about 4 times (as Drew reached out repeatedly to squeeze the elf's neck).

At one point, I stopped and asked Emily and Drew what they wanted Santa to bring them.

Drew quickly piped up, "Choo Choo train!"

"Emily, what would you like Santa to bring you?"

In the most serious voice ever, Emily whispers, "Candy."

Flash forward a couple of pages when we are asked to name our elf...

"What would you like to name our elf?"


Meet our new elf, Candy.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Monday After

#23 Today I am thankful for: having all that I need (and the ability to buy the extra creature comforts, the safe passage through the Belk shoe section, and the freedom of choice).

No. The irony of Black Friday was not lost on me. This cartoon pretty much sums up the dark side of Black Friday:

I confess: I was thankful on Thursday.

I confess: I had all I needed on Thursday.

I confess: I was thankful on Friday.

I confess: I had all I needed on Friday.

I confess: By the end of the day on Friday, I had some more things I wanted.


I confess: I participated in Black Friday.

I confess: That includes going to Wal-Mart before midnight on Thursday.

I confess: I think it's ridiculous that retailers keep pushing back the start of Black Friday sales, but obviously I am not so offended that I don't participate.

Before you think I am heartless,

I confess:I know firsthand what it's like to work in retail. While I don't work there now, my mom does. She's been a Wal-Mart employee for the past 23 years. And, while she wasn't thrilled about going to work on Thursday afternoon, she did, and if she hadn't been at work, she probably would have been right there shopping with us.

While we are on Wal-Mart, let me admit a couple of other things.

I confess: This picture that was circulating on Facebook pisses me off. To compare working at Wal-Mart to defending our nation is ridiculous. Just take a look at the job descriptions--not even close. Second, Wal-Mart employees and soldiers aren't the only people who work holidays, but then again, most people who work holidays do so because the need for their job is too important to go a day without them (ie. nurses, firefighters, policemen). But, this picture took a jab at people who are just trying to make a living.

I confess:At this point in the post, I am tempted to veer into treacherous waters and go political for a moment about the vilification of Wal-Mart. I won't. (Try hard, Melissa. Think, Melissa--cute babies. Cute babies. Cute babies). Instead, I will just say that while I didn't buy much at my evil, local Wal-Mart, I did buy a couple of items that my local businesses don't sell before moving on to other chain stores that are just as "evil" to me as Wal-Mart. I then took the money I saved and reinvested in my local community--right after I gave my mom and dad a hug--parents who have received pretty decent medical care the last 20 years thanks to Wal-Mart health insurance.

I confess:I waited in a line outside of a store in the mall for the promise of $20 boots.

I confess:As the gates rolled up on the store, there were actually people who climbed under. No judgement here, but as for me, I am too old for that level of aggression. Also, I can't think of anything I need or want that will make me humiliate myself in that way.
Image Credit

I confess: Upon entering the said shoe department, I was able to swiftly swipe, without incident, a pair of Size 7 cowboy boots.

I confess: I have never worn cowboy boots (except for that one time in college when we went to a honky-tonk joint), but hey, for $20, can't hurt to have a pair in the closet, right?

I confess:It might not hurt to have them in the closet, but there were some tense minutes when I thought I might get hurt getting out of the said shoe department. Seriously, people were so rabid, the scene so chaotic, the consumerism so palpable, that I almost dropped my boots and walked out in protest.


I confess:I didn't. Seemed like a waste of the energy and effort I had already expended to get the boots.

I confess: My decision to not drop the boots was not made on moral grounds because I think blaming Black Friday for the evils of materialism is a gross oversimplification of the problem. It's not about when I buy the boots, whether I buy the boots, or what size store I choose to buy the boots. It's about what I do when I am wearing those boots the other 364 days in the year.

I confess:I shopped on Friday--not out of need--but because I like to shop. I enjoy it. It's a tradition. And, I am good at it.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Good Grannies!

#22 Today I am thankful for: grandmas (and good weather, good babies, and good turkey, deviled eggs, stuffing, potato salad, cabbage, butter beans, creamed corn, ham, banana pudding, coconut pie, chili dip, and... oh--a NAP!).

This Thanksgiving we were blessed to spend the day at my grandma's house with most of my family and Marty's family. It was awesome to have three of the "grannies" in the same house (and not just because all three of them are great cooks)!

Emily snuggling with "Great-Granny"

"Granny" and "Gi-Gi" busy cooking while Marty is busy sneaking a piece of ham

As I have shared before, Great-Granny's house isn't the most kid-friendly place. One, it's always spotless--until we arrive. And, 95% of the contents should be in bubble wrap since they are so fragile.

