Friday, December 30, 2011

...to unpack from the Great Wolf Lodge

...getting ready to go on vacation is always much more fun than coming home from one!

And how exactly can four little people create such a disaster in such a small place (our van)?

Now let's talk laundry...by my calculation none of my children wore more than
  • a swimsuit
  • a pair of PJ's
  • and one outfit

for the three days that we were gone.  But for some reason...I am already on my fourth load of laundry?

It has been a long time since we have gone on a trip.  Since all of our travels this summer we only had the one trip to West Point in October.  And I guess I have forgotten that recovering from a trip is more about the sadness that the time has already passed than it is time consuming to get everything put away.

For me it was great to get away.  Fun to have the chance to share my kids with someone else...and watch them play and laugh and enjoy themselves.  What a fun trip it was!

Even #4 tried her best to cooperate for a group photo.  Will and Isabella have their magic wands here in this photo.
For Christmas, my dad gave the kids and I a vacation to the Great Wolf Lodge.   Two nights and three days at a child's perfect version of paradise.  Swimming, water slides, a child friendly hot tub, yummy junk foods, an arcade, and a super fun "Quest".

This game, is one that is played throughout the resort and the children wave their magic wands in search of treasures.  This makes the life-size wolves howl, the photos on the wall talk, and chests of treasure open.  All in search of 'Runes'.  There are several levels  of "Magi" (pronounced Ma-Jai (as in match; as in jive) to be achieved and the big kids really enjoyed running around before and after tiring my dad and I out at the pool all day to complete this treasure hunt of sorts.


Here are a few of some fun photos from the weekend:

Loving the water.

Such a big girl on the water slides!

My dad hanging out with the little girls while I got to take the big kids on the water slides.

The big kids even got to see Niagra Falls.  But BRRR is was cold!
"This is the life!" (Reading and Ice Cream at dinner) 
#4 made herself very 'at home' in the park much to the embarrassment of her biggest sister. 
How fun is this!

A rare shot where they were all above water at the same time!

This was a super memorable Christmas gift to all of us.  And such a fun time for all of us to be together.



Thanks Papa.  We already miss you!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

...to figure out these 'e' lending systems

...yet another reason that I wish Mark were home.

If you have known me long enough you know that 'new' gadgets really aren't my thing.

Mark cannot wait for the newest computer or electronic gadget to make our lives 'easier', more efficient, enriched...whatever.  If he were here I would not be writing this post.

Myself...well I have little zero patience in trying to figure out new devices.

Santa apparently did not know this little fact...since he brought two new Kindle devices into our home.

My children, the delighted recipients, are quite technology savvy.  In fact, both of them were quick to order themselves new books since conveniently...the Kindles are linked to MY Amazon account.

In order to put a stop to this nonsense I set out to figure out how they can borrow books digitally.  I have heard stories of how simple this process is.  "Right from your own home" I have heard people say.  "Piece of cake" said others.  "If you have Amazon Prime, the process is easy!" I read.

The librarian here on post said it is as simple as "signing onto AKO".  Let me just say, "Has anyone actually ever tried to search anything on AKO?"  That site is exactly why I hardly ever use my army.mil account anymore.  That website is anything but user friendly.

I digress.

The point is I have spent since 4:00 this afternoon trying to borrow my children some books for our trip tomorrow.  We went to the public library this afternoon just to get a library card.  The lady at the front desk said that the site was 'user friendly'.  I think I have heard this before.  

At this point I have only managed to borrow one book from the only site I have been able to figure out.  I had no luck with the library and definitely no luck with AKO.

Amazon was the winner if this was a contest.  But apparently there is a 'one book limit per month' with Amazon prime.  That Amazon page said she can't borrow another book until January 1.  Are you kidding me?  Isabella will read that thing in an hour.  Then what?

Oh, how I wish I had the ability to lock my Amazon account on their Kindles!  I'll be broke by January 1st!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

...to have a Merry Christmas

...four sure means more!

More fun.  More hugs.  More LOVE.

What a day.

A few highlights:

Family portrait time
Attempt 22...
Most Fun:
I love this photo!  Taken just after they found out about their trip to the GWL!
 Most 'free':
She changed clothing several times today.  And finally just left it off. 
Best Photo of the Day:
Talking to her Dad on video chat for the first time and showing him her newest gift!

Merry Christmas.

...to wish Isabella a Happy Birthday!

...She is NINE-YEARS-OLD!

Isabella Grace Crow was born at Fort Campbell, KY.  We thought she would never come even though we hadn't yet even reached her due date!  After a long labor she was welcomed into the world at 4:30ish in the afternoon.  We were treated like royalty there at the hospital.  She had visitors.  Lots of visitors!  Her Mimi, Papa, Uncle Kyle, the hospital commander, and a crew of others singing holiday carols and bearing gifts.  She even had her picture taken in a stocking with a santa cap on her head.  Though we spent the next day in the hospital, it was no question, the best Christmas ever.

Mark and I (and the rest of her family and friends) try very hard not to confuse her special day with Christmas.  Traditionally, we celebrate with donuts and a fun activity followed by church in the afternoon.  Then we move into our holiday festivities.

I would argue that today was 100% an Isabella day.

She began her day with a phone call from Mark and was able to open up her presents while he was on the phone with her.

The past few years we have been able to go and visit the REAL Santa Claus and Macy's in NYC but this year, our proximity prohibited that.  I really wanted to continue the tradition of taking a family trip and so I chose to head to the MOST.  The science museum in Syracuse.  The kids, my dad, and I had a GREAT time!  She is looking forward to this being our new, upstate NY birthday tradition.

