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Monday, December 30, 2013

5 Years

No, my title is not an indication of how long it has been since I last updated this blog.

Sure seems like it, though.

In the last month, we have gone on a big family vacation, celebrated Christmas, bid farewell to our elf, Candy, and sat around in our pajamas for days on end.

Yes, so much in so little time.

If I made resolutions, I'd resolve to capture all of the above in a timely fashion. But I gave up resolutions a long time ago.

Yes, so many stories to tell.

But today I'll let the pictures (and a short description) tell the story.

Tomorrow Marty and I will celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary. Part of our vacation this month included taking the kids on a week-long Caribbean cruise-- a cruise almost identical to our wedding cruise. We even snapped a picture in front of the same glass sculpture.

Yes, so much in so little time.







Friday, December 6, 2013

2013 Elf Performance Review

TO: Candy the Elf
FROM: MaMe
Date: 12/6/2013
RE: 2013 Performance Review

Attached is your updated 2013 Elf Performance Review. For each indicator, you will find evidence documenting your current level of performance along with constructive feedback to guide your continued seasonal employment. For comparison sake and for formal personnel paperwork purposes, you can find official documentation of your 2012 level of performance here.

***

Punctuality:
Exceeds Expectations

You arrived just in the nick of time, ready and waiting for Emily and Andrew upon their return from Aunt Windy's house. To date, you have moved in a timely fashion, moving efficiently and without reminder.


Surprise Factor:
Meets Expectations

The kids were definitely surprised when they opened the pantry to find you coming out of their Cheerio box. This unexpected move created momentum and left Emily and Andrew asking where they would find Candy next.

Daredevilry: Exceeds Expectations

Attempting to wrap the ceiling fan in toilet paper and then hanging by just a thread of Charmin represents the type of daring the world has come to expect of elves on shelves.

Physical Prowess: Meets Expectations

Your ability to hang upside all day demonstrated physical strength and stamina, but the lack of props made the overall presentation somewhat underwhelming.


Kid Appeal: Exceeds Expectations

By far, the kids responded most enthusiastically to your bow escapades. Emily and Drew loved the "hair bows" and were quite disappointed to awake the following day and find that they were gone.


Resourcefulness: Exceeds Expectations

A good elf knows how to use what is on hand to create a memorable situation. Here, you located a long- forgotten toy and transformed it into Airforce North Pole. Not only did you surprise the kids, you re-energized their love of this toy. All day, Emily asked when she could take the plane and play with it.

Customer Focus: Exceeds Expectations

After squatting in their plane all day, you could have easily ditched it back in the toy room to be lost among the rubble. Instead, you left the plane in the most thoughtful spot-- right under the tree, waiting to be discovered. Emily thanks you.


Hygiene: Meets Expectations

All that traveling back and forth to the North Pole surely works up a sweat. Seeing you take a marshmallow bath showed an awareness of the importance of personal hygiene. However, your choice of bath material caused some less- than- hygienic behavior on the part of Emily and Drew who ate marshmallows, by the handfuls, from the sink.

Overall Performance Rating: Exceeds Expectations

Clearly, you have used the off- season to work on your elf skills and your tenacity has paid off. You are off to a stellar start this season, and with this type of sustained effort, we will be happy to extend your employment for years to come.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Gratitude Challenge: Last Day

Oops.

I had all intentions of posting my final day of the 21 Day Gratitude Challenge on, most appropriately, Thanksgiving Day.

But, I think you'll understand why I was a bit preoccupied with other things--like living-- once you see the last prompt. As a matter of fact, I got so caught up in the living that here it is-- Saturday-- and I am just now putting some thoughts down.

Again, once you see the prompt, I think you'll understand.

Ready for it?

It's one that is going to stop you in your tracks. Or at least it should.

Day 21: If this were your last day, how would you spend it?

The older I get, the more I realize this question is way less hypothetical than it was when I was younger. Not because I see myself knocking on the door of the old folks' home, but more because I have seen way too many people leave this life too soon.

I've written before about the massive anxiety I faced after the Babies were born-- a crippling fear of leaving them too soon.