Leave it to two two-year-olds to improvise by clearing a shelf and making a boat! (Disclaimer: no glass was broken in the making of this photograph).

Thankfully, the weather, while on the chilly side, was still nice enough to let the Babies get out and run without fear of breaking a what-not (or ten).

Oh, and the food. We can't forget about the food!
Another advantage of being two and a half? You eat first! Here Granny and Great-Granny help us say the blessing.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Carefully, Completely, and Sincerely

#21 Today I am thankful for: food (and fire truck strollers at the mall, trains, and lots of paper towels to clean up spills).

More specifically, THANK YOU, to the cooks at Whole Foods who carefully prepared the two dishes I'll be taking to Grandma's house tomorrow for Thanksgiving dinner.
Image Credit

THANK YOU to the grapes who completely sacrificed themselves to make the wine I will also be taking to Grandma's house tomorrow.
Image Credit

From MaMe's house to yours, we sincerely say...


Tuesday Morning Jams

#20 Today I am thankful for: music (and follow through, meetings that end early, healthy chocolate, and puzzles).

So, I made it to my 6:00 am yoga class, and it was AWESOME!

I wasn't sure I would feel awake enough, let alone flexible enough, for such an early class.

I wasn't sure I would have enough skills to complete an open, assisted class (as opposed to an instructional class).

Groggily, I rolled out of bed at 5:30, made a protein shake, and slinked reluctantly into the car.

After a pretty intense 45 minute "rise and shine" session, I felt like I had consumed three cups of coffee--but I hadn't.

Jacked up and more sweaty than I expected to be from "stretching," I jumped in the car, turned on the radio, and jammed out to...

Willie's Roadhouse on XM.

Who knew Willie Nelson had his own XM station?? (Thanks, Kelly, for borrowing my car and leaving the radio on a new station!)

Nothing like a little old time country to get you going in the morning!

Waylon, Willie, and the boys...

Loretta Lynn...

Conway Twitty...

Dolly Parton...

Charlie Pride!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Experience and Small Steps

#18 Today I am thankful for: my life experiences (and for messages delivered at just the right time, Everett's carpentry skills, and short work weeks).

I am also thankful for the opportunity to share some of my experiences as a twin mom over at Cherry Pie Twins. Click on over for some great tips from twin moms, including yours truly!

#19 Today I am thankful for: small steps (and for blackberries, extra help, and Google).

Two days into my journey to wellness, I am happy to report some small positive steps:

  • I've gone walking two days in a row.
  • I scheduled my nutritional consult and was excited to learn that my insurance will actually pay for 4 sessions.
  • I am registered for a 6:00 am yoga class tomorrow morning. Yikes!
  • I've logged the past two days into My Fitness Pal, and both days, I stayed under my calorie limit for the day.
  • I have eaten three meals a day plus snacks--a small, yet huge change for me.

  • Sunday, November 18, 2012

    Almost isn't good enough

    #17 Today I am thankful for: a new day (and for coincidences, birthday parties, and girls' nights in).

    I struggled to identify what exactly I am most thankful for today.

    I could have said:

  • I am thankful for access to quality healthcare that allows me to have 3 different physicals in one week.
  • I am thankful for my tendency to be a bit of a hypochondriac, which means I rarely miss routine appointments.
  • I am thankful for an "almost- clean" bill of health.

    In truth, I am thankful for all of those things, but I am most thankful today for the blessing of a new day, a new day that gives me the opportunity to change some of my lifestyle choices that are impacting my health.

    The good news from all of my test results this week is that I am generally well with no (immediately) life-threatening conditions identified.

    The bad new from all my test results this week is that if I continue on this same trajectory, there could be some scary stuff in my future: diabetes, heart disease, cancers...
    Image Credit

    I left the doctor's office with a choice.

    Since I am not in the "let's medicate right now" category, I could choose to just to keep kicking the can down the same road until next year. I could blame bad genes. I could rationalize that the results weren't that bad. I could keep nibbling around the edges of good health, only making the changes that were most comfortable.


    I could decide to make real changes now.

    Some of you may remember that I used to be a smoker. I often tell people who are trying to quit that the only way you can really quit is to identify something you want more than a cigarette.

    For me, it was easy once I set my mind of the goal--getting pregnant and having children.

    As I pulled out of the doctor's office Friday, I realized the same mind trick was needed here.

    What do I want more than eating carbs/sweets and sitting on my butt?

