Saturday, December 24, 2011

'Twas the Night Before Christmas

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled down for a long winter's nap,

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;

"Now, DASHER! now, DANCER! now, PRANCER and VIXEN!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my hand, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

His eyes -- how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook, when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, as he drove out of sight,

By Clement Clarke Moore

Sunday, December 18, 2011

"Little Sisters"

I am so happy for my girls that they are blessed to have a sister to go through life with -- not that they always feel that's a blessing... They definitely have their moments! Just yesterday, my husband and I told them that for each time they tattle on their sister (their new favorite pastime) they will get one less Christmas gift! That is working well so far... But, they do love each other and it's so sweet when they show that love! My eldest daughter wrote this on our chalkboard the other day: "Little sisters are like dolls; you can read, sing, play, talk, dress-up and share secrets with them. But most of all, love them." So sweet!

(PS - I'll be saving this as a reminder for them -- I'm sure it will come in handy someday!)

Friday, December 16, 2011

10 Days 'Til Christmas

There are 10 days until Christmas -- where did the time go? Here's where we stand with our holiday preparations:

- Trees up and decorated, check!

- Christmas cards - ordered, in hand, nearly all sent out (need more stamps)

- Shopping - before this morning we only had things for the girls - I'm moving along on everyone else today and hope to be done this weekend!

- Wrapping - HA! Not even close... Well, the gift wrap tub is upstairs near the table, so I guess that's close (to starting)

- Santa's letters are ready for Santa, check!

- Visit with Santa - scheduled to brave the mall to see Santa later this afternoon (wish us luck!)

- Christmas baking - again, HA! No where near starting...

- Christmas dresses for the girls - my eldest daughter LOVES her dress from last year so much that she really wants to wear it again this year -- who am I to argue? So, I guess we're halfway done on dresses...

- Menu for Christmas dinner - we're having Grandpa & Gramby over for dinner on Christmas and so far here's my menu plan: beef something, some sort of salad, some sort of starch, some sort of veggie, some sort of dessert... Sigh - that needs some work, doesn't it?

So, we have a bunch of stuff to do this weekend and we also have 3, count them - THREE - birthday parties between tomorrow and Tuesday! And no birthday gifts or birthday gift ideas... Have to work on that one tonight! We also have Grandpa & Gramby's annual holiday party tomorrow night, and Sunday School for my little one on Sunday.

And what are we doing tonight after we visit Santa? Once the girls are in bed, I'm hoping that my husband and I can settle in with a glass of wine and our favorite grown-up holiday movie, "Love Actually" -- he's been working long hours this week -- he loves the movie, but he may crash early on... Do you think he'd stay awake if we wrapped gifts at the same time? Hmmm.... ;)

Am I missing anything on the holiday prep list? Let me know!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Girls' Night Out - Mom & Daughter Time!

Last night my nearly 11-year-old (gasp, it pains me to say that!) and I had a special treat! The two of us went downtown to the beautiful Eastman Theater (my camera phone does not do it justice... And this is my daughter's "I'm SUPER excited face!") to watch an a cappella concert put on by the YellowJackets, Pentatonix and Delilah -- all groups that we enjoyed watching on the NBC show, "The Sing Off." We have been huge fans of this show during it's first three seasons -- it's a show that our whole family can watch together and enjoy. We were fortunate to have found out about a local concert that the YellowJackets were having to benefit their Kenya project. My husband had to work and my 5-year-old adamantly declined my repeated offer to take her to the concert. Grandpa and Gramby were available to watch her, so my eldest daughter and I decided to go on our own! The tickets were for general admission and I had gone downtown on Friday to pick our tickets up so that we wouldn't have to wait in line for them. We dropped my little one off early and headed downtown prepared to wait out in the cold! We were arrived 90 minutes early and were able to wait inside behind about 40 - 50 people who had arrived ahead of us. We had already decided that we were going to head right up front toward the stage -- my daughter want to see everyone up close! We were thrilled to get seats in the 5th row! It was a fantastic concert -- wonderful music, a performance with a group of elementary students who have been working with the YellowJackets, and even a surprise wedding proposal for one of the singers from Delilah -- my daughter thought that was about the coolest, most romantic thing ever!

Whether we were watching these groups on the Sing Off or in person last night, we have always been amazed at the talent of these singers -- the amazing things they can do with their voices! We kept reminding ourselves that there was no band performing with them! Unbelievable! I'm glad that my girl appreciated the talent and hard work of these performers. She admired the beauty in the historic theater, and she was wonderfully fun company to hang out with for the evening! It was a special night for my girl and I, and although it was a school night, I took a little extra time after the concert (and after we got out of the parking garage...) to put on the local "24 hours of Christmas music" radio station and I drove her up and down Main Street to see all of the beautiful lights decorating the city for the holidays.

It was a wonderful evening and something my sweet girl and I will probably never forget!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

"I Have a Question..."

The other night the 4 of us went to a special dinner for my dad -- he is the new Commander of our local Sail and Power Squadron this year, so this was their change of watch dinner/ceremony and he was all dressed up in his uniform and had to give a speech. It was pretty long and there were a number of speeches and different parts of the ceremony. My nearly 11-year-old was an angel, her 5-year-old sister was getting pretty wiggly, but still remarkably good, all things considered! Anyway, they had a rep from the Coast Guard there who spoke and then took questions at the end. My littlest girlie whispered to me, "I have a question for the guy!" and I said, "Really? What is your question?" And she said, "What's a sea horse?" Which totally cracked me up at that moment -- we refrained from asking, but I was impressed that it was a question about marine life and not kitties or rainbows or something!