The day was topped off by calls and messages from friends and family and an evening surprise phone call from their dad...

The children were snuggled are clean in their new PJ's ready for bed when all of a sudden their mom had a vision in her head...


Maybe...just maybe Dad could read them their bedtime story (so they grabbed the book here and Dad googled the script there).

So laying their bottoms upon the stools they sat there listening to Mommy's rules.

Daddy would read them their story tonight, and if they closed their eyes a vision of him would be in their sight.


So...

Without packages, boxes or bows the tradition continued just the same.  Yes.  The LOVE was somehow just the same.

Merry Christmas my love.  You are 'home in our hearts' for Christmas.

Friday, December 23, 2011

...i wanted to try to get on the 'nice' list

...because as of right now I am on the 'naughty' list.

According to Santa I need to work on my temper.  The PNP says that Mel Gibson looks calm compared to me.

So all day I have been singing my favorite childhood song, "The Day Before the Night Before Christmas".

If you know the song the key refrain is, "I'm busy, busy, busy being good".

L-O-R-D-Y knows I am trying! But #4 sure can bring out the worst in me.  That child sure has a temper.

Phew.  She is finally asleep.

I have tried many things with that little one.  She has stamina though I tell you.

I thought the little Elf that found us this month was going to keep her in line.  I instantly loved this little guy!  He was my 'in', my direct link, to Santa.  And she LOVES him.  She can't wait to find him every morning and thinks that it very funny that he is quite mischievous.

However, she frankly does NOT care that Plymouth (our Elf) reports to Santa every evening.  In fact, since the little red munchkin has come into our home she has taken up a new trick...spitting.   At me.  When she is mad.

Oh dear.  I am afraid I might not make it on the 'nice' list this year.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

...to make a 'not to-do' list

...for the last few days before Christmas

I think I hit my finish-line yesterday.

Thus the reason I have missed a few posts.  I have been burning the candle on both ends even more than I usually do the past few days.

Part of the problem is generally I over-do it.  That is my nature.  Holidays make me surge into over-drive!  The second part of the problem is that Mark really has a lot of jobs over the holidays.  He handles the holiday lights, he handles the Christmas cards, and he helps tremendously with the Christmas shopping, idea gathering, and wrapping process.  The last part of the problem, is that instead of nixing a few things off my list, it felt like it was even more important that I did them.

For who? Who knows.  This is why I need my voice of reason at home.  My gatekeeper close to me again. Because I am CRAZY! I cannot stop myself!  For those worried about me...I am starting a new class on January 1st.  The course will be called, How to Tell Yourself "NO-That is a Dumb Idea!"

I digress.

I think it probably was to maintain our 'normal'... Our traditions that we have as our own family unit as much as I am able.

Well yesterday was my finish-line,  It was the deadline for all of the packages to go out and make it to their destinations in time.  It was the kids' last day of school so all of the teachers' gifts (e.g, baking, holiday packages, cards from the kids (you know, raffia, big bow, pretty tissue paper)) had to be finished.  My visitors began arriving (so all of the cleaning and tidying had to be completed).  And all of the shopping had to done (so that the packages could get here in time).

So today...

I wanted to:

  • make a big breakfast (think bacon, eggs)
  • clean the house and get it ready for my Dad (Does he care how much I clean...No.  He just wants to see us!)
  • do the laundry that was beginning to accumulate
  • go to Walmart with the kids (who thinks I have lost my mind...four days before Christmas with four kids?)
  • make cookies (because I have given all of our away)

I did NOT do any of it!

I made coffee this morning and cut up a few strawberries.  I hope they weren't hungry?  But I played with my adorable nephew who came for the night to visit.  I chatted with my sweet in-laws who were thoughtful enough to drop in on their way to Michigan for the holidays.  And I thoroughly enjoyed the morning.

When they left, I picked up the house for a while sure.  But then, I drank some more coffee.  Caught up on some blogs, and chatted with my best friend for a bit (a.k.a. gatekeeper, while sitting on the couch!  Meaning I wasn't washing dishes or folding laundry.)  Aren't you seeing progress already on my resolution to be?  


We went out for ice-cream this afternoon...what a fun Advent activity for the middle of the winter!

And to top off the day, I sat with my dad and the kids and watched a whole movie.

No cookies.  No laundry.  And left-overs for dinner.

I think a day like this needs to be worked into our new holiday traditions.

I am refreshed and ready to finish the madness.

Monday, December 19, 2011

...to be thankful for strangers

...that sure did bring four kids some crazy J-O-Y this evening

My children were 'wowed' this evening.  

I keep biting my bottom lip to stop the stinging in my eyes while I write...

A box arrived here at the house a few days ago.  I saved it for an evening that would be a little less hectic than some of ours can be.  I knew that this package would be coming because Mark had told me to expect this it.  The return address was unfamiliar to me.  And the story and gesture behind the box was unfamiliar as well.

The holiday season is filled with stories about folks 'doing unto others'.  And I feel like our military soldiers are especially taken care of during the holiday season.  You hear about the opportunity to send a soldier a card through the Red Cross, Mark has received packages from several different VFW's, and family and friends are especially kind to remember Mark and other soldiers serving overseas.

I am so thankful for this.  I want nothing more than Mark and other soldiers to get "J-O-Y" from home.  I know that being away from home is so difficult on our soldiers and I am so grateful for the kindness of family, friends, and strangers toward them. 

