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"Pace is all. Rhythm is master. Consistency is your friend."

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Day Thirty One: A New Year Filled with Hope

I heard this song the other day and the lyrics really caught my attention. I didn't even know what song it was or by whom, but thanks to the power of the Internet, I found out. Nothing profound, I suppose, but a nice reminder on this New Year's Eve. It's a song by the Goo Goo Dolls and it goes something like this:

Better Days
And you ask me what I want this year
And I try to make this kind and clear
Just a chance that maybe we'll find better days
Cuz I don't need boxes wrapped in strings
And desire and love and empty things
Just a chance that maybe we'll find better days

So take these words
And sing out loud
Cuz everyone is forgiven now
Cuz tonight's the night the world begins again

And it's someplace simple where we could live
And something only you can give
And that's faith and trust and peace while we're alive
And the one poor child that saved this world
And there's 10 million more who probably could
If we all just stopped and said a prayer for them

So take these words
And sing out loud
Cuz everyone is forgiven now
Cuz tonight's the night the world begins again

I wish everyone was loved tonight
And somehow stop this endless fight
Just a chance that maybe we'll find better days

So take these words
And sing out loud
Cuz everyone is forgiven now
Cuz tonight's the night the world begins again
Cuz tonight's the night the world begins again

P.S. I just want to point out that I did it! I managed to post thirty one times during the month of December. I didn't skip ONE day! I actually set a goal and followed through and while this may not sound like much to some of you - it's HUGE for me. I've not been known in the past to be a closer. I tend to lose interest or find some excuse not to cross the finish line. But not this time.

And what I'm most proud of is the fact that there were days when I didn't feel like writing; when it was late and I wanted to just go to bed and say "To hell with it!" But I didn't. I followed through and I wrote something everyday for the last month.

I guess my next goal is to continue this writing trend, probably not everyday on the blog, but everyday in some way, whether it be my fiction, my blog, writing prompts - WHATEVER!! I've set the precedent now. There's no going back.

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Saturday, December 30, 2006

Day Thirty: We Needed This

FINALLY!!! It snowed! Well, a little bit at least. Enough to get the kids dressed in their snow gear and take them outside. Enough to throw a few snowballs and for me to make this darling snowman . . .

Granted, there was only enough snow to make him about a foot tall. And, yes, that's grass poking through the snow in the background. We didn't even get an inch, but it was enough for my boys. When they saw it coming down my four year old couldn't get his gear on fast enough. We played tag. We played hide and seek. We threw (small) snowballs. It was pure bliss.

The only disappointment of the day was when we were outside and the sun came out. My older son responded immediately: "Mommy! I can't believe it's spring already!!" We're hoping for one big wallop before the end of the winter. Yes, even me. We had so much fun today. It was a day I really needed. If only everyday could be like this one . . .

P.S. I even got to watch a movie tonight! I know! Can you imagine?! My husband and I watched "Thank You for Smoking," and it was so funny! Definitely one of those quirky films; only 90 minutes long; Lots of great, dry humor. If you get a chance, rent it. (Plus I got to hear Katie Holmes, er Kate Cruise use the f-word several times and she was a dirty little whore, too! What does Tom think? Is that very Scientologist of her?)

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Friday, December 29, 2006

Day Twenty Nine: Ups and Downs

I woke up today feeling much better. So did the majority of my family. So after three days of being cooped up indoors, we took a little respite outside after lunch. It was amazing. The sun was out. It wasn't too cold, although I insisted on staying in the sun as much as possible and I did have my hood up. My boys and I played tag and hide and seek and we had races . . . It was truly wonderful just to get some crisp, fresh air into our lungs.

No problems when it was time to go in. No arguments. No back talk (which has been a big problem for about the last week with my four year old.) We went upstairs, had a snack and settled down on the couch. Then about 3 p.m. things started going downhill. Nothing major, mind you. The usual chaos of having two young boys running around an apartment. An apartment above my landlords, by the way, so we try and keep the running and jumping to a minimum. But there is this "magic" hour every evening when they get a second wind of sorts and their energy can no longer be contained.

Tonight was no different and it was the noise more than anything that got to me. Sometimes it feels like a constant ringing in my ears where I can't even think straight. And tonight was one of those nights. No matter how many times I asked them to quiet down; No matter how many times I separated them - they just wouldn't settled down. And I got mad. I felt like I wanted to blow, but thankfully did not. All I wanted was a little quiet. Time to think. Time to just listen to the silence.

I've been home from work for about four weeks now and, as happens every winter, I realize that working for me isn't just about the money. (Although financially it is a necessity for us.) It's about getting some time outside of the house. It's about interacting with other adults. It's about doing something that doesn't include my children. It's about the quiet I experience when I drive to and from work. I enjoy working, even though often times I don't. Does that make any sense?

I finally got my older son to bed and my younger son came out on the couch with me and fell asleep on me as he usually does. While I clicked away looking for something to watch on TV, I happened upon a PBS show about families of soldiers who are deployed in Iraq, many of them several times for more than a year at a time. And as I watched these soldiers talk about their families; talk about missing their children; talk about how hard it was to know that whatever they missed while they were away they were never going to get back; talk about the difficult transition when they come home to reintegrate themselves into their family's routine; talk about their fears that their young children will forget who they are and actually be afraid of them when they come home - I stopped feeling so bad.

I'm one of the lucky ones. Not a revelation for me, but a necessary acknowledgement in my life tonight. I'm lucky that I get to spend time with my children. I'm lucky that they can come to me to make boo boos go away and that I can read stories to them before they fall asleep. I'm lucky to be able to see them everyday of my life, something many divorced parents don't get to do, and as much as I crave quiet and time away and solitude - someday I will miss the noise, the chatter, the wrestling, the back talk; someday I will miss my sons because they will no longer live with me and they will no longer need me in their everyday lives. I'm definitely one of the lucky ones.

I'm reminded of something I read some time ago in a parenting magazine, I believe. It was a quote that went something like this: "Some days feel like they will never end, but the years fly by in an instant." I'll try and keep that in mind . . .

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Thursday, December 28, 2006

Day Twenty Eight: A Post for Post's Sake

I have a horrible headache. I've been laying on the couch for the last three hours. I've been cleaning up other people's sickness all day. My house is toxic right now. But I'm so close . . . So close to the end of the month and being able to say that I posted on every day in December . . . I just had to write something. So here it is - SOMETHING.

I'm going to bed.

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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Day Twenty Seven: Finally a Shower, Still No Snow

I finally managed a shower today. A nice hot one because I really needed it to aid in scrubbing the grime off. I also managed three, count 'em three, loads of laundry today. The Christmas tree has been taken down and taken away. I cleaned up the kitchen and I have a plan on how to tackle the upcoming month of packing that lies ahead of me. All in all, a very productive day.

However, it still hasn't snowed here - much to my older son's dismay. We have had unseasonably warm weather for the last two months including temperatures in the 50's at times during the last two weeks and so, no snow. We got some flurries today which I knew weren't going to amount to anything, but my son didn't know that. When he looked out the window he yelled, "Mommy! Look! It's snowing! It's finally snowing!"

I told him that I didn't think it would be enough to play in, that it was pretty much melting as it hit the ground, but he didn't believe a word of it. He basically told me I had no idea what I was talking about. So he watched out the window, periodically, for about an hour or so while the snow continued to fall. Then it stopped. And the sun came out. And what little snow that had fallen on the roof began to melt and was falling down past the window as water.

"I guess we can't make a snowman after all . . . Will we ever get enough snow?"

