Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Hey, hey, hey, goo-ood bye!

Goodbye, 2008! Hello, 2009!

Happy New Year to you and yours from me and mine!

(Our annual picture from atop the ferris wheel at Edaville Railroad)

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Feels like forever

Has it really been only a week or so since I last posted? It feels like ages ago. I hope you all had a lovely Christmas!

I'll write a "real" post later this week, but here are the highlights of my holidays:
  • I got to spend Christmas Eve afternoon wrapping presents, watching "White Christmas," and munching on homemade chocolate chip cookies.
  • R waking up on Christmas morning and being more concerned with proof that Santa is real than with opening his presents. ("There are CRUMBS on the cookie plate, Mommy!!! But where did Santa get the purple marker to write back to me?") I'm not big on the whole Santa thing, but R was so cute about it that I went along with it. :-)
  • Taking a walk around the neighborhood on Christmas afternoon to deliver cards to our neighbors and because it was so amazingly warm outside!
  • Going to visit my dad the day after Christmas for a Swedish food extravaganza.
  • Taking R to Edaville Railroad on Friday night for amusement park rides, a holiday lights train ride, and hot cider. It's becoming a tradition for us, and we had so much fun. This year we stayed for the fireworks, which were quite good!
  • And...(I almost forgot this one!) my sister Ericka got married! Yay!
This week I've been home with R. We're having a nice time together - building and playing with all his new Lego sets, baking banana bread, going to the Museum of Science and to the playground, decorating a gingerbread train, and just being silly. It's been so nice having time away from work and worry.

More details and pictures to come soon!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Festivus Eve

With all the stuff going on in our lives right now, plus the general blahs/blues I'm seeing in nearly everyone I know, I've been looking forward to Festivus tomorrow. A is particularly excited for "The Airing of Grievances." ;-)

Seriously, I can't think of anyone amongst our friends and family who is excited for Christmas. Even my best friend, who usually decorates every inch of her house with Christmas decorations and has an annual tree-trimming bash, didn't even buy a tree this year. When I emailed my friend today to tell her that A was at that moment on our roof in sub-freezing temperatures chipping away at the ice dams to stop the stream of water that was making its way down the inside of our kitchen, she replied that "2008 just keeps getting suckier and suckier." Between the deaths and layoffs and sickness that are plaguing our circle of friends and family, that makes sense. But it's funny - until recently, I didn't think of 2008 as being so bad. After all, it was the year of my friend's babies being born, of my big family vacation in St. Augustine, of our new bathroom, of electing Barack Obama, and of R being even more fun and sweet and silly. I have so much to be thankful for and happy about!

So I'm desperately trying to stay excited about Christmas for R. Last week when we had an unusually warm day (in the 60s!), we took R to the lights display at the Stone Zoo, which is just a few towns over from us. We've been taking him every year, but usually we end up going on the coldest night in December and freezing our buns off. This year, we took advantage of the balmy weather - and so did nearly every other family in the Boston area. But it was really fun and the lights were beautiful, and R had a blast going on the rides with A. Plus, we actually got to see some of the animals! Usually, it's so cold, they're hiding or sleeping or hibernating. (I had no idea that porcupines could climb!)

Just a little section of the lights display

I thought this peacock was really cool

R and A ready for some spinning on the teacups

R on the kiddie car ride

This past weekend, it snowed and snowed and snowed. For three days. Day 1 was fun. R got out of school early - a couple of hours before the storm started - and my office was closed, so A and I worked from home. R and I went out to shovel and throw snow at each other and to jump into snowbanks face first (guess who did that!). And, R discovered that sliding down a snow-covered slide makes you go twice as fast as normal. When we were soaked through, we came inside for hot cocoa. Then we made our own pizzas and watched a Christmas video. It was wonderful! Day 2 was okay. We had lots of errands to run, but the roads weren't too bad yet, and we had fun Christmas shopping together. A and I shoveled and shoveled and shoveled, and I hurt my back. On Day 3, we started getting stir crazy. The snow and wind picked up, and it seemed too messy to go outside. We hemmed and hawed for hours about whether we should venture out to our friends' house for dinner so we could see them before Christmas. All their other guests bailed, but I think we really needed to get out of the house, so A shoveled out the car, I packed it full of emergency-in-case-we-get-stuck supplies, and we headed out. It was pretty treacherous and we almost didn't make it up one key hill, but it was worth the trip. We had a great dinner with our friends and we had fun playing with the babies.

The snow finally stopped last night and the temps dropped, and our house is now encased in ice. A had to knock off the giant icicles (we call them "deathsicles") from the front of the house to keep our mailman from being impaled. We braved the messy, icy roads to go to the post office and mail our family's packages. Note to family: They're going to be late. I'm sorry! :-( Then, the water started coming down the kitchen walls. A was not happy about getting up on a ladder today, especially when he needed to be working. And, then he came down with a fever. Sigh. (Please keep A in your prayers. He's having a hard time staying positive and today was no help with that.)

I have just one more full day of work (unless A needs me to stay home tomorrow and be with R while he recuperates). R's school decided to close for the week between Christmas and New Year's this year, so I have nearly 10 days off - woohoo! On Christmas Eve, we're hoping to keep up our tradition of going to Edaville Railroad with a bunch of our friends, although it's supposed to rain so we may have to bail. On Christmas Day, we'll be home. R wants to put his gingerbread train together and A wants to make a big pancake breakfast. I'm going to make my mom's famous crab fondue to snack on, we're going to roast a chicken for dinner, and I picked up a princess cake from IKEA to have for Christmas dessert. I think it'll be a nice, relaxing day.