I try so hard to write down these funny little things that my girls say -- to share with them and their children and to fondly remember when they were little! (I have a sweet picture that I took of the girls and their grandpa in his uniform, alas I am still having problems with my camera -- I can take pictures, I just can't get them off the camera!! Hoping Santa will help me resolve that issue!) :)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thanksgiving Name Tag / Napkin Ring Craft

I miss you, dear blog -- Girl Scout cookie season seems to have taken over my life... It's coming to a close, and then I can hopefully get back in the swing of things! In the meantime, we had a lovely Thanksgiving with my mother-in-law (Grammy) and her sister (Cici) coming out to visit us for the long weekend. We had a great holiday with them, Grandpa & Gramby and my grandmother who recently turned 90.

The girls dressed in their little pioneer outfits (pioneer, pilgrim -- close enough to them, apparently!), everyone said the food was delicious, and the company was wonderful! We tried to make a turkey centerpiece craft with the girls but I was missing an essential item -- we'll work on finishing that up and then I'll post it in case anyone else is interested for next year. And hey, I'll have mine all ready to go for next year, myself! I did put the girls in charge of name tags which were very simple, but very cute. Just squares of construction paper with each person's name printed on them and cute foam Thanksgiving stickers stuck on each. We punched a hole in each, slipped a piece of twine through the hole and then tied it with bow around each person's napkin. Very simple, very cute, very festive!

I hope you enjoyed your Thanksgiving -- it really is my favorite holiday -- all about family togetherness, the calm before the Christmas rush!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Me & Strawberry...

While I was making dinner just now, my little girl was watching me and she said, "Mommy, Strawberry Shortcake can do all of the things that you can do! She can cook, she can drive, she can pour herself water, and she can decorate her home!" She said it with such admiration that I am going to take it as a compliment! Maybe Strawberry can step in for one of these nights when I am too tired to make dinner! :)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Catching Up

Life's been pretty busy around here, as I am sure it is for everyone! We had a wonderful Halloween -- I'd love to share pictures, however my beloved camera is not working! I can see the pictures on my camera, but cannot upload them to my computer! I am going to try to take the memory card to the store and see if they can put the pictures on a cd for me. New camera is first on my Christmas list this year! This year we celebrated Halloween with a trip to the Genesee Country Village for some fun activities and trick-or-treating. It was a beautiful autumn day -- great weather -- and we spent a lovely day with our friends and their daughters. My family voted unanimously that we will be doing that again next year! On Halloween, we all went over and had dinner at our friends' home and then headed out to trick-or-treat in their neighborhood. We usually trick-or-treat in our own neighborhood, but last year our friends joined us and we decided to alternate every other year. It's fun to go with a group like that -- the kids had a good time with their little friends and it was nice to see the decorations in another neighborhood. We came across one family whose son is now too old to trick-or-treat and so they were all bundled up, sitting in lawn chairs in the front yard with a roaring fire in their outdoor fire pit. They had a table set up and in addition to candy for the kids, they were offering donut holes and hot cider to all who passed by!

This past weekend was all about cookies -- I helped to unload the big tractor trailer with all of the cookies for our town's Girl Scout troops, then we loaded up the cookies for my Daisy troop, and then unloaded them at our house. All four of us worked to bring the cookies in -- even my little 5-year-old! (Although, she would only carry the "Lemonade" cookies, because those were her favorites!) I spent Friday night and part of Saturday sorting cookies, then Sunday I had my Daisy troop meeting and the parents came to pick up their girls' cookies. Then we were off to pick up my 10-year-old's cookies! On Sunday, my youngest thought I should make some Snickerdoodles... I suggested that we save that for another day when we were not already so overrun with cookies!! And what did we do as a project at my Daisy meeting? Why the "Pilgrim Hat Cookies", of course!! ;)

Today's big excitement at our house was the installation of a new boiler -- woo hoo! It cost a small fortune -- I feel like taking a picture of it and putting it on this year's Christmas card -- and we scrimped and saved for it, but it will be worth it to know that our old boiler is not going to give out on us this winter! We've limped along the past two winter's and had to have the old one repaired, spur of the moment when we've found ourselves without heat! The installer showed up at 7:30 this morning and was banging away on something in the basement -- my little one, who is not a fan of noise, said, "Tell him to stop doing that!" And I said, "Honey, we are paying him to do that!" Oh. My husband was off today and when I got home from work, my little girlie came down to the basement to show off the new boiler -- she showed me how shiny and clean it is, where the new "clock" (pressure gauge?) is -- she's very excited!

Now we can move on to the next big exciting thing -- Thanksgiving and a visit from Grammy & Cici (my mother-in-law and her sister)!! We are very excited to have them join us for Thanksgiving for the first time! The decorations are up and I am already looking through recipes to decide on the perfect menu.

Are you getting ready for the holidays? What are you planning for this great, family holiday?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Ready for Halloween

Is it just me or does October seem like it is almost as long as March this year? And don't get me wrong -- I LOVE the fall, so I'd prefer October last as long as possible, but it seems as though we should have already celebrated Halloween! I don't know if I am feeling this way because I decorated for Halloween and brought out the Halloween videos at the end of September (probably), or if it's because I'm itching to get out my Thanksgiving swag out to put up in place of my black spider lights... And some of our relatives from Long Island are planning to come out for Thanksgiving -- I'm already looking at recipes and thinking about decorating and fun crafts for the kids. Of course we'll probably make our traditional Pilgrim Hat Cookies, but I'd like to find another fun activity for the kids, too!