I'm not one for the white stuff anymore. It's cold. It's wet. It causes not only difficulty for me when driving, but more annoyingly it causes other drivers to forget how to drive thereby causing me even more hassle in trying to avoid them. But suddenly, I want it to snow. I want it to snow really bad.

But while we're waiting for the snow to fall I've put up a tent in my living room. That's right a tent. My boys received it from Santa and I knew it would be a big hit; I just didn't know how big of a hit. We played board games in the tent. We pretended to sleep in the tent (after my sons pretended to turn off the pretend light in the tent.) We pretended to be scared of the bear (my husband) outside of the tent. My younger son tried to eat in the tent, but that was probably the only thing we didn't do in the tent.

Don't be getting any ideas, however. I'm not about to go camping in the great outdoors - unless it's in a cabin with running water, electricity and indoor plumbing - and if it has all that I might as well stay in my living room, in the tent, with my boys :)

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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Day Twenty Six: Post Christmas Recovery

I literally did nothing today. No, I'm not exaggerating. I did nothing. No shower. I didn't change out of my pajamas (for like the third time over the last week). I haven't brushed my teeth yet. (I will before bed. Don't be too grossed out.) It was just one of those days.

I got up late because I was up late. Then at 2 a.m. my younger son came into my bedroom, which he does quite often so I wasn't surprised, and climbed into my bed - causing my husband to vacate our bed - and before my husband was out the bedroom door my two year old was throwing up. So after stripping the bed, scrubbing the mattress, opening the window and closing the door to keep the odor from spreading, I joined my two year old (after he had had a 2 a.m. bath) in his bed while my husband took the couch.

The good news is that it was just the one incident of sickness. He was fine today and was eating regular food by dinner. I, however, was exhausted and so I slept in. Then I spent the rest of the day cleaning up from Christmas, my husband cut what appeared to be at least one ton of cardboard and then we vegged out the rest of the day.

Oh, I have had probably no less than a pound of chocolate today. I can't stop eating it. It's sitting right in the middle of my kitchen which is in the middle of my apartment and I can't help myself from grabbing a piece every time I walk by (and then there are the times when I go into the kitchen just for the sole purpose of grabbing a piece). Rewind two months and it's Halloween all over again for me. No self control. Aerobics classes can't start back up soon enough.

I think the Christmas tree is coming down tomorrow. So are the decorations. Time to start getting back to "normal" around here. Although now that the holidays are coming to a close it's go time for our dreams of owning our own home. Time to start packing - which I am dreading. I'm looking forward to ridding out some of the crap we've collected over the past five years, but completely dreading the actual act of packing up and moving. But all of that is being outweighed by my late night sessions of planning what furniture is going where in the new house and what things I want to buy and what colors I might use to paint this room and that room - I can't believe our dream of owning a home is a little over a month away.

It certainly was a very Merry Christmas and I'm looking forward to a very Happy New Year!

11:58 p.m. - P.S. OK. I just checked my email and I had one message waiting. It's a parenting bulletin that I get weekly. I signed up for when I was pregnant with my first child and they update you every week during your pregnancy and then they give you developmental milestones, suggestions for games and activities you can do, etc. after the birth. These days I just skim through it (I've gotten a couple of great recall announcements through it) and usually delete it within five minutes. I stopped reading the whole milestones and "what your child should be doing," stuff once I had a second child, but have just never unsubscribed from the mailing list.

Anyway, guess what the very first topic of information is this week? "How to Raise a Spiritual Child." Uh, what? Could it be that I'm more widely read than I though I was? Are the folks over at Babycenter reading my blog? CRAZY! Or more likely I think it's the universe - it's wonderful how she does that. You put the question out there and she sends you answers; and I stress answers, plural, because the greatest thing is that she doesn't force anything - she provides possibilities, options, ideas. It's still up to me to choose.

But I think I'll actually read this article. (Not tonight. I'm too tired.) Just to see what it has to say. I mean, how can I not give it a chance with a subtitle like: "Whether you belong to an organized religion or follow your own spiritual path, get ideas on how to nurture your 2- to 4-year old's or 5-to-8-year old's sense of spiritual wonder" or "How to keep your child's materialism in check."

Even on days when nothing happens - I can be absolutely amazed.

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Monday, December 25, 2006

Day Twenty Five: Merry Christmas

This is a picture of the clock my husband bought me.
It's to be placed on the mantle of our soon-to-be new home . . .
And he was worried about getting me the right present :)

Christmas was a success . . .

Santa made his planned appearance. Children were out of their minds with excitement. Much wrapping paper was torn and much fun was had by all. So much fun, in fact, my three handsome men were all tucked into bed by 9:00 p.m. And I am left here, alone, quietly contemplating a truly wonderful day. Yes, I L-O-V-E Christmas and I'm already looking forward to next year.

All of these holiday happenings had me thinking about my upbringing and, read religious upbringing, and my "issues" regarding religion and the confusion I feel about how to raise my own children. See, my family doesn't have a lot of traditions. What we did have we lost when we moved away from the rest of our family some 20 years ago. Then my parents were divorced about a decade after moving their family of five to the Northeast and my sister moved to Florida and what we were left with was a very splintered version of what we once had.

No more big dinners at my aunt's house; no more cousins to raise hell with; no more baking Christmas cookies with my aunt (although all I ever really did was eat the raw cookie dough); no more Christmas Eve church services.

Over the last five years, as I have now started a family of my own, I have tried to bring back some of the traditions I loved as a child not only for my sons, but for myself. I invite my mother and my sister (and her soon-to-be groom) to my house on Christmas morning to open gifts; I always make sure that my sister (and again her groom) have a stocking filled with all kinds of treats to take home with them; I listen to the Chipmunks when I put up my tree; I make sure that the brass angel my grandfather gave to me when I was very young is hung prominently at the top of the tree every year and I've given my children brass ornaments of their own to hang on the tree . . . But no Christmas Eve church services.

Although I am not tempted to go, when it's quiet and I've done all of my "Santa" duties, and everyone is tucked into bed and the only sound I hear is no sound at all - I do think about it. I remember the bigger than life stained glass window surrounded by grey cement bricks that I used to stare at during the Christmas sermon or during the Christmas hymns we sang at the end while we waited to hear the church bells ring at midnight. I used to get lost in that window. It portrayed Jesus in the arms of Mary surrounded by what I believe we the Disciples - brilliant and vivid greens and reds, blues and oranges . . . Even at night it looked as if it was being lit by the sun on the other side. That window always made me think about my life and my family and the world . . .

These days I have a problem with organized religion. I feel like it's a club. I feel like trying to make people fit a particular mold, making them feel like "bad" people who need to be saved from themselves and arrogantly assuming that your "way" is the right way - it just doesn't go with who I believe God to be. I mean, if he's supposed to love us all unconditionally, what's with all the fuss? What's with all the rules about loving him in return?

So that's my dilemma. I was raised in a Christian household and I believe that it's that upbringing that has contributed to my current belief system. I want my children to be independent thinkers; I want them to be loving and accepting of others even those that are different from them; I also want them to have something to believe in and I'm not sure I know how to give them that since I reel against anything having to do with institutionalized religion.

So that's why I'm doing some reading. I'm back on a Transcendentalism kick, so I think I'm going to explore the spiritual side of it for a change instead of just turning away from any mention of God. While I strongly believe that I can have a relationship with God without entering the doors of a church, I need to be strong enough in that conviction to allow myself to listen to and expose myself to others who also believe in God so that I can expand my own beliefs. I need to stop being so cynical and judgemental and absolute in what I believe Christianity to be - it's time to open my mind back up to learning. Maybe then I can start to realize how I might guide my own children in their spiritual journeys.