This time though, the gesture was for #1, 2, 3, and 4.  Our package was a gesture of kindness sent to my cherubs..to bring them a little holiday cheer, from a stranger wishing them a Merry Christmas.  Recognizing that having their Dad gone for the holidays, is so very hard on them.  

I am so tearful and thankful, thinking that someone would consider the sacrifice that these four little ones have made.  It's funny because for the most part I don't think about that either.  But this kindness...someone trying to bring them happiness is so lovely; it tears at my heartstrings.

This is the new story...

A co-worker of Mark's from West Point put this couple from New York in contact with Mark.  They wanted to thank a family for their service.  Their package was so thoughtful.  She took the time to send Mark one of the recordable story books (Twas The Night Before Christmas) from Hallmark and asked him to record it...then send it back to her.  Because she had more...

She filled a large box with Christmas treasures that any child would love.  There were blinking Rudolph noses, flashing light-bulb necklaces, candy canes, a dog with a storybook...can it get any better?  While they loved it all, the karaoke microphone that plays Christmas jingles (it disguises your voice as an elf's) was the item that they fought over all evening!  She even included a sweet angel pin for myself.  And of course, she brought their Dad a little closer to them with the storybook.  Abbey kept playing it over and over.

I am still speechless...and tearful.

Isabella couldn't believe that a stranger would think of her and her siblings.  "Just because my dad is deployed?"  William was amazed.  The little girls just wanted to eat the candy and play with the treasures. 

I know there are holiday angels all around us during the holiday season.  I hear about special stories on the news nearly every day.  There are families and children that need so many things.  Things that Mark and I are very lucky to be able to provide for our children.  

I just didn't realize that our family needed an angel too.  For different reasons.  

Thank you.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

...to have a birthday party

...to celebrate my three fall birthday kiddos!

Isabella is going to be NINE on Saturday.  There are times when I am certain that she should be older.  I feel like she has been part of Mark and I forever.  But most of the time I can't believe that the time has gone so quickly.  I miss the fat little baby that would scream and scream in the middle of the night (that child had stamina I tell you!) and the toddler that would wow us with her words.  Mostly though, I enjoy watching the young lady that she is becoming: Careful, considerate, intelligent, creative, thoughtful...

Only one time before have we celebrated her birthday with friends BEFORE the holiday.  This time of year is so crazy already.  But this year, our social calendar was empty.   Why not fill the void with new-friends?

Besides, William was still bothering me that we had not yet celebrated his birthday with his friends (his birthday was back in October.  His dad was home...very special for sure; but apparently this did NOT check the 'par-tay' block)

Finally, Abbey's birthday was in between the two big kids' special days and had not forgotten this fact.  So we sang to her as well today!

Each of the kids invited about five friends from the neighborhood or school and in spite of the cold (about 19 degrees) everyone had a great time at the Watertown Zoo.

My nearly-nine-year-old!

All of the kids, especially #2, loved the presentation the zookeeper did on the animals (tarantula, hedgehog, and python).

The kids are beginning to make friends; they all are very nice kids.



watching the 'reindeer'!
The party was complete with an animal presentation, a piƱata, lunch, and a brisk walk through the zoo on a lovely albeit bitter day.  I am so happy we celebrated and silly as it may sound, that we are beginning to build up our memories here at our new home...with new friends.

Happy Birthday Little Ones.

Friday, December 16, 2011

...to have a family sleepover

...after watching a Christmas movie.

Our family Advent activity of the day.

I have no photos or crazy antics to describe.

Just a comfy evening by the light of the tree, the warmth of the fire and four little cherubs watching the modern version of Miracle on 34th street.

At least that how it started out...

Unfortunately two cherubs melted and had to go to bed shortly before the movie ended.

The rest of us are getting' ready to turn out the Christmas tree lights.

Sweet holiday memories.

...to share that it is fixed!

...this is such a good lesson for me

I am just reminded that am so thankful I didn't lose my temper this evening or become upset with Isabella about my phone.  It funny how something little things can set me off...but other times I recognize that sometimes mistakes are just made.  I need to apply this calmness of the 'big' things...to all of the everyday things that can put me in a tizzy.

Let me start by saying 'who knew' that my mother-in-law would inspire me to try a 'fix' on my phone.  Kudos to her!

While the particular fix she suggested didn't work, it did make me realize my phone still had life.  With a little persistence, and a lot of luck, my phone is now charging and working.

I am thankful the stars and the moon for aligned so perfectly this evening and that I don't have to spend my morning at the AT&T store in the morning!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

...decorate gingerbread houses for Advent

...Will has been so excited to do this!

My day started especially early today.  And if you read regularly you know that getting up early is not a problem for me; but I do NOT really like to have children up with me before 7:00.

So I knew in advance this day might be a bit challenging.  I had to have the girls at daycare and Isabella at Amy's by 7:15 (no problems!) in order to make it to Will's 9:15 appointment in Syracuse on-time.  Want to take a guess as to what time the doctor rolled in?

10:15

Wish my time was billable.

The appointment was fine.  No earth-shattering revelations.  But he did tell me that Will had a fever.  Huh? I had noticed that he was looking a little pale today.  And of course he didn't eat breakfast (this should from now on always be my tell-tale sign), but

"he spoke not a word and went right on playing his video games"

If I were a good momma I might have taken him directly home after this appointment.  But he told me he was hungry...and conveniently we were very close to a very large mall.  We just went in for a few minutes.  I ONLY WANTED TO DO A LITTLE SHOPPING PEOPLE!  Wouldn't you know it...he ate two bites of the TWO tacos he had to order.  And I barely got to walk in two stores.  I tried.

