Saturday, December 27, 2008

Some Assembly Required???

Christmas morning was a blast. The children opened the million or so presents they received from Santa. Smiles on faces everywhere. The smell of eggs Benedict coming from the stove. The dog content with the days events kept watch from her normal perch.... the back of the couch. And then it began. "Mommy, Daddy, can you put this together?"

As a parent, we assume this position of assembler with utmost appreciation. We remove toy after toy from their boxes, all the while keeping a smile on our face. This is no work for the weary. As we place the finished product into our child's hand we march on with bravery, and grab another toy from beneath the tree. We give the occasional smile and wink to our partner for a job well done. Of course the occasional laugh is also heard when we realize that the box we selected contains more pieces than a one pound bag of M&M's. As the perspiration runs down our foreheads we are quickly reminded that somewhere lost in the small print of the Parent Contract, we did indeed sign on the dotted line right after: "Some Assembly Required."

I have to admit that the thought of breaching that contract on Christmas morning did indeed pass my mind. After my husband opened the Playmobil Circus, I was quickly handed the box. "This one contains material," he yelled. "I'm not doing material today." And that's how it began.

Buried under a direction booklet the size of War and Peace sat a myriad of bags, each filled to the brim with yellow, red, blue and white pieces. And so I dug in.

I propped up the lid as to refer to the picture on the box. Obviously the Playmobil people had snuck in some accessories during the photo shoot to help fool parents into believing how incredibly cool this toy was going to be. I of course bought into that thought, and that is why it was currently sitting on my couch awaiting a playmate.

Then, just three hours later, the words echoed through our living room: "Ladies and Gentlemen, children of all ages, welcome to the greatest show on earth."

Maybe you didn't catch the beginning of that last line. Yes, it took three hours to put together. All complaining aside; the children love it. There were even enough seats in the arena to accommodate their Lego friends. Not to mention the available parking spaces for their new Matchbox collection.

The Playmobil Circus was a hit. Children smiled. Parents smiled. And the dog, three hours later, still laying on the back of the couch seemed content with the new toy.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Peril's of "The Santa Line"

So there we were in the middle of the mall starring up at the 50 foot tree. Like all children do, mine also wondered who was the moron that climbed all the way up that thing with a star. After said question was answered as best as "Why isn't the Indian Jones Lego set made for five year olds..Daddy let us watch the movie?" We moved on.

I took a quick glance at the portrait packages available. Suddenly it dawned on me that I wasn't the only one scanning my Santa pictures for our entire family. The elves must have caught on and despite economical difficulties, they decided to increase their prices three fold. Oh Goodie! I'll have to thank American Express for this night.

Aside from the Oscars (which I have not been nominated for yet) this was the only red carpet I would be walking on this year. But just as my foot was about to take its first step, a sound so heart wrenching went through my very being. I knew what it was, I had heard it before. In fact I hear it more often than I would like to admit some days.

As I turned to acknowledge the loud siren, which by the way, was coming from my little boys mouth, I put on my best Mommy pose and got down on my knee. In between his attempts to once again except fresh air into his lungs, he casually told me that he no longer wanted to sit on Santa's lap. (Oh fine, I thought to myself. What are we going to do now?)

My older child now took the opportunity to inform me that he will happily sit with Santa. A quick glare was given to his little brother. ("Oh no you don't Big Brother. Not here, not now. Mommy is on to that trickery. There is only one size Kids Meal at Chick Fillet. You Hear me little boy!"

I began to work my Mommy magic once more on screaming child. Hubby was already fed up after yes, dare I say, 2 minutes of tantrum....Amateur! I finally coaxed our little boy onto the red carpet. We began to talk about Santa's costume. Suddenly I realized I was having a conversation with myself.

My little boy had found the basket of goodies that Santa was handing out this year to all the good boys and girls who sat on his lap. He may have saw toys, but what I saw was ammunition. That's right I thought, two can play at this game. "If you want one of those toys honey, you'll have to talk to Santa." Basically it was true. Santa wasn't handing out Gingerbread gumby dolls to just any delinquent.

And with that, he made his choice. But I sadly learned the hard way, that bribery doesn't always work in Mommies favor.

My son gladly gave his wish list to Santa, and proudly collected his new toy, but sit for a picture...No Way! Just as the elf yelled cheese, the gut wrenching screams began again. The poor elf tried twice. Neither picture turned out like we hoped, but none the less, I pulled out that American Express card. (Don't leave home without it!)

Once our son recovered, which happened once he jumped off of Santa's lap (Ahh, a Christmas Miracle!) We were off to the food court. A big smile appeared on my son's face once the shining lights from the Chick Fillet sign were in sight.

Yes, I had been bamboozled by a three year old. It wasn't the first time, and I'm sure it won't be the last. Memories are memories no matter how good or bad. This one is still going down as a good memory.

For all you mommies out there that were wiping away tears this holiday season, this article is dedicated to you. The pictures will stay in a frame, but the memories go in our hearts! Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Too Much Green to be Green

I have to admit, I'm somewhat of a tree hugger. Yes, I love the idea of being a part of something so big; something that I know will have an impact on my children and their children and so on. But lately I've become a little disgusted at the whole idea. It seems that no matter where you go, companies try to use the "green" label to get you to buy their product. And with that label follows the dollar signs.

I'm a Mommy on a mission. My main focus is my family. The household budget has always been a focus, but now more than ever, especially with the way the economy is going these days. While I strive to get to the checkout without reaching for a credit card, I'm also made to feel guilty when the products I load onto the conveyor belt are a less than healthy alternative.