    I want to see my children grow up.
    Image Credit

    My doctor suggested a website and app called My Fitness Pal. I've joined and entered my information. I've logged my meals for this weekend. So far, so good.

    This afternoon, I am going to put on those running shoes that have barely been used for running, and get out and walk.

    Tomorrow, I am calling my insurance company to find out how many nutritional consults visits I am allowed along with any other preventative services they offer.

    Next month, I hope to be five pounds lighter.

    Six months from now, I plan to have normal cholesterol and blood sugar.

    One year from now, I will be back at my ideal weight.


    Twenty years from now?

    I hope to be in just as good of shape as my 22 year olds!

    If you're interested in joining me, the My Fitness Pal app allows you to join up with friends. Come on over! I could use some accountability pals as I go through Starbucks' blueberry muffin detox...

  • Friday, November 16, 2012

    Mommy Mouse

    #16 Today I am thankful for: the funny things my kids say (and for hazelnut creamer, completed reports, and clean houses).

    What's the difference between this:

    and this:
    Image Credit

    For a two year old, apparently not much.

    Yesterday I wore something similar to the last picture--sweater dress, black tights, and my knee boots. (After 3 hours in the car, I can assure you I wasn't quite posing like this model, though).

    Drew walked up to me, pointed to my leggings, and said in his sweet, innocent way, "You wearing you costume, Mommy?"

    Well, that's one way to look at my outfit choice. Just call me Mommy Mouse!

    Thursday, November 15, 2012

    Laugh with me...or at me.

    #15 Today I am thankful for: laughter (and for unexpected compliments and the smell of cinnamon).

    "If we couldn't laugh, we would all go insane..."

    Turn your back for two minutes when Drew is near mommy's makeup and this is what happens...

    Wednesday, November 14, 2012

    Connected Mama

    #14 Today I am thankful for: technology (and for unexpected surprises like a huge shopping mall right beside my hotel).

    As promised, I pushed through the day, determined to find something to be grateful for while I shivered my way through this out-of-town work trip.

    After putting on my gratitude glasses, I started to see that this hotel gig wasn't all bad.

    For one, these "dream" beds rock! I couldn't decide if it was the inner coils, the memory foam, or the fact that I didn't wake up with four toddler feet in my side. Regardless, I am plotting how to stuff this thing in the trunk of my Honda.

    This place knows how to earn a customer for life--Caffe Verona filter packs for the personal-sized coffee pot!

    Not that I wasn't grateful, but if I could make just one suggestion, Mr. Hotel Purchasing Man--buy bigger coffee pots and leave more filter packs. That small mug is for wimps. Who needs only two servings??

    After a long day on site, all I wanted to do

    Well, that wasn't my first choice, but my GPS experienced user-error, and the next thing I knew, I was smack-dab in the middle of a mall parking lot!

    Nothing like a little Kohl's perusing (and maybe a little purchasing) before heading off to a dinner all by myself. I tried to look inconspicuous--you know-- like I get to go out to eat all by myself all the time.

    This became an even bigger challenge once my cell phone died because then I couldn't occupy myself with Facebook, Words with Friends, or Scramble.

    In other words, I had to act like people did back in the dark ages before cell phones.


    I ordered a glass of wine, propped my fist under my chin, and tried to look pensive instead of forlorn.

    After experiencing this slight interruption in connectivity, I scurried back to my hotel room to recharge and reconnect.

    Ah, social media. How I missed you. (Did I mention that one of the rules of being on this site visit team is NO technology?? Seriously, I deserve a raise).
    Image Credit

    So many e-cards, cartoons, and pithy quotes to "like."

    So many status updates and uploaded photos to review.

    So many emails and blog posts unread.

    It was shaping up to look like any other night in front of the ole' computer.

    However, tonight, I decided to finally use the FaceTime feature on my i-phone to call home and talk to Marty and the babies.

    I just have one question for Apple, though, about FaceTime...if y'all are so smart, why can't you create something that doesn't make me look like I am appearing in a line-up??

    Fortunately, my kiddos didn't care. They talked to me about their day, showed me the outfits they picked out all by themselves, and even blew me kisses. (Well, Drwe actually kissed the phone, so I will give Apple credit for at least making a slobber-proof phone if nothing else).

    So, today, I say thank you technology. You might suck away my time and my brain cells, but you also keep me connected to those I love. Fair trade, I'd say.

    Tuesday, November 13, 2012

    Calgon, Take Me...home.