This post isn't meant to be a Debbie Downer as much as a reminder that life is fickle. We have to grab on and love like crazy.

Because, if you ask me, love is what endures.

So, if it was my last day, I'd surround myself with love...
  • Warm bed and warm embraces
  • Sun on my shoulders and sand on my feet
  • Hugs and kisses and laughs with my children
  • Time with my parents, my sister, my brother, my grandparents, my aunts and uncles, cousins, friends...
  • Laughs
  • Macaroni and cheese
  • Words-- love letters to my family to remind them how much I loved them and always will
  • More hugs.
  • More sun.
  • More love.
What activity we'd do that day matters less to me than who is there and the fact that we'd be doing it together.

This Thanksgiving I was blessed to have lived the day like it was my last.

We slept in and cuddled. While we weren't at the beach, we did enjoy the warmth of the sun on an otherwise cold day. I hugged and kissed my Babies (again and again). We spent the day at my Grandma's house with much (but not all) of our family. We laughed and reminisced. We ate (not macaroni and cheese), but many of my other favorite foods. I took a long nap, snuggled between Emily and Andrew. I kissed them all. Again. I said "I love you." Again. I watched TV with my aunt and my Grandma-- in no hurry to leave. I rode home with Marty and laughed and joked like we had all the time in the world.

Time.

Love.

Family.

Yes, if this were my last day, I'd like to use my time to love my family...

****
In case you missed them, you can find Days 1-10 here and Days 11-20 here.
****
If you've been around MaMe Musings for a while, you will probably recall the "Unwrapping Your Gifts" series I have hosted during the Christmas season.

This year, I am not as organized, but I would still like to open my blog home to my family and friends. If you are interested in writing a guest post, please leave me a comment here (with your email address) or a comment on Facebook.

Here's what is most important-- you don't have to be a writer or have a blog to participate!

You just need to have something to share-- a story, a recipe, a craft idea, a love note to your family, a blessing, a photograph. Anything you love.







Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Gratitude Challenge: Part II

Yesterday, I posted Days 1-10 of the 21 Day Gratitude Challenge. Here are Days 11-20. I'll save the final day for Thanksgiving-- I think that's especially appropriate, don't you?

Day 11- What made you smile today?
I love when I come home and the kids are already home. I can hear them running around and giggling (and sometimes screaming, fighting). I get a little giddy with excitement as I think about seeing their faces and getting hugs. Today was one of those days. I smiled.

Day 12- What is the best mistake you have ever made?
My first marriage was definitely a mistake, and it definitely isn't one that I would repeat if I had to do all over again. That being said, it was the best mistake because it taught me some very valuable lessons, the least of which being: When someone shows you who they are, believe them. They sure as hell don't change. But, more importantly, the biggest lesson I learned was that I am way stronger and more resilient than I had given myself credit for before. That's a life lesson worthy of the mistake.

Day 13- Who inspires you to be your best self?
My children, obviously. As I watched Emily trying to imitate as I sang along with the radio this morning, I was reminded once again that they are always watching and trying to be just like us. That's an awesome, yet terrifying responsibility.

Day 14- When has nature taken your breath away?
This one is hard since I have been lucky enough to see some beautiful places, but for this ocean- loving girl, few sights are more breath-taking to me than the sun coming up or going down on the water. Here's a sunrise I snapped while we were on our wedding cruise.

Day 15- Who shaped your inner compass?
My family. At first I was going to say my parents, and no doubt, they were big factors. But, growing up, I spent time with both of my grandmothers. I shared and fought with siblings and cousins. I was spoiled by my aunts. Who I am, what I value, how I respond, it's in large part to the galvanizing force of family.

Day 16- What is your most cherished gift?
As a little girl, I was fascinated by this doll's head with pearl earrings that sat on the shelf at my Grandma Retha's house. Every time I visited, I had to check on the doll's head and make sure it was still there. I often told Grandma how I loved it, and she always told me she would make sure it was mine one day. Several Christmases ago, before Grandma's Alzheimer's got really bad, she surprised me with my most cherished gift ever-- the doll's head! (After doing a little research, the head is actually a vase, and these head vases were popular in the 40and 50s).