Off we headed back to West Point to urgent care.  I think it is strep.  He has the same symptoms he had the last time he got so sick.  But his rapid culture is negative; so we'll wait again...and cross our fingers they treat him this time before this all turns into pneumonia again.

The next part of today's saga started two days ago...

Isabella dropped my phone in Timber's water the night before last.  It looked like it had survived the plunge...however, I let the battery die today and I cannot get it to charge.  No phone.  Again.  

She feels terrible about the whole thing.  I am not mad at her.  I do wish she would be more careful.  I think Mark wishes I would be more careful.  I am just so annoyed I have to go through the whole process to get a new phone.  It is a painful process anyway.  Want to guess how it is going to go tomorrow with three kids in tow?

Makes me want to stay home and do something more fun like...pluck all of the hair off my arm instead.

So you are probably wondering did I scrap the gingerbread house thing?  No.  As much as I might have wanted to; I felt as if we needed a little festivity to brighten the funky mood I was in.  And Ibuprofen works wonders after a couple of hours (for Will).




So we decorated ate the candy, licked our fingers, spread on frosting and very much enjoyed the festive activity.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

...to have a morning cup of coffee with some new friends

...what a nice, relaxing morning.

Since I have been here I have been a little bit 'bah humbug' about meeting some friends for myself.  I have talked with some of the neighborhood ladies and I have gone to a few of the 'wives coffees' but for the most part I have been very content to do my own thing.

I think meeting new friends when you move to a new duty location is a little bit like dating.

First, you have 'first impression'.  Was this person welcoming?  Did they bring you warm muffins from the oven?  Did you meet them because your son pushed hers off the monkey bars (generally NOT a good first impression...what kind of parent are you am I anyway!)?  Did she list her husband's resume instead of asking you your first name?

Next there is 'the common denominator'.  What do I have in common with this person?  What ages are your children?  Do they go to the same school?  Are they about the same age?  Do your husband's work together (oh yea, and do they like one another?)?  Do either of you work?

There is another level to the common demoninator....Do your children participate in the same activities? (Chance of friendship developing increases exponentially.)  Do you live VERY close to one another?  Can you run between each other's houses easily?  Are your husband's on a similar schedule?  This was a big deal at other places I have lived...some ladies have the husband who comes home daily around 3 (Well ain't that peaches!) in the afternoon; these ladies were not as likely to stay at the park until 5.  For the record, mine always did his best to make it in time for dinner; I am not going to lie...I would have wanted him to come home at 3.

Finally, there is yet another level to making friends: If none of factors I listed above are present than BOTH parties must be willing to meet in the middle.  And lets be honest, life is very busy.  We all have our own commitments and our own crosses to bear.

By the time I have left every post I always have left behind dear friends.  I know that this post will be no different.  I just haven't really wanted to put in any effort to meet anyone.  Besides, I have Amy here and frankly, I have come to really adore her and her family.  She is all I need.  But my sweet girls could use a few more playmates and well...I thought the holidays would provide the perfect chance to have some of the ladies over that I would love to get to know better.

It was very low-stress (well for them).  And now that it is over (and just what I needed) I am so content because my home is clean and decorated now I feel so much less stress and ready for the holidays...

It was a lovely morning.  I can feel the bonds beginning to develop with a few ladies.  Ladies, that I might not otherwise have gotten to know because our children are not the same age, the same sex, and don't even attend the same schools.  Ladies whose husbands are around and don't work with mine (probably even better).  The girls have a few new playmates to call their friends and I feel good that I took a step forward to get myself a little more settled here.

I still mourn the loss of West Point.  I dearly miss the easy bonds that were formed amongst my children and the neighbor kids from our last neighborhood.  I miss our best friends.  But the reality is, that even if we are lucky enough to someday return to that lovely post, all of my friends will have moved on.

That is a certainty in this Army life...

So I'll continue to nurture my old friendships from all of the places I have lived and begin to build a few new ones.

...to attend the Christmas program

...I did attend but wasn't able to watch.

It is evenings like this,, where two parents are a must!

Would anyone who reads this like to take a guess as to how the little girls were behaved?  Now...you only get ONE guess.

H-O-R-R-I-B-L-E

The funny thing is, I joked with Amy earlier in the day that my girls would probably be treated better by me if I left them at home locked in the closet than they would meeting my wrath, if they were not behaved. Let's be clear I would never do this.  But I did wish I knew someone who I could have left them with.

I digress.

Incorrigible.

Heathen.

These are adjectives that come to mind.

Audrey can be lucky that it took us thirty minutes to get home.

I would love to give the excuse that she was tired.  But she wasn't.  She was just difficult.  And unfortunately for me, my darling #4, cannot come back from 'the point of no return' if I cross her.  She has absolutely no coping skills after she gets in trouble.

On my way home, while I was cooling off, I was able to recognize that events like that set little ones up for failure.  The event is long.  The children have to sit far away.  The event is held late in the evening.  The children have to be quiet.  They do not care how well little Johnny Q. can play the piano.  They just want to know why that mom over there brought her child snacks and remote control cars to play with and why they are expected to sit still.

I didn't lose my temper over this one...well only a little when she dared back away from me at the car toward an oncoming vehicle; but she did have to go to bed without a story (OH THE HORROR) when we got home.

Want to know what phrase she was screaming all the way home?

"I don't want to leave!"  "I don't want to leave!"

Hardly fitting.

Sorry honey.  I didn't get to videotape this one.

Monday, December 12, 2011

...to put in our Advent activity on time

...finally I remembered to put in the activity before the kids woke up!