When I had my first child in 2003, I looked up and down for biodegradable diapers. They could easily be found online for a not so reasonable price, but I noticed that I really couldn't find any stores around me that carried this item. A local (and by local I mean 15 miles away) Whole Foods catered to Environmental Moms, but after I figured in the gas I would be burning for the round trip, I concluded that my carbon footprint on the world may in fact be larger than it began before I got involved in this whole mess.

I have improved my habits in some ways over the last few years. When you visit my home you will find product names such as Seventh Generation, and Meyers Cleaning solutions. I try to stay away from colors and dyes in my laundry, and I now understand why the absence of phosphates is so important. I recycle and reuse when possible, although I noticed that my borough is still trying to catch up with current trends. The recycling man took my glass, cans and papers, but failed to remove the large stack of cardboard I so neatly tied up for them. Apparently, that's not in their contract.

I try my best to teach these habits to my children, although they are still of the belief that a mound of bubbles constitutes a cleaner child. My environmentally friendly soap made them both smell like peaches and barely left a lather on their bodies.

Trying to explain to your family that clean doesn't necessarily mean lemon fresh, but rather the absence of stink is a very hard lesson to teach. Especially when the world around you chooses to teach something else.

If the environment is so darn important, why is it so hard to pay a reasonable price for the products we need? How about trash bags for instance? They take forever to break down, yet there are no environmentally friendly trash bags at my local grocery store.

Despite the lack of cooperation I think at-home moms are getting with this trend, I still see things moving in the right direction. People have an awareness at least, if not a clear understanding that there is a problem. At least there is an awareness.

I have hope that there will be a day when actions take precedent over dollar signs. But until that day arrives, this Green Mom can't help but also being a little blue.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Paper Clip Necklace

When I think of Christmas' gone by, I can't help but believe that my best memories stem from my youth. Christmas is always a wonderful time, but there is something different about being young and believing in the magic.

There are many definitions of fortunate. Some will tell you it's the person with the most money. Other's will tell you that it is the man who couldn't pay his electric bill, but made enough money to purchase a loaf of bread to feed his family.

Fortunate to me would be the word to describe my entire life. We had our highs and lows as many families do, but there was always something waiting under the tree for us Christmas morning.

I remember the year I was awoke by my brother. He wanted to tell me that he had already snuck out to the living room and looked at our presents. "Santa left you a Whoopsie Doll," he said. "But he left me a racetrack." I could barely hold the excitement in. I couldn't wait to play with my brand new doll.

The Christmas of 1982 left us discovering a large white sheet in the living room. All three children were left their first bikes. It was hard to open any gifts after that. We couldn't wait to get outside and try our brand new wheels.

I have received much more than I can remember, but there has always been a special gift that has stayed close to my heart. I believe it was Christmas of 1986. I had opened all the gifts under the tree and had just finished my stocking. Normally then we would give our mom her gift and then exchange with our siblings. We relied on the Secret Santa shop run by our school to buy those special gifts. I'd like to say I remember what I gave everyone that year; but I don't. However, I do remember the gift that was handed to me by my little sister.

It was barely the size of my hand. Wrapped in Christmas paper, and heavily covered in streams of scotch tape, the process of opening my new gift was slow and tedious. As I pulled back the layers of paper, a strong smell began to emerge from within. I shortly began to realize that the smell of nail polish was lingering inside. I thought something must have exploded, but I was wrong.

As I reached the final layer, I must have looked confused. "It's a paper clip necklace," my sister explained. "I didn't have money to get you anything else, so I decided to paint it your favorite color pink. I borrowed your nail polish. I did it last night, so be careful, it may be a little wet."

You may be thinking to yourself: What does one say after receiving such a gift? They say what they would after receiving any gift..."Thank you."

And that's the story about my favorite gift. It didn't come in a larger than life box. It wasn't professionally wrapped, nor did it come with a warranty or gift receipt. But it was perfect.

As you run from store to store this year, try keeping this story in mind. If you're looking for the perfect gift this year, chances are, you probably already have it.

New Year New Look

Hi All,

To all my frequent readers, you may have noticed some changes occurring on my blog. Yes, the look has changed but it is still the same Mommy typing her heart out on the other end. Let me know what you think. If you can offer any suggestions, or think there is something I can add, please leave me a note. Us Mommies are incredibly busy these days and rely on one another for support.

As for my own look, I can only reveal that there is nothing new to get excited about. I have been so busy with the holidays that there has been little time to do much else. Case in point: I was organizing my closet, putting away the laundry, and cleaning my shower all while a glob of hair dye sat on my head. Normally, I would not recommend such behavior, but in a world where 24 hours often feels like 24 minutes, sometimes you're forced into such situations.

For now, I will close letting all know that this Mommy will be getting a quiet shower since her Hubby is home helping her today. Ahhh!

Tune in next post when Mommy Maestro remembers to deodorize under both arms before beginning her morning car pool.

A Trunk Full of Love

Well, only two days have passed since our family Christmas Party and I'm still recovering. To say it was a success would be an understatement. Over 50 of you joined us in celebrating the holiday. Everything turned out far better than expected.

I tried to get around to everyone. Hopefully you got at least a hug and kiss.

To those of you that participated in helping us sponsor a family; there truly aren't enough Thank You's. We delivered the presents on Sunday via the trunk of my minivan. It was an overwhelming experience. I wish all of you could have been there.