So for now we are anxiously awaiting Halloween and enjoying this beautiful autumn season!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Girl Scout Leader Supply Kit

So as I mentioned, I'm totally immersed in Girl Scouts right now, and I love it! We are having our second meeting tomorrow afternoon. The first meeting was at my house, because our troop was so new that we had not received confirmation for a meeting site. Now we are all approved to meet at one of the nearby elementary schools -- which is great -- they have a large "all-purpose room" (cafe-gym-atorium, is what my sister-in-law Susan calls them -- you know, lunch, gym and assemblies all occur in one place!), bathrooms, playground -- perfect! And, it's free! But, since it is not at my house where I am prepared for all sorts of activities and emergencies, I decided to make a travel kit for my Girl Scout supplies. I grabbed an empty Rubbermaid tub from the basement (practically everything we own is in Rubbermaid tubs in the basement -- my husband's record collection, mementos of my children's early years, pictures, clothes, holiday decorations, china...) and I gathered some things from around the house. We also stopped at the dollar store and I picked up a few other things that I might need. Here's what I have so far:

- paper towels
- plastic bags
- band-aids (I need to get a first aid kit)
- hand sanitizer
- scissors, tape, glue sticks, crayons
- pipe cleaners
- wooden craft sticks
- acrylic paints, paint brushes, paper plates for "palettes"
- wipes (I LOVE wipes -- my kids are both out of diapers, I will never stop buying wipes...)
- construction paper
- scrap paper
- coloring pages
- yarn
- brown paper lunch bags
- napkins

I need a couple more things from the store tomorrow -- I thought I would grab a box of small paper cups to keep in there for snack time. To help save the troop some money (and my co-leader and myself), we are going to have a sign-up sheet for snack. This way one person won't be in charge of it for the whole year, and as we learned from doing this in preschool, the kids seem to enjoy getting to have their own choice of what they want to share with their friends.

I also have to organize my binder -- I learned in training that I need to carry the girls' health forms with me to meetings, field trips, etc. I bought a binder to keep all of those forms in, my training info, a copy of the handbook (I'm buying one, but it's on back-order until December!), attendance forms, meeting schedule, etc. (Ask anyone I work with -- I am the binder queen of America -- love them...)

Trying to stay organized and being prepared will probably go a long way to helping me be a good leader. And, having everything in one place will make it easy to leave my kit in the back of my van and I'll be all ready for my Girl Scout meetings.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Girl Scouts - Cookie Crazy!

I'm still here! It's been a busy month and our home has been taken over - by Girl Scouts! My 10-year-old is a Junior and she has been involved in Girl Scouts for four years now. She loves being a Girl Scout, as I did when I was a girl. So, now that my littlest girl is in kindergarten and old enough to join a Daisy Girl Scout troop, I decided to start a troop for her! My friend Kristin and my brother-in-law Mark are both teasing me mercilessly for doing this after listening to me say I'd never sign up for anything after doing the preschool family events for the past two years. Well, let's see -- Girl Scout leader, check. Troop Cookie Manager for this year's cookie sale, um, check... Went to a Service Unit meeting last night and actually felt my volunteering arm starting to twitch when they put up the list of open positions -- like, "100 Year Anniversary Chair" and a few others... Seriously, it may be time for an intervention... But, I truly have some wonderful memories of being a Girl Scout when I was growing up -- I learned a lot, I tried tons of new things, made lots of friends and gained confidence in myself. I would love for my daughters and the girls in my troop to have some of those same experiences. And, I get to do all of this with my girls -- my youngest who is in the troop, and my eldest who will be helping out and earning her Junior Aide badge in the process. Now that makes it all worthwhile!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Happy 13th Anniversary!

My husband and I are celebrating our 13th wedding anniversary today (so I'll keep this short)! We went to a concert two weekends ago and got to have an adult evening out, so that was sort of a pre-celebration, and this past Friday, we were both off so we got to spend the day together. Friday night we took the girls out to dinner -- Red Lobster - not super fancy, but still a special evening out! Saturday night we all watched the wedding video -- our little tradition! And tonight we are going to have a nice, romantic dinner after the girls go to bed! As a special surprise this year, our eldest just showed us a video that she made for us on Windows Movie Maker. Very sweet -- this is something she learned from her cousins when we were in Long Island and she's always making cute videos now. We just loved it and I asked her to teach me how to use it -- I'd love to turn some pictures into videos (vacation, etc.!), set them to music and burn them to a dvd -- great way of storing pictures, too!

So, happy anniversary to my wonderful husband -- truly, he and the girls are the loves of my life -- I don't know what I would do without them!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering 9/11 - 10 Years Later

I can hardly believe that it has been 10 years since the tragedy on 9/11. When I think about it, or see pictures or news coverage, I'm taken right back to that day - the same feelings, the same fears. The war on terror is still going on, security measures are still high everywhere we go, there are still extremists in far-off lands that want to do us harm. But the infant that I had on that day is now 10-1/2 years old. That baby that I held close and worried about protecting is now a 5th grader -- she's curious about 9/11 and while we have talked about it with her in the past, this year we have been much more forthcoming about what it was like, how we felt, who was lost. She is optimistic that since "that guy" (Osama Bin Laden) is gone, that this won't happen again. My husband and I would love to tell her she's right, but unfortunately we are not as confident as we were pre-9/11.

On my husband's side of the family, we lost a cousin who was a firefighter, a husband, a father. We do not live close to his family, but over the past ten years we have seen his wife and three boys at family reunions and kept up through family. His boys have grown into three wonderful men that he would certainly be proud of. Two of them are married, one has a beautiful daughter, and all three of them have followed his calling of being a firefighter.