I hope all of you will have a wonderful Christmas, too. And, here's to better things in 2009!

I must be signing off now. It's my turn for the Feats of Strength. :-)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Trying to keep things in perspective

I've been having a rough time the last week. A decided to take the contract position at work because it actually meant more money for us, plus we have some time to figure things out. And, there is still a chance his contract could be extended. The only real change for him is that he isn't earning vacation time anymore. He still gets his other benefits (401k, FSA, etc.). So, compared to what so many other people are facing now, we have nothing to complain about.

So I don't know why I'm having such a hard time. I've been depressed, bitter, angry, and completely stressed out and overwhelmed. Part of it is that I actually have to prove to some people in the company that A and some of my other team members are essential to the company. So, not only do we have to do all the work that we were already slated to do before the layoffs, but we have to do even more to wow management. In six weeks. With less help. And no money in the budget. The pressure of that is getting to me. People's jobs are in my hands! You'd think that that challenge would energize me and get me motivated to do my absolute best, but all I've really wanted to do is crawl into a hole. Or win the lottery and never have to worry about work again. LOL.

And, I think I'm sad that some of the plans and dreams I was looking forward to in 2009 most likely won't be possible now. I'm also scared because the last time that I was the main source of income in our family (when R was a baby), I got very resentful of A (because he was the one who "got" to stay home with R) and our marriage almost fell apart. Things are very different now, but it still worries me.

But yesterday at church, we finished up a series on the book of Job. It was a really moving sermon and service and helped me so much, although I had to bolt out of there after the service and bite my lip to keep from crying before I made it out the door. I felt like such a giant weenie at the end for being so down about things. I don't know why God puts up with me, but I'm sure glad he does.

The rest of my Sunday, I felt lighter and happier and relaxed, and that was wonderful. One of R's friends came over and we all made and decorated cookies together. A made his amazing caramels (Hear that, family? They'll soon be on their way to you! If A can keep me from eating them all...). And, later, R and I spent quite a long time playing "What's different in the room?" (where we take turns hiding something or moving something around in the living room and then the other person has to figure it out) and Keep It Up with the balloon R got on Saturday at a birthday party.

Then, before dinner, I let R play a resounding game of "Jump Off the Chair to Catch the Balloon in Mid-Air." When you have a small house and an energetic four-year-old stuck inside in wintertime, you get creative and very lenient.

How could anyone stay depressed when this little guy is around? :-)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Happy pictures

The day after the layoffs at work was pretty bad. I think that's when it hit everyone that we still have to do all our work, but with less help. I was in a super crabby mood until I got to come home early to see my boys and to go to R's school's holiday party. Afterwards, we finished setting up my Christmas village under the Christmas tree. So, in the continued spirit of focusing on the happy things in our life, here are some happy pictures.

This is the face that has made all the crummy stuff from this week all better.

R's drawings of alien spaceships attacking

Fun with the magnifying glass!

My "It's a Wonderful Life" Christmas village, part 1

Part 2

R's class performing at his school's holiday party. That's R in the back row all the way on the right.

R waited patiently for almost an hour to sit on Santa's lap at the party. I've never seen him sit still for so long. His teachers all commented on it the next day.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Counting my blessings

Today is a hard day. My company had to lay off about one-third of our employees, including A, although he has been offered a contract position so he could stay on through January. We're not sure yet what he's going to do (take the severance package now or take the contract position with no severance). A and I knew this was coming as of early last week, so we had some warning, but it's still crummy.

I feel badly that all of this clouded my visit with my mom, but I am so grateful that she was with us while we were struggling with the knowledge of it this past weekend. She prayed with me and she occupied R while A and I were a bit stressed out. And, we did some nice Christmasy things together - decorating the tree, going out for coffee and cocoa, Christmas shopping for R, and the best part: she and I went to see the Handel & Haydn Society's performance of "The Messiah" at Boston Symphony Hall. That was AMAZING.

So this is a hard time for my little family, but it could be SO much worse and I'm so thankful that it's not. We're going to be okay financially for quite awhile (as long as my job is still intact). This is when A and I being frugal savers comes in handy. And, we both know how to live simply. I actually get a little excited about the challenge of finding more places in our budget to save money.

I am sad that this is all happening to us and to our friends at work just before Christmas. Somehow that makes it worse. Last night, when I pulled out all my decorations and ornaments, I really wanted to just forget it all and send it all back down to the basement. But we needed to do it for R. He's still excited about Christmas and I want him to have that magical time that he should have. I don't mean all the gifts. I just mean the tree and the lights and the special cookies and opening Advent calendar windows and singing Christmas carols and staying up late to watch "Frosty" and "Rudolph" and "The Grinch."

Well, that's the story. If you could say a little prayer for us, that would be great. But mostly, I'm so thankful that we're being spared real hardship - at least for now.

God bless all of you today!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Exhausted but happy

I hope everyone had a very happy Thanksgiving! Ours was really nice - very mellow and relaxing. We had a great time at our friends' house, and R and his friend Z got along so well all day. After a delicious dinner and some time for digestion, we all had dessert in front of a warm fire. Heaven.