The night was filled with fun and surprises. Friends we haven't seen in years showed up on our doorstep. May I send an extra thank you to those of you who brought along a little bubbly. The bar is again stocked and ready for the next party. I am hoping to get everyone together in the summer. The pool will be open, so be watching your mailboxes for invites.

May all of you have a wonderful holiday, and thanks for making ours just perfect!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Thank Goodness for Little Boys

I recently read an article that talked about how to choose a name for your baby. It got me thinking back to that not so long ago day when my husband and I were going through those motions. I would suggest a name, he would say "no." He would suggest a name, I would say "no." And so it went.

My husband was always ready with a boys name, whereas I could come up with a girls name at the drop of a hat. Turns out, the ultrasound revealed we were going to need a boys name. And 18 months later, we needed another boys name.

Preparing to be a mother was going to be hard enough, but preparing to raise 2 boys seemed at the time impossible; if not a little psychotic. I felt I would know what to do with a girl. There wouldn't be any surprises. I would know what to do when she cried. I could teach her to dance, sing, and write. When she got older I could teach her how to shop without spending an entire paycheck. I could have "the talk" without feeling uncomfortable. I could teach her the difference between men and gentlemen. I could teach her to love, and hold her when he heart gets broken. But, I don't have a little girl.

Instead, I have been given something much better. I have not one son, but two. And all the things I thought I would miss out on, I actually get to do almost everyday.

It didn't take long before they were both making their way through our house. Maybe it was due to the fact that I would often turn the car radio up while they were still in the womb, and play my favorite CD. And although the days of disco are long gone, both boys will proudly strut their stuff to The Bee Gees Greatest Hits. Yes, I taught them to dance.

You will probably never find me auditioning for a spot in American Idol. But I have to confess that I've taken my chances on numerous Karaoke Nights (yes, I have done it without alcohol). Despite my lack of Mariah Carey vocals you can often find me belting out a tune within the confines of my minivan. For the most part I encourage those who ride with me to chime in as well. And so, my boys have learned to do just that. Yes, I have taught them to sing.

It's hard to consider myself a writer, but a day never passes that at least a few words haven't been saved on a hard drive or even a notebook. I believe that children should be given that experience as well. It's amazing what they will do once a pencil is placed in their hand. I still remember the day they realized that coloring books are not the only palette for a crayon. Whether Picasso's or mini Ernest Heminway's they have been given the tools to become great at whatever they choose. Yes, I have taught them to write.

As I was leaving for the grocery store one morning, my younger son asked: "Do you have your coupons Mom?" He may not know exactly what they are for, but he knows not to go shopping without them. Both boys have been taught to look for the "red" sign. Explaining clearance and sale at this age may be a bit over their head, but they do understand colors. And if what Mommy wants to buy doesn't have a "red" sign above it; it doesn't go home with Mommy. Yes, I have taught them to look for a deal.

My boys are a little too young for "the talk" but when the time comes, well I don't deserve all the credit...Daddy will sit down with them. He may even shed some light on the topic of: Girls you date and Girls you marry. (No doubt, there is a difference).

A day never goes by that I don't whisper the words "I love you." And lucky for me, they whisper them back. Often times with no prompts at all. Yes, I've taught them to love.

My hopes for a little girl are obsolete; though not completely forgotten. I have more than any one person should have. And for that, I am grateful.
My days are no longer days, they are adventures....Adventures of a Mommy Maestro!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Safety First, and Second, and Third, and...

As I go crazy over the list of things that has to be done by the holidays, the one thing I find myself constantly doing everyday is cleaning. With two small boys, a husband, and dog; the job sounds much easier than it is.

Maybe it's the fact that I'm finding crevices "where no man has been before" within my house, or maybe it's that undiagnosed OCD family members swear I suffer from. Either way, I'm finally coming to terms with my need for safety. Not so much for me, but rather for the children.

I'm reminded each day of my neurotics just by the simple chore of vacuuming. In order for me to begin, I must first remove the safety plug that fits into the receptacle. As I move from room to room with my trusty Oreck, I pull a safety plug out, then put it back in before I leave.

Some may think I'm being overprotective, but I clearly remember the day my brother put a pin inside a baby lamp while it was still plugged in. Needless to say he was shocked and fell backwards off our bunk-bed. Looking back, yes, this was a stupid stunt, but never the less, had my Mom had in her disposal some of the cool safety gadgets available these days, my brother may just be normal (Sad but true).

Travel into my kitchen and you will find the safety covers over the knobs for the stove. I don't know what I was scared of when I purchased these things, but it seemed smart at the time. Maybe I feared the children may find a way to make their own meals therefore leaving my job obsolete. (Sorry, started dreaming for a minute). Sadly, my children are more familiar with the menu at Chick Fillet than the one in my kitchen. One day I'll learn to cook. Until then, nuggets anyone?

Go into my bathrooms and you will find safety locks for my cabinets. I still think this is a good buy, and that is why they are still there after 5 years. I even bought a safety lock for the toilet at one point. It was right after the Oprah episode that reminded parents that children can drown in just an inch of water. After I read the directions, I realized that this safety feature could cause more harm than good. If your not good at figuring out puzzles, let's just say this is not a good investment. Another side note: if you suffer from overactive bladder or have had at least 2 children; you can do without a lock on your toilet.

I don't know where this sudden urgency for safety came from but it certainly wasn't from our parents. Looking back, I'm sure my crib was decorated with lead paint, and yes, I drank directly from the garden hose on more than one occasion. We swam in our pool while our mother mopped the kitchen floor and we rode our bikes without helmets.