Yesterday we watched some news stories about the 9/11 anniversary, the new building that is being built (One World Trade Center) and the 9/11 memorial -- two breathtaking fountains that were built in the exact footprint of the Twin Towers. I think the sight of the new state-of-the-art building, next to the memorial really symbolizes my hope for our country -- that we keep rebuilding, keep growing, but never forget.

On this 10th anniversary, my thoughts are with all of those who were lost, their families and friends, and the troops that continue to fight to protect us from something like this happening again. God bless NYC, PA, DC, and God bless America.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

What We Did This Summer - 2011 Edition

It's that time again -- summer is winding down, school is starting, and we are left wondering "what did we DO this summer?" It's such a blur! I always like to do a recap because with the start of the school year comes the inevitable "What did you do this summer?" questions and it's always nice to have a refresher! In no particular order (clearly not even chronological...):

- We enjoyed a fun weekend with my brother-in-law and his 2 children who came out to visit for a weekend

- We renewed our membership to the zoo and made a few trips to see the animals and play in the water play area

- We enjoyed a nice evening boat ride on Grandpa's sailboat to celebrate Father's Day

- We went to countless birthday parties - most of which seemed to be at Bounce-it-out this year!

- We celebrated the 4th of July with our usual bbq, fireworks and trip to the festival at the town hall

- We watched my eldest march in the Memorial Day parade with her Girl Scout troop

- We enjoyed a fun, yet wet (rain...) end-of-the-year picnic with her Girl Scout troop

- We took full advantage of the wonderful weather that we had and thoroughly enjoyed our pool with it's new liner

- We loved having Nana and our family from New Hampshire visit!

- We celebrated my 40th birthday with a fun family / friend bbq and pool party

- While Nana was here, we took my eldest daughter to see the final Harry Potter movie -- she's read all of the books and seen all of the movies on dvd -- this was her first time (and last opportunity!) to see Harry Potter on the big screen!

- We had a few "play dates" with friends, at our house and theirs

- We got in touch with our inner pioneer at the Genesee Country Village Laura Ingalls Wilder Day -- a tradition in our family! (That's my friend , in costume!)

- The girls enjoyed 2 weeks of swimming lessons at the yacht club (thank you Gramby & Grandpa!)

- The week after the swim lessons, our littlest girlie came into her own in the pool and now she is jumping in and swimming like a little mermaid!

- Our little one and her friend enjoyed a week of "Princess Dance Camp" and we were all treated to a mini-recital at the end of the week

- We planted a veggie garden for the 2nd year in a row

- In celebration of her 5th birthday, my little girlie had her first "friend" birthday pool party which was lots of fun!

- The girls got to spend a fun-filled afternoon with Daddy at the zoo and the library!

- We went to a fun bbq at our friends' home where the girls where the girls enjoyed playing on the slip 'n slide and got to watch a movie on a large screen outdoors!

- While Mommy & Daddy went to a concert, the girls enjoyed their first sleepover, anchored out on Grandpa & Gramby's sailboat! They took a little boat ride, anchored on the bay near G & G's house, cooked and ate their dinner on board, played Old Maid, made JiffyPop Popcorn, and slept in the v-berth ("pointy end"). It was quite an adventure!

- We took a trip to Long Island to visit with our family and while we were there, we enjoyed 2 days at the beach, including one at the ocean

- While in Long Island we went with all of the cousins (and Uncle Joe, who does the best Tigger impression ever!) to see the new "Winnie the Pooh" movie -- on it's last day in the theater!

- We also went to a great garden store in Long Island that had a butterfly "zoo" (this is my niece after patiently waiting as still as possible until a butterfly landed in her hand!)

- And we ended the summer with a bbq / swim party with some of our favorite friends!

It's been a great summer -- they always seem to go by quickly, but Fall is my favorite time of year, so I am getting excited for all of the wonderful things that this season brings!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

First Day of Kindergarten!

My baby started kindergarten today! My eldest started the 5th grade -- ugh, that pains me to say that -- last Thursday (it was even a news story that our district starts so early...), but they gave the kindergarteners a reprieve until today! We (I) did better than expected - not just with the emotional aspect, but with the time management one! For years, Grandpa has been watching the girls for full days 2 - 4 days a week, depending on my husband's work schedule (which rotates). So, I am used to him coming over and walking my eldest to the bus. With my little one in morning kindergarten, it gives Grandpa the opportunity to have the mornings off! I took today off from work because I wanted to be home to see my girlie get off the bus after her first day of school. So, I didn't have to get them off to school AND me off to work this morning, but it was a nice test run to make sure that I could do that (I'm not much of a morning person...). The key to a successful morning in our household, is getting fully prepared the night before! Last night we set out the kids clothes, my clothes, lunches were packed, backpacks were filled -- there was a last minute, too close to bedtime panic over a collage that I needed to do to send in to kindergarten today, but we managed! All four of us piled into my little one's bed to hear Daddy read a new book that we had bought her, "Curious George's First Day of School" by Margret & H.A. Rey. And then lights out and off to sleep!