Our friends' firewood was wet that day, so they ran out to the store and bought some Java logs, which are made from coffee grounds. A and I were intrigued by the logs because they claimed to be clean-burning and low creosote-producing. The fireplace in our house can't be used because the draft needs to be corrected; if we light a fire, even if it's been going for awhile and the chimney is primed and warm, our house fills with smoke. This was so heartbreaking for A and me because the fireplace was a big part of why we bought our house. Anyway, our friends let us take one of their Java logs so we could try it out. On Friday afternoon, A lit it up, and it worked! I can't even tell you how happy that made me and A. And, R was absolutely fascinated by it. He asked me if we could play a board game in front of the fire. Fine by me! A immediately went to the store and bought a case of Java logs. More fires for us - woohoo!

A and I have been quite busy the last few days getting our house in order. I've been very frustrated recently with the sheer amount of stuff in our house, and it felt completely overwhelming. So I finally got down to the business of dealing with it. I spent hours going through everything in my home office and our kitchen and sun room/porch, throwing a lot of stuff out, making a bag of stuff for our yard sale next year, and organizing what was left. We replaced the rug in my office with one that was on clearance at Home Depot ($57 for a $250 rug!). My old one was literally falling apart - I was finding chunks of it all over the house. Everything looks so nice now!

A worked on painting the bathroom. (We never finished it after our renovation over the summer, and we've been living without a bathroom mirror and medicine cabinet for months.) Unfortunately, the paint color we picked weeks ago looked horrendous once it was up on the wall, so we had to go back to the paint store and choose another one. This one is better, but not exactly what I wanted. But if I make A change it again, I think he'll strangle me. Hopefully he'll finish up the painting tonight so that we can completely reassemble the bathroom before my mom comes for a visit at the end of this week. (YAY!)

The other project I finally completed was going through our photos and choosing some for the frames I bought early this year. The empty frames have been hanging on our living room wall since then. I've tried many times to pick photos, but until this week, I just couldn't choose the right ones. So that's done, too!

Hmmm ... what else did we do? A and I finished raking all the leaves in our yard because the last pick-up in our town is this week. We bought a few Christmas presents. A and R went to a birthday party. We went ice skating and grocery shopping. We played Trouble and Candyland and Hot Wheels. We helped R put together some wooden model cars and paint them (our new favorite craft for R!).

It's been a very productive few days. A and I are exhausted and not looking forward to work tomorrow. But I am so excited for my mom's visit later this week. I can't wait! Neither can R!

Monday, November 24, 2008

The baptism

Thanks, everyone, for your very helpful suggestions for baptism gifts. Unfortunately, I didn't have time to do much more than pick up a card on our way to CT on Saturday, but I have an idea for something to make the twins as a gift still to come.

We had a wonderful time. We drove down on Saturday because a friend of ours just happened to be playing in a band in the same town as the baptism (which was on Sunday). So we stayed at my friend's mom's house. We all went out to dinner on Saturday night and then, as it turned out, the men went to see the band. R had slept almost the entire two hours to Connecticut, so he was not tired AT ALL at bedtime. Our plan had been to put the twins and R to bed and then go to see the band while my friend's mom kept watch over the kiddos. No dice. R didn't fall asleep until 11:30 - when the men were already coming back from the show. Oh well!

We got to have a lazy morning on Sunday because the baptism wasn't until 1 p.m. We snuggled with the babies, watched a movie, explored the woods in my friend's mom's yard, and cleaned up because the reception was going to be at the house afterwards. Then, we got the babies ready. I got to dress little girl M, which was so much fun for me!

Little D all smiley before getting dressed

Little M is very pensive and serious

Our friends get little D dressed in his christening suit

I dress little M in her sweet dress - they even had beautiful little shoes, and M had a little bonnet

All dressed!

Two cutie pies

The baptism itself was kind of anti-climactic. There were three other babies being baptized, so it was kind of like a baptism assembly line. In my old church, the babies were baptized as a special part of the regular worship service. This was just a baptism service - it lasted all of about 15 minutes. But that actually worked out well because there were TONS of little kids there besides the babies and R, so the average attention span in the church was pretty short.

We all headed back to the house and had a great party. My friend has a huge family on both sides, and nearly all of them live in the same town, so there was quite a crowd. R had lots of kids to play with, the food was excellent (this is an Italian family, so the food has to be good!), and we all enjoyed my friend's grandfather's brother's homemade wine. It was a fun day.

Finally, we packed up our car, drove back to MA, and did our best to keep R awake so that we wouldn't have a repeat of the night before. Mission accomplished. :-)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Nothing says I love you like... owl decoy?!?

This morning on the bus, a man in front of me was browsing a catalog. At the top of one page, the heading was Fine Gifts of the Highest Quality. Under that "category" was a picture of an owl decoy. And, even better, it was 30% off! Woohoo!

An owl decoy is a fine gift? That must be some pretty special plastic. ("Merry Christmas, darling - here's a plastic owl to scare away pigeons from pooping on the porch.")

At least it made me laugh on the way to work. That doesn't happen very often when taking public transportation. :-)

***Edited to add: Speaking of gifts, does anyone have any suggestions for baptism gifts? We're going to the baptism of our friends' twins this weekend, and I don't know if there is a particular kind of gift that's expected. The family is Catholic. Any ideas?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Great day

Today was a perfect example of why I starting taking every other Thursday off from work over a year ago. R and I had the best day together. We spent the morning lounging in our pajamas, drawing silly pictures and "doing crafts," and then R wrote his first book. He told me the story, I wrote it down, and he illustrated it. I would share it with you, but it ended up quickly diving into potty humor so I think I'll keep it to myself. The title is safe, though: "The Boy and His Friend, the Trash." :-)

Then, R's friend's mom called to figure out the details for our usual Thursday playdate. It was pretty cold today, so we decided to just hang out at their house because it is HUGE. Lots of room for two energetic four-year-olds. The boys played really nicely together, and the moms actually got to SIT and TALK for nearly the entire time. Amazing! It's been so nice getting to know this mom. I like her a lot, and her boys (ages 5 and 4) are really good kids. We made plans to all go to Edaville Railroad on Christmas Eve together.