Did we get hurt. Sure did. But we got up, washed ourselves off, and continued to play until the street lights went on.

I remember once falling out of a tree and hitting every branch on the way down. A few scratches, but no broken bones. I got right up. I waited until the next day though to climb back into that tree.

I still look both ways before crossing a street. Nothing has changed about that. But I'm always amazed at the amount of safety features that are offered in new cars today. I too have fell victim to these packages that promise if something hits you, your life will be saved by these pillows that magically blow out of the side panels.

Here's something to think about: Back when I was kid, we didn't even wear our seat belts. My parents owned an over sized station wagon that was tough as a tank. I on the other hand have owned 5 cars so far. I have had 4 accidents of one kind or another (thankfully none were my fault). However, I've only been slightly hurt once. And guess how I was hurt? Yes, that's right, the magical pillow that blew out of my steering wheel burned my arms as I tried to avoid a car that went through a red light. On the brighter side, the pillow also saved me from hitting the wind shield. (Safety wins again!)

We recently bought an inground pool, and again the only thing on my mind was this issue of safety. There are 3 gates that lead into the pool area. All have safety locks. My children take swim lessons, and I make them wear their life preservers even when they're sitting at the picnic area just in case they wonder off. I even invested in a pool cover that promises it can hold the weight of an elephant. I have seen a bird, a duck and even my own dog run across that cover. I have yet to see a pachyderm in my backyard, so I am still somewhat skeptical.

So I continue to clean my house and get ready for the holidays. Ever so slightly working around these safety obstacles I have set up. Next room is the basement. In the mean time I'll try to figure out how to get a steamer over the baby gate.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Update for All Christmas Party Attendees

Hi Family and Friends. As you can see, the party is only 11 days away. I have spoken to a few of you about the gifts you have chosen for our sponsored family. The list appears in the side bar. For those of you having trouble deciding on a gift, you'll be happy to know we just received a few suggestions from the children's mother.

Boy #4- Enjoys hockey and loves Game Stop

Boy #3- Likes to build things. Likes Game Stop.

Boy #2- Would like a statue of St. Timmy. Loves Game Stop

Boy #1- Likes to build things. Likes Game Stop.

I know this isn't a long list, but try to keep in mind that these children believe that there will be no Christmas this year.

Thanks to all of you who are getting involved and even those who can't. I am so excited about this party. I'm still trying to figure out where we will be putting everyone. See you all soon!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

I Never Knew His Name

As we run here and there during this holiday season, we often find ourselves getting lost in the hustle and bustle. But as this story will demonstrate, it's not always the holidays that keep us busy, but rather just life in general.

How many times have you driven away from your home and wondered just who lives in that house three doors down? We often take the time to meet our next door neighbors, but beyond that, many of us do not know the families who live on our street.

Case in point happened to me sometime in 1987. I was in eighth grade. We just had a snow storm so there was no school that day. My brother and I with a few friends decided to go and offer to shovel some sidewalks. Most of our neighbors had already gotten a start on the job so the idea of paying someone to do it for them never crossed their mind.

We made it half way around the corner when we happened on a house with a large driveway. The man who lived there took one look at the children carrying shovels and called us over. He offered $20 to shovel the whole driveway. Each of us would receive $5.00. We were happy,he was happy; and so we began.

We seriously underestimated the size of the driveway. Turns out, the job took a couple of hours to finish. But once done, we received our $20, and our neighbor could now pull his pickup truck safely onto the road.

We took our new found riches down to the corner store where we invested in hot chocolate and some goodies. We didn't shovel another driveway that day.

Every now and again we would see the man driving his pickup down our street. We'd give a wave, he would give a nod. I never knew his name.

Now twenty some years later I return to my old neighborhood when visiting my parents. I've seen the man in the pickup truck (now replaced by a newer model, but still a pickup). Some time over the years we stopped waving. Maybe it was the years that passed between those short meetings. We both grew older, and didn't recognize each other any longer as the old man in the driveway or the child holding her shovel.

I received word the other day that there was a fire in my old neighborhood. Turns out the house belonged to the old man in the pickup. I drove by only to find what was left of the beautiful rancher that once sat around the corner from my home. Now covered in soot, most of the windows had be broken out by the firefighters. The man was working night shift when the fire broke out. His wife was not so lucky. From what I've gathered, she is still in the hospital being treated for smoke inhalation. The sight barely resembled what I remember that cold snowy day as me, my brother and our friends carved a path in the snow.

The world is a strange place. We hold our children so close, teaching them to fear strangers. Even our own neighbors take a back seat to our systems of protection, and the high fences we build around ourselves.

Take time this holiday season. Wave to a stranger. Meet a new neighbor. Or even better... shovel a driveway.

Friday, November 28, 2008

A Home for a Candy Cane (A Black Friday Tale)

Happy Black Friday to All. For those of you who ventured the outside world today you may have noticed the million other people who ventured with you. (i.e.- ME)

Despite the warnings and mockings from my own family members I treat the day after Thanksgiving like a kid in a candy store; or a bull in a China shop, depending what time of the day you ask me.

For the first time in five years I managed to get a bad parking space at my local mall. I leave at 5:30 am every year, make a pitstop at Dunkin Doughnuts, then venture to Willow Grove Park. Despite this minor setback I entered the mall with my normal enthusiasm and of course my mother (A.K.A.- Black Friday Buddy).