When I went up to bed later last night, I stopped in to check on my little kindergartner (as I check on her and her sister every night) and she rolled over, opened her eyes and said, "I'm going to miss you when I'm at kindergarten, Mama!" Ugh -- I'm sure she's having a great day and will be just fine -- but I'm definitely missing her! I said at dinner last night, it's hard to believe that I would put her on a bus and send her off and that I won't be there to walk in with her and help her find her way! I think it's just the adjustment from preschool, where we take her, walk her in, pick her up, and kindergarten... It's always hard for me to have these reminders of the passing of time -- the kids are growing up, they are getting to be more independent -- and so on the one hand it's difficult to send my second child off to school. But, I think life is like a book and we go page by page, chapter by chapter. I don't want to skip ahead -- I want to savor every page, but it's exciting to flip those pages and see what comes next. We spent so much time last year worrying about whether the preschool teacher was right, and whether she is ready for kindergarten. Now we have the opportunity to see! What kind of student will she be? Will she love school and love learning like her older sister? It's a fascinating book and I look forward to taking it one page at a time! For now, I'm just happy that she went off to school excited and I can't wait to hear all about her day when she gets home!

Oh, and Grandpa (my dad) still came over this morning -- he wouldn't miss seeing his little granddaughter on her first day of school! We took pictures and video and we marched down to the bus stop and then walked them over to the bus. We were doing really well, even after the bus took off for school. But in the driveway, Grandpa told me what a great job I've done with my girls and I gave him a big hug and told him that we couldn't have done it without him -- my husband and I truly appreciate all the time that he has devoted to watching our girls since retiring 10 years ago. And my mother too, when she was living up here -- words can't express how much it's meant to us and to the girls to have family taking care of them when we can't be there. And so that's when the tears finally started for my dad and me!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Adjusting to Kindergarten

The most depressing thing came in the mail today! Not a bill -- a BUS pass with my little baby's name on it! How is it possible that a big, yellow school bus thinks it's going to come to my house next week and whisk my precious, little baby off to school? (Isn't she the sweetest? That's her at this year's Laura Ingalls Wilder Day at the Genesee Country Village.) It's going to be an adjustment -- I hope I'm mature enough to handle it! ;) I'm taking the day off of work so that I can get her on the bus (with her older sister!) in the morning, cry my eyes out, and then get her off the bus at lunch time -- it's going to be a busy day! Wish us luck! (I'm sure she'll do great!)

Friday, August 19, 2011

Chalkboard Art

I have had this blank space in my living room that I just could not fill. At one point, our treadmill was there – not pretty. That moved downstairs. I have large portraits of my girls that are on one of the walls in there, I have a beautiful stained glass mirror that my aunt made us for a wedding gift, and a wrought iron wall hanging. A couple of weeks ago, right around the time that I spruced up my daughters’ old dresser, I thought of finding a chalkboard to hang above the dresser in the living room. I found a great one at (my favorite!) Hobby Lobby for only $12! I refrained from spending $9 on the pretty chalkboard markers (maybe Santa will bring those to me for Christmas!). I have been collecting some quotes and have been writing a quote or a message on the chalkboard to fit whatever is going on in our home. We just went to the Genesee Country Village for Laura Ingalls Wilder Day last weekend, so we still have “Home is the nicest word there is” – Laura Ingalls Wilder up there. When we got home from Niagara Falls, I quickly jotted, “Home again, home again, jiggity-jig” which is from a nursery rhyme. The week that the final Harry Potter movie came out in theaters, I wrote, “It is our choices…that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” – J.K. Rowling (spoken by Albus Dumbledore). This is an inexpensive piece of “art” for the home – I plan on sprucing my chalkboard up with some thicker molding and some decorative paper (I’ll be sure to take pictures!). But regardless of how fancy it is, I plan to have it always changing to reflect what is going on in our lives, and to hopefully entertain and inspire my girls. So far they are getting as much of a kick out of it as Mommy is! ;)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Few of My Favorite Things...

I have a bunch of little things that I have been meaning to jot down so that I don’t forget them later in life – I thought I would just list some from time to time! These are cute things that my kids do or say or other things that touch my heart in general.

- Going to Wendy’s with my 5-year-old and hearing her genuine surprise and delight when she finds a pickle in her burger and she says, “Oh! I got a prize!” So sweet, and so easy to please!

- My 10-year-old who still does “jazz hands” when her sleep is disturbed (usually by a mother’s kiss on the forehead), just like she did as a baby. I hope that someday when she is married, her spouse finds that as endearing as her mother does!

- My husband always saying, “I love you” before hanging up the phone with me, whether it’s a long conversation or he’s calling from the grocery store to ask about the shopping list! I'm always thankful for that!

- Sitting curled up on the couch after a long day, with everything picked up and my family sleeping peacefully upstairs. I always have a night watchman / “Mother Protector” feeling.

- Getting ready for a vacation and watching my girls decide what they can and can’t live without for a few days – seeing them try to make such difficult decisions as, “Should I bring the stuffed cow or the stuffed dog?” (And usually deciding – both!) is really sweet!

- Driving home from work in the summer and seeing the older men out by the town hall, playing horseshoes -- I love to hear the sound and see them in the shade of the trees, playing and having fun. It gives me a warm, small town feeling.

- The fact that my youngest thinks "Little House on the Prairie" is called "Little House on the Pringles" - I'm sure it has more to do with the prairie and their last name being Ingalls, and not much to do with the potato chips in a can... It always makes me smile!

