let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

I haven’t seen this much snow in a winter in a very long time. Quite possibly ever. I love it! And because it never really seems to stop everything is white. The trees and lawns are white. Rooftops are white.  And there doesn’t seem to be too much, if any old grey, slushy snow. I know many of you are done with this weather. Have been done for months now. But not me.I love it. It brings out the kid in me. It makes me happy. I like nothing better than to snuggle up inside on the couch, in front of a warm fire if possible, and watch the snow fall. Outside the floor light is on. I’ll go upstairs and watch the snow sashay down from the sky, falling slowly sometimes and quicker at others. The branches on the trees outside my window are wrapped in thick white blankets. The stark white set against the black sky is spectacular. And in the early morning hours before the sun dares to rise, and late in the afternoon just before she is ready for her slumber everything outside my window is blue… in varying shades of blue. Blue is my favorite color. She is soothing and relaxing, especially Periwinkle. If I was a crayon I would be Periwinkle. I love a nice periwinkle evening in winter  when I have no where to be.

Winter in New England without snow is grey, ho-hum-boring,dismal and boring. The kids don’t want to be outside.  They end up with terrible cases of cabin fever and end up driving us all bonkers! But they love the snow. What fun! And nice to get some exercise and come in all cold and rosy cheeked and sip some warm cocoa. I’ll take a snowy day over a grey day any day!

I really could go on and on but this old Dino can not keep up with my fingers and I am getting so terribly frustrated. So, I wil head to bed and get ready for another work week and try to shift in to fast pace gears and I won’t have as much time to stop and watch the snow fall. And most likely I won’t be on here much tomorrow. I will have to be productive again. Not so much fun!  I will keep my fingers crossed that we do not have a delayed start. I need Alexander to be in school all morning. I have some presents to wrap and prefer not to do so under the watchful eyes of a three year old with a very large mouth. Tomorrow is the last time I will ever have a Nine Year Old daughter. Wow!

Warm Hearts, Warm Home!

Last Saturday I woke up to a cold house. As I trudged across the kitchen floor to make my coffee before the sun was up I thought the house felt cooler than usual. Not cool, but downright cold. The icy cold ceramic tiles pierced through my feet. As soon as I scooped out the right amount (Christmas Blend, of course!) I cranked the thermostat. A short while later we learned that the furnace was not working. Again. I feared we would be required to replace Furnace Number 2, the downstairs furnace, just after furnace Number 1 was replaced. “Here we go again,” I thought to myself. Later that afternoon we learned that the furnace would not need to be replaced, (Thank God!) but an integral part did. The part had to be ordered. And seeing it that it was early evening on a Saturday this was not going to happen until the following Monday. At the earliest, we would get our heat back on Tuesday. As the house entered the refrigeration zone the temperatures outside plummeted. The thermometer outside our window read 9 degrees, but the angry, howling winds told me that it was much colder. The downstairs soon turned from unpleasant to unbearable. We began to make our meals (sandwiches) downstairs and brought them upstairs. While I was eternally grateful to have a working furnace and a warm upstairs (where the bedrooms and playrooms are) I was getting tired of living in my bedroon. It was just too cold to do anything downstairs. It was even too cold to cook or bake. We did some. We had to. I had promised to make Santa’s cookies and since there wasn’t a minute to spare we did bake for him. We baked chocolate m&m cookies. It’s one of Martha’s recipes. Not the m&m part. The chocolate part. (We added the red and green m&ms ourselves.) Even with the oven on we couldn’t shake the cold. (The warm cookies sure felt and tasted good though!)

Throughout our four cold days I kept reminding myself how fortunate we were to have a half-heated house. While it was a nuisance and uncomfortable we had a house and we had some heat. The frigid first floor was sobering in the sense of reminding us of what we had as opposed to what we didn’t have. The kids were fine actually, happy to run around a 40 degree house in nothing but shorts and a Tshirt!