We were greeted at the front entrance by members of a local radio station. They were handing out free duffel bags which I believe were mistakenly thought to be stuffed with cash by some of the eager shoppers. For I was trampled not once but twice. (P.S.- No cash was found).

As we made our way to Macy's (My mother's stomping ground, and location of future burial plot- She requests the Dooney and Bourke Wing) I noticed the lines that formed in front of many of the mall stores.

I think my favorite reaction came from the woman opening the door at Victoria Secret's. The look on her face was priceless as she dodged the many women pushing their way to grab anything with a red tag. Those of you that have shopped this store before may have noticed that many of their selections are no bigger than a red tag anyway.

After an hour in Macy's I came to the realization that I didn't really need anything in there anyway. (Getting my Mom to accept that same train of thought was a little harder).

I recharged my batteries with some orange juice and a trip to Coach. A few more stores and twenty pounds of merchandise later, we finally walked out of the mall.

To Toys R Us we go. To Toys R Us we bid farewell. I needed just one doll, just one stupid doll. I headed to the front of the store to make payment when I was quickly told that the end of the line was somewhere around the same place where I picked up that stupid doll. Needless to say, Stupid Doll was given a new home on top of Hungry Hippos. After I finish this blog, I will devise a new plan on how to purchase Stupid Doll in time to put a smile on a little girls face.

Next stop: Bed Bath and Beyond. A need for decorative bows brought me to this store. A need for valour lined hangers, lit candy canes that line your sidewalk, and a drink mixer kept me there. Sadly when I get home, Hubby asks me to return the candy canes. (He call's it a waste of money, I call it a unique landscaping experience. O.K. they're going back)....wiping a tear.

Off to Target. An hour later we are practically crawling out. Once at the car we begin to realize that we are running out of room to place all our new purchases. We could go home and unload or press on to the liquor store. (Like I have to tell you what we decide).

Like every other store today, the liquor store kept me shopping by offering unheard of prices. While not as long as a stay as Macy's, I found that by the time I was leaving, my bags, I mean my cardboard box weighed the same. And like the last stop; we magically found a piece of car carpet to place it upon.

Onto A.C. Moores. I thought this would be the perfect place to get a few baskets. Again, everything was 50 percent off. Had it not been for the woman in front of us complaining that her Play doe was not ringing up the right amount, we may have made record time. Sadly, another half hour had passed.

Two more stores to go when we realized we hadn't eaten a bite since 5:30 that morning. If you haven't had the chance to sample a Five Guys hot dog; I highly recommend you make some room in your schedule. There are a few things you need to know before you visit: the only food on the menu is hot dogs and hamburgers, and because of it's popularity, they need more than five guys to cook all of it. Where the name Five Guys actually comes from still remains a mystery.

Stomachs full, we drove over to Kohls. (Oh my God!) Apparently while we were eating lunch the crowd from Toys R Us changed direction and decided to shop at Kohls. While I only needed one thing, our trip still took 45 minutes. Luckily, I was able to use my mother as a line holder while I finished my shopping. I stood in line for only 30 minutes.

When we finally reached the van we used a new technique. We opened both side doors at the same time and pushed to the middle. This gave us each the little room we needed to lay down our bags and quickly shut the door.

Last stop: Party City to pick up the paper goods for the upcoming party. Since it appeared that no one was in party mode today, we were able to navigate the store in about 10 minutes.

Safely at the van again, I had no choice but to give a good "heave ho" to my Party City bag and hope for the best. It landed right in one of my A.C. Moore baskets. Score!

As we pulled up to my house I was greeted by a pleasant surprise. My husband, Step Dad and boys had decorated for Christmas. It looked beautiful.

It just needs one finishing touch. Let's say some lighted candy canes for the sidewalk?!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Christmas Open House and the Case of the Missing Avatar

By the end of this week, most of you will have received your invites to our Open House. We are looking forward to seeing everyone. While some of you we see everyday, others we haven't seen in years. To those few, I must warn you, we have changed. While the normal pounds have been gained, hair dyed, redyed, fallen out, and growing in places it shouldn't; Oh you know, the regular changes.

Before writing this article I attempted, like the techie I am, to create an avatar of myself to post on my blog. After two hours, all work has come to a screeching halt. I am convinced that these websites are geared for children who were born after the Reagan years. While I believe I followed all the directions to a T, when my avatar was finally posted, it failed to bring with it the wardrobe I had chosen. As hysterical as this may sound, I am embarrassed that a cartoon likeness of myself stood on my Facebook page posing in my Birthday suit.

Needless to say I tried deleting this violation, but you know what they say: "You never really delete anything on the Internet." I don't really know who "they " are, but they're quoted a lot.

As for now I sit wondering if when someone googles my name will my naked avatar appear on the screen? If you should spot a likeness of me could you shoot me an email?

On other topics, as you may have read, we are sponsoring a family this holiday season. A sidebar will be created on my blog for all those that email their gift information to me.

Enjoy the holiday season. Give thanks for all your blessings, and I will see you all soon. That is, if you don't spot me first. (I swear, I tried to delete it!)

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Case of the Writer's Clog

After several hours/days in front of my keyboard with very little to no writing appearing on the screen, I've come to terms with my condition. While most writers at some time during their careers suffer from writer's block; I'll have you know that isn't my problem. I suffer from a rare form of Writer's Clog.

I coined the phrase recently after searching the web for some possible cures. While both block and clog involve a temporary inability to begin or continue writing; those that suffer from "the clog" know exactly where their story is going. In fact, if you ask someone who is suffering from "the clog" to tell you about what they are writing, they could orally recite their story from beginning to end. But hand them a pen or keyboard and BAM, "the clog" returns.

