Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Today, I was reminded of this video. I posted it last year too, but it is SO worthy of re-posting this holiday (and every holiday).

Goosebumps every time I watch it.

Ordinary people sitting in an ordinary food court on an ordinary day. They had no idea they were about to be part of something extraordinary. But yet, they were.

This is exactly what I want to do this holiday season. Find the magic in the ordinary.

Who knows when something extraordinary is lurking around the corner.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

More than enough....

I wasn't planning on writing a post for Thanksgiving. Of course, not because I don't relish the holiday and its meaning. But simply because the whole "thankful" theme seems to appear in nearly half my posts, regardless of whether it is April or July or November. I imagine the three people who actually read this blog, collectively rolling their eyes and thinking "Here she goes again. Being all grateful and s*%#."

So, I intended to resist the urge. But, this morning I woke up with all of these things bouncing around in my head. I think it must be all the cosmic thankful energy in the air today.....

In no particular order - -

I am grateful that I finally understand my kids are doing me a favor when they insist on pointing out every one of my parental inconsistencies and fallibilities and flaws. If I'm honest, I know that they're actually teaching me to be a better parent (regardless of how much it might drive me crazy).

I am grateful for hope and opportunity and being able to take chances and try things that only a year ago seemed completely out of the realm of possibility.

In a year of great loss for our family, I am grateful for the sweetest memories. And for the love that miraculously continues, even when someone as left us.

I am grateful for all the little teeny-tiny Lego's that come in every box these days. When they don't get vacuumed up or lost, they really are the pieces that are key to Lego coolness.

I am grateful that even though some of our dear ones will be missing from our Thanksgiving table this year, they are still with us. Really. That never changes, despite the distance.

I am grateful that (I think) we'll manage to make this year another Barbie-free Christmas. And yes, I am so glad that American Girl has not yet entered our universe. (but I'm not holding my breath....)

I am grateful for all of the wonderful people who are a part of our lives everyday. All the teachers and daycare providers and dear friends. They really are family too, helping to shape and guide my little ones with such care and love.

I am grateful for second chances. The really big kind. The kind that end up being life-changing.

I am grateful that we don't "have" everything, but that we have more than enough. And that "enough" is actually perfect. It gives us comfort and deep appreciation and hope.

I am grateful that showing up to life and being a part of whatever makes our heart sing - - well, that is where the real joy is.

I am grateful that my kids will wake up this morning to the smell of pumpkin pie, and they'll hear the comforting sounds of me puttering around in the kitchen. And when they crawl out of their warm beds and make their way down the stairs, they will see someone who loves them to the ends of the earth. Someone who will pull them in and explain to them that they are on the tippy-top of mom's thankful list. I never never take that amazing privilege for granted.

I am grateful for morning sunshine and orange juice and the promise of a lovely day, starting with a family breakfast....


Here's to another year of walking with gratitude. Every step of the way.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

I love winter.....

That was Anna's quote the moment she saw the first flakes in the air early yesterday afternoon - - 

"Mom!  I love winter!!"

What she really meant is "Mom, I love to eat snow," but more about that later.....

As far as winter goes, I admit that I feel pretty much the same way as Anna. I love very specific things about winter.....the beauty of the snow and the muffled quiet it brings and the inevitable hot chocolate making and coziness after coming in from outside. But despite all of that wonderful - - well, damn.  I just really hate the cold.  Hate it!  I guess I take after my mom and my grandma.  We're all genetically afflicted with "perma-cold-itis."  Come November, perma-cold pretty much sets in and stays through March. Sometimes April.  It doesn't matter whether I'm inside or outside.  Doesn't matter how many layers I've managed to wiggle into....I'm just plain cold.

Why-oh-why do cold and winter have to go hand in hand?  Couldn't there be another cosmic option? (well, besides Florida or Arizona, of course!)

Oh well.  At least yesterday, "beautiful" came right along with the cold.


Around here, the first snow ranks among the top five of our most-exicting days of the year.  Probably right after Christmas and birthdays.  I'd say it's in a tie for third place, along with Halloween and the last day of school.  Yup, it's just that good. You can almost feel the excitement right before the snow.  A charge in the air, heavy with possibility.  And suddenly everything is covered in a beautiful blanket of white.  I think there is just something magic about all of it.  And especially when I get to see it through the eyes of my little ones...... 

Yesterday, when there was just the slightest accumulation on the ground, Anna begged to go outside. "Mom, pleeeeaaassssse!  I just want to take a closer look." 

Um, yeah.  Sure.  A look.

I knew exactly what Anna wanted to do.  Eat the snow.  Ever since she was old enough to walk, this kid put away the snow like it was her favorite candy.  Of course, yesterday, I was fully aware that with each mitten-full, Anna was ingesting as much October dirt, as she was getting new fallen snow.  But, there was just no stopping her.  She had waited months for that biting-cold taste of snow in her mouth, and by golly, she was going to get it.  And, as soon as she had that first taste - - well, all bets were off.....