    #13 Today I am thankful for: my home (and for hugs around the knees, a plate of ice cream to share, a car that brought me safely to my destination, and for a decent hotel room to rest my head).

    Home is where the heart is.

    Home is where you hang your hat.

    There's no place like home.

    All the cliches are true, and their truth is never more evident than when you are away from your home, your "hats," and your heart.

    It's almost midnight, and normally I'd be snoozing away in the comfort of my own bed in my own house.

    But tonight I am 200 miles away, for work, in a hotel room by myself. I've been here about an hour and I am already homesick.

    I know these overnight trips are few and far between, and often when I tell people I have to travel overnight, they are quick to say how much I must look forward to that time away.

    Don't get me wrong. I love to travel. I love a good vacation.

    These trips do not count as either. As lovely as I think my state is, I would much prefer my home to a hotel in the middle of strange city.

    Typically, my trips don't involve travel to what you would consider tourist hotspots. And, honestly, after a long day during a site visit, the last thing I want to do is go out on the town--by myself.

    In the spirit of gratitude, I am going to try really hard tomorrow to be grateful for this experience, this town and its cultural offerings.

    Until then, please excuse me why I wallow in my homesickness.

    You might wander how Marty is getting with Em and Drew while I am gone. Oh, he'll be just fine...

    Isn't there an e-card for everything?? I saw this one today and I had to laugh. My house might be a mess, but it's MY mess!

    Some of you may remember that we had our house on the market for a year or so with no luck. As much as we love our house, we were looking for a new home--somewhere closer to the things we consider more important now that we have kids: schools, parks, church, daycare, neighborhoods with kids the same age as ours. The market just wasn't working with us, so we decided to take it off the market in June and just wait until things turned around.

    This week we received a call from the realtor asking if we'd be willing to take a showing. Even though it meant finally getting the crayon drawings off the wall, we said yes, and on Friday, we hope the clients will love our house and want to make it their home.

    Monday, November 12, 2012

    To, too, and two

    #12 Today I am thankful for: to, too, and two (and for sleeping late, chocolate chip cookies, and clearance racks).

    Me to Marty: I think I might take Emily and Drew to the P-A-R-K today.
    Drew: I want to go to the P-A-R-K.

    I thought I would have a few more years of spelling out words before getting called out.

    I am not sure he knew what the P-A-R-K was, but he knew he wanted to go!

    Drew, my second-born, is my "too" baby. It always gives us quite a laugh to hear him tack on a slightly higher-pitched "too" to the end of his sentences. Maybe he's agreeable. Maybe he doesn't want to get left out of the action. Regardless, it makes me smile!

    "I want a cookie, too."

    "I go down the slide, too."

    "I took a nap, too."

    "I want to get down, too."

    "I want a leaf, too."

    While waiting at the doctor's office today for my yearly physical, imagine my surprise when I looked up and saw this sign on the wall? Recognize these two adorable babies?

    Sunday, November 11, 2012

    For those who fight for them all...

    #11 Today I am thankful for: all who have served our country- past and present (and for stickers and snuggles).

    "The Things That Make a Soldier Great"
    Edgar Guest

    The things that make a soldier great and send him out to die,
    To face the flaming cannon's mouth nor ever question why,
    Are lilacs by a little porch, the row of tulips red,
    The peonies and pansies, too, the old petunia bed,
    The grass plot where his children play, the roses on the wall:
    'Tis these that make a soldier great.
    He's fighting for them all.

    'Tis not the pomp and pride of kings that make a soldier brave;
    'Tis not allegiance to the flag that over him may wave;
    For soldiers never fight so well on land or on the foam
    As when behind the cause they see the little place called home.
    Endanger but that humble street whereon his children run,
    You make a soldier of the man who never bore a gun.
    What is it through the battle smoke the valiant soldier sees?

    The little garden far away, the budding apple trees,
    The little patch of ground back there, the children at their play,
    Perhaps a tiny mound behind the simple church of gray.
    The golden thread of courage isn't linked to castle dome
    But to the spot, where'er it be — the humblest spot called home.
    And now the lilacs bud again and all is lovely there
    And homesick soldiers far away know spring is in the air;
    The tulips come to bloom again, the grass once more is green,
    And every man can see the spot where all his joys have been.

    He sees his children smile at him, he hears the bugle call,
    And only death can stop him now -- he's fighting for them all.

    Saturday, November 10, 2012

    It's Not Christmas Yet!

    #10 Today I am thankful for: holidays (and for the center of a cinnamon roll and a bench to rest after a long day of walking).