After our visit (R and I both didn't want to leave), I took R to get a haircut. He was an absolute gem. Long gone are the days when he would cry during the entire ordeal and wriggle and squirm so that his head was nowhere near the stylist's scissors. He barely flinched today. And, he looks pretty darn handsome. Not that he doesn't always, but he's less shaggy-looking now.

Next we met up with more friends at a neighborhood playground. We didn't stay very long, though, because it was COLD. We headed back to our friends' house (these friends also have a huge house) for hot cocoa with marshmallows and lots of play time for the boys. Our families are going to be celebrating Thanksgiving together this year, so my friend and I made lots of plans about who is going to cook what, how we'll keep the kids entertained all day, etc. The boys played with a marble maze, trains, and R's friend Z's new Evil Knievel stunt motorcycle toy, which was very, very LOUD. R was very proud, too, that he got to try out Z's rollerblades (in the living room on the rug, while wearing a helmet).

Finally, we headed home to meet A and grab some dinner out. On the way home, R fell asleep in the car and A carried him into the house, snuggled into his shoulder.

What a great day.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

So cute and so profound

This morning, I was going through my daily struggle with R in which he begs me not to take a shower because it means I'll be leaving soon for work. As I slowly pried him off me after some snuggle time on the couch, he announced, "Mommy, I wish I could tie an anchor to you!"

Monday, November 17, 2008

It's okay

The point of my post yesterday was supposed to be a happy one - that God was still helping me and speaking to me and giving me what I needed (a church home! friends who follow Jesus!) even though I wasn't being very faithful to him at the time. I think maybe I didn't stress that part enough. Unfortunately, my writing often reflects my tendency to focus on the negative. :-(

Anywho, I'm pretty sure that God hasn't been asking me to seek him at the expense of my own sanity and of time with my family. When I listed all the things I've been trying to do to get closer to him, it sounded ridiculous when I went back and read it! I think God wants me to seek him simply and wholeheartedly. I do think it's important for me to be part of a church and to spend time with other Christians because I tend toward doing things alone due to my social awkwardness, and that isn't good for me. But I don't think God wants me to feel overwhelmed and stressed in my search for him. He's probably saying, "I never asked you to do all these things all at once, you silly girl! Here's where I want you to focus right now ..." So, I'm asking him for help in finding the right balance. :-)

Huh. I was just thinking about something else that happened last week: A and I were working late one night on a design project for work, and I was flipping out because I was tired, stressed out, and felt hopeless about our ability to finish the project in time for my presentation the next morning. I had to rely on A to do most of the work, and that was driving me nuts. I wanted to do it myself, my way, and on my time line - even though A is the designer. I got angry at A and yelled at him. But A knows me so well and is so patient. He was just quiet and let me rant until I calmed down and realized how ridiculous I was being. Then, I apologized to A, he threw his arm around me, we made up, and then we started to work together.

This is exactly how I think God deal with me sometimes. He listens while I flip out and get impatient and waits while I attempt to do things myself. When I finally come to my senses and let him lead, he kisses the top of my head, throws his arm around me, and makes things happen. He's pretty wonderful.

And, by the way, so is A. :-)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Where to begin? Oh yes - I am a big jerk

I've been pretty crabby the last few days. I've been feeling overwhelmed by everything - work, family, and even God. I've been struggling with how to juggle and balance my life, and I admit that I got frustrated with God because it feels like trying to keep up my faith is taking its toll on me and taking away from my precious time with R and A. For the last few weeks, I've been going to a new church, going to a church community group, trying to find more time to pray (because prayer has been the focus of our community group and the sermons on Sunday), haphazardly doing a Beth Moore study, listening to a Joyce Meyer audio series on changing your personality, and trying to serve more at church when I can, although there are many, many ways that I would like to serve (e.g., cooking for the homeless ministry) that I know I just cannot possibly do with my schedule (and, of course, I feel badly about that). And, with all of this (which now seems ridiculous to me), I've felt further away from God than I was before.

On top of that, an issue that I've been struggling with for a couple of years reared its head again. Basically, I want another baby and A doesn't. It's complicated, and A certainly has valid reasons for how he feels. I've prayed and prayed about it - that either A's heart would be moved or that the desire would be lessened in me. And, at times it seems like there has been progress in one or both areas, but then it'll all come up again and make me upset. Yesterday, A said some things that weren't very hopeful from my point of view and then to top it all off, Pampers somehow got me on their expectant mother list and sent me a flingin-flangin' free newborn diaper in the mail. Oh, gee, thanks a lot! So now I've got this stupid teeny tiny diaper on my coffee table that is making me all weepy. Gah!

Anyway, all of that helps explain my frame of mind when I woke up this morning. I really didn't want to go to church. I starting whining in my head about having to go to church by myself. And, I started questioning whether I'm really supposed to be going to this church in the first place. It doesn't really feel like home yet, although I have met some wonderful people. I still just feel alone there.

Today, I think God was a little sick of my complaining. When I was listing in my head the reasons why I didn't want to go to church today, the messages I got back were: "That's not my problem" and "Get your butt to church, woman!"