"Henry, get your boots. Right now."

The winter dam had burst and out came the hats and boots and snow pants and coats and scarves and mittens.  Everywhere......


Once out in this first sticky snowfall, Anna quickly became a snow-encrusted four-year-old, as she alternated between shoveling snow into her mouth, and flopping down on her back to make snow angels. 


Henry, on the other hand, was all about making snowballs.  He and his friend Matthew were in pursuit of the perfect aero-dynamic form.  And the snow was just right for that.  But, they never ended up having a snowball fight after all.  I think it was more about seeing how many they could make, rather than combat. 


So, as Henry chased the perfect snowball, Anna ate the snow.  And more snow.  Below you'll find my little snow-fiend, getting her fix at any cost.  Rosy frozen cheeks and all.....




This snowfall was also perfect for sledding.  Just enough depth for a slick and fast ride down the hill. But, not too much snow to trudge through on the way back up again. So, they rode down and climbed back up.  Over and over.

What I loved most of all, was how patient and kind Henry was to Anna as they played. Watching her get in and out of the sled, all roly-poly in her many, many layers - - well, it was  a quite the challenge.  But, Henry stuck with her.  Offering leg-placement advice and a gentle boost here and there.  Of course, Anna was determined too.  That's my girl.  Out to prove that she can hang with the big boys.



After nearly three hours, the kids finally ventured back inside.  I think they made it up and down that hill at least two dozen times, before it was so dark that I could barely see them anymore from the window.

It really was a wonderful day.  And,I am so grateful that they are finally old enough to be outside on their own.  A fact which allows me to stay warm inside (not cold), watching all the fun (and beauty) from my kitchen window, and preparing the hot chocolate for the post-snow-warm-up.

See.  I do love winter!  Just on my terms. That's exactly why the first snowfall is in our family top five.

You know what else I love about the first snowfall?  It (finally!) gives me permission to declare the following:

I love the holidays and I refuse to contain my excitement any longer.  There.  Said it. 

I know these days, it is wildly unpopular to be all holiday-ish before Thanksgiving.  But, I'm done waiting. I've been in the holiday-getting-ready-closet for weeks.  Okay - for months.  (I confess.)  I love everything about the holiday season.  The planning and list-making.  The cooking and baking.  The lights and decorating.  The holiday surprises and the warm-fuzzy feelings.  And of course, the music.  (yes, the music!)  These days, 24/7 holiday music is everywhere.  And. I. Can't. Stop. Myself.

So -- "Let it snow, let it snow, let is snow...."

(My poor husband.....)

Henry keeps asking if we can start decorating the house right now.  And honestly, I'd love to say yes, but I just can't.  And for no reason other than we always, always start to decorate the day after Thanksgiving.  It's tradition.  Period.  And for me, tradition always trumps temptation.  For me, tradition is everything.  Geez, that's what got me into this holiday-loving mess in the first place - - Yup.  Mom and Grandma, again.  They had a whole boat-load of holiday traditions that I just can't shake.  And now (gratefully and happily) I get to pass it all along to my own kids.

So back in September (okay - August), I started planning for all the holiday hoopla, with my Hello Kitty notebook in tow.  (don't ask me why Hello Kitty. It's the only notebook I could find when the urge struck!) It's all there: menus, recipes, gift lists, grocery lists, calendars, addresses, good ideas, and to-dos.  And it goes with me everywhere.

Yup, I'm ready.  And I'm loving every minutes of it!  



From time to time, I must admit it feels a little crazy....starting to plan the holidays so early. But, I also know that all that pre-planning not only promises a fabulous holiday, filled with all the meaning and tradition and love that I had as a kid.  But, it also provides all of us with an entire month of amazing. A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. Plays and parades and caroling and giving and cookie decorating and snuggles by the tree and light-filled night-time neighborhood walks.  All of it.  Together. We have the privilege of experiencing what the holidays are really meant to be.

I know the kids are only little once, and I refuse to miss a moment.

In the end, thanks to Hello Kitty, there will be no last minute holiday craziness.  Just holiday magic.

And really, how could I resist a chance for more of this....


Sunday, November 13, 2011

November skies....

I've been writing blog posts and taking pictures in my head again.  Lots of them.  I just haven't had the time to type the words on the computer, or get my hands on the camera.  I will say though, it's been a fabulous week, despite the busyness.  I think November brings a sort of calm to our house.....All the back-to-school stuff has become routine again. We've buttoned everything up outside, ready for the impending chill.  The holiday craziness hasn't quite set in yet.  And please don't get me started on how fabulous and homey the kitchen smells this time of year, with all that baked pumpkin and nutmeg and simmering chicken stock.....

I guess we're settling in for the winter, and it just feels warm and cozy around here. 