    I am not one to rush along the holidays.

    I still have pumpkins all over the house.

    I refuse to buy anything peppermint flavored.

    I only have a list of possible Christmas gift ideas and no aspiration to have my shopping completed by Thanksgiving.

    I groan when I hear Christmas music already playing, not because I am a Scrooge, but because I believe we should get through one holiday before we jump to the next.

    Around our house, however, there is one reliable way to tell that Christmas is on its way, one reason that early Christmas shopping is permitted, encouraged, and discussed: Operation Christmas Child.

    Operation Christmas Child is a program that collects and distributes shoeboxes to children around the world during the Christmas season. These boxes, filled with goodies, provide a tangible way to show God's love to children in some of the remotest, poorest places in the world. As this video shows, the impact of these boxes goes way beyond the small gifts enclosed inside.

    While some years we have just sent our items to a larger group instead of packing the boxes ourselves, this year we decided to involve Emily and Andrew in the process.

    We took them with us to the store and explained we were going to be picking out toys for boys and girls who didn't have a lot of toys.

    Picking out toys is definitely something two year olds were designed to do.

    The challenge was going to be how to get everything they wanted to put in the cart into a shoe box.

    While they obviously couldn't understand the depth of what we were doing, it was heartwarming to hear Emily say, "Mommy, I think the little girl would like some crayons." or "Mommy, let's get her a book." It seemed she understood these items weren't for her (although she managed to score a box of crayons for herself).

    After buying the items, we waited a week or so to pack them. When we took out the bags and boxes, Emily said, "The boxes for the girls and boys who don't have a lot of toys, Mommy?"

    Sometimes her memory is amazing!

    At that point, the real fun began. With cousin Kaelyn lending us a hand, it was a packing and re-packing party.

    Drew became quite attached to the teddy bear but sweetly put it in the box and said, "for the little boy?"

    Can you guess who picked out the items for this box?

    Emily gives everything an extra pat for good measure.

    I think you can see why we've made an exception around here when it comes to this kind of early Christmas shopping.

    If you'd like to get involved, it's not too late.

    November 12-19 is National Collection Week.

    Click here to learn what to put in your box, how to pack, and where to drop off.

    Short on time? Click here to build your box online NOW from the comfort of your own home.

    Friday, November 9, 2012

    A picture of my day

    #9 Today I am thankful for: my job
    (and for Fridays, long weekends, and my cell phone).

    It was a tough call, but I ultimately chose being thankful for my job first over being thankful for Fridays.

    It seems many weeks that I am just counting the time between Fridays instead of just being fully present regardless of the day. How many times do we say "Thank goodness it's Monday!" Or Tuesday. Or even Thursday.

    Truth is, I might not always like working, but I do love the work I do. I also love the people with whom I work--each of whom teaches me more than I teach them.

    About five years ago, I left the classroom where I had worked as a high school English teacher to become part of a statewide team of content-specific coaches working in schools to provide additional support to increase student achievement.

    What I didn't expect, perhaps, was how much this job would teach me--about myself, about curriculum, about relationships, about politics, about power and equity, about commitment, about the backroads and interstates that I travel daily.

    One of the reasons I loved the classroom was that every day was different. As a coach, I can say that part hasn't changed.

    I am always learning something new, and despite the challenges that I would guess go along with any job, I can say I am lucky to be doing work that I do.

    Just today, I shared a new technology tool with a group of teachers and we had a great conversation brainstorming how to use it. I love the synergy that develops when you throw a tool in the middle of a group of educators and ask them how we can use it to help students.

    Today, while discussing strategies for teaching vocabulary, I shared a site a friend recently shared with me: PicLit.

    PicLit is "a creative writing site that matches beautiful images with carefully selected keywords in order to inspire you. The object is to put the right words in the right place and the right order to capture the essence, story, and meaning of the picture."

    After selecting your image, you can drag pre-selected words from categories like, nouns, adverbs, adjectives, verbs onto the images or you can go "freestyle" and write your own.

    After creating your "pic lit," you can save, email, and share.

    Here's one I created in about 30 seconds.

    PicLit from
    See the full PicLit at

    What a cool way to:
  • Jumpstart a creative writing piece.
  • Define a vocabulary word or concept.
  • Encourage students to write a variety of sentence types from simple to complex compound.
  • Begin a discussion on word choice or figurative language.
  • Inspire a journal entry or a blog post.
  • Support struggling students through use of images and word bank.
  • Investigate everyday examples of science and math in action.
  • Showcase what you know about a work of literature's tone, mood, or point of view by choosing an image that represents an aspect of the work.
  • Enjoy a little wordplay by creating captions for images.
  • Energize boring reviews of parts of speech.