Of course, I loved the gift of the doll, but the note I found inside was just as priceless. Apparently, this piece had had my name on it for quite a few years.

Day 17- Who in your life are you under appreciating?
Marty. He takes the brunt of my frustrations, which have recently manifested themselves in the form of full- on adult tantrums. Can't find my keys? Marty's fault. Car ran out of gas? Marty's fault. Raining and cold? Marty's fault. Yet, through it all being his fault, he makes it possible for me to keep things relatively in balance. He pulls his weight, and I know I don't tell him enough.

Day 18- What skill do you value most in yourself?
I like to think that one of my skills is the ability to read a situation, to see and hear what's not being shown or said, and to respond in a way that takes in the big picture.

Day 19- What can you say "thank you" for in this moment?

It's cold outside. Really cold. And I have a nice, warm house, filled with food, clothing, and lots of creature comforts that I love but don't need. I am beyond blessed.

Day 20- What have you lost and learned from?
Since today is my birthday, I can say with all the seriousness in the world that I have lost my youth. Sure, I miss the body and the energy of my earlier years, but I wouldn't trade the wisdom of the years for the reckless innocence of my youth. Okay, maybe for a day (or ten)...But, then I'd take my 38 year old body back.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Gratitude Challenge: Part I

This is the time of year when many of us take the time to step back and acknowledge all the things in our lives that we thankful for.

I personally am thankful to see other people being thankful--whether it's one month of the year or all 12.


Last year, as part of my 12 in 2012 series, I focused on having a gratitude attitude throughout the month of November, and while it was my favorite month of the year- long project, I decided to go a different direction for this year-- the 21 Day Gratitude Challenge by Kind Spring.


Each morning, I've enjoyed opening my email and finding the day's question, and even though I am just now getting around to writing about each question, I've appreciated the way the prompts have caused me to look at gratitude through a wider lens.

Here are Days 1-10.

Day 1- What do you have enough of?
"Your grace is enough
Heaven reaching down to us
Your grace is enough for me
God I see your grace is enough
I'm covered in your love
Your grace is enough for me
For me"

Day 2- What do you know you can never repay?
God's gift of life and salvation

Day 3- What do you take for granted?
My job-- It's easy to complain about work, especially when the alarm clock goes off too early and the guilt kicks in when I have to pick the kids up late. But, I am really lucky to have job, especially when so many others don't. I am even luckier to have a job in a field I love and care about.

Day 4- What inconvenience are you grateful for?
One really hard part of being a work-outside-the- home mom is balancing work hours with getting two kids dressed and out of the house. Then there's pick-up, which is a delicate balance of leaving the office at just the right time, hitting all the lights just right time, and getting just the right break in traffic to make the left turn into their school parking lot. Some days I wish I could just make Marty do drop-off and pick-up; better yet, I wish I could just not work, and thereby avoid the daily rigamarole. But, in this inconvenience reside some blessings, too: time in the car to sing with the kids, the opportunity for them to go to a great school and learn, time for me to have some quiet time...

Day 5- What is your most precious memory?


Day 6- Which artist lights your world?

Eric Church.
Love him.
"Springsteen."
Brilliant.


Day 7- How have you changed for the better?
There is no doubt that my children have taught me to be more patient, more understanding, more loving...

Day 8- What do you know that you never want to forget?

Day 9- What is the greatest compliment you have ever given/received?
Someone once called me a "wordsmith." One, anyone who has ever written knows how good this affirmation feels. Two, it came from someone I really respect.

Day 10- What's the best advice you ever received?
"Just keep moving." In the midst of a life crisis, I just wanted to curl into a ball and disappear. I cried in agony, wondering what I should do. The answer, "Just keep moving." And, so I did.
***
I'd love to hear your answers to any of these questions. Leave a comment here or on Facebook!

Tomorrow I will post 11-21. Interested in learning more about the challenge? Visit Kind Spring's website or their Facebook page.

Monday, November 25, 2013

It's All in How You Look at It

This weekend, despite my personal rule against decorating for Christmas before Thanksgiving, we broke out the decorations and began transforming the house into a Christmas wonderland.