So I did. And, of course, God was wonderful to me in spite of my miserable whining and jerkitude. I walked in, said hi to a couple of people, and sat down by myself. Within a minute, though, I was surrounded by people from my community group. On either side of me were friendly faces, and I finally felt like part of the church family. It was amazing. Then, the pastor's sermon had so many moments for me where I just thought, "YES! YES! YES" because he was confirming and answering for me several issues where I've disagreed in the past with other churches' approaches. And, I cried because I realized that God was telling me I was home - and because I was so humbled that the God of the universe would answer me so lovingly and directly even when I was grumbling and being a complete weenie.

[Another cool thing? God, in His usual way, is a great multi-tasker. He led me to share my experience at church this morning with A when I got home, and A was genuinely excited for me. Tonight, when A and R and I were talking about what a great day we had - filled with time to play together, a visit with friends, time outside - A made a point to include my time at church as part of that.]

Thursday, November 13, 2008

What I did last night

Last night, R and I had fun building a Hot Wheels track and then sending cars down it into a pile of tiny automotive carnage. The track goes from our living room armchair, down through R's Lego car wash, through two loops, and into a cardboard box - although the bigger cars never made it through the second loop. I love this stuff! For some reason, when I dreamed about becoming a mom, designing car tracks and train tracks and shooting off model rockets and playing with Legos didn't enter my imagination. But I love it because it forces me to be creative, plus it's just so much fun to play like a kid again.

I had a video of R and me playing with the track, but it was still uploading after 2 HOURS, so I gave up. But here are some still photos.

Here is the entrance to the track, atop our heavenly squishy armchair.

R made use of his car wash that he and A built together two weeks ago with Legos. I had the brilliant idea to put it on top of R's kitchen stool to create an incline so that the cars could make it through the next stage: the corkscrew loops. Always thinking I am. (LOL. Wow - I have turned into Yoda Mommy.)

Here are the double loops and the pile of cars who, sadly, didn't make it. Actually, the real pile-up occurred at the base of the first loop, but this is what things looked like this morning. Note that R also sent two trains down the track. He experimented with many different vehicles, some of which smashed the smithereens out of the car wash and required Mommy to do some speedy Lego repairs. :-)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Thankful Tuesday

I woke up this morning with a pounding headache, sore throat, clogged sinuses, and achiness. So I'm home in bed and actually having quite a nice day in spite of feeling yucky. I had breakfast with A and R, took a long nap, and now I'm snug under the covers with a cup of hot tea, a purring cat on my legs, and the house to myself. (A and R went to Costco.) Best of all, I found out this morning that my sister Ericka is getting married next month! That was a wonderful surprise. Woohoo!

Yesterday was a great day, too. I woke up early and realized that if I didn't get my butt out of bed, I wasn't going to be able to get everything done that I needed to. So I got up, started a beef stew in the crockpot, fed R a real breakfast of scrambled eggs (vs. the cereal or bagel or piece of fruit we usually have time for), drove A to the subway, got R to school on time and successfully (i.e., no tears or whining - in fact, I barely got a goodbye wave because he was so happy to be there), came home and showered, started a load of laundry, had two conference calls, met a new friend for lunch, did more work and more laundry, washed the dishes, vacuumed, picked up R from school, read stories with R for half an hour, picked up A from the subway, straightened up the house, had friends over for dinner, snuggled with the friends' babies, put on my pajamas, and collapsed on the couch. Whew!

I'm so thankful for days like that. Sunday was completely the opposite, but still wonderful. I went to church and then A and R and I spent the rest of the day playing and relaxing. We had no errands to run, no plans. I kept thinking it was like a real Sabbath day. Although, technically, R and I worked by assembling a marble maze together. And, A worked by whipping up a batch of chocolate truffle frosting for my Dad's leftover chocolate cake. (Dad - we ate one layer, then froze the other. Two times the fun!)

The other "thing" I'm thankful for is more subtle. On Sunday morning, our church small group was responsible for the refreshments, collecting the offering, etc. I was one of the greeters. Later, as I sat listening to the sermon, it hit me how amazing that was. Being a greeter probably isn't a big deal to most people, but to me it was huge. It was another example of the amazing work that God has been doing in my life, how He's been pushing me outside my comfort zone and helping me to get over my social anxiety. I thought of so many examples over the past year where He's been at work: I gave a speech at our company's awards ceremony last Christmas to honor one of my co-workers, I've delivered a number of presentations to my company's management team, I've made new friends, I went to a new church and to the small group alone, etc. To an outside observer, I'm sure none of those things are very momentous. But they are to me. And, I'm so thankful for each one of them and to God for working in me even when it's so subtle that I don't notice it at the time. I think my Guideposts devotion book calls them "Divine Surprises." And, that's exactly what they are. :-)

Friday, November 7, 2008

Week in pictures

R's drawing of my BlackBerry. The fact that he wanted to draw it at all makes me think I need to put it away more. :-(

R checking out his loot on Halloween night. At the time, this looked like way too much candy, but now it doesn't look too bad to me. Maybe it's because I just came off a nine-week fast from chocolate!

We had our last rocket day of the year last Saturday. This is A setting up.

R's newest thing: showing how strong he is. Here he's about to pick up his friend Z. He also tries to pick me up. I let him believe that he can. ;-)

One of our rockets takes off. The arrow is pointing to the bottom fins. Unfortunately, we lost this one somewhere in the field!