(Although I have a good start in this quote I found the other day: "I believe in God, only I spell it Nature." --- Frank Lloyd Wright --- A great starting point for some more study in transcendental thought.)

Well, this has gotten far too long and I'm getting tired myself. I hope the heaviness of the topic hasn't scared you away . . . I guess tonight I'm grateful for books that make me think and for nostalgia which has led me to think and read some more.

And of course, I really like my mantle clock, too . . .

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Sunday, December 24, 2006

Day Twenty Four: I'm Grateful for it All

No time to write . . . I'm busy "helping" Santa . . . But today I am grateful for all that I have - my family, my friends, my soon to be new home, the fact that I am able to celebrate Christmas by giving my friends and family gifts, the fact that I can't wait to see the look on my kids' faces tomorrow morning when they see the tree all lit up and the candy canes hanging from the branches and the presents under the tree and the letter Santa left thanking them for the yogurt . . .

I'm just grateful to be alive right now, in this moment, because I wouldn't want to be anywhere else even if I had the choice.

Merry Christmas . . . And on Earth, Peace and Goodwill to all living things

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Saturday, December 23, 2006

Day Twenty Three: Last Minute Preparations

Illustration by Norman Rockwell

Still have some wrapping to do, but the boys must be able to smell Christmas in the air because I can't get them to bed tonight :)

So I'm off to cuddle . . . Sweet dreams, everyone.

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Friday, December 22, 2006

Day Twenty Two: My Mind is Numb

I truly have very little to say tonight. Nothing exciting happened. Nothing cute to mention. Just an ordinary day.

Although I did talk to my dad today and I haven't talked to him in, oh, probably close to a year? That's probably about right. The last time I talked to him was probably Christmas 2005. But he called me the other night on my birthday and left a message. I finally got a chance to call him back today. It was nice hearing his voice. It wasn't as awkward as it usually is with lots of prolonged silences as we try and think of what small talk we can discuss. No, this was a nice visit. I think because it wasn't very long and since it had been so long since we talked I had a few things to report and we talked about my sister's upcoming wedding and then he had to go to work - so short and sweet. Probably for the best. He wished me a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, although he said he hoped we talked before then, but he said it "just in case." That probably means I won't talk to him . . . but today was nice and I'm grateful to have heard his voice if nothing else.

Other than that I've got nothing, so I thought I would share an email that my mom forwarded to me the other day. Kind of a cheesy one, but I liked it. And as the stores fill with grinches and grumps doing their last minute shopping (none of whom do I have to run into since I'm finished thank goodness) and complain and gripe at retail staff all over the country - this should give us all something pleasant to think about; something to shift our focus just a bit.

The following is the philosophy of Charles Schultz, the creator of the "Peanuts" comic strip. You don't have to actually answer the questions. Just read the questions straight through, and you'll get the point.

1. Name the five wealthiest people in the world.
2. Name the last five Heisman trophy winners.
3. Name the last five winners of the Miss America.
4. Name ten people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer Prize.
5. Name the last half dozen Academy Award winners for best actor and actress.
6. Name the last decade's worth of World Series winners.

How did you do? The point is, none of us remember the headliners of yesterday. These are no second-rate achievers. They are the best in their fields. But the applause dies. Awards tarnish. Achievements are forgotten. Accolades and certificates are buried with their owners .

Here's another quiz. See how you do on this one:

1. List a few teachers who aided your journey through school.
2. Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time.
3. Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile.
4. Think of a few people who have made you feel appreciated and special.
5. Think of five people you enjoy spending time with.


The lesson: The people who make a difference in your life are not the ones with the most credentials, the most money, or the most awards. They are the ones that care .

And the ones who love you even when you're in a grumpy mood for no good reason. And the ones who forgive you for snapping at them even when it's not really them you're angry with. And the ones who love you, every little bit of you - especially the parts you don't love about yourself - and give you a hug at the end of every day, just because.

Look around and be grateful for the people like that in your own life. And let them know how grateful you truly are.

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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Day Twenty One: Nothing Like a Good Book

A couple of my avid reader friends recently reread Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury and I was so intrigued by their reactions that I picked it up the other day myself. Now, I hadn't read the book since my freshman year in high school some 15 years or so ago. I remembered it being a science fiction novel where in the future firmen don't put out fires, they set fire to books. Seemed pretty simple back then, and yet when I started to read it again at the age of 31 it was so much more.

I won't go too much into it except to say that it's one of those books that frightens you if you're willing to open up your eyes to our current reality. Bradbury discusses the problems of immediate gratification, human isolation in return for techonolgical advances, the always in a hurry, not enough hours in the day attitude of modern society and of course, the dangers of book burning. I was literally shocked by Bradbury's ability to predict the future - although we are not yet paying fire fighters to burn books, the themes of this book cannot be denied in their existence in 2006 - while writing the novel in 1953. It's a dark and scary tale and one that makes you think about things you might not want to or simply haven't devoted the time to thinking about. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a powerful, thought provoking tale that will also be a quick read, but will leave your mind reeling for days after you put the book down.

Then last night when I was at the movies I saw a preview for a movie based on a novel I read when I was probably in the fifth or sixth grade. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson is a dramatic tale filled with strong emotions like the power of friendship, as well as the power of the imagination. It's the story of the relationship between a young girl and a young boy and their adventures together when they venture into the forest to escape the realities of their own lives. Suffice it to say it's a great read, one that had tremendous impact on me so much so that when I saw the opening scenes of the trailer last night for the movie I knew immediately what the title of the movie would be.

Which got me thinking about some of the books I remember from my childhood. So in honor of reading, for which I am VERY grateful for, I would like to give you a list of my 10 favorite (at least the top ten tonight) books from adolescence:

  • 1. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson - for reasons already mentioned above. You won't be disappointed if you pick this one up. It will really bring you back to the innocence and wonder of your preteen years.

  • 2. Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell - My fourth grade teacher was the one to introduce me to this classic when she read a chapter a day to us during English class. The writing was melodious and I felt like I was in a trance while I listened to each and every word. I read it again myself the following year and enjoyed the story of Karana even more. Basically, it's the story of a young girl who lives out the premise of "Survivor" without all of the silly competitions and the Hollywood/celebrity crap.

  • 3. Fade by Robert Cormier - I think this one was a summer reading list book and I would have never picked it up otherwise. It's a science fiction tale about an adolescent boy who finds out that he can make himself invisible, but then has to deal with the things he sees when no one knows he is there. Truly a story about growing up and facing what we don't want to.

  • 4. A Separate Peace by John Knowles - Another coming of age story where a young man must find his own way at a prep school for boys. Gene meets up with Phineas and the two bond very quickly, but their relationship is volatile and changes the quiet New England landscape of the school forever.

  • 5. The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier - Another summer reading book and another classic by Cormier. This is a great book about going against the grain, standing up for what you believe in and about facing the consequences of doing so. The main character, Jerry Renault, refuses to take part in the annual school fundraiser and sets into motion complete chaos. To some he is a hero and to others he is the object of great hatred. This book can be summed up by a poster Jerry hangs in his locker, "Do I dare to disturb the universe?"

  • 6. Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger - A classic and there are probably very few who haven't heard about the journey of Holden Caufield. I have read this book several times and when I read it as a teenager it really taps into the feelings of alienation and confusion that many teens experience. Holden is such a cynical character and yet you can't help rooting for him.

  • 7. Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin - This is a true story based on the experiences of a white man who chemically colored his skin in order to live the life of an African American in the South in 1959. This book was illuminating and opened up my eyes to a whole world I had never known about before. I was in the 11th grade when I read this book and it truly changed the way I looked at the world including the very hallways of my own high school.