    While not all of the images are toddler-appropriate, I do think it could even be used to prompt story telling, observation, and conversation with our younger learners. As I was scrolling the images and playing around with the site, Emily and Andrew had fun pointing and and asking, "What's dat?"

    PicLit from
    See the full PicLit at

    Have you used PicLit before? Have any idea to share? What new tools or sites are you loving right now?

    Nope, I don't have a side job working for PicLit. I just like the product. That's all!
  • Thursday, November 8, 2012

    Dear Emily

    #8 Today I am thankful for: my Babies
    (and for sunshine, cheese, and a hot bath).

    Dear Emily,

    Today you are 2 years and 5 months old. For someone who likes exactness, I am sure you will one day appreciate the fact that I specified the month to the day instead of just rounding up.

    You like everything to be “just so.” Even as I write this letter, I hear you telling your Daddy you can’t potty until all your clothes are off. Next time, it might be you can’t potty until the chair is in exactly the right position and all your clothes down to your socks and shoes are on.

    Yes, you like things a certain way—your way, and most of the time, your way includes doing it yourself. Something as simple as brushing your teeth becomes a major event. You must get your toothbrush out of the cup. You must put just the right amount of strawberry toothpaste on the brush. You must rinse and tap the brush before returning it to the cup.

    You can use your words to tell us exactly what you want (even though you can whine with the loudest of two year olds). I marvel at the way you use language. You’ve started saying, “Actually, I…” Actually? Actually, I have no idea where that came from. You love to sing: "My Dear Jesus" and "Jesus Loves Me" are two of your favorites.

    Sometimes your verbal skills are a little on the bossy side. You love to tell Drew what to do. “Drew, sit down!” “Drew be quiet.” You are quick, however, to add “please.”

    Recently you’ve become quite the-- how do I say this politely-- little tattler. “Drew’s got a crayon!” or “Drew’s being loud.” You are quick, however, to be the first to look out for Drew, too. “We get one for Drew, too.”

    Watching you and Drew together is one of the joys of our days. You both have shockingly blonde hair. You still maintain your slight birth weight advantage, and depending on the day, it looks like you might have gained half an inch on him. Often, you call him by his full name, Andrew, while he calls you Emie or (melt my heart) “sissy.” If you wake up first, your first request is often for him, and he for you. You’ve just gotten out of a phase where you had to sleep in Drew’s crib. I must say, I think Drew is relieved. You were quite the crib hog. Now, your daddy is more than happy to let you fall asleep in “mommy’s bed.” Not only is there more room than Drew’s crib, you also give daddy free scalp massages and back rubs.

    Speaking of Daddy, you are still very much a Daddy’s girl. (That’s okay. I was, too). But, much to my pleasure, you still want to “hold me,” especially in the early mornings when I go to your room and get you out of your crib. We head downstairs to “mommy’s chair” where we snuggle and talk while I drink “you coffee.” You blow me kisses as you get in the car in the mornings and you run to me when I pick you in the afternoons. I keep wondering if the lovestruck feeling I have for you and Drew will eventually end. I can say for sure that it hasn’t yet. I still feel giddy when I check on you before bedtime and when I see your face in the morning.

    I'm amazed at the smallest and largest things you do. You have the sharpest memory. You can remember where you hide the hairbrush. You can translate Drew’s words when we’re not quite sure what he’s saying. You read back books, like “Are You My Mother?” with accuracy and expression. No matter what you’re doing, you stop and do the “Hot Dog Dance” while singing the song—word for word.

    You love Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. Just short of your second birthday, we finally caved and let you and Drew watch your first TV show. Our motto has been “everything in moderation,” and so far, that system seems to be working. We’ve added Chuggington to the line-up, which leads to the age-old chicken versus egg question: which came first--your obsession with trains or your obsession with Chuggington?

    We’ve capitalized on your love of Mickey by taking you both to Disney World last month. While you might never recall the fun we had, I do believe the joy we experienced as a family will become part of fabric of your subconscious. I know one thing for sure: seeing the wonder in the faces of you and Drew will forever be one of the best memories of my life.