A and R head off into the harvested corn field to look for one of our rockets. They found that one.

This was R's debut using his own shopping cart. I think we'll wait another year or so before we let him try again. There were several people who left the grocery store with bruises on their shins that day.

Pictures of sunsets never come out the way they looked in real life, but I still couldn't resist. This was the view from my bedroom window.

R at the playground after running around like crazy with his friends. I love his rosy cheeks and that silly way he contorts his face when he smiles.

Finally, here's a picture from my wedding day that I promised last week.

That's us in front of the cathedral in Jackson Square. See the little kids with their pumpkins in the background? At the time, this was the most dressed-up I had ever seen A. I cracked up when he got dressed that morning because I had never seen him wear anything but jeans and t-shirts. He looked very handsome. :-)

It's been such a rollercoaster week, with the sadness of the layoffs at work, the jubilation of the election results, and then I had a couple of cranky days with R that were not his fault. I skipped my church group last night to try to make it up to him - plus, he had just had his flu shot (NOT the mist - boo!), so he was a little sad and sore. We played a board game together as a family and then had family story time (usually, A and I take turns). That was lovely. Sometimes I just need time like that to reground and re-center myself.

I hope you all have a fun and relaxing weekend!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

This changes everything

I have hope again! Yesterday was the most amazing, wonderful time I've ever experienced as an American. I am so proud to have been part of making history.

It's very easy to become complacent about politics. Studying political science in college was the most depressing thing - understanding all the crap that goes on behind the scenes made me feel that my votes were practically meaningless. And, although I vote in every election - large and small, I've always had that feeling in the back of my mind. The election in 2004 got me excited again, but mostly out of desperation. And, I felt physically ill for days after how that one turned out.

But this election. I've been thrilled and so very hopeful for the possibility of what we could do, for how we could get people who never vote excited about voting, and for how the United States could repair itself, its reputation, and its people.

I was choking back the tears last night until the cameras focused in on Jesse Jackson. That was it for my composure. I can't even begin to imagine what this must mean for him and for so many others who worked and suffered and stood up during the Civil Rights era. They all made this day possible.

I'm praying for President Elect Obama. He has a huge job ahead of him and the expectations are so high. I'm praying that he'll seek God's help and guidance in his work and that he'll be able to implement the change he's been talking about. We sure do need it.

But today I just want to keep feeling the joy of last night!

Monday, November 3, 2008


Today was a bad, bad day. We had to lay off several people at my company, including everyone in one of the departments I manage and love. Those three people are really talented, special, and fun, and one of them was a longtime dear friend. I feel numb and dead inside right now. The decision was made above me, but I feel awful and guilty that I'm still here when they're not.

Please say a prayer for my now former co-workers today - that they'd find new and wonderful jobs quickly and that they'd be eased of worry and stress. Thank you.

Friday, October 31, 2008

My little songwriter

Tonight, while I was reading Frog & Toad stories to R at bedtime, he busted out his harmonica and made up a few songs. The music was really nice! But the best part was the names of the songs:
  • "Go away, go away" [made up when our cat came into R's room and started meowing]
  • "Come away, come away"
  • "Light end"
  • "Saturn has a ring"
  • "Sun is burning" [these last two are part of his "Universe" series]

Swingin' fun

Things at work have been weighing down my spirit this week, plus A is sick and cranky, and R had a rough afternoon and evening yesterday (cranky A + overtired R = disaster). Last night I just felt completely beat and low. But I brought it all to God before I went to bed, and I'm feeling better today. So, in my effort to focus on the positive side of things, here's a video of my boys being silly on the swings last weekend. (Warning: You may want to turn your volume down; R is LOUD.)

I'm excited for R for Halloween today. He wore his Racer X costume to school because he's going on the monthly nursing home visit (I love that his school does that), and they'll be having a Halloween parade there. At my company's trick-or-treat event on Monday, we had to explain R's costume to all but one person. (Did only boys who were born in the 1960s like Speed Racer? A and his friends know all about it, but everyone else seems to be pretty fuzzy on it.) But R had a blast anyway - he gots tons of candy, there was a make-your-own-sundae bar, and he and my co-worker's 4-year-old trashed my office while finding various ways to pop Halloween balloons. I looked over at one point and they both had these crazed looks on their faces, and R was running around carrying an open stapler. I also cracked up when I overheard the other boy say to R, "Let's eat your mom's ice cream!!!!" Luckily, R knows better than to touch my ice cream, especially if it has peanut butter sauce on it. :-)

And, this is why we don't argue with R when he wants to wear his bike helmet constantly:

Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Remembering summer

Since it is now officially COLD in New England, I've decided to warm myself up with one of the pictures from our big St. Augustine vacation a few months ago. Think 87 degrees, pristine sand, and warm ocean water. Sigh...

Monday, October 27, 2008

October 27, 2000

Eight years ago today, A and I got married under a tree in Jackson Square Park in New Orleans. It was a beautiful warm, yet dry day with bright blue skies. A man played trombone somewhere in the background, and a classroom of kids paraded by with their Halloween pumpkins. It was a perfect day. :-)

The story
In the early summer of 2000, we were planning a trip to New Orleans because we both had always wanted to visit, what with our love of Cajun food and zydeco music. But we were also at the point in our relationship where we had been talking about marriage and what our wedding might look like. And, it just seemed too difficult. A has many, many friends, so we would have had to invite at least 200 people. And, we couldn't afford that. A's parents would have been extremely uncomfortable at a reception that included alcohol, and our friends and the rest of our families (not to mention A and me!) would have been "uncomfortable" without it. LOL. We wanted to have it at our favorite local winery, but that would have been really upsetting to A's parents. And, I would have wanted to have my stepfather and my dad both there, which just wouldn't have worked. There were many reasons that made it seem impossible. Plus, A and I aren't so good at being the center of attention.