  • 8. The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley - While this was not assigned reading for me in high school I believe I picked it up after reading "Black Like Me." I knew nothing about Malcolm X before reading this book and after finishing it I was in awe and had great respect for the life he lived. Truly an amazing book.

  • 9. Civil Disobedience by Henry David Thoreau - I think I talk enough about my love for the Thoreau and Emerson, but this is a great introduction to the philosophies of the transcendentalists. Also an 11th grade read. The highlight with this one was taking a field trip to the Concord River in the spring to go on a canoe trip. I felt like I might see Thoreau or Emerson walking by the water around any bend. It was magic.

  • 10. Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson - See number 9, but insert Emerson where Thoreau appears :)

So I guess what I've realized in writing this is that not only am I grateful for books, but grateful to my teachers and the public schools I attended because without them I may have missed quite a few of these gems.

I'd love to know what books had the greatest impact on you during your adolescence. It's such a strange and wonderful time . . . and without books so much would have been missing from it.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Day Twenty: Girls Night Out

I went out with my girls tonight. We went and saw "The Holiday." Total chick-flick movie, so I decided not to torture my husband by making him go with me and invited several friends of mine instead. (I'm not usually one for those kinds of movies either, but this one is set in large part in Britain and I love the countryside and the cottages and the pubs ... and I love the accents so listening to Kate Winslet and Jude Law speak for two hours was like music to my ears ... And who wouldn't want to watch Jude Law and listen to previously mentioned accent while eating popcorn, sipping a Mountain Dew in the dark?)

As you can see I had a great time. The storyline was cute; The scenery was even better (yes, I am referring to Jude Law and the English countryside) and of course it had the mandatory happy ending for all involved. A few drinks and lots of laughs afterward and we called it a night.

So I'm tired now and I only have about twenty minutes to get this post up, so that's it. I'm grateful for good times, good friends, girly drinks and sappy, chick movies.

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Day Nineteen: Happy Birthday to Me!!!

Amazing isn't it?

NASA has this great thing on their website, the "Astronomy Picture of the Day," and this is today's photo. The image portrays a cluster of the brightest stars found in space - quite appropriate for my birthday, don't you think? - with new stars forming in the orangish-red gas to the left. Burning bright while witnessing the birth of something new; Quite poetic, I think.

It's been a wonderful day. It started off with kisses and hugs this morning before I was even out of bed from my three boys. I had e-cards waiting for me in my mailbox and an email from Cheryl titled "Bush Bumper Stickers." Totally made me laugh and I must share a few of my favorites here:

That's OK I Wasn't Using My Civil Liberties Anyway

Bush. Like a Rock. Only Dumber.

America: One Nation, Under Surveillance

Cheney/Satan '08

Jail to the Chief

Bush: God's Way of Proving Intelligent Design is Full of Crap

Bush Doesn't Care About White People Either

What Part of "Bush Lied" Don't You Understand?

2004: Embarrassed; 2005: Horrified; 2006: Terrified

At Least Nixon Resigned

Today I am also grateful for:

  • My husband who regularly uses words like "megalomaniac"
  • My four year old's preschool holiday show. It was adorable. Lots of music, some crying (not from my son thank goodness) and so much cuteness I thought my heart might burst right there in the school cafeteria/auditorium
  • Hebert's Candy Mansion which I visited today and bought some sinfully delicious white chocolate
  • My sister Julie who sent me a link to the song "Happy Birthday" by New Kids on the Block (before they tried to go street and became NKOTB). My older son decided it was the perfect song to slow dance with his mother to and, again, my heart was near bursting. Then at the end of the song he cupped my face in his hands and said with one of the most endearing smiles I've ever seen, "I love you, Mommy."
  • My family who came over tonight to share in a plate of spaghetti and meat sauce and some good old birthday cake.
  • My husband - again - for making such a delicious meal and for doing the dishes afterward and for making this such a wonderful birthday day.

Yes, I am one of the lucky ones and it's days like these that make me wonder how I got so lucky :)

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Monday, December 18, 2006

Day Eighteen: 'Tis the Season

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First off, I want to wish a Happy Hanukkah to those of you celebrating the Festival of Lights this week. As you know, I have what's known as "Christmas-head" and neglected to acknowledge that there are other holiday celebrations out there. I apologize for my oversight.

(My son can be credited with reminding me actually. He asked me today if I had a dreidel because he wants to play the dreidel game. Surprisingly, I used to have a dreidel but have since misplaced it and therefore we have not been able to play. I'm going to try and find one tomorrow, but I'd like to thank the public schools for teaching my son about the diverse celebrations this time of year brings. Hopefully I won't forget Kwanzaa.)

It was a quiet day today, for which, yes, I am grateful. It was a day of recovery. My little guy has almost completely recovered from his awful cold, my older son still releases a hefty cough now and again but nothing like last week and even I am feeling better today. (My voice actually has a bit of a sexy raspyness to it, but I can't seem to get my two-year-old to go to bed tonight so that does me no good!) The only downside seems to be that now my husband thinks he may be coming down with the cold that had struck down me and my children. Let's hope for everyone to be healthy for Christmas.

I need to get some sleep. The big Holiday Show is on for tomorrow morning at my son's preschool and we're both excited about it. I think what he's most excited about is that he's having his "show" as he likes to call it on my birthday. (Yes, that was a shameless birthday plug. For those of you have known me for any length of time can attest - I have no shame in advertising the annual celebration of the day of my birth.) Anyway, today he told me, "Mommy, you know what? I get to give you your very first birthday present tomorrow." I asked him what that would be and he replied, "Hello! My show!" Of course. What was I thinking?

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Sunday, December 17, 2006

Day Seventeen: Awwww, Shucks! It's the Holidays!

I was tagged by Gretchen and usually I don't do these things, but I don't really have anything else exciting to write about today, so here goes:

A - Available or single: Aren't those the same thing? I'm married

B - Best friend: Steven, Kelly Leigh, Shannon, Cheryl, Danielle (One for each of my many personalities ;)

C - Cake or pie: Yellow cake with chocolate frosting

D - Drink of choice: water (Strawberry Daquiri on special occassions)

E - Essential item you use everyday: toilet paper

F - Favorite color: blue

G - Gummy bears or worms: I don't like eating squishy things (I have a whole neurosis surrounding food and texture)

H - Hometown: Zanesville, OH

I - Indulgence: going to bookstores and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups

J - January or February: January- it's my sister's birthday and we're closing on the house!!!

K - Kids & names: Liam and Owen

L - Life is incomplete without? My THREE boys, my mom, my sisters & my closest friends

M - Marriage date: October

N - Number of siblings: 2

O - Oranges or apples: Orange juice

P - Phobias or fears: spiders and getting into a car accident on the highway

Q - Fave quote: This is a tough one. I'm a quote junky. This week I guess it would have to be: "I feel the greatest gift we can give to anybody is the gift of our honest self." -- Fred Rogers

R - Reasons to smile: What's not to smile about? (Besides the wars in Iraq & Afghanistan, Dubyah's entire presidency, poverty, starvation, the AIDS epidemic, homelessness . . .)

S - Season: Autumn

T - Tag 3 or 4 people: Shani, Cristina & Christina - No pressure, ladies ;)

U - Unknown fact about me: I have a slight purse obsession

V- Vegetable you don't like: a shorter list would be those that I do - green beans, cooked carrots and ... that's about it!