As I said yesterday on Facebook, just about the time I was turning into Scrooge, bah- humbugging about broken ornaments and tangled garland, Emily goes all Tiny Tim on me and says so innocently, "Oh, Mommy! The house looks so pretty!"

And, just like that, it was like I had been visited by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future.

I remembered how much I have always loved Christmas decorations, which might explain why we have 4 trees. Don't ask.

I realized how much fun we were having despite the fact that my last two strands of lights were blown. I loved hearing them talking about the ornaments, following my lead about spacing them out, and exclaiming how much Santa was going to love the tree.

I considered how the years will change our traditions, and how one day, I'll be begging them to come home and help me with the tree.

Yes, it was one of those moments that snapped me back to reality...

Because despite the moments of frustration, these are beautiful days, filled with all those little moments that I just want to put in a bottle and keep.

I guess it's all in how you look at it.

***

One of the final pieces of our Christmas decor to go up is the set of Christmas Minnie and Mickey. If left to my own decorating vices, I'd put them together, side by side, like this:

And, so I did.

Shortly thereafter, Emily came down and yelled, "Why did you put Minnie there?? She goes under my name. Mickey should go under Andrew's!"

She moved each under their respective initial.

I couldn't argue with her reasoning...

I guess it's all in how you look at it.

Then, I came downstairs this morning to find Mickey moved.

Hmmm...

That's when Marty informed me that Drew decided Mickey had to move.

Why?

According to Drew, Mickey was in the way.

"Santa Claus will knock him down when he comes down the chimney! He's big. Mickey's in the way."

I couldn't argue with his logic...

I guess it's all in how you look at it.


Monday, November 4, 2013

The Pirate Life

Despite the fact that stores are playing Christmas music and have fully- decorated trees, I am still in fall mode, and I will be until I catch up here with all of our fall news, which will happen. It will.

And, the story of our fall would not be complete without sharing our adventures with pirates, patches, and Halloween.
***
This year, the tradition of Mommy selecting coordinating Halloween costumes continued. (What are the chances year 4 will be as easy? I know. Let me it enjoy it while I can…)

It was really quite easy.

The compass clearly pointed to only one logical choice: Jake and Izzy from Jake and the Neverland Pirates.

Pirates worked for lots of reasons.

1. Emily and Andrew enjoy pretending to be pirates, especially since their ship (literally) came in.

2. In August, we went to the Disney Pirates and Princess Tour, and they were able to wear their costumes to the show.

3. We were able to wear the outfits again to Krispy Kreme’s Talk Like a Pirate Day. Full pirate attire earned each scalawag a dozen of hot glazed doughnuts.


4. We are going to Disney in December, and they will be able to wear their costumes again when we visit Magic Kingdom. If we count school dress up day, that means they will have worn these outfits at least 5 times. That's pretty good mileage out of Halloween costumes.

And, last but not least,

5. Living the pirate life for the last six months has made the adjustment to Drew's eye patch a little bit easier.

You may remember that back in May we learned that Drew is extremely farsighted in his right eye, and that condition has caused amblyopia (lazy eye).

I am sure you have seen him in his adorable glasses.

After consulting two different doctors, we feel confident in the diagnosis and the treatment plan—continued use of glasses AND patching.

For two hours a day, we patch Drew’s good eye, which forces him to use the weaker one.

This patching will continue until his vision is no longer improving. We could be talking years before we reach the point of diminishing returns.

While I knew patching was a strong possibility, shiver me timbers, I cried like a blubbering landlubber when Marty sent me this picture following his last appointment.

And, then, I refocused, realized this wasn’t Davy Jones’ Locker, and set out to help my little lad make the adjustment.

I started by purchasing some smaller, more fashionable patches.

Each morning, we give him the choice of which patch to wear. The element of choice and the fact that the patches are a lot like stickers really helps.

While we began by doing the patches at night, at the recommendation of his preschool director, we started sending him in the patch and then they remove it by 10:00. That way, his patching is done early in the day, when he’s not tired, and before we go anywhere, like hockey games, at night. I am anxious to talk this approach over with his teachers at our conference next week, but, from all accounts, the other kids don’t make a big deal over it. As petty as it sounds, this is important to me since I don't want him to be treated any differently.