So, one night when we were discussing the future again, A said, "Why don't we just get married while we're in New Orleans?" I thought that was the best idea ever.

I found a minister, we wrote the ceremony and our vows, I bought a dress, A found a man who makes Celtic jewelry in New Orleans and ordered our rings, and we only told I think three people before we left. Our big secret made us silly and giggly for the few months beforehand. The days before we flew down to Louisiana, we were a wreck from nervousness, plus I think the whole secret thing was wearing us down.

When we got to New Orleans, the first thing we did was head over to the court house to get our marriage license. We took a ferry across the river and stepped back into time. The court house looked like it was from To Kill a Mockingbird, with dark wood paneling and huge ceiling fans. Everyone was at lunch when we arrived, so we walked around the block a few times. Eventually, the judge's assistant came back and processed our license and emphasized that we had to wait 72 hours to get married. (We knew that - that's why we arrived on a Tuesday; the wedding was scheduled for Friday.)

We spent the next three days on a pre-wedding honeymoon. We had amazing food, walked and walked the city, went to see a fun band at Tipitina's, and still kept our secret. If we were smart, we would have told everyone! Even at Emeril's for dinner one night, the waiter asked us what brought us to NOLA. But we were so used to keeping it a secret that we just said to visit the city for fun. I'm sure we would have had free champagne if we had opened our mouths! :-)

The day of the wedding, I was a wreck. I flipped out while getting ready and wondered aloud why the heck I was doing this without my mother to help me. But it worked out. I had even made my own wedding bouquet, with some tips from Martha Stewart. We looked really nice.

We asked the hotel to call us a cab, while we stood waiting in silence from fluttery stomachs. When the cab driver picked us up, he looked in the rearview mirror and asked, "Are you people headed to church?" We finally let loose and explained that we were getting married at noon in Jackson Square. Well, the cab driver just about died. He was so excited for us and started driving crazily to get us there on time (it was kind of trafficky). He gave us all kinds of advice and then told us the cab fare was on him, as a wedding present. It was very sweet. :-)

We met the minister at the park, and then A asked a couple of bystanders to be our witnesses. (That what's the minister had suggested we do.) The people were a little shocked, but willing. One poor guy had been sitting there with his wife on a bench, drinking a beer. (Because you can do that in New Orleans.) I think he was embarrassed, but he was very nice and helped us out.

The ceremony seemed really long, I remember, even though when we wrote it, it didn't seem very long at all. Getting to the vows took FOREVER. But the vows part was so wonderful. A and I both choked back tears and smiled. Then we exchanged rings and kissed, and it was over. Our witnesses took pictures of us (so nice!) and one of them even shot some video. The video is so cool because you can hear the guy playing trombone somewhere nearby, and there's a city worker raking leaves. You can hear the scrape, scrape of the rake. That always cracks me up.

After the wedding, we walked to some bar and had champagne. The bartender asked us if we wanted it to go. LOL. I never did get used to that.

Then we headed back to the hotel to change and to call my mom. I knew that she was heading out to visit my grandfather that weekend, and she doesn't get cell phone service up where he lives, so we wanted to call her before she left. She was ecstatic, of course. A took this great picture of me on the phone with her. We decided to wait to tell everyone else until we got home the next day. That afternoon, we took a horse and carriage ride and then went to K Paul's for our last NOLA dinner. It was an amazing week.

My poor sister Ericka was the first to find out after my mom. She picked us up at the airport. She was in a hurry because she was hopping on a bus to go somewhere (NYC? I can't remember) right afterwards, so we told her as we were rushing to pick up our baggage. I think she almost fell over and went crazy hugging us in the terminal. :-)

When we got home, I forget who we called first, but we did call our friends Mark & Christine on Sunday because we were really nervous about that. Mark isn't a fan of marriage and riles against it a lot in conversation. At the time, we used to hang out with them a lot. So, A was really nervous about calling them. But he did, and they invited us to come down to their house (they lived right down the hill from our place). When we got there, we found out that Mark had driven to NH to buy champagne to celebrate with us. So that was really nice. Then, the other friends we had told starting showing up, and we had a little party together.

The only person who was sad and disappointed about our eloping was A's mother. She was really bummed about not being able to attend our wedding. But, one out of everybody wasn't too bad. :-)

It really was the perfect way for us to do it. It was a lovely ceremony and exactly what we wanted.

The last eight years have been filled with all kinds of adventures for me and A. We've had some rough patches, but I'm so glad and thankful that we're still together and that we love each other. It's not that naive, giggly, newlywed way anymore. It's a deep love and respect that comes from helping each other through daily life and through the really hard times and from seeing each other grow and become parents. And, I wouldn't want it any other way. It's the same for our wedding. The way we did it was just right for us.

(I would post pictures, but our wedding album was heavily damaged when our basement flooded a couple of years ago. That was the one thing of all our damaged things that made me cry. I still have some salvageable pictures, but I'll need A's help to re-shoot them. Maybe I can do that tonight.)

Friday, October 24, 2008

Friday tidbits (now with pictures!)

I walked to the subway station this morning and I took my camera with me because I pass some of the most amazing foliage in the cemetery along my way.