I recently read a writer's blog that suggested one way to rid yourself of writer's block was to talk to monkeys. He explained that if you talk to a stuffed animal or cardboard cutout about what you're really trying to say; you're thoughts will eventually turn into writing. While although very hysterical, be cautious fellow cloggers. Talking to monkeys (real or stuffed) can lead to problems this blog is not ready to discuss.

I became hopeful this past weekend when my Y.A. novel which has been sitting at 14,000 words for the last month actually grew in size to 14,302 words. Excuse me, I mean 14,303 words. After editing I realized I had forgotten a preposition. (Every word counts!) Just as I was creeping up on 14,304 words I again felt it coming on. The clog had returned with a vengeance. It took a grip sometime around 3pm Sunday afternoon. I can't say what brought it on, but it seems to want to stick around again. Maybe it missed me since it had such a strong grip just the day before. Yeah, sure I'll start talking to monkeys. Right after I get this one off my back.

As I sit on my couch typing these final lines I take a look over my blog. Had I not been suffering from this terrible ailment, the words I write now could actually be included in my word count. As usual I will press on and search for inspiration from all outlets. Until then, I'll probably just sit down with my son and watch an episode of Curious George.

If you're interested in reading about more remedies for writers block according to the blog I referred to above, please follow this link:

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Golden Crap Award

With all the award shows available, you would think that one would have come up with this idea before me. I am a great fan of the Oscars, the Emmy's, and even the Grammy's, but they all have one thing in common; they celebrate achievement.

Don't get me wrong, I think this is a wonderful thing. Most people consider me to be an optimist. My glass is for the most part half full. But even I have seen a lack in the workmanship that goes into the simplest of things we purchase these days. I rarely complain about these products, but recently I've noticed that even big ticket items are falling into this category.

Take for instance my minivan. Because I believe in the "American Dream" I dare not write the make or model of my minivan in this blog. But I cannot help but wonder what type of day the man on the assembly line was having when he was putting my van together. Maybe his mother didn't let him play with puzzles as a boy. Maybe he had some bad Chinese the night before and forgot to push the stop button on the assembly line when he rushed into the bathroom. The van just kept rolling, and before anyone caught on, it was driven into my driveway minus a few hundred parts.

Thank the Almighty for warranties. For without such a thing, there quite possibly may be more murders. I'm not saying that I would do anything crazy like that, but after it began to rain inside the car, yes that's right, I said inside the car, I didn't know what I was capable of doing. If that had been the only problem I may have just gone home and made myself a cocktail. But because the problems multiplied times three, I was forced to drink the whole damn bottle. The steering broke, the door rusted, the tie rod cracked, the paint chipped, and the gas cap was replaced. And the list goes on. I'm still wondering if the whole thing just decides to simultaneously combust, what are the odds that I will be saved by an airbag?

So I sit and blog about this piece of @*$# sitting in my driveway.For in its own way it is gaining celebrity. I am currently looking for a buyer that will give it as much love as our family did. Maybe it will have a change of heart and be at it's best behavior for the next owner. In the time being I continue to watch countless hours of car commercials. I think my favorite is the one for Cadillac when the redhead is going no less than 90 miles down the road then turns to the camera and says: "You have to ask yourself, when you turn on your car, does it return the favor?" I want to reach through the television and strangle that women. An orgasm while driving my minivan? You must be kidding! A stroke, heart attack, and flat line are more like it.

So it is with great honor that I bestow the first ever Golden Crap Award to my minivan. For it's countless hours at trying no less than to unsuccessfully (so far) end my life. This belongs to you.

Until then, if Virginia there is a Santa Claus, could you send him a text about a certain family wishing for some shiny new wheels. Tell him I heard a Cadillac will bring a smile to my face!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

If You Could See What I Hear

There are some things that just can't be explained in life. This week, there were no exceptions to that rule.

When my youngest was two years old we had tubes put in his ears due to the numerous ear infections he was experiencing. I went back and forth with the idea before actually deciding. Most of the doctors we spoke with advised us to have the procedure done, while there was only one that told us to hold off. She said that probably within a year the infections would be under control.

A year is a very long period when you have a sick child. There are sleepless nights, endless crying, continuous trips to the pharmacy, and a million prayers asking for that miracle drug that will put an end to the infections.

So we went forward with the surgery. And indeed everything did turn out alright. That was until about four months after the surgery. It was then that I noticed a very peculiar thing happening to my son. He began to hear things that were almost too quiet to hear. For example, my husband and I were whispering about something while he was in the other room. The following day, he repeated some of that conversation to me. I began to worry when he started complaining about the volume of certain things. So much so that he was unable to attend events like parades, fireworks, and parties where they were playing music. He even shied away from going to the movie theater.

His doctor insisted that he was fine, and that some children do indeed become sensitive to sounds since for so long what they heard was muffled. This seemed to be a likely explanation, but I couldn't help but be sad for my little boy who seemed to be missing out on so much. It was hard to determine just what sounds would set him off. Before the surgery he loved going to get his hair cut, but afterwards the buzzing from the razor was too much for him to handle. One doctor even suggested that it wasn't his hearing that was the problem, but that I may want to talk to a neurologist.

We tried ear plugs, which by the way, don't work that well in little ears. Then one day while taking a ride in our minivan, my son put on the earphones that come with the DVD player. It was as if a light bulb went off. From that day forward, we never went anywhere without those earphones. They became his safety net... and our sanity.