- Getting to watch my girls and see the relationship they have as sisters -- they can bicker over Polly Pockets and Barbies, and then be snuggling together telling each other how much they love them. I frequently remind them that they will always have each other and they need to always try to be kind to each other and love each other.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Reflecting at 40 / Capturing Family History

I celebrated my 40th birthday recently, with nearly a week’s vacation from work, a wonderful visit with my mom and some of our out-of-town family, an overnight trip to Niagara Falls with my husband and the kids, and a party (that I threw for myself, natch! ;) with family and a few friends. I’m feeling pretty blessed to have been able to ring in my 40th with so many of my loved ones around me, from my little 5-year-old to my nearly 90-year-old grandmother. It was wonderful to be able to spend time with aunts, uncles, cousins, and of course my mom, who now lives out of state. When everyone gathered for cake, I grabbed my camera and went around and had my picture taken with nearly everyone there! I was raised in a Kodak family – nearly my whole family (as well as myself for a time!) was employed by Kodak – so we take our picture-taking seriously! In preparation for the party, my girls and I had a great time going through old pictures and putting together two picture boards for the party.

My husband and girls bought me a new digital video camera for my birthday, which I just love! My mother bought us a Sony video camera when I was pregnant with my eldest daughter, and it’s served us well these past 10 years, but technology has changed so much – this new Sony is so small that I can fit it in my purse so that I always have it on hand to capture anything at any time! And, with the digital camera, I can e-mail little clips to out-of-town family so they can share in the kids’ special moments.

Another very special gift that I received was from my Uncle Dave and Aunt Charlene – my dad’s younger brother and his wife. Uncle Dave is our family historian, and he has album upon album of family pictures, along with videos, family trees – you name it! He has been having some health problems lately, and they made the drive out for the party but couldn’t stay long. We had chatted during the party and then on his way out he took me aside to give me my gift. He handed me a gift bag and said, “You need to know where you come from to know where you are going” and in the bag was a family tree dating back to the 1600’s (!) along with something I’ll cherish for a lifetime. He had made copies of cd’s with my grandfather (who is no longer with us) talking about his life, and another cd of my grandmother telling her own stories. This touched me so much that I started crying – what a truly special gift to have for myself and for my girls and their children.

Several years ago my mother had old 8MM home movies from her childhood put onto a dvd and she gave me a copy. Having those videos of my grandparents, who have been gone since the 1980’s, is a treasure that I can’t even put into words. To be able to add to that the cd’s of my other grandparents talking about their lives – truly priceless.

Often in families, stories get passed down verbally from one generation to another. Sometimes these stories are forgotten, or details are lost in translation. I have not been one to sit down and put together a family tree – I am lucky to have family members who have done that – but I am trying make a concerted effort to write info on the backs of photos so that I am not the only one who knows who is in the picture or where and when it was taken. My uncle also emphasizes the importance of tape recording or video-taping family members telling their own stories – it is invaluable for future generations and for people interested in tracing their family history.

So, at 40, I’m reflecting where I’ve been, appreciating where I am now and the people I’m with, and looking forward to what lies ahead.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Mom's "Spa Night" - L'Bri Skin Care Party!

I have been absolutely on overload for the past week or so, between a million projects at work and a million projects at home! We have family coming to visit this week, my 5-year-old's "friend" birthday party tomorrow, a trip to Niagara Falls with family next week, and my 40th birthday party also next week. I've used this as a personal deadline to get a bunch of household projects done, which is my own choice, but has naturally added to my current stress level. One of my dear friends has recently started her own business as a L'Bri Pure n' Natural consultant, and I've been promising her since she started that I would host a party. Why not throw that into the mix right now, I thought! Well, all of the racing around to get ready was WELL worth it!

It turned out to be just 3 friends from work who joined me for what I advertised as a "Pamper Yourself" party. Myself and 2 of my friends are moms, and my other friend is a mom-to-be, expecting her first child in November. We had a GREAT time! It was just what we all needed to relax toward the end of a stressful week! I tried to help set the tone for a spa-like atmosphere by having soothing music playing. We set up in the dining room and for a centerpiece, again, I thought spa, so I placed a framed mirror on the center of the table (one that used to hang on the wall), and I went around the house and gathered up all of the ivory candles (but any color would work!) I could find. I placed those on the mirror and then lit them -- what an elegant, quick display! My friend Kristin, the L'Bri consultant, came over a little early and set up a table with all of her products. She had asked me if she could use my crockpot for the presentation, and she took a bunch of white washcloths, wet them, and put them in the crockpot to warm them up (again, going with the spa theme). The girls showed up and Kristin began her presentation, giving us mirrors to use to look at our skin, and bowls of water to help with wetting our hands and faces. She let each of us try an appropriate cleanser to clean the make-up off of our faces, and handed each of us a warm, wet washcloth to pat our faces with. SO soothing! Let me tell you, I think a few of us are planning to relocate the crockpot to the bathroom!!

Kristin let us test different products -- we tried a facial peel which exfoliated our skin, and some of us tried the Facial Masque which was fun because we sat around feeling like our faces might crack -- there were some laughs... But the results were amazing! We were all thrilled with the products and even more thrilled with how wonderful our skin felt (mine still feels great today!). But most of all, it was great fun to have a night just for the moms to relax and pamper ourselves. If you are near enough to contact Kristin to host your own show, I highly recommend it! And if not, I would definitely encourage you to put together your own spa night for yourself and your girlfriends! As moms, we are always taking care of the kids and the family -- it's a well-deserved (and sometimes overdue) treat to take care of ourselves!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Repurposing A Child's Dresser

Do you remember this adorable little dresser? Well, as much as I loved it in my littlest girlie's room, as she is growing, so are her clothes -- it was time to move up to a larger dresser! We moved this dresser into her closet to try and give her some more drawer space, without taking up precious floor space in her (smaller than her sister's) room! That was a nice idea in theory, but we have built-in shoe shelves on the bottoms of our closets and the dresser was more cumbersome in there than helpful. I already have three other dressers that I am using for storage between the basement and the garage, and I liked the shape of this little dresser, so I decided to spruce it up and use it in the living room.