The advent activities are something we started a couple of years ago.  And finally, I think the kids have become wise to my ways.  They have figured out that I don't A-C-T-U-A-L-L-Y know what we are going to do day-to-day.  I tried to tell them I kept the little cards out of the doors of the Advent calendar because they would peek.  I think they know better now.  My secret is out.

It is impossible to plan twenty-five days of activities in advance.  Not only does 'life' get in the way, but so does nature.  Who would have thought that we still have NOT been able to take a walk in the dark while it is snowing up here in the Great White North  (This was supposed to be event #6!)?  Or that gingerbread kits apparently were rather hard to come by the first week of the month (yes...I could have put together my own.  Made fresh gingerbread.  Compiled the piles of candy.  But I have to draw the line somewhere.).  And sometimes, time presents the biggest factor.  For example tomorrow night the children have their music performance at school.  I think the art project to make bird feeders and reindeer food is out-of-the-question for tomorrow night.  I'll opt for something that can be done in a  shorter amount of time like read Christmas stories under the light of the tree by the fire.

Some activities that I have planned are more fun than others: Snowball fight (with cotton balls (idea courtesy of my friend Kathryn)) vs. writing a note to thank someone who might not get recognized this holiday season.  All of the activities are meant to bring us together, if only for a few minutes, each day during the madness of this month.

Whether we are baking cookies together or bowling, it is more important this holiday season than ever to give my children this sense of the holiday.  That, in spite of our circumstances we can celebrate the season and experience joy.

J-O-Y to the world...especially 'our world' in Afghanistan.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

...Army to beat Navy

...but it wasn't meant to be again.

Bummer.

But a good game.

Mark and I have some great memories from the past few years that we have been able to attend.


I love this photo taken of us from last year...we look pretty happy (and cold)!

Maybe Army will win next year and hopefully we'll get to attend.

Go Army.

Friday, December 9, 2011

...to go Bowling

...well I didn't WANT to.

But the evening did turn out to be a fun f-a-m-i-l-y activity.

I took the children in, with the bar set rather low.  I was pretty certain that bowling wasn't going to be the main event of this show.  I mean really...there are so many other exciting things at the bowling alley to be entertained by!  In case you were unaware:

First there are the snacks...everyone goes to the Bowling Alley to eat.  This I did anticipate.


However, I did not foresee my little one using the child's bowling aid as a climber:


Or as a slide:


and I never could have predicted that making 'bowling lane angels' could be so entertaining (he was absorbed with this for several minutes!):


Of course we did bowl a little


even if the technique was a bit unconventional.


There was always the element of surprise when the bowling ball actually knocked down a few pins!


An outing of ours is never complete without a little drama...


Five people.  One complete game (who can believe we completed all the frames?).  Two hours and ten minutes.  