On Tuesday, the day before Christmas Eve, Don came home early and sent me out to finish my Christmas shopping. I had fallen behind due to a couple of snowstorms. I had started out well ahead of the game and had fallen seriously behind. I was eager to get out and finish up. I was eager to get out to a warm mall! I called the house periodically to check in on the kids, check on whether the groceries had been delivered and the status of the furnace. The heat company was due to come that day with our part, and barring any problems, we would have heat at some point that night.

By the time I arrived home, 5:30 pm, the furnace had been fixed and was working hard. The house was cold still and would take many hours to warm up but knowing that it would again be warm I was thrilled. Christmas Eve was the following day and we would have a warm home! Now really, I couldn’t have asked for anything more!

With our heat restored I began to work frantically to get everything done to get everything ready for Christmas. I wrapped and cooked and cleaned. I was busy all morning making up for lost time. I was so productive that by early afternoon I was all done. Don went out to finish up a few things and I had nothing to do but relax and enjoy the day! I had a long relaxing soak and a long mid afternoon nap. When I awoke it was already dark out. It was Christmas Eve. It was Christmas Eve and we had heat and food and presents that were all wrapped. We all snuggled together in the family room in front of the fire and watched The Santa Clause 2, the kids favorite movie of the week. We took breaks for dinner and dessert. It was a perfect Christmas Eve night.

We said goodnight and tucked the kids in at 9:30. We knew Christopher would be up for hours. We expected the others to as well, but Rebecca and Alexander could barely keep their eyes open. I went to work in the basement digging up all the wrapped gifts that I had tucked away here and there. Don was upstairs assembling the Polar Express Train we had gotten for under the train. As I was making piles for the children and checking the boxes off against my list I saw that Alexander’s pile was a great deal smaller than the other two. I began to panic. What would I do? How could my numbers be so far off? I had calculated the items. I reached for my list and it dawned on me that a bunch of toys were missing. Toys that I had wrapped. How could my youngest get less, and a good deal less, than his brother and sister? How could I let that happen? I couldn’t! Eventually a box was found with several large wrapped packages inside. One was for Rebecca and the rest were ALexander’s missing toys. Christmas could go on once more! Meanwhile I heard footsteps above. Little footsteps. Christopher was roaming the house. He could not sleep. It was 10:30. This meant we would have to wait further before putting all the items under the tree. Eventually he settled down and at 11:30 we began our treks up and downthe basement stairs. By midnight we were all done. And pooped. And 6 hours later 3 eager children could not contain their excitement!

 

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A Perfect Storm

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School was closed on Friday. The kids were a bit disappointed because it was to be Pajama Day and the last day of school before Christmas break. It was supposed to be a day of class parties and gift exchanges. Sadly this did not happen this year. By noon, as the first few flakes fell from the sky, the kids had forgotten their disappointment. Within minutes the ground was blanketed in white and frowns turned into smiles with the prospect of snow men and snow balls and snow angels and hot cocoa with mini marshmallows. It is now Sunday and it is snowing again. Rebecca is supposed to be in an ice show this afternoon but we are home bound. We have Christmas on television and on the radio and in the oven! We baked Santa some double chocolate m&m cookies. And because Christopher does not think that will be enough we will bake some peanut butter swirl brownies. At the moment we are all in our PJs. Yes, it is 1:30 in the afternoon. Excitement is in the air as the kids count down the days until Santa’s arrival. I’m at peace and relaxing. It’s nice being forced to slow down and take a break. Sure I have some shopping still to do, but it will get done. So while the snow (and rains) fall from the sky I will take the time to enjoy the quiet (well, for the most part!) with my family and enjoy the time I have with them all together and without interruption.

Despite the loss of another furnace, we are keeping warm. (Luckily this time it involves replacement of a small piece and not the entire furnace!) We are lucky to have two furnaces. While the downstairs is a tad chilly, the upstairs is perfectly comfortable. As is the playroom. And the cold, hard tile on the kitchen floors are humbling. While it certainly is a bit of a nuisance to be without a furnace for a few days, the cold floors serve as a reminder of all that I do have.  So after I finish this post I will snuggle into my bed next to Christopher and stare out my windows and marvel at the beauty beyond. (Alexander is outside shovelling with his father and Rebecca is supposedly cleaning her room — Polly Pockets and Flokati rugs are not the best mix!)