W - Worst habit: procrastinating

X - Xrays: shoulder

Y - Your fave food: Whatever my husband cooks for me

Z- Zodiac sign: Sagitarius

So after completing this little diddy, I've decided that today I am most grateful for Cheryl (aka Cherlito, Gretchen Wallaby, Franklin . . . ). I am grateful for her love, friendship, humor, inspiration, support, our (almost) weekly phone conversations, her willingness to take a chance (with me), but most of all - I'm grateful for her LOVE.

Yes, it's worth mentioning twice. Her LOVE is so powerful it warms the Earth (but not in a bad way like global warming), it brought her beautiful daughter into the world and it makes me feel young and carefree just like when we were in high school; we were insepararable then (along with Myrtle may she RIP) and even with several states between us, I'm glad we've found our way back again.

OK. No more mushy stuff.

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P.S. I'm also grateful that I got to watch "A Charlie Brown Christmas" AGAIN tonight with my boys. Just when I thought that movie couldn't get any better, it did.

P.P.S. Thank you to Shani, as well, who sent me the most beautiful virtual flowers today. In fact, I posted them here on the blog and apparently they change weekly. Thank you, my friend!

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Saturday, December 16, 2006

Day Sixteen: My Holiday Card to You

Wishing you a safe and happy holiday season. While you enjoy your time and the exchange of gifts with family and friends, please take a moment to remember those that do not have the means to celebrate the holidays so extravagantly.

Also remember those that will not live to see another day because they do not have the means to provide for their, or their children's, survival.

Then go one step further and don't just think about it - do something.

Share your wealth.

P.S. I had a hard time thinking of something I was grateful for today. My younger son and I have been battling the awful cold that my older son had last week. Instead of sounding like he has rocks in his chest, his nose runs like a faucet and in my case it's my ears that hurt the most.

Anyway, I realized that I have so very much to be thankful for and I wanted you guys to realize it, too. Not everyday is a bright one, but anyone reading this right now is probably much better off than the majority of the world's population.

Oh, and it helped when I read this comment on yesterday's post: "You were nominated several times and now we see why. Your site has won a Blog of the Day Award."

I'm not sure who nominated me, but thank you whoever you are. And it was a bit of an ego boost to know that not only are there people out there reading (and not just my close friends who are sweet enough to encourage this ego trip of mine), but that there are people out there who like what they're reading!

And best of all, look what I got:

Blog Of The Day Awards Winner

You know how I love the widgets!!!

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Friday, December 15, 2006

Day Fifteen: No Words Tonight

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Day Fourteen: Christmas Shopping - Check!

I'm cutting it close tonight. As you can see, I've got less than an hour to get this post online. Good thing it's a short one :)

Tonight I am grateful for my sister. We went Christmas shopping tonight (and to get our haircut) and, as is always the case with us, we had a great time! Lots of laughs, lots of good presents, more laughs . . . And we topped it off with a good old McDonald's meal, eating while we sat in the dimly lit parking lot at 9:45 at night because we hadn't gotten a chance to eat before then. (I had a great vanilla shake that I will probably dream about it was so good.)

So now it's time to start wrapping. I can't believe Christmas is a little over a week away! I can't wait! I think we're going to try and see Santa tomorrow with the boys. My four year old is afraid that if we don't go see Santa soon then Santa won't know what he wants for Christmas, and that by the time he finds out the elves may have run out of the parts they need to make his toys. Oh, to have the mind of a child!!

Oh, and one more thing. I forgot to mention the other day that my husband had (finally) successfully installed my new stereo speakers in my car. They sound phenomenal, my driver's side door lock works once again - and all is right with my world.

Happy Holidays!!!

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Day Thirteen: T. "Lucky" Wallaby

I got my good night's sleep last night - after getting back out of bed when my husband came home from work and spending about a half an hour or so talking about the house, where we were thinking of putting certain piece of furniture, things we would need to buy, things we would need to get rid of - but after that it was lights out.

Today, the boys and I did a little art project. Now I'm not usually one for crafts, so I was quite proud of myself when I took the time to cut out three construction paper Christmas trees and three yellow stars to put on top while my son was at preschool today. Then after dinner my boys and I sat down and went to work.

We cut out our own ornaments - my two year old was (repeatedly) disappointed that I wouldn't let him use my scissors to cut his own decorations - glued them on and hung them on our front door. While this might not sound like much to many of you - for me, it was huge ;)

It was so much fun not only taking a step back and going back to my own childhood - I had forgotten what Elmer's glue and Crayola crayons really smell like - but I enjoyed watching my sons create something on their own. My four year old has gotten very creative, arts and crafts wise, since starting school and my little guy continued to amaze me with his interest in all things artsy.

So with all that's going on, including a planned finish-up-the-Christmas-shopping trip with my sister tomorrow night, I feel really LUCKY right now. I'm happy being me and once again this season is bringing more joy and laughter than I ever expected. (Which is a lot because I LOVE THE HOLIDAYS!!!)

I guess what I'm trying to say is, what's not to be grateful for these days?

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Day Twelve: What a Difference a Day Can Make

Last night I was tired - really, really tired. But I got some sleep last night and I've had a wonderful day today :)

Today I am grateful for so many things. The first being my family, and the increased possibility that by the end of January 2007 we will be sleeping in our very own HOUSE!!! That's right. We made an offer today and it has been accepted, so barring issues with the home inspection or the like - GAME ON!!!

I can't believe it really. I mean, my husband and I have been talking about buying our own home for more than a year, but it wasn't until recently that our hopes were able to become reality. And now, after searching for not even a month, it appears that we have found exactly what we want! It seems so good that I can't help but be nervous. Then there's the whole thought of paying a mortgage, having money lying around for house emergencies, maintenance - I mean, once this house is ours it also becomes our responsibility. It kind of feels like the nerves I had after the initial adrenalin wore off when I found out I was pregnant with my first son. You know, when you start thinking about how much it's going to cost you to feed, clothe and take care of another human being for at least two decades? And of course there was the most nerve-wracking thought that I was about to be responsible not only for the physical well-being but the emotional upbringing of this baby.

A lot to take in.

But this house thing is all good and I'm not going to let my nervousness get in the way of my HAPPINESS!!! Yeah for us! It's not a done deal, by any means; things can still go wrong, so please keep happy thoughts and fingers crossed for us :)

I'm also grateful that I was able to watch "How the Grinch Stole Christmas." If it hasn't become obvious by now, then this must be the first post you've read during the last two weeks, but I love Christmas movies! And the Grinch is no exception. My only disappointment was that my four year old was already asleep due to his cold. Yes, he's still sick, but I do believe he's on the mend, so of course I had to let him sleep. We've been listening to Christmas music a lot lately - again I'm sure you already know this - and he loves the theme music from the Grinch. He was just telling me today how much he liked it and was wondering if I could play it in the car while we were driving. I'm glad I got to see it anyway.

By the way, not only did I have a great day, but I had it exactly one week before my birthday. That's right, I mentioned to my husband today right after we made the offer on the house that the karma was good; One week from my birthday, today was the 12th - twelve being my number back in the day when I used to play sports, my birthday being the 19th and the number on the house being 19. Hopefully, we're on a role here ;)

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Monday, December 11, 2006

Day Eleven: Tired, Tired, Tired

Don't feel obligated to continue reading this post. I was on my way to bed when I realized I hadn't posted yet today and since I signed up for this Holidailies thing and I feel like I should complete something - and it would be pathetic to quit just 11 days in, or is it pathetic to write something when you don't really feel like it instead of going to bed when you do feel like it . . . Anyway, like I said - no obligations.

It was a quiet day. Nothing exciting. We didn't even leave the house because my older son is still suffering from his rotten cold. But his illness also meant that he was in no shape to fight with his brother or run around and be wild like they usually are when cooped up all day.