Thank goodness there was NO ONE else bowling at the same time we were!


~~~~~~~~~~~~~
An another note, Abbey was playing this morning with a snow globe we have from our visit to Macy's to see the real Santa Claus last year; and inside is a picture of our entire family sitting around Santa (similar to this photo).


I overheard her this tidbit from her one-sided conversation with the snow globe/Santa:

"Santa...My Daddy has a nicer smile than you do."

Something tells me that the real Santa understands.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

...some PEACE

...as in the holiday, not as in quiet.

Our day was CRAZY.  Our home was filled with three extra children, guests for lunch and dinner, book fair activity, gymnastics lessons (yes plural as in two children), and we even managed a trip to the play area at the community center.

My house is a disaster.

My children are all (already) asleep.

But as I sit here by the fire and the tree, I realize I found PEACE today.

I love days filled with friends, and children, and giggles.

I love the crazy.

My heart is full of

J-O-Y

And then we had our evening family Advent activity.

My cup runneth over...

Tonight's activity was to open a present from Daddy!  I wrapped it up in four of his t-shirts (that I have been saving since he left after R&R back in October).

All 'wrapped' up...
Here are our cherubs, ready for bed and eagerly awaiting their surprise!

Audrey is not always so cooperative.
Each of the kids peeled off a shirt and voila...a recorded storybook from Daddy.


They LOVED it!  Here they are all listening to their Daddy read them a story...

It all looks very sweet...unless you notice that Audrey is actually shoving Abbey.

This is for sure the best Advent activity we have done so far.  It was such a great way to bring our family a little closer during this blessed season.

Just what I wanted today....

PEACE
Isn't she lovely?  What a perfect sight.  She misses him so.

She was so happy when I laid her down and she cuddled right up to her Daddy as best as she could.

This is the first night since I can remember that Abbey hasn't gone to sleep with her baby.  Instead, that's her daddy's shirt tucked between her arms and his voice right next to her.

Sweet dreams little one.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

...to not be a grouch

...because I am feeling so much like the Grinch.

Maybe it is the holidays.

Maybe it is the gloomy weather.

Most likely, it is because I have overwhelmed myself with extras.  Surprised?  I haven't done this intentionally.  And the things that I have on my plate singularly are not a big deal.  It is the sum of them all that has me overwhelmed.

It is easy to think I could take a few things off of my plate...but letting the house go, not finishing the decorating for Christmas, not finishing the laundry, leaving dishes on the counter are all things that stress me out even more.  So leaving things out or letting them go wouldn't have a positive impact.

But nonetheless I have been feeling a little like I am suffocating.

I didn't even post yesterday.  I didn't really have anything funny, sad, or even emotional to share.  I have been BLAH.

Who wants to be blah?  Especially in December?

So...today was my day to get back on track.  To be festive:  The Polar Express Track!

And what better way to start my day than with a run and some reading material that HAS GOT TO BE more uplifting that what I read last week.

I wanted it to be festive...to put me in the mood.  How about one of my favorite, yearly holiday reads?  I am looking forward to reading it with the kids...but for this morning I couldn't resist: Yes, Virginia There is a Santa Claus.

Such a timeless story of hope and innocence.

Of course, after finishing this I began to think of our own holiday traditions and then my mind began to race.  I began making a checklist of all of the things I haven't gotten started on yet...baking, christmas cards, calendars.  This led to slight heart palpitations, sweaty palms...

Beginning to suffocate again...

Next, I tried to move on to something a little lighter:  The new Family Fun magazine.

Want to take a guess as to what this magazine made me think of:  Why new art projects for the kids of course!

and

A new list!

I am incurable.

I cannot fight my nature to try to fit in too much.

However, I can continue to embrace each morning like I did today, by starting out with a run, a shower, and a load of laundry before the kids awoke.  And remind myself that if nothing else gets done...there is always tomorrow.

Besides, I am adopting Audrey's mantra, "Who tares anyway?".

Saturday, December 3, 2011

...to read

...so...before my kids came down the stairs this morning I wanted to made myself go for a run.

I always have so many things that I want to do.

I want to volunteer.
I want to be a good mom.
I want my house to be tidy.
I want my decorations to look great.
I want to be a good wife.
I want to be healthy.
I want to make other people happy.
I want my children to be well behaved.
I want my children to be kind.
I want to reuse old items in clever ways.
I want to read.

I could go on.  My list is the reason I began to write this blog.

And I have kept it up because it is a great way for Mark to keep up with the 'everyday'.

This morning when I forced myself on the treadmill (I want to be healthy) I had my new copy of Real Simple to entertain me (I want to read). But as I was reading a particularly depressing article I was struck by all of the terrible things that could happen to myself or my family.

Although I think the purpose of the article was to help show how others persevere through hardship during the holiday season.

The article featured:

  • a woman who had been stricken with cancer (Thank goodness the mass in my throat was benign in May), 
  • a woman whose home was destroyed by a fire (my biggest fear), 
  • a woman facing financial ruin (thankfully Mark has a stable job but problem four could devastate this)
  • a woman who husband was severely injured in Iraq (this is too difficult to think about).
Each of these stories pulled at my heartstrings.  After each feature I found myself more and more upset.  I looked at these women and recognized their strength and wondered how they persevered through those terrible troubles.  And I felt the familiar catch in my throat that comes when I am on the verge of tears.

I took a deep swallow.

And I kept on running.

Because I am always so focused on all of the things I 'want' to do I often don't reflect on my own situation.  Which is probably why I stay sane.  I feel things so deeply.

I am often asked 'how I do it all'.  Strangers make comments: "You really have your hands full!".

I don't look at is this way.  I don't think about 'doing it all'.  And I am generally willing to take on more.  The only thing I find 'full' is my heart.

Then I realized the women in the article cope no differently than I do every day.  It's just one step in front of the other.

I carry-on better if I just don't think of all the 'what-ifs' or worry about being lonely.

Surrounding myself with things that make me happy.  People that make me happy.  And a purpose in my heart.  To keep my family as safe and healthy and happy as I can.

I guess my lists just give me the tangibles to focus my energy....the focus keeps the 'catch' out of my throat.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

...continue the prep

...so much to do

Note:  This is a random post.  No continuity.  No flow.  Just my thoughts.

I certainly bring on the crazy myself.  I find this to be such an exciting time of year...I can't help myself trying to plan and plan and execute.  And without Mark here to ground me...I am getting a little out-of-control!