    Your daddy and I say almost every day how much fun you and Drew are at this age. It doesn’t take a trip to Disney to have fun with the two of you. We make games out of everything—crossing the railroad tracks, chopping veggies for supper, putting the toys away…

    Then there are special occasions like Halloween when it is so evident how much you are growing up yet how much there still is to learn. This year, as Minnie and Mickey, you didn’t need to be carried around. You both ran from house to house, challenging your out of shape mommy to keep up! It was so much fun to watch you figure out the beauty of trick or treating. What? You knock on the door, say “trick or treat,” and they give you candy?? Yes, please! And, thank you!

    When I get nostalgic and misty-eyed thinking about you and Drew growing older, I hold on to these memories. I remember how, with each month, I find something new that I love about whatever age you are, whatever stage you are in. Right now, I want you to know how much I love every minute of your, wait, let me exact-- 29 months and 11 hours- old self.


    Dear Drew

    #8 Today I am thankful for: my Babies
    (and for sunshine, cheese, and a hot bath).

    Dear Drew,

    Today you are 2 years and 5 months old. What? Okay, okay. You’re two and a half (almost). Something tells me that you’d just want me to round up, move on, and get on to the good stuff.

    That’s how you are—all action. Run. Jump. Climb. Hop. March. Throw. Stomp. Scream. Growl. Climb some more.

    As you climbed (by yourself) into your car seat this afternoon, I thought of the first time I ever snapped the buckles of your car seat shut, how small you were, how nervous I was.

    What happened to my tiny, quiet baby? As your daddy said tonight, you are adrenaline in a bottle—a bottle in the shape of a skinny little blonde two year old. We’re accustomed to growth spurts but it seems like you’re in the middle of an energy spurt.

    Sometimes your energy comes through in the most hilarious ways, like when you sing the heavy metal version of “Baa-Baa Black Sheep,” while Emily squeals for you to be quiet. Other times, your energy propels you to climb on the table where you proceed to do the Hot Dog Dance. Sometimes, the energy simply causes you to spin in a circle until you fall down, dizzy drunk. Other times, it is frustrating, like when you refuse naps or fight bedtime.

    Eventually, like all batteries, you need to be recharged, and lucky for me, you like to rest by snuggling up with your mommy. I just paused writing this letter because you climbed into my lap and asked to rock. Any time, Bear, any time.

    Since September, you’ve been asking for quite a bit. In September, almost overnight, you found your words, or more specifically, your sentences. Previously, you were putting a couple of words together and occasionally a short sentence. While we were at the beach for Labor Day weekend, you suddenly started stuttering. By the end of the weekend, the stuttering had almost disappeared, and in its place were all these words and sentences! The dam opened and the flood of words just keeps coming.

    You love to talk about trains and planes and cars and trucks. I asked you yesterday what you wanted for Christmas, and you were quick to say a train and a race car. If Halloween was any indication, you are going to have so much fun at Christmas (second only maybe to your parents)! You can make anything into a boat whether it’s a basket, the tray for your high chair, or the drawer out of the end table.

    You are learning so much. Just today, when I picked you up at school, you started telling me the shapes on the rug. You knew you were sitting on a yellow oval. You know your emotions, too, and during a rather emotional morning recently, you asked, “Mommy, you sad?” Wow. And then there’s the way you can count to ten and say your ABCs, know the color orange, and can pronounce every syllable of the word hydrocortisone. You also know just how to torture your sister—whether it’s singing over top of her, stealing her tricycle, or hitting her with the golf club.

    You are learning, too, how to use the potty. You definitely know what it’s for. You will sit on the chair and make a whizzing sound before saying “all done.” For now, we are taking that as a step in the right direction. One skill you have mastered, however, is climbing out of your crib and opening the door. Heaven help us.

    You’ve mastered the art of charm, and it appears even Cinderella is under your spell. During our trip to Disney World in October, we attended the Electric Parade where Cinderella leaned towards you and blew you a kiss. Unprompted, you eagerly returned it by blowing another one back. Cinderella happily caught it, put her hand over her heart, and leaned out of the carriage to give you another wave. Don’t get any ideas. You and Emily can’t date until you’re at least 16. Cinderella is no exception.

    I often joke that when you and Emily turn 16, you will also be sharing a car. Your daddy thinks I’ve lost my mind. Judging by the way you share now, it could go either way. One minute, the two of you are inseparable, playing intensely and contently. The next minute, you are banging each other in the head with your daddy’s Wii remote or running away with the other’s half of the banana. If things don’t change, even getting you matching cars won’t stop the disagreements. As it is, you have matching high chairs and matching tricycles, and you still both want the one the other one has.