But just last week, nearly two years after the surgery, another breakthrough occurred. My son asked me to take him for a haircut. For the past two years my husband has been cutting our sons hair. Well, that's putting it nicely. In actuality it often would look like a horror movie was being filmed on our back porch. From the crying to the screaming to the down right temper tantrums, most of the time our son would reappear with a not so even trim. My husband would enter behind him dripping in sweat and swearing: "This is the last time!" Needless to say, when my son asked me to take him to get his hair cut, my van couldn't drive fast enough.

I did my civic duty by first warning the hairdresser that this was the first time in a year that my son had gone to a salon, and chances were good that the situation could go very bad. Turns out, the warning wasn't necessary. He was an angel. He looked so handsome. The hairdresser gave him a lollipop and we were on our way.
I tried not to cry, but I'm sure some tears slipped by. Our car ride home was filled with so much excitement, especially since my son had one more request to make. "Hey Mom," he said. "I think I'm ready to go to the theaters now."

We shared a bucket of popcorn.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Some Bubbly Please

Maybe it's a bit too early to have caught the Christmas Bug, but I sure got it good this year. I love shopping for others. Set aside the tons of bills that roll in come January, the bumper to bumper traffic every night, and the occasional grumpy shopper, Christmas is truly my favorite time of year.

Because I have been able to take advantage of the incredible sales that the stores are offering, I can say with great enthusiasm that my shopping is practically complete. While many of you will be fighting over parking spaces and searching for the last Talking Elmo on Christmas Eve; I will be sitting pretty in a tub of bubbles.

Why a tub of bubbles you ask? Well, it's like this. Of all the rooms in my house I can say without hesitation that my bathroom brings me the most peace of mind. It is not my vanilla candles, the soft scent of eucalyptus from my eco-friendly bathroom cleaner, or even the furry new rugs I purchased that draw me to this room. Although, they are all part of the package. But rather it is that beige hole which sits behind the bathroom door, waiting patiently for someone to fill it to the brim with a bit of bubbly. It is my bathtub.

My love for baths started very young; although I had little chance to take advantage of such a luxury while growing up. Like most homes, ours had only one bathroom. Hot water heaters weren't as forgiving in those days. You actually had to wait for it to refill before the next person went into wash. Nowadays one can simultaneously bathe, run the dishwater, and water the flowers..(Go figure). Every now and then when time warranted and all members had cleared from the home front I would take my chances at grabbing a quick dip. Luxury!

It is those few minutes in my youth that shaped how I feel about baths as a whole today. I remember when my husband and I were looking at new construction. Some of the bathrooms that we saw were so incredible. I decided at that moment, I must have this. And although our new bathroom may lack some of the latest bells and whistles, it has what I've always wanted...a large bathtub.

One need not look to far when I disappear, for I have only a short flight of stairs to climb before I arrive at my utopia. It may sound strange to those of you who have chosen the shower for years over the bathtub. But as I glance over my shoulder at those glass doors, I know I have chosen wisely.

My bathtub may lack the fancy jets, but it is handsomely decorated with a white fluffy pillow embroidered in pink letters with the words: Don't Bother Me. This pillow was given as a gift from my mother the first year we moved into our new home. She must have known how many hours I would be wracking up in that room. It's quite possible if it weren't for my fear of electrocution, I may be writing this very post from my bathtub.

I encourage those of you who have not gotten that chance to relax today to take a nice hot bath tonight. Maybe you'll be able to go over that Christmas list again, or maybe the thought of sitting in mucky water will disgust you so much you'll need to take a shower anyway to wash it off.

Friday, October 31, 2008

The Hit Heard Round the World

There he stood at home plate, bat in hand, with a helmet two sizes too big for his head. We had practiced all week hitting a ball off of a tee, but once the game began, the coach was eager to see what children could also hit a ball that was pitched to them. I felt bad we hadn't practiced this. The game was however called tee ball, not baseball, and he was only four years old. I wasn't expecting miracles that day. From where I stood, he already was a miracle.

It was July 31, 2003. I was 6 months pregnant. My first born was expected to join the world on October 8th. I was excited that day because it was my last day of work. I was going to spend the remainder of my pregnancy getting ready for my new baby.

I spoke to my mom around 9am that morning. When she asked how I was feeling that day, I gave her the same report. I had some pains which felt like contractions. I had been having these pains the last few weeks. The doctors told me everything was fine. I specifically remember a day when he baby had changed positions. He suddenly felt incredibly heavy. Every step I took was painful. The doctors assured me everything was still fine. During my conversation with my mom, I had decided to leave work and go see my doctor. I was able to make an appointment for 11 am.

I was in such good spirits that I even stopped for a coffee and a donut. Mom and I sat in her back yard before the appointment discussing the future, and all the neat things I had to look forward to. Since Mom was getting her hair done shortly after my appointment, she came with me to the the doctor.

I was taken right in. It was a little before 11 am. When the doctor opened the door I could see the look right away. The look of "Oh you again. The baby is fine. There's no need to worry." She almost made me feel as if I had interrupted her day. I told her about the normal symptoms. My continual contractions, and the spotting that began that morning. She said she would perform an exam. Suddenly there was a quiet in the office. "You are 5 centimeters dilated," she said, "you need to get to a hospital right away."

My baby was born that day at 1:20pm. He weighed just 3lbs. 13ozs. I had but a second to take a look at him before a team of nurses and doctors rushed him away to the NICU. I remembered thinking how big he looked for being two months early. It wasn't until about three hours later that I began to realize the danger our little boy was in.