After dropping my daughter off at Princess Dance Camp one morning last week, my husband pulled out the painting stuff including a can of black paint that we had in the basement. I painted the dresser in no time, of course leaving the sweet baby drawer liners in place! I finished painting and left it to dry while we went back to pick my girl up (9:00 - 12:00 -- not bad!) and conveniently, her dance school is located just minutes from Hobby Lobby (my favorite store)!! I found some adorable vintage-y looking knobs for the dresser -- I was THRILLED to get them for 50% off! When we got home I put the new knobs on and voila, I have a lovely "new" piece of furniture that I am proud to use in my living room. Having the paint on hand and getting the sale price on the knobs allowed me to make this dresser over for only $17! Not bad for a new piece of furniture that I will use and love for years to come.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Easy & Kid-Friendly Game for the Pool

It has been hotter than hot here and we are counting our blessings that we have our pool to enjoy! This summer has been really great - not only has the weather allowed us plenty of opportunities to use the pool, but my youngest daughter has blossomed into quite the little swimmer! She took swimming lessons last year, and for two weeks again earlier this summer, but it was the week after the lessons were over that her confidence and skills grew tremendously. She is swimming like a fish, jumping into the pool (shallow and deep end) and it's hard to get her out! Her new independence in the pool has been wonderful - I commented to my elder daughter today, that this summer her sister is able to hold her own and really be a fun playmate in the water!

One of our favorite games to play in the pool (and we were able to play it last year even when my littlest girl wasn't as skilled in the pool) is "What Time is it Mr. Fox." This is a fun little game that my eldest daughter learned (on dry land) as a 3-year-old in preschool. She loved the game, and one day I thought, "Let's try that in the pool!" The kids love it! One player, "Mr. Fox", stands on one side of the shallow end, facing out of the pool. The other players stand on the opposite side of the pool/shallow end, facing Mr. Fox. They yell, "What time is it Mr. Fox?" and Mr. Fox will call out a time, such as "4 o'clock." The other players then take 4 steps toward Mr. Fox. This continues until Mr. Fox yells, "Midnight!" and then turns and chases after the other players. Whoever Mr. Fox tags is the next Mr. Fox.

It's a super easy game and it can be played with a number of players, depending on the size of your pool. It's also a nice counting exercise for your little ones.

I'd love to hear any ideas that you would like to share for kid-friendly pool games!

Monday, July 18, 2011

A Birth Story

Mothers love to share their "birth stories" -- if you think about it, they are somewhere between a story of going to battle and winning the lottery... I have two, and one of them occurred 5 years ago today! I was pregnant with my youngest -- eight days past my due date. My husband had been off of work for two days and was getting ready to go into work when we decided that I should call the doctor because I was feeling a little "funky." I called my ob and he had me come in to the office. My husband and my daughter went with me and we arranged for my mother to meet us there, just in case! The doctor checked my progress and sent me right next door to the hospital. We said goodbye to Mom and my girlie (the only one at that point!) and drove two minutes around the corner to the hospital. I remember when I had my eldest, we got there at 9:00pm and it was dark (winter) and they had us go through the emergency room entrance. This time it was summer, 12:00pm and we went through an entrance in the back. I felt like I waited FOREVER for my husband to park the car, and I stood there in this entryway with 2 hospital workers hanging out on a break or something. No one offered me a wheelchair to sit in (unlike with my eldest daughter, where they met me at the door and whisked me off in one). I was beginning to think I might give birth in the entrance there waiting for my husband... I vaguely remember calling my friend Chrissy while I was waiting, and letting her know that I was at the hospital. Finally my husband came in and we went upstairs. I was so far along at that point that it was too late for an epidural. My doctor arrived, I pushed a little, and voila -- at 1:34pm my youngest daughter was born! It was such a strange experience compared to when I had my first daughter -- the length of time (I got to the hospital at 9pm and had her at 5am), the time of day (literally the difference between night and day), the people -- with our first daughter, my mother, father and stepmother were all waiting (from 11 - 5!) for their first grandchild to arrive. This time, my dad and stepmother were out of town and my mom was waiting at home with the big sister-to-be. It was so different, but a really amazing experience, feeling like it was just my husband and me.

Finally, our family is complete!

Happy 5th Birthday, Sweet Girl! We can't imagine our lives without you!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

5th Birthday Frenzy

Where have I been lately, you may be asking? Well, here... Just not here on my poor, neglected blog! The past few weeks have been a blur of the end of 4th grade for my eldest, the start of summer, my busiest time of the year at work (which has involved bringing home work to do after the kids are in bed), trying to get the yard in shape, getting ready for visits from family this summer (which we love!) -- you name it! I've been feeling so frazzled the past few weeks that the invitation to my youngest's family birthday party was an e-mail sent out 7 days before the party (which is happening this Sunday...)!! Mother of the year... I guess I should be glad that I remembered to send a note out at all! We are having a family party on the 10th and her first "friends" party on the 30th -- spreading it out a little. (Better than 2 parties in one day, which was my initial idea -- what was I thinking?) My littlest one has also been to two birthday parties for friends from preschool, with two more coming up in the next week and a half! It's an exciting time for her, and we are looking forward to reciprocating with a birthday pool party (her choice) with a Disney's Tangled theme. I'm still working out the details -- like getting to the party store to find Tangled invitations! But, we're plugging along on the yard work, we had to get a new pool liner so the pool is looking party perfect, and her party will be followed by a visit from Nana and the New Hampshire relatives to celebrate my own 40th (yikes...) -- so we'll kind of kill two birds with one stone (that's a terrible expression) with the party prep! I have a long, long to-do list -- wish me luck!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Flag Day