    Don’t get me wrong. You love each other just as strongly. Recently, when Emily was sick and we had to pick her up from school, we decided to leave you there. Bad idea. You fell to pieces. When I picked you up that afternoon, you looked up at me with your sweet blue eyes and said most seriously, “Emie, sick? Emie go to the doctor?” I realized that day how few times you and Emily have been apart. Even when you had tubes put in your ears in May, Emily was there, sharing the hospital bed, getting matching tubes.

    As we tucked you in a few minutes ago, you asked me to rock you. I did. You asked for a hug and kiss. You got it. You asked for another one. You got that, too. You called out, “I love you.” My love? Oh, Drew. You’ve got that, too. More than you will ever know.


    Wednesday, November 7, 2012

    You're my best friend...

    #7 Today I am thankful for: Marty-- my husband, my friend, and the awesome father of my Babies (and for pizza, unexpected naps, and my recliner).

    A good marriage is one which allows for change and growth in the individuals and in the way they express their love. -Pearl S. Buck

    Tuesday, November 6, 2012

    MaMe Votes

    #6 Today I am thankful for: my right to vote (and for GiGi, the color red, and grits and eggs for breakfast).

    "Thinking is not to agree or disagree. That is voting." -Robert Frost

    Election Day is finally here and thank goodness for it. Even this self-proclaimed political wonk is tired of the rhetoric, the yelling and screaming on both sides of the aisle, and for the divisiveness of the election season.

    Don't get me wrong. I did my research. I voted two weeks ago. I care deeply about the issues and who wins today.

    But, you won't hear me announcing my vote on here (unless we are voting for something like cutest baby pictures or best place to get coffee or wine).

    If you follow me on Facebook, well, you might be able to discern my choice because, for the first time since I signed up for Facebook four years ago, I have actually "LIKED" a political candidate's Facebook page.

    As a classroom teacher, and now an educator who works with folks of all political persuasions, I have always been rather guarded about my own political views.

    I feel very strongly that, as a teacher, it is not my job to indoctrinate or influence a moldable young mind as to what they should believe. My job is to teach them how to think, reason, and make educated decisions. I also feel strongly that I should model how to agree to disagree, how to hold a civil debate, and how to consider the effects of choices.

    There are enough people out there, on both sides, showing us how to name-call and mud-sling.

    Now, as a mother, I see this challenge in much the same way.

    Our children are watching us, learning from us.

    In 16 years when Emily and Andrew walk into the ballot box, I don't care which party they support.

    I have bigger concerns than their party affiliation.

    I hope they have learned how to really research and evaluate all sides of the issue.

    I hope they know how to wade through the media mud and the cult of personality in order to choose the best candidate-- not the one with the best slogan or the one they would most like to drink a beer with.

    I hope they vote their conscience, their upbringing, their values in a way that is respectful of others who disagree.

    I hope they understand that calling people names just because they disagree with you is no way to advance your cause.

    I hope they understand true tolerance is not about just accepting other's opinions when they aren't contrary to yours.

    I hope they have friends and fellow citizens from across the political spectrum with whom they can have civil discourse about real issues without calling each other racists, bigots, or idiots.

    I hope they understand what a huge and sacred right voting really is.

    I hope they understand that voting is only one part of our civic responsibility.

    I hope they understand that the real work happens every day when we support the causes we believe in.

    That's the hope I believe in.

    So, today, I say, vote.

    Regardless of whether you believe in the same platform I do, VOTE.

    But, also, remember, we are all Americans.

    Speak kindly.

    Seek to understand.

    Refrain from whining or gloating or name-calling or fear-mongering.

    Because, regardless of the outcome of today's vote, regardless of who is the president, an almost-impossible job awaits the "winner."

    And he's going to need all of us.

    "If you have learned how to disagree without being disagreeable, then you have discovered the secret of getting along -- whether it be business, family relations, or life itself."
    -Bernard Meltzer

    Monday, November 5, 2012

    Cousins are Cool

    #5 Today I am thankful for: my children's relationships with their cousins (and for health insurance, Mexican food, and my daddy's mechanical ability).

    Saturday night sleep-over with Cousin KK

    Trick or Treating

    With ninja cousin, Tanner

    Cruisin' with Tanner

    Sunday, November 4, 2012

    Rooted in Love

    #4 Today I am thankful for: my God and His marvelous love (And for naps, flannel pajamas, and lunch with a sweet friend).

    "May your roots go down deep into the soil of God's marvelous love. And may you have the power to wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love really is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it.THEN you will be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God." Ephesians 3:17-19 (NLT)
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