For those of you who may have been affected at some time in your life by the birth of a preemie, I'm sure you can attest to the fact that your life was suddenly turned upside down. Ours was no different. Filled with weekly exams, heart monitors, medications, specialists, therapists, OT, and PT. Not to mention the stack of bills which were conveniently delivered to our mailbox daily. You can scream, you can cry, but when everything is said and done, it's still you and this delicate life that you've been chosen to look after.

Despite some close calls, our baby began to thrive. He may be a little behind his peers, but the courage that he shows each day makes one forget that there was a time when he could practically sit in the palm of a hand.

As he walked up to home plate, flashes of the last four years filled my mind. I sat in wonderment as I watched our small miracle get ready to take his turn. Then suddenly there it was...The hit heard round the world. Our little boy not only hit the ball, he made it to first base. There were others on his team that repeated the same play, but nothing wasRemove Formatting from selection more amazing to me than what I had just witnessed.

It has been a little over a year since our son hit that ball, and there's still not a day that goes by that it doesn't feel like the first time. With all the doctors my son has seen over the years, not one has ever told us of his possibilities, and then again, maybe that's not their job. Maybe that's where we come in.

To all the parents who have silently asked "why me?" This is your answer.

This post is dedicated to all our "little" sluggers.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

How to Celebrate Your Birthday After 30

"Happy Birthday to me, Happy Birthday to me." Isn't that exactly the tune? No longer do you hear your name for it seems you're the only one celebrating. Maybe it doesn't matter. Let's face it, by our thirties we have mostly everything we want. The bows and presents are now replaced by a card in your mailbox signed: Hugs and Kisses, Love Mom. Surely she won't too soon be forgetting the day she laid in the hospital bed giving birth to you. They say it's a pain you easily forget, but a love that last forever. The story has been told and retold to me. Now that I have my own children, I can attest, there will be no forgetting those dates!

But now into my thirties, I no longer look for presents or cake. But yes, I'm still looking. For what you may ask. It's very simple...remembrance.

I think of all the birthdays I've celebrated and nothing touches me more than someone remembering the day. If only everything was that easy. Imagine the money would save if people just began to say "Remember me" on Christmas and Valentines Day.

Today I turn 34 years old. I am sitting in my cozy home watching the snow outside my window. Yes, it is snowing. My children have not yet gone tricker-treating and we are getting our first snowfall. Alot is going on in the world today, so my birthday is just another blurb. Our famous Philadelphia Phillies are in the World Series. Hopefully the snow will let up before the game tonight. I'll remember to tune in to watch them. I doubt they'll remember to send me a card. In less than a month, a new President will be elected. I'll remember to vote. Still haven't received Best Wishes from McCain or Obama. Well, it's only 12 noon. There's still hope.

I can't complain though, I received 3 phone calls so far and both my sons wished me a Happy Birthday. I got exactly what I wanted. Somebody remembered.

Monday, October 27, 2008

A Gathering of Strangers

I witnessed fear the other day. Not my own, but rather through an other's eyes.
I chose a pew near the front of church. Accompanied by my five year old, we said a few prayers, sat back, and observed our surroundings as strangers filed in through the doors. Although we usually sit alone, a kind woman dressed in a red leather jacket asked to sit with us that day. I politely moved over. As I sat watching the many faces, I noticed two of my favorite people entering the church. I use the word favorite in an odd sense; for I have never met them before, aside from the pleasantries exchanged during the sign of peace. This man and woman I assume to be married and quite up there in age, although I would never place a guess on the exact number. I often see them enter together, but she generally walks a few paces in front of her husband. This seems to be the normal in their relationship. She is the guide, and he is the willing participant. She walks with purpose. He slouches a bit, and moves his feet across the floor with a slide. Sometimes I receive a smile from the couple. Other days, like this one, they tend to their own business.
Mass began as usual, but there was something different today. The old woman didn't have her spunk, her tenacity. As we sat listening to the reading, I overheard the woman say she had pain in her legs. I watched as her husband began to run his hand up and down her leg in an effort to bring some comfort.
Now the following part I'm about to tell could have gone a number of ways. In the past few months I've been intrigued by stories on the news telling of people witnessing horrible things, but refusing to get involved. No one can say what they will do in certain situations, but if you have the opportunity to give a hand, sometimes its worth extending it. I lightly tapped the woman on her back. She turned to me as if to scream for help, but her words were buried in whatever pain she was feeling at that moment. Her husband said in a troubled voice, "I don't know what to do." A quick decision by the lady in the red leather jacket, myself, and an usher led to a 911 call. As the lady in the red leather jacket returned to the pew, the old woman collapsed in our arms. She came in and out of her clouded thought long enough to try to convince us that she was alright. We didn't buy it.
All the while, I couldn't help but watch her husband. I imagined that he had been at her side well before I had entered this world. During their tenure he was happy to sit back and give her the wheel. He knew that he was in good hands. But today, with all the many happy years he had invested, he realized, he never learned to drive. As the paramedics arrived and placed the woman on the gurney, her husband stood by her side. He spoke not a word, but oddly she knew what he was saying.
It's weird how life sometimes works. We're placed in situations that despite their complexity, we manage to work through. There are reasons for everything. I sat in that pew that day thinking it would be like any other. Instead, I witnessed love, was helped by an angel, and hopefully taught a lesson to my son about the joy of reaching out to a stranger. It was a good day.