My husband and I are going to make an offer on a house - a beautiful house that we really love and I'm trying not to get excited about in case it doesn't work out, but I'm having trouble not getting excited. In fact, I was so excited last night that I couldn't sleep and was running through all kinds of furniture scenarios. Which may explain why I about halfway through my aerobics class tonight I just ran out of steam. I wasn't breathing heavily, I wasn't hurting or suffering from being out of shape - I just felt like finding a bed and going to sleep.

So that's what I'm off to do now. If you made it this far, you're a good friend. I promise something more meaningful tomorrow night :)

Oh, and tonight I'm grateful for the bed I'm about to fall into in and the warm, comfy blankets I'm about to wrap myself up in. Sweet dreams . . .

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Sunday, December 10, 2006

Day Ten: Peace

Tonight I am just grateful that today is over :)

My four year old has a TERRIBLE cold. He's not unhappy or uncomfortable really, except for the cough - this horrendous, honking, junky, garbly cough. It sounds like someone is crumpling paper in his chest when he coughs. It's just awful to listen to. So he was up early this morning and went to bed late tonight. Hopefully the medicine we gave him will help him get a good night's sleep.

We did decorate the Christmas tree today which was the most fun of the day. The Christmas songs were playing, my two year old had to be repeatedly reminded to stop slamming the box with the glass balls around, I found out my older son likes to listen to the Trans Siberian Orchestra and the tree looks great! We had to turn all the lights out tonight and we all just sat in the light of the Christmas tree and took in the glow :)

My husband has been working on my Christmas present for the past couple of days. He got me new speakers for my car since I was down to two that worked. But it hasn't been going as smoothly as either one of us would have liked. I won't get into details because I don't want to sound like I'm complaining. But I will say that it's taken him several hours and while all four speakers are now in the car, he accidentally drilled through a wire to one of them when he was putting a door panel back on and for some reason, the driver's side door won't lock. (But don't tell him I told you!)

We also went house hunting today and saw five properties. A couple of them were AWFUL, but there was one that was very promising. It was beautiful in fact and so we are in talks about possibly making an offer. All of the hardwood floors had been recently refinished, all of the walls had been freshly painted and painted well with unoffensive colors, brand new stove, a nice backyard, a garage - like I said a BEAUTIFUL house! So keep your fingers crossed for us and send lots of positive energy our way. I would love to be out of my apartment by the end of January :)

But now to the point of my post. Tonight we read Todd Parr's "The Peace Book." It's a wonderful book but we hadn't read it in a while. It was perfect for before bedtime - it's so relaxing and inspiring, but in a gentle way, and I just really liked it tonight. I'd like to leave you with a few excerpts.

Good night everyone, and may there be peace on Earth . . . someday.

"Peace is keeping the water blue for all the fish.
Peace is saying you're sorry when you hurt someone.
Peace is giving shoes to someone who needs them.
Peace is planting a tree.
Peace is everyone having a home.
Peace is keeping someone warm.
Peace is being free.
Peace is being who you are."

"Peace is being different, feeling good about yourself, and helping others. The world is a better place because of YOU!"

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Saturday, December 9, 2006

Day Nine: Fresh, Crisp Evergreen Scent

I'm pretty tired right now, so I think this will be a quick one.

Today we got our Christmas tree so my house is filled with the fresh, crisp scent of an evergreen tree. (I used that phrase in an email I just sent and I couldn't help recycling it!) My four year old was disappointed because he wanted a "fake" tree this year. Apparently since his grandparents got a fake tree this year he thought we should have one. I told him that real trees are great because of their smell, but he didn't buy it. He still wanted a fake one. Hopefully when we decorate tomorrow he will change his mind :)

We also went to a great birthday party today. There were lots of kids and my boys were actually social, as in I didn't see them for most of the two hours except to help in getting them cake and juice boxes. I was glad though. It was so nice to see them acting so independent of me and making friends. That's where preschool has really helped out my older son. He used to be very shy and now he's really opened up to people, especially people he doesn't know.

And finally, my day was made complete when I put together a Christmas soundtrack of my own on my Myspace page. (Thanks to my sister Julie!) I open up with a stellar rendition of NKOTB's "Funky, Funky Christmas" followed by (in no particular order) the theme from the Grinch, a couple of Chipmunks Christmas songs, Old Blue Eyes singing "I'll Be Home for Christmas," the ever popular "Feliz Navidad," Nat King Cole's "The Christmas Song," and for Cheryl, Anne Murray's "Can I Have This Dance." (Yes, I realize that the last one is not a Christmas song, but Cheryl and I have this running joke about Anne Murray, which believe me wouldn't be as funny to you as it is to us, and I couldn't find a Christmas song by Ms. Murray anywhere on the music site I was on.)

So that about does it. I am grateful for all these things and so many more. I'm really just grateful that I'm alive and well enough to enjoy my daily life and this sitting down at the end of the night to think about the good things in my life each day have really helped me to avoid all the stress and hustle and bustle of the season. (You're right, Shani. I am starting to sound like Pollyanna!! Oh well!)

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Friday, December 8, 2006

Day Eight: Rudolph and Six? Flying Reindeer

Tonight my boys and I participated in a holiday tradition - we cuddled up on the couch under a warm, flannel blanket and watched "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer." I've watched Rudolph (and A Charlie Brown Christmas) every December for as long as I can remember and I enjoy sharing my tradition with my boys. Especially now that my four year old is old enough to get excited in anticipation of the "big night." All day today he kept asking me when it was going to be dark because Rudolph and Frosty were on tonight.

I enjoyed watching Rudolph - rudimentary animation and mismatched audio - but there were a few things that stuck out this go round that I don't remember from my childhood. For example, when Rudolph runs away from home and his father goes to look for him; his mother also volunteers to go and look but is rebuffed with the line "No! This is man's work!" Uh, excuse me?

Then there is the part where Yukon Cornelius and the Abominable Snow Monster fall over the edge of the cliff. The narrator comments that the friends are sad at losing Yukon, but they realize "that it's time to get the women home to Christmastown." And why is that exactly?

While the feminist in me is agitated, I can put that aside - after all it is Christmas time and it's a classic. Things were different back in the day, right? It's a tradition and it wouldn't be the same if it were some updated, politically correct version. However, the following glaring error I'm not sure I can forgive.

In the final scenes where Santa goes to the Island of Misfit Toys and then delivers those toys on Christmas Eve, Rudolph is leading the team of flying reindeer - according to the song he should be leading Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen. That's EIGHT flying reindeer; count them again if you're not sure. But tonight I realized that there are only SIX reindeer and Rudolph makes SEVEN.

So much for the classics. (And btw, there's a doll in a pink dress on the Island of Misfit toys and for years now it has bothered me that I can't figure out what makes her a misfit. Is there anybody out there who knows? If so, please tell me.)

But this is a post about what I am grateful for, so tonight I am grateful that I could share one of my childhood traditions with my own children - sexist remarks, bad math and all :)

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Thursday, December 7, 2006

Day Seven: Pretending to Be a Porsche

It was a rather quiet day today. Nothing special to report, but of course I must fulfill my daily recognition of gratitude - so here goes.

First of all, I'm thankful that I wasn't the woman driving the grey Nissan something or other (my husband would be so disappointed that I didn't get the make and model) when the woman in the grey minivan backed out of her parking space either, a.) without looking or b.) just not noticing said Nissan in the Toys R Us parking lot. Instead, I had a front row seat as I came out of the store and the minivan backed right into the Nissan - the plastic bumper on metal door (taking with it some nice paint) made me and the other half dozen or so people in the parking lot cringe. I'm glad I wasn't that woman in the Nissan or the one driving for that matter.