Last night I was 'busy busy busy' not writing sentences one hundred zillion times like Professor Hinkle from Frosty the Snowman, but I was putting together our family Advent activities for December, my Random Acts of Kindness things for Mark, and finishing up preparations for the book fair at Augustinian.  

Let me just put it out there that while I compose MANY different ideas for our Advent activities every morning I don't ACTUALLY put them in there until the morning.  For different reasons:

  1. I have 'peekers'.
  2. The weather may not cooperate for the activity (A walk in the dark while it's snowing for example is difficult to do if the temperatures don't drop below 40 degrees).
  3. I might not WANT to do a particular activity for that day (Who every really wants to string popcorn?).
  4. Or days like today...when I went to the store to purchase said activity (to make a gingerbread house...I know I could have MADE the gingerbread but even I am not crazy enough to go that far) I realized I had forgotten my wallet for the activity and not only had to walk away empty-handed but I also had to beg my way back on post.
  5. So there is always a "Mom's Choice" option in the Advent calendar queue.  Bummer I had to use this so early in the month!
Tonight's activity:  Making milkshakes after dinner...no strings attached.  Meaning each child got a shake even if....gasp....they didn't eat their dinner!

Holiday milkshake cheers!
Which brings me to news from the other day.  Remember my distress about my appointment with the doctor.  How she discounted my 'mommy's intuition' and decided that Abbey was clinically depressed and that her BMI was too high?  Well thankfully she ran the iron test anyhow and yep, you guessed it.  Abbey is anemic.  She encouraged me to fortify her diet and encourage her to eat more iron rich foods (cause four-year-olds love all that healthy crap!).  I made sure to make Abbey's milkshake with skim milk, spinach, a bit of kale, and some beets.  All the Christmas colors combined!  Just kidding.

If we were keeping score it would be:

Mom: 1
Doctor: 0

I feel vindicated.  Is this a very 'holidayish' feeling?  

Maybe I need to seek out a therapist.

...to get 'busy busy busy'

...Professor Hinkle from Frosty the Snowman said this.

Of course we have already watched this for the first time this season!

My evening was spent preparing for the start of our family Advent calendar

and for my Christmas project for Mark...

So many lists to make.

And so much JOY to be experienced and shared this holiday season.

Our family is so blessed.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

...to tackle my house

...and I barely can walk in the living room still.

Today is a day that I have had little motivation to do much of anything.  It is rainy.  Gloomy.  I've had a headache all day.  My big toe hurts.  Blah, blah, blah.

I have little to show for my efforts.  Sure there's a bit of laundry done.  The kids ate three square meals today.  I ran.  They all were showered and shaved read to when they went to bed.  So why you ask does my living room still look like this?

Because I cannot figure out where to start!

This must be how Isabella feels when I tell her to clean her room.  The task is too overwhelming.  Too depressing.

Much like my afternoon.

I have been meaning to take Abbey in for her four-year-well-check.  I have been concerned the past two weeks or so that she has been really lethargic.  Every chance she gets she is resting on the floor or the couch sucking her thumb.  Even her teachers in school mentioned this.  Today we had an appointment with her pediatrician.

Personally I think it probably is just her.  She is probably just growing.  She always has been my sleeper.  But I wanted the doctor to look at some other things that may be causing this; especially since the onset is so recent.  I was thinking iron levels, mono, thyroid...

A little background on my experience with this doctor:  I have met her no less than four times in the past six weeks.  Every time is like the first time even though it was with the same child three times.  And today the fifth time, was no different.

Without much ado...Her diagnosis:  Abbey is on the road to obesity (her BMI is much too high) and she thinks she is depressed.  "Because depression is often overlooked in children".

Huh??

Thank goodness I didn't crumble into tears.  Had I not been caught so off guard I might have.  I was speechless and just listened.  My mind whirling with all of the questions she didn't ask or notice...for example, the last I checked I wouldn't be considered overweight.  Isn't obesity often inherited?

She asked if her dad is deployed.  Yes.  Why, yes he is.  He and 4000 other dads are on this post (at least).  That doesn't mean she is depressed.  Again isn't depression often inherited?  Do I appear to be depressed?  How about checking her other risk factors?

I should consider therapy she says.  Maybe.  But not after one quick judgement from someone who doesn't know my daughter or me.

Or maybe I just need a new doctor who doesn't jump to a couple of conclusions based on one rather uninformed visit (and one who does her reading(I don't know how credible this article is but I thought it pretty ironic that I just read it last week)).

So instead of finishing up my house tonight, I am wallowing in a little self-pity and a glass of Bailey's.  My favorite once-in-a-blue-moon-indulgence-because-I-forget-it-is-in-my-fridge.  Delicious.  And I am drafting my list for tomorrow putting three 'must-do's' on it.

1) Clear off counters in kitchen (and in the process find spots for all of the random holiday hoopla littering it)
2) Go to Post office (This will clear off the dining room table of three packages.)
3) Change Abbey's primary care doctor.

Pretty doable?

Monday, November 28, 2011

...to do a little holiday project

...because in truth I am avoiding my real issues!

You cannot begin to imagine what my house looks like on the inside.  From the outside it looks nice...because this is where I spent all of my spare time yesterday.  It was a surprisingly pleasant day.  While the kids rode bikes and played catch, I decorated the porches.

Our front porch


Side entrance...a bench to take off all of our snow-gear!
But from the inside my house looks like all of my tubs of Christmas decorations have thrown up and spewed holiday shtuff everywhere!

Mark says that I sometimes have trouble with priorities.  Sometimes I have trouble finishing what I start.  Sometimes I try to do too many things.

He is right.  Looking around here there is no question...an extra holiday project should have been tabled until this condemned zone became inhabitable again.

But since we all know that Mark is what balances me; and he is not here...than my whims prevail.

And so today we did pom pom pinecones (a.k.a. little x-mas trees)!

Supplies:
-pinecones that are nauseatingly cinamonny
-glue
-little items for decor (buttons, pom poms)
-three cute girls to decorate them (one was home from school with a little cold).




Abbey's
Isabella's...she loves the hot glue gun!

All pretty and smelly...for Daddy.

Maybe tomorrow I'll tackle the living areas....

Sunday, November 27, 2011

...to celebrate #3

...turning 4!

Oh how can it be?  Four seems like such a big girl age.

And she is such a grown up little one.

Abbey has been my baby for the longest.  She has been my slowest to grow up.  She didn't walk until she was 19 months...didn't say her first words quite as quickly as the others, and hung closer to me longer than the others have.