 I’ll use this day as the perfect excuse to keep the kids a little bit closer to me. And then, when they are least expecting I’ll wallop them with a cold, wet, fast snowball!

Why I Won’t Use Santa as a Threat

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Truth be told I have a problem with Santa. Not with the jolly old man with sparkling blue eyes and whiter than snow whiskers. But the myth behind the man. The myth that causes those idle threats that terrify the young. You know the one that’s based on that oh so popular song? The one that has something to do with pouting and shouting? The one with the lists… and checking them twice? Yeah, that one.

You see way back when Rebecca and Christopher were very young I did the same thing that most well meaning mothers do. I would tell them to mind their manners, mind their mother, mind each other, mind their teachers and be good because Someone was watching. Someone was making up lists and Someone would be giving presents to good little boys and girls. I am sure my mother did the same. I am pretty sure that when I was older she told me I was going to get coal in my stocking. I am pretty sure that she did as a teen. It was a joke. But still a cruel one.

The pleasures of the season rival the pressures. This I do believe. As parents we have presents to purchase not just for our children but their teachers and specialists and coaches and whatnots. It can get to be a lot to handle, not to mention pricey. There are grab bags and party favors. Christmas is more than decking the halls and lighting the tree. Christmas is more than a few presents under the tree. Christmas is parties and events and invitations. Christmas is shows and pageants and extravaganzas. Christmas is a crazy, wonderful, hectic, exhausting time of year.

Not only are we rushing around at warp speed, but so are the children. Not only are we getting less sleep and rest, but so are the children. Not only are we wiped out. But so are the children. And they have something that we don’t have. They have something exponentially much more important. They have pressure. The pressure to be good. Not just here and there. Not just for a few minutes at a time. But all the time. All day and all night. And they must go to bed and sleep tight. Through the night. Because He knows when you are sleeping.

You know how draining it is for kids to be good in school all day. Sometimes it takes such an effort for them to be angelic that the moment they see you at the end of the day, their little faces crumple up and the floodgates open and the tears start and they are hungry and tired. Tired from being so damned good. And you embrace them and while you really wish they would save some of that goodness for you every once in a while, you understand the importance of them holding it all together for their teachers. It takes a lot of work and determination. Now, for the most part kids can just let go a little bit at the end of the day. Unless it is December. In December they absolutely can not let down their guards. And that’s the trouble with Santa Claus.

I remember how Christopher and Rebecca went from being such pleasant children (for the most-part) to whiny, terrible, devilish little creatures. I had no idea who these little people were who looked a great deal like my very own offspring. But clearly from the beahiours exhibited, these little people were from another planet.

And then one day 4 years ago I remember having a little talk with Christopher’s teacher who is a wise — one of the wisest — woman. I remember telling her how emotionally drained I was because my children were so terrible, Christopher especially. Mrs. Shannon had an answer for everything. And it was always the right answer. Still is in fact. Well, she looked me in the eye with a look that told me I had to cut the kids some slack. She explained to me that the kids were under terrible, terrible pressure to be good at all times. And then it dawned on me that she was absolutely, positively right!

Christmas is supposed to be a wonderful, magical time of year. Kids look forward to nothing more than stockings and a tree brimming with presents. How magical to go to bed with an empty tree and then to wake up to see presents piled all over the place! But how wonderful is that if, as a small child you worry that one wrong action could possibly prevent Christmas from arriving at all at your house? Not so great, is it?

And that was when I stopped using Santa as a threat. And that has made all the difference. Every once in a while the kids will tell each other that they have to be good because Someone is watching. But I will never threaten them with Santa Claus. Never!  I will continue to take away television. Much more effective and better for the family all around!

Just something to think about.

I heart NY in December

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There is nothing quite so beautiful as New York in December. Especially at night. Rebecca and Christopher have been to the city many times, at night and at Christmastime. This was Alexander’s maiden voyage. He was captivated and enamored! He marvelled at the tall buildings, the light show at Saks, the tree and all the people and sights in general that New York has to offer. We could have stayed forever. We could ahve danced all night, but alas there was school the following morning!