I'm also grateful that three days ago I had hardly done any Christmas shopping and now all I have left is to shop for a few adults and I'm done!! That's right. A couple of power shopping trips and I am nearly finished. And what I do have left to buy I already know what I want to get - so easy peasey.

I got a chance to talk to my sister today - the one who lives far away in Florida. She sounded lonely and said she was missing home. Oops, I wasn't supposed to tell anyone that :) But who wouldn't miss home at this time of year? After all, she was telling me it was like 80 degrees there today - not exactly Christmas-like weather. I wish she could come visit. Christmas is great around these parts and with every passing day I get more and more excited. Maybe that will be my Christmas wish for 2007.

I also got to talk to Ms. Kookabura tonight. It had been a while and it was so great just to hear her voice (even though she is getting a bit of a cross between a Midwest/New England/Canadian accent going. She'll kill me for even insinuating such a thing, but it's true, Cherlito!!) Her dad is doing much better after his heart attack and has begun his recovery with a bang - no more smoking and he's giving up the junk food; It was vegetable something for dinner last night. I was paying attention mind you, but I have no idea what the dish entailed seeing as how my favorite foods are Mac 'n Cheese (from the box) and french fries. He said it was all right though, so maybe I should change my own poor menu choices . . . Nah! Who am I kidding? But it's good news for her dad :)

I'm also grateful for the time my four year old and I got to play together while my little one was taking his afternoon nap. We played "Cars" - yes that's pretend play based on the Disney movie "Cars." I was assigned the role of Sally, the electric blue Porsche who is also the female lead and I probably got the part simply because I'm a girl, too.

Anyway, we're playing and pretending when the subject changes to villains. My four year old picks up another action figure (something I believe he got in a McDonald's Happy Meal) and tells me that this villain is the most evil villain ever. He tells me that this guy is the worst villain in the universe and that he's even meaner than, gulp, GEORGE BUSH!!!

No!! Anything but that!!!

So not only am I grateful for playtime, but for yet another confirmation that my kids actually listen to me and they are quite possibly the smartest kids on the planet :)

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Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Day Six: My Children

I love the days when my children impress me. Not that I don't have high expectations of them everyday, but I love those days when they go above and beyond.

Today, for instance, we dropped off my four-year-old at school and headed straight to the realtor's office. My husband and I are house hunting and we needed to sit down and sign some papers, go over some details, etc. etc. - Nothing a two-year-old would be interested in, but without a babysitter to leave him with his attendance was mandatory.

So there we were, for an hour, talking about things that didn't interest him in the least and I can happily report that he didn't act up once. He drew with his pen and paper, he looked out the window of the door at the secretary sitting outside the office, he asked a few questions, cracked a few jokes (and of course at the end of our meeting he deposited a nice present in his diaper which I had to take care of) - but not once did he yell, kick, scream, demand attention or that we leave. In fact, the realtor asked, "He's only two? I can't believe how well behaved he is." (She also pointed out several times how cute he was ... what can I say? She's right!)

This has happened a few times before - people outside the family complimenting me or my husband about our kids being well behaved - and it reminds me of my mother. My mother used to always tell us when someone complimented us for being well behaved and I remember feeling good about myself when she did. I also remember how proud of us she was and now I know how good she must have felt. It's always encouraging, and a great ego boost, when someone tells you you're doing a good job with your kids.

So today I am grateful for my children and the fact that I haven't totally screwed them up :)

I'm also grateful for the gingerbread man necklace my son brought home from school today. It's got lots of glitter, sparkles and cute little colored balls on it and he was so proud of himself for making it - I am, too!

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Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Day Five: Winding Roads, Christmas Tunes & Sweet Smelling Soap

Another day into December, another day checked off on the countdown to Christmas and another day of gratitude.

Today I am grateful for my friends - two wonderful ladies in particular who I met through my husband, before he was my husband and we were dating. They're both moms, they're both beautiful people inside and out and, as luck would have it, our kids get along great too :)

So I took a long, peaceful drive up north - an hour in duration - while listening to the all Christmas music all the time station and my four year old's interpretation of said music's lyrics, my two year old sleeping peacefully in the back, watching the snow flurries blow over my windshield - never settling on it; just brushing it like a feather ever so slightly only to be carried away by the wind. It was a truly relaxing activity.

And of course the real fun began when we arrived at our destination. There were seven, count 'em SEVEN, kids running around and when I say running - I mean running and jumping off of furniture and knocking one another over, so one mommy cleverly suggested we brave the cold temperatures outside and let the animals, er children, roam free.

Getting bundled up to go outside was another experience, that while taxing, was humorous as well. Boots wouldn't go on straight. Thumbs were lost in mittens. Winter hats missing. I believe my hostess could accurately be quoted as having said, "This is worse than putting on sunscreen." But once we made it out into the cold and the sun our charges were free to release their pent up energy, scream, yell, chase, climb - nothing was off limits.

When we all got too cold to stay outside any longer, the moms popped in a video and shared good conversation in between toy disputes, falls and reminders about using "inside voices." And if the conversations we have are any indication, it will be the moms of the world who solve the problems of the world.

So that was my afternoon. It was wonderful in its simplicity. And in case you're wondering about the title - I am also grateful for the sweet smelling soap that Shannon always has in her bathroom. My hands still smell like strawberries and that makes me smile, too.

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Monday, December 4, 2006

Day Four: Old Friends & Oreo Cookies

Today I am grateful for old friends. I went to my weekly aerobics class taught by my best friend from high school. (She was perky then and she's perky now - aerobics instructor is a perfect fit!) While she certainly doesn't baby us - why would she? After all, how am I supposed to get h-o-t HOT if I don't sweat? - but she makes it fun. Tonight we were throwing out old stories and great one liners, I'm sure, much to the non-amusement of my fellow workout mates. (Except maybe my sister since she was around for a lot of it.)

So I worked out, I spent quality time with my sister and my friend, and then I came home and ate a few Oreos. OK, maybe more than a few. So yes, so much for the workout. I'm a dunker, so it was Oreos and milk for me. I had skipped dinner though so maybe I'll still reap some kind of physical benfit from my workout. My husband did remark that I was looking slimmer these days. I certainly feel better. And don't get winded on my way up the three flights of stairs to my house . . .

OK, now I'm rambling . . .

Today I'm grateful for old friends, aerobics and Oreo cookies (and milk) and I consider myself lucky to have been able to enjoy all three in one short evening.

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Sunday, December 3, 2006

Day Three: My Mother's Birthday

Today I am grateful for my family - that we are all healthy and happy again - but today I am particularly grateful for my mother. You see, today is my mother's birthday. We had her over for dinner, the boys and I had made a cake and so "Happy Birthday" was sung (my four-year-old was the loudest, as he pointed out to all of us) and candles were blown out with assists from her grandsons and a grand night was had by all.

And I realized that although I don't say it often enough - I don't even think it very often - I am very grateful to still have my mother in my life. Not only because she helps out A LOT in the babysitting department; not only because she loves me more than anyone else every could (and I know that now because I know how I feel about my own two children) - I like having her around just because she's, well, my mom.

She can drive me crazier than anybody else can; Sometimes it feels like she pushes my buttons on purpose; Other times I just want to scream while she retells the past and distorts it to suit her needs (then again, don't we all?) - but I know how very much I would miss her if she wasn't around to drive me so crazy :)

Over the past couple of years I have watched my mother age not just in years, but in physical wear and tear as well. It's scared me a little bit. Overall my mother is in good health, but she's had more trouble over the past three years than she has for probably most of her life - nothing life threatening - but the years have started to have an effect.