I'm in a really great mood today. Last night's community group/Bible study was wonderful and energized me and just made me so happy with where and how God is leading me. R had a hard time with me leaving, but I think it's good for him to get used to me going out for a couple of hours once a week. He was fine this morning. In fact, he was very proud of the Lego car wash that he and A designed together last night and told A that as soon as I got home, A had to show it to me (which he did).

Tomorrow, A and I have a special date to celebrate our anniversary (which is on Monday). We're just going out to dinner, but we may venture a little farther from home to head to the North End in Boston or maybe just to our favorite tapas place near Harvard Square. Usually, we try to stick pretty close to home so that we're not out too late in case our babysitter has trouble getting R to sleep, which is typical (and not her fault at all - R gets SO excited to see her that he can't settle down). Tomorrow, we're planning to wear him out during the day so he'll be exhausted for her and go to sleep quickly. Sometimes for our anniversary, we've gone to this great, cozy restaurant that serves Southern food, Louisiana-style. We love that kind of food and, since we were married in New Orleans, it's fitting. But that restaurant closed this year! :-( Anyway, I'm very excited for our date - yay! Maybe I'll post the story of our wedding on Monday. We eloped, so it's quite interesting. ;-)

This week, I heard the song "Here I Am" by Downhere and I can't stop singing it. Check out the lyrics and listen to the song here.

Finally, the Veggie Tales live show is coming to the next town over from us. That will be fun to see with R. I swear, though, A and I enjoy the Veggie Tales videos more than R does. We crack up while R looks at us questioningly. And, ever since I heard my brother-in-law Shaun singing the "One Bean" song from "Lord of the Beans," that's all I can think about when I see the show and I just end up giggling uncontrollably.

Happy Friday, everybody!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

I've got to find something more interesting to talk about

For the last few weeks, my main topic of conversation has been about heat - when to turn it on, what temperature, etc. Some people 'round these parts have this feeling of superiority about keeping their house cold for as long as possible, and I admit I was starting to fall into that. Not that I feel superior, but I was definitely proud of my little family and me for not turning it on at our house yet. When honestly, it's not that we're made of sturdier stock - we're just plain cheap and trying to save as much on oil as we can this year.

So, we were trying to make it to November 1st. And, we almost did. But yesterday I admitted defeat and had to laugh at how ridiculous our little goal had become. On Monday morning, it was 53 degrees in the house. I shipped off R to school, A went into the office, and I worked from home all day - in long underwear, jeans, two pairs of socks, a shirt, a wool seater, and my winter coat. And, I was still cold! So, I grabbed my laptop and went upstairs to R's room to get under his huge fuzzy blanket, and I turned on his space heater. (We made sure R was warm at least these last couple of weeks.) But, that day was sunny, so the house warmed up enough to be tolerable. Yesterday wasn't. It was cold, wet, and gray. So last night, I cranked the thermostat up to a toasty 59 degrees while A was out. LOL. Then I turned it back down before he got home so he wouldn't notice. Craziness! A few minutes after he got home, I confessed and, of course, he didn't care. We didn't turn it on again last night, but this morning R and I couldn't take it anymore, so I turned it up to 59 again to take the edge off. I've been fondly reminded of the (unheated) cabin in Maine my family spent time at in October when I was young, but the fondness was wearing a little thing.

So, that's it. The heat/temperature talk is out of my system. Especially because I was thinking this morning about just how lucky I am to be able to decide when to turn the heat on, to have the luxury of heat and a home at all. So I'll find something else to prattle on about now.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Marble maze video

Here's the video I tried unsuccessfully to upload yesterday. We get mesmerized by the marbles going through the maze. I love when R's plane goes zipping by on the floor. :-)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Glorious fall

After a great morning at church (wonderful music, practical sermon, communion, AND I had a few people to say hi to - yay!), I came back to my chilly house. I changed my clothes, layered on the wool, and played with R up in his room while I sipped some hot tea. Here's what we built together:

The marble maze is so much fun. R tires of it sometimes, but every few weeks, we pull it out and spend at least a couple of hours building different mazes and just feeding the marbles through. R makes up stories about the marbles while he's playing. (I have a video to upload, but my connection is too slow at the moment...)

Because it was such a typical New England fall day, we decided to drive up just over the border to New Hampshire to go to my favorite farmstand for pumpkins, apple cider, and cider donuts (since we missed out on those when we went apple picking a couple of weeks ago). The foliage was just amazing all the way up there. I can't help but smile at the beauty of this time of year. It makes me so happy. God really is an artist. :-)

First, we stopped for lunch at Cracker Barrel. We had to wait awhile for a table, but R found the toy section in the country store part, and that occupied us the whole wait - and the wait was totally worth it. Oh my gosh was it good. I had beef stew and corn and turnip greens, plus biscuits. A had BBQ pork, beans, and turnip greens. And, R had his usual macaroni and cheese, which he wolfed down with a corn muffin and gobs of butter. Comfort food for a chilly day.

Then it was off to the farmstand. We checked out the scarecrow contest, then picked out a big pumpkin for carving, and grabbed the cider donuts. After dropping off our loot in the car, we spent some time at the farmstand's duck pond until my hands were about to freeze off. Then, we headed home to MA.

Just before R's bedtime, the three of us huddled in the kitchen, munching cider donuts and sipping hot, mulled apple cider. A and I had ours with a splash of red wine. Mmmm, perfection.

I hope one day that R will look back on these moments with as much joy as I do.