The pictures above feature random sights in NY, Rockefeller Center, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Chestnuts roasting on an open (vending cart) fire, The American Girl Store (and if you look closely you will see a special doll holder for little girls who use the loo) and Saks Fifth Avenue.

Knit One, Save One (Life)

is an ongoing effort on behalf of Save The Children to save the lives of children under five.

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I am writing about this because my friend Lilly urged me to.

Nearly 10 million babies each year die due to hypothermia. That’s right, not hunger, but hypothermia. Half that number do not even make it to their first birthday. And staggering is the number of newborns unable to survive their first 24 hours of life. All that’s needed to prevent these terrible, tragic deaths are hats. The same little caps placed on the heads of our babies when they were born. These hats are vital to survival.One tiny cap! It’s not so much is it?

Rebecca and her 4th grade class, under the guidance of her teacher Patricia Bruno, knitted caps for Save the Children this year. These children, boys and girls, had so much fun with their creations, knitting 24 hours a day it seemed — in front of the TV, when they were supposed to be doing homework (!!) and simply as a means of relaxation. Rebecca not only learned a new skill that she will carry forth in life, but she is helping to make a difference. My daughter helped to save a life today. Wow! That’s powerful, impressive stuff. And you and your children can  do the same thing too! To learn more about Knit One, Save One Program please visit Save the Children, and click on the Knit One, Save One: What You Can Do video. It doesn’t take much all! The world is a better and healthier place because of my daughter and her 4th grade class. And with all your help it can get better still!

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Proud to be an American

Well, the day is here. The day is finally here. We’ve been waiting. And waiting. And waiting. And in my opinion, too damn long. Everyone is so charged up. There are cheers and jeers all around. We’ve become a nation divided. And you know what? That makes me sad? Of course we all have different views, needs, desires and interests but that’s what makes us what we are. That’s what makes us American. I have never seen such a bunch of Nervous Nellies out there. Okay, well maybe 4 years ago. And 8 years ago. And so on and so on and so on. And maybe my candidate will win. And maybe yours will. But I know this. I know we are a country that celebrates freedom and hope. And if Obama wins we will not implode. And if McCain wins we will not implode. The President may run our country but He alone can not rule it. Our Constitution and our Government were created for the people by the people. Let’s have some faith in our people that whatever happens He (and They) can do the right thing. I am sick of all this McCain bashing. I am sick of all the Obama bashing. What happens happens and we should not go home feeling sad or sorry for ourselves if our candidate doesn’t win. I do not like all this negativity that is surrounding this election. I do not like the negativity that my children are hearing that is surrounding this election. We need to remember that we should be so very grateful that we indeed can go out and cast a vote and make a change. And we should never ever forget this and we should never ever take this privilege for granted. So, may the Best Man win… and even if he doesn’t, the winner will have my support because I am an American and we all are Americans and we will stand taller and freer and prouder if we all band together.
So go cast your vote then head over to the local Starbucks and get your free coffee!