We have also enlisted the help of the pirate twin. If Emily is wearing a patch, then there's a good chance he will wear his. It never fails-- if one is doing it, there's a pretty good chance the other will fight to do the same thing.

Finally, I’ll also admit there have been mornings when he just cries not to wear it, and I give in. We’ll make it up later. The most important thing is, 99% of the time, he wears his glasses and his patch with no scowling and growling-- and that's good for any pirate, especially a three year old one!






Thursday, October 24, 2013

Falls Behind Us...

It's been a busy fall here at our house.

As I sit here, trying to cobble together a post to record all of our adventures of late, I am struck by how this fall, this October, is so similar to Octobers of years gone by.

Just as the leaves look so similar, year to year, our family traditions are taking on a familiar hue.

Image via Pinterest


Join me as I watch some leaves of life turn...







Leave it to another Emily to sum it up perfectly...
Image via Pinterest

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Goodbye High--

This week we said goodbye to two important highs in our world.

The first goodbye involved saying farewell to our high chairs.

It seems like just yesterday that we eagerly cracked open the boxes for our two new Fisher Price Space Saving High Chairs and placed them proudly on top of our equally new and clean pub- style chairs.

It was actually three years and 3000 spills ago...




Recently, the Babies haven't been as cute or as compliant in their high chairs as they were in the above pictures.

Besides arguing over who was going to sit in the brown chair, they increasingly wanted to sit at the dining room table for family meals or their table for breakfast and snacks.

Then, there was that day I moved the high chairs and saw what was living on the top of my once- new chairs...

So, I made the executive decision to ditch the chairs.

The Babies transitioned easily.

While they reveled in their newfound freedom, I started planning how to resuscitate my poor chairs.

A can of Pledge, $10 worth of fabric, and 30 minutes of pulling and stapling later, the chairs transitioned easily, too.


As I stepped back and admired the view, I experienced the same high that I felt when I reclaimed the living room in July.


***

From that high, I came crashing back down to reality and to one of the lowest places in the world to me-- a car lot, shopping for a new car.

In much the same way that the high chairs had outlived their usefulness, our family car, the Toyota Highlander, had started feeling cramped (and, not to mention, less than clean).

So, last week, after several low days of car shopping with kids in tow, we said goodbye to another High-- the Highlander.

And, for now, we'll enjoy that new car high--

...breathing in the (probably somewhat toxic) new car smell.

...protecting the seats with various covers.

...holding fast to the no food, no drink rule.

...parking in the far corners of lots, away from careless drivers and their wayward doors.

...buying protective floor mats and still taking the time to check our shoes before entering.

...frisking the kids for stickers in their pockets that could end up on our new windows.


Yes, I am enjoying the high because I know the low...


















Monday, September 30, 2013

Like Looking in a (Super Clean) Mirror

People tell me all the time that looking at Emily is like looking at me.

There's the hair and the pigtails, of course.

There's the way she scrunches her nose and cuts her eyes.

There's the little twist in her walk and the slight pigeon- toe.

Then there are the less physical resemblances...

Her love of words, whether its "reading" back a favorite story or using words well beyond her three years...

Her single-mindedness, which sometimes is mistaken for stubbornness...

Her need to snuggle up close when she sleeps.

This weekend, it became clear she also shares not only my love of cleaning but my preferred cleaning method as well.

Good thing the bottle of cleaner is non- toxic because by the time I knew she had it, she was well on her way to spraying half the kitchen.


"Emily!"

"I just got to clean this window. See that spot. It's dirty."

Well, you do have a point...


She even likes to clean in her underwear like me.


"Mommy, this table is a mess."

Should I bother to tell her that those spots are bite marks from their teething days? Nah, she's having too much fun...


Surely dancing while cleaning is not related to genetics, but she even dances while she cleans-- just like me.


Not sure you'll ever catch me cleaning the car's headlights, but otherwise,


it's like looking in a (super clean) mirror.




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