So today I'd like to take a moment to appreciate my mother for all she has done, for me and my entire family, for all that she has tried to do out of love for us and all the things she will do in the future just because she wants to help out.

Thank you, Mom. It's nice havin' ya around :)

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Saturday, December 2, 2006

25 Days of Gratitude

I had my Christmas rant the other day and it was after that rant that I decided to turn the tables. (It must have been one of my clearer moments under the influence of pseudoephedrine).

Instead of bitching for the next three and a half weeks, why don't I take note of all the GOOD that I have? And since I've now signed up for the 2006 Holidailies (a commitment to post at least once every day during the month of December) - I'll just share my daily dose of gratitude with all of you :)

Before I go any further, a big thanks to Alex for her post here yesterday through the blog exchange. It was a perfect segway into my 25 Days of Gratitude. She also brought a great, new audience to my site and I've found a new mom friend, too! It was my first time participating in the blog exchange and I'm so glad I did :) Can't wait for next month's prompt.

So I guess that takes care of what I was grateful for on Day One: the blog exchange, new friends and great discussion. See how easy this is?

Now onto Day Two - Today I am most grateful that Cheryl's dad is doing OK after having suffered a heart attack in recent days. I did my daily read of her blog this morning and was shocked to read the news. It was the last thing I expected and all I want to do right now is fly to Wisconsin and give her a BIG hug because she is my friend and because she is the "strong" one in the family. She is the one who everyone else looks to, the one who soothes and tells everyone it's going to be all right. Yet, this is her father we're talking about and I know she's scared, as she should be; I know she wants to scream and cry and have someone comfort her for a change and I wish I could be that person - but once again distance prevents that.

I remember how upset I was years ago when my father had a minor heart attack. I was devastated. My father and I aren't as close as we once were - physical and emotional distances are great - but of course I don't want anything bad to happen to him. I cried mostly about the uncertainty of it all. Many of us take our parents for granted, I know I do, and we expect them to be there for us until they're old and grey. Not everyone gets that though. Which is another reason I wish I could hug Cheryl right now. She knows what it's like to lose a parent and I know it must terrify her to be faced so suddenly with an event that could have caused her to lose the other one.

I am praying for you, Cheryl, and for your dad. I will think positive thoughts - like when he used to drive us in the brown van to Boston to stalk the New Kids (remember playing leap frog on the highway with Danny? How about that picture of the five of us at the end of one of our Boston excursions all posing for our group photo in front of the brown van?).

I don't know what will happen next, but I do know that she will make it through because she is strong - one of the strongest women I know, and for that I am grateful as well.

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Friday, December 1, 2006

The Greening of Christmas

Commerce is of trivial import; love, faith, truth of character, the aspiration of man, these are sacred.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

When I was a lass, I used to associate the color green with the Christmas tree, happiness, and carefully drinking from a Christmas mug with a green tree painted on it that was filled with crème de menthe. (Ok I really prefer hot chocolate, particularly when I was underage, but that throws off the color scheme). Within the last two years, however, I have begun to associate green with money, American Express, the LL Bean credit card, and the Grinch. Funny how they all happen to be the same color, and funny how they come together in the same thought. When you combine Christmas, money, credit cards, and hot chocolate, you get… commercialization.

Apparently the commercialization of Christmas started in the year 2005. Let’s see…that year I thought there were commercials for cars, clothes and video games. I think that there were even ads in magazines. It’s kind of hard for me to remember because for some really strange reason, it must be fatigue from traveling for Thanksgiving, it seems like it was just like the Christmas before it. However, I know for a fact that it was not like Christmas 2004. How do I know that? Because I distinctly remember hearing in our church in 2005 that Christmas had now become commercialized. I gripped my pew bench in shock from this announcement. How could this be? I shrank down below the pew to hide from the scary Christmas ghost of Commercialization Present (who Dickens would have included in A Christmas Carol if he were alive today). Although I couldn’t see him, I felt sure he was there with his greedy eyes and brand-new, green Gap sweater that was advertised on TV. Would he know that I had given to charity that year? That I actually took the time to carefully choose charities so as to try to make a difference? Or would he judge me because I…gasp…actually enjoy the holidays. Or that…bigger gasp… I look forward to the holidays?

And then it dawned on me: I was part of the commercialization conspiracy. I felt faint at this realization. I love it when the mall is decorated and the Christmas lights are lighted. Wait! Maybe I was not just part of the conspiracy. I quickly checked my wallet for a membership card. To my horror, there was my green Master Card, surely the commercialization of Christmas ID. I must be ..gulp...a leader in the commercialization conspiracy. Yes, I look forward to Christmas all year long. I take pleasure in choosing the perfect gift for my family and friends and I really love receiving gifts.

I also thought I celebrated Christmas as a season of love and peace and placed that above gifts, but clearly I was wrong. Hey, I was unknowingly a leader in the commercialization of Christmas after all. Obviously this was a crisis. I mean not only did I not realize that Christmas had become commercialized since the year before, but clearly I was losing my memory. I could have sworn that in years past people gave each other gifts and that there were tons of advertisements on TV. In fact I thought…I probably shouldn’t even admit this embarrassingly false recollection…there was some sort of hysteria to get cabbage patch kid dolls back during the holiday season of 1983 involving fights in the aisles of toy stores. Obviously, this is a false memory. I also have another questionable memory. Actually why even say questionable when it is clearly wrong: it seems like every year I hear that Christmas has become commercialized. As I have stated before here, clearly my memory is unreliable.

This post is part of a blog exchange. My name is Alex Elliot. I am a professional Mom of two cats, a dog, an ant farm, and oh yeah...two boys: a toddler and an infant. While I am visiting Just Thinking, Nancy is sharing her thoughts on my blog at Formula Fed and Flexible Parenting, which is written for those of us who didn't get an instruction manual with our babies and for whom parenting hasn't always gone as planned. On a more serious note the blog is about supporting a woman's ability to make her own choices about parenting including the choice, for whatever reason, not to breastfeed.
Click here to check out the other open letters this month, and to get more info on the blog exchange.

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Think RED: Today is World AIDS Day

It must have been the drugs I've been taking because I usually keep pretty "up" on these things. But somehow I was confused and thought that December 10th was World AIDS Day and so it never occurred to me to write my post for the blog exchange, whose topic was either Red or Green, and use RED as my prompt - instead I chose GREEN and I'm happy with that because it was an environmental piece and it turned out pretty good - but I can't go the entire day without recognizing something as important as this.

So take a moment to remember the more than 5,000 people who will die today in Africa because of the AIDS virus. Be shocked and infuriated, as I was, when you learn that more than 43,000 people are infected annually with the HIV virus and that the majority of that population are between 18 and 24 years of age. And in this age of amazing medical advancements and technology, in this age when we believe information to be the key - know that 24.2 million people have been infected with HIV since the turn of the millennium and during that same time period 15.6 million people have died from AIDS related illnesses.

And according to the UK's The Independent, "If the world continues on its present course, Aids is set to surpass the Black Death of the 14th century as the deadliest outbreak of disease in human history."

It seems obvious to me that so much more needs to be done - education, research, money for medications that can be donated to those who can't afford to purchase them - what started out as a disease perceived to be a plague of the gay community alone has turned into a disease that knows no gender or sexual preference, but of economic class.

When homosexuals saw their friends suffering and dying before their eyes, they took action. They learned about the disease and they taught their community how to protect themselves. Today, the majority of AIDS patients are those who don't have access to education and those who can't afford to buy the medicines they need to survive. Just look at the epidemic in Africa and you will see what happens when you are poor and black - the world tends to forget about you.

Let's start remembering . . . everyday . . .

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