This month, we're also working hard to be grateful.  To notice and to appreciate.  All the big things and all the everyday things.  And we're trying to be grateful, not just in our heads, but out loud too.

My theory is that gratitude begets gratitude.  The more grateful you are, the more the appreciation comes back around. And for this mama, gratitude is among my top five most important life-lessons to pass along to my own little ones.  I believe, way down to the bottom of my toes, that being grateful - living as though the glass is waaaaaaayyyy more than half full (even sometimes when it really isn't) - - well, that sort of outlook will nearly guarantee the good life.  And boy, do I ever have the good life!

A few days ago, I overheard Henry tell Anna that he liked one of the pieces of artwork that she created at preschool. And without missing a beat, Anna turned to Henry and said "And thank you for chewing with your mouth closed.  That's good manners."

Hey, I'll take what I can get......

Tonight, I was grateful for this amazing light, illuminating the view just behind our house to the east.  It was probably a half hour before the sun was going to set.  Of course, the photo doesn't come close to doing the scene justice - - just imagine hazy and glowing and warm.....It was simply gorgeous. 


I love a good November sky. I love the chill outside and the cozy inside.  I love the annual hunt for the first snowflakes floating in the air.  And, I love that all of my dear ones are snuggled up right here next to me. Safe and sound.  Happy and all glass-fullish.....

I will be grateful.  Out loud.  Every day.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Return on investment....

I've been preparing Henry and Anna for weeks.....

"Guess what we're doing on Saturday?  We're taking pictures for our holiday card."

I really didn't get too many objections from either Henry or Anna, but past experience made me afraid - - very afraid.

Why is it always so much easier to photograph someone else's family???

Generally, I must admit that Henry is pretty good about the whole "dress-up and pose" idea.  But Anna - - well, she is completely hot or cold.  And her mood can dictate e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g. 

So, the big day arrived (yesterday), and Anna happened to wake up at 6:30 a.m. - almost an hour and a half earlier than normal. (!!!!!)  Clearly, that didn't bode well.  And as expected, by 1:00 p.m., she was in tears over every little thing.  I saw my plans unraveling.  But, somehow the photo gods were in my corner.  Anna was agreeable to a nap. Really, I can't remember the last time she took a nap at home, but she was asleep within 5 minutes.  And just two hours later, we were dressed and ready for our adventure.

This time, despite all of my past Henry and Anna photo failures, I was determined to leave all of that baggage at home.  We would just make it work.  No matter what.  To quote Anna's preschool teachers, "I'd get what I'd get and I wouldn't throw a fit."

And then, one more, very crucial piece fell into place. My dear husband made the mistake of uttering the words: "Do you want me to come along?"

I pounced!  "Yes!!  Really?  Would you???"

"I was kidding." he said flatly, but he knew it was too late.  There was no going back.

So, we headed off.  (all of us!) I had scoped out my perfect spot in town. And yes, it was windy and a little cool and the sunlight was fading fast.  But I was determined..... 

Oh, more thing.  In the spirit of full disclosure, I should reveal the little surprise up my sleeve.  Well - - in my pocket, actually....Twenty crisp one dollar bills.  A little bait that turned out to be the icing on the photo cupcake.  I promised the kids one buck for every five minutes of pictures taken without incident.  I brought a timer, pronounced myself completely in charge, and offered the opportunity for instant gratification. Any resistance or complaints would result in the loss of a dollar.

Clearly, when it came to these pictures, I was not above bribery. And to my amazement, it worked like a charm. Despite one small wardrobe malfunction that nearly derailed everything within the first 5 minutes, it was perfect.  PERFECT!!

Henry and Anna were my star models.  They posed and played and listened and agreed to all of my crazy antics.  The kids didn't mind when next-door pizzeria staff wandered in and out of our back-alley-studio.  We changed clothes.  We switched locations. Ray manned the mobile-photo-rest-station (mini-van), complete with non-messy snacks and heat. Geez, Anna even wore a hat that she absolutely despised.  "Okay, I'll wear it," she said reluctantly, knowing her dollar depended on it. 

Honestly, I was stunned.  And I couldn't have been any more proud of my dear ones.  They actually had fun!

And of course, the most beautiful part?  I got the pictures.  In particular, I got heart-melting shots of Henry and Anna together.  I barely ever get those, and somehow - yesterday - I did.  I was nearly in tears behind my camera.  I finally got for myself what I have been giving to other families over and over this past year.  My heart was bursting each time I snapped.

Best twenty bucks I ever spent.

So obviously, I can't wait to share. But, the photos are under wraps until my holiday card goes out.  And now, the wonderful (and unexpected) dilemma: I figured I'd be lucky to get one good shot.  Now I have dozens.  Oh, what to do....

But, until I decide, here is my sneak peek.



Oh, be still my mama heart.....