I didn't expect her to be so independent so quickly.  I guess I expected to stay back on the curve and I am was OK with that.  I don't know when it happened...when she gained the confidence to become her own boss.  To become everyone's boss!  She has changed into a feisty four-year-old.  A little girl that loves to play and learn and be a friend.  One that can exude a rainbow of emotions in a very short period of time.  A little girl that I love to be around...because she is so colorful.

She loves sucking her thumb, being in charge of her little sister, babies, pretend play, cooking with me, listening to stories, dancing, playing games, doing art projects, and 'writing'.  Probably in this order.

She is the first to offer to do something for her brother or one of her sister's (get a coat, pick up something off of the floor), she is the first to fall asleep at night (she requires the most sleep of all of my kiddos), and she is the first to remind me of a task I was supposed to do.  She love, love, LOVES her dad.  She mentions his every day and often thinks of something new to send him.  She is kind.  And thoughtful and true.



Happy 4th Birthday my Abbey!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

...to enjoy the day

...and it was a very nice day.

It was so much fun to watch the kids welcome their grandparents and Aunt Sandy when they arrived into town...and better yet Mark got to participate in the excitement as well.

He called right before they came in.  Although we are not able to do webcam with him, he is able to watch us on gmail video chat.  It was as if we could pretend he was here with us.  Hopefully we were able to bring a little bit of our chaos to him.

After a day of eating...all day...I am enjoying the late evening fatigue that is beginning to set in.

We just finished watching Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, reading stories to the girls, and right now I am watching Will torture his grandfather by trying to teach him to play baseball on the Wii.  Poor Fred.  I think I heard the Wii tell him, "I have never seen such a terrible swing."

The normal family stuff with our extended family here to share in the fun makes for a very enjoyable day.

Mark and I have so much to be thankful for.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

....check everything off my list

...and write a new one

I am running out of steam as I finish preparations for tomorrow.

I was trying to think what I wanted for the big day; here is the new list of things I came up with:

  • I just want everything to be tasty and I want to make the things my visitors want.
  • I just want everyone to feel comfortable in my home.
  • I just want my children to behave and mind their manners.
  • I just want my children to be appreciative and thankful for their relatives coming to spend time with them.
  • I want to enjoy the day tomorrow.
Looking at this list it is probably similar to what many people want from tomorrow.  The Hallmark version of a family Thanksgiving.  Something to frame.  Something to remember.

I can tell you...I can vividly remember nearly every Thanksgiving since Mark and I have been married.  I am not sure why this holiday is so marked in my memory.  I suppose it is because every year has been celebrated in a different location, a different state, with different family members.

(Here is a little trip down memory lane...)

The first Thanksgiving after Mark and I were married we were living in Lompoc, CA; near Vandenburg AFB.  My in-laws made the trip to California to visit us.  We spent the actual holiday in Monterey eating at a very bad restaurant...but I made a traditional meal before we left on that little trip.  That was my first Thanksgiving away from home.  I was so homesick.  I spent a good portion of that day sobbing.  Most notably, running off to my bedroom, right before the meal was served.  

One of my favorite Thanksgiving weekends was when Isabella was a toddler and the Crow families all met up on Cape Code.  I loved visiting Plymouth Plantation on Thanksgiving Day.  I have some of my very favorite photos of Isabella as a baby from that trip.  She even began walking well that weekend!

Another favorite weekend was the year Abbey was born.  Both of our brothers and their wives made the trip to visit a very VERY pregnant ME in NJ.  We have such a fun weekend together...watching movies, indulging in some wine, and enjoying each other's company while waiting for #3 to join us.  She barely missed meeting her aunts and uncles that weekend and instead was born the Tuesday after Thanksgiving.  

One year we went to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade!  Mark, myself, all the kids, and my brother and Taylor faced the crowds in New York City.  What a fun experience (though Mark might use a different word to describe that adventure).  I loved that parade (what we could see of it) and wished that we could've gone back...maybe another year.

We have been to restaurants on Thanksgiving (some terrible and others pretty good), I lost my grandfather the Thanksgiving weekend the year Isabella was born, we have celebrated our baby's first birthday on a Thanksgiving (2008) and we found out I was pregnant with Audrey on another.

Thanksgiving is always a memorable holiday weekend.

It's easy to understand why this will be another memorable holiday weekend.  And this is not likely to be in the top five of my favorite Thanksgiving day celebrations.... 

I have changed so much since that first Thanksgiving back in 1998.  Our family has changed even more.  I am incredibly thankful for that.  But, this Thanksgiving I won't spend much time blubbering about what I don't have or who isn't with us.   Instead, I will quietly miss him so SO much.  I'll pretend I am holding his hand during the prayer at dinner.  I will miss him telling me to 'sit down'...'relax'.  And I will cherish the time I have with our family.

I have done everything I can possibly for my wish list to happen.  

I won't worry too much when my children don't behave or mind their manners.  

I'll do my best to help teach them appreciation and thankfulness.  

There is plenty of food tomorrow.  And Mark's family is super easy to please.  

Likewise, they will be so happy to see us they won't even realize I didn't mop the floor.

That brings me to the last one...

And well...I am already enjoying the day and it isn't even here yet.  

Can't you hear the kids voices now?  The squeals and giggles?  The love in their voices?

When they see their grandparents?  When they show Aunt Sandy their rooms?

....and when they talk to their Dad to wish him a Happy Thanksgiving.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

...to show my desk re-do

...now the kids have a new workspace in my living

Our house is not short on tables and spaces to do projects.  However, my children are always wanting to work right at the bar on the island.  The problem is that often their work gets splattered with water or worse, Abbey or Audrey spills something on it.

And, for the record, my counter usually isn't cleared off enough for them to have ample work space.

I found this treasure on Craigslist about two week ago.  I love old school desks!  Pretty soon I'll probably have four of 'em!  For now this is my new favorite treasure.  Unlike Isabella's, this desk top is flat (Her desk is a vintage model in which the chair is attached to the desk and the desk top is angled).  This new style desk will make it much easier for projects and papers to stay put!

As you can see it is pretty beat up.  Luckily, the weather has been unseeingly mild this fall I was able to refinish it already.


The chair is all sanded here...


And after a few coats of stain and a spray on polyurethane (which I might point out is a truly genius invention!)....

Voila!



I am not 100% convinced I am in-love with the finish I chose, but for now it fits in perfectly into our living, the kids LOVE it, AND it doubles as a side table!