Not so Wordless Wednesday…

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The day I have been waiting for…
For nearly three years I have been waiting for Alexander to go to school. Not so much to get him out of the house, but to experience this wonderful preschool teacher that Rebecca and Christopher were so blessed to have had. During that year they learned more than I deemed possible. They studied about the earth and environment… recycling. They studied the masters of great modern art from Calder to O’Keefe, from Monet to Van Gogh, From Warhol to Matisse. And they learned about the various mediums and colors and techniques and styles. Bring my children to a museum and you will be amazed by what they will rattle off. This preschool teacher teaches through play. And play they do… and hard! I cried each time a child of mine graduated from her class. And then nearly 3 years ago came Alexander. And one of my first thoughts was how utterly excited I was that he would have Mrs. Shannon. The days, weeks, months and the years passed. And that day that we have waited, for what seemed like an eternity for, came — suddenly and quickly, today. And so today my “baby” was no longer my baby. My baby became my preschooler.
I worried about him crying and I worried about him missing me. What I did not take into consideration were my feelings. How would I feel without my sidekick? What would fill that void? Who would tug at my skirt and in a sweet, high pitched little voice who would call me “Mommy?”
I didn’t sleep so well last night. I worried, mostly, about Alexander. Would he be OK? Would he miss me? Was I doing the right thing since technically he is not even 3 yet.
We brought him to school and even Rebecca and Christopher stopped by to say hello — I thought it so sweet of their teachers to allow them to take a minute with their baby brother… We lingered for a couple of moments and then as the mothers started to say their farewells I thought we should too. He was fine. Not fine. He was perfect. I got my kiss and he told me he would see me later. I, on the other hand, was not fine. The last of my children was leaving me — albeit for a few hours. The last of my babies was growing up. How did this happen all so suddenly?
I, we, had an amazing summer. We did everything we wanted to. We had fun and laughter. We went on trips. We went to the beach. We went to the Lake and the Sprinkler park. We stayed up late. We played with water and sprinklers and pools and hoses and water guns. We caught fireflies and toads. We roasted marshmallows. We had ice cream and lemonade on hot summer days. We had lazy days and we had crazy days. My goal for this summer was to create a summer full of memories. I think I achieved that goal. And now summer is over. Just like that. We’ll have to wait another 9 months for those carefree never ending days. It’s funny, I mark the passing of time not so much by my children’s Birthdays, but more by the passing and starting of each school year. So here we are entering another year. I now have a 4th grader, a 2nd grader and a Preschooler. There are books this year. Heavier and thicker. There is more homework. For my older two there will be a few tough moments, I am sure, socially and academically. For my younger one it will be a year of tremendous growth. Leaps and bounds. And for me… I will have to adjust and learn to love my time alone. I will get my projects done in peace and quiet and without disruption — well, without the disruption of little ones. I will come to truly appreciate the time I have to myself… Ironic, isn’t it, just how I needed to get away from the children this summer and now that this is possible I want them back by my side?

Labor Day… 2005

As I sit with my morning coffee, laptop in my lap and watching the news I am aware of what a long 3 years it’s been. And, in many ways, and in some ways it seems to have just flown by. I am, in essence, watching history repeat itself. It’s Gustav this time, not Katrina and a week later. But those are minor details. We have learned some hard and valuable lessons from the time Hurricane Katrina came and struck with a vengeance. We watch, holding our breath, fingers crossed, hoping and praying that the levees don’t break.
We watched last time as she wreaked havoc on the folks along the Gulf Coast and devastated lives, cities, hopes and dreams. I vividly remember the images on television. The stories that struck me at that time were of those mothers giving birth in the filth and grime of the public streets in the oppressive heat and humidity. And the newborn babies crying. And the children without parents. And the homes that were flooded. And the pets abandoned and left to die. It was such a heartbreaking sight to me as I lay in my 38 week pregnant body atop of my bed watching the news. There was nothing I could do but shed a tear or two. My heart went out to these people. In my cool, comfortable air conditioned home, on my comfortable bed I was glued to the television set mesmerized by the images flashing in front of me. Never had I been so aware of my safety and comforts. I wanted to be able to help these people. There was nothing, absolutely nothing I could do.

The following weekend I was off my bed and my husband and I decided that we would honor our children’s wishes to have a lemonade stand. It was Labor Day and the neighborhood was bustling. We would have our stand in front of the house which was then on a fairly busy road. We would surely get a lot of traffic. One thing I told the children. This money would not be theirs. It would go to the people of New Orleans. They loved the idea! Our lemonade stand was born. Don and Rebecca made the sign. We went out and bought lemonade making supplies. And burgers and dogs and chips. We ended up having a massive barbecue. The best was in the end we raised over $300 that the children brought into the Red Cross. We had a great Labor Day. My kids had fun and did something to help those in need.

Two days later I was having a Labor Day of my own!
This is one of my favorite pictures!

 

Rebecca and Annie are also expecting!

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We are at the Red Cross ready to give them the money we raised