I was so busy yesterday, that I missed posting this on time, but I still wanted to share! Monday, at work, I received an e-mail from a gentleman that is a retired fire fighter and he is on the local chamber of commerce board with my boss. He told me in the e-mail, “Don’t forget, tomorrow is Flag Day!” And I wrote him back thanking him for the reminder and telling him that my patriotic decorations are up from Memorial Day to September 11th. I wore my flag pin to work and made sure that my girls both had their red, white & blue on today (even my little one who was only hanging out at home with Grandpa today!). I realized though, that I am missing the biggest part of my usual Flag Day celebration – the Flag Day celebration at our elementary school! For the past four years, as my eldest attended elementary school (now she’s in the middle school, as our town calls the 4 – 6 grade schools), her little school always hosted a wonderful event for parents to come to, where the kids educated us on the flag through speeches and songs. Back in December, before Christmas, I had said to my daughter, “Oh! It doesn’t quite feel like Christmas without going to your annual holiday sing-a-long at school!” And my girl said, “It’s ok, Mommy, you’ll get to go again next year!” When her sister is in kindergarten… I realized yesterday that I feel the same way about Flag Day! This year, my eldest is in middle school and they were still celebrating – the 6th grade band was going to play the National Anthem and they were all going to sing “You’re a Grand Ol’ Flag” I believe. But I guess when you’re a “big” kid, the school doesn’t invite Mom and Dad!

Tonight, she told me, "Do you know what they apparently sang at the elementary school flag day yesterday? Bruce Springsteen's song 'America!'" I said, "Do you mean, 'Born in the USA?'" And she said, "No, 'America!'" I said, "Hum a few bars of that..." "No way!" she said. So I said, "Does it go, "We're coming to America, we're coming to America, today?" And she said, "Yep!" I told her, "Honey, that's Neil Diamond's song, and he's quite different from Bruce Springsteen!" I'll have to tell her father, who's a big "Boss" fan, that one! ;)

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day

While my poor husband has had to work all weekend, I have been fortunate enough to be home with my girls for the past five days, and we have had a pretty busy weekend! Yesterday was our Memorial Day celebration, with my eldest daughter marching in the town's annual parade with her Girl Scout troop, and my youngest and I camped out in front of the town hall watching the parade. This is the 5th time my girl has marched in this particular parade (in her 10 short years!). I thought this year's was the best that I've seen -- some years it feels VERY long and there are an inordinate number of regular cars driving through with politicians' signs followed by politicians walking behind. This year there were just a few of those, more marching bands, which was nice -- and they were really quite good! And while I always see some nice moments honoring veterans, I got a different feeling from it this year. There was a car driven by a veteran that stopped a few yards from us and the driver (in his uniform) got out of the car in the middle of the parade to walk over and salute another veteran who was watching from the side of the parade route. It was very touching!

It was just my little girlie and I watching this year, and she was wonderfully well-behaved! She sat on my lap for most of the parade, and I took the opportunity to tell her as much as I knew about every group that walked by. We talked about the national anthem and how everyone stands to show respect while it is being performed. And I learned something myself at this parade. While one of the fire companies was coming through in their trucks, someone near us yelled to a driver to have them blow their horn (which I had worried about, because my girl does NOT like loud noises!) and the driver said, "Not at this parade - this is a quiet parade." And I thought about that and realized that while I pull out all of the flags and red, white & blue for both Memorial Day and 4th of July, and I generally have a similar feeling about both holidays -- patriotism, honoring our military, honoring our country -- these are very different holidays. Memorial Day is a time to reflect on those serving our country and those who have been lost while serving to protect us. And the 4th of July is still a time for reflection and patriotism and honoring our country and our military, but it's a celebration of the birth of our country and that's the time for fireworks and parties. I'll have to make sure that my girls understand the difference.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Paper Chain American Flag Craft

In preparation for Memorial Day (tomorrow), Flag Day (in June) and the 4th of July, my girls and I spent some time yesterday working on a cute and fun American flag craft. I actually got this idea walking out of work last week -- I work at an agency that provides services for individuals with developmental disabilities -- one of the groups in day services created an American flag out of paper chains and had it hanging in the window. I thought it was so great that I took the girls out the next day to buy paper and glue sticks so that we could make our own!

Here's what you will need:

- Red, white and blue construction paper (I got a huge pack of multi-colored paper from Walmart for about $4.00)
- Glue sticks
- Scissors
- Tape
- Little helping hands (if they are willing!)

Start by holding the paper horizontally and cutting it into 1" wide strips. Then, start making the paper chain -- put some glue on one end of a strip of paper and glue it to the opposite end to form a circle. Then put another strip of paper through the first circle and glue the end into a circle. Follow that process to complete your chain.

To complete a flag like mine (although you can adjust the number of links to suit the size you want), you will need:

- 4 chains of 6 blue links and 7 red links in each chain
- 3 chains of 6 blue links and 7 white links in each chain
- 3 chains of red with 13 links in each chain
- 3 chains of white with 13 links in each chain

Once you have all of your paper chains put together, you are ready to hang them on a window! I made sure to look at an actual flag so that I would have the right number and order of stripes! I ended up putting a piece of clear tape through each of the "flat" loops in the chain to tape them to the windows. It took a little bit of time, but it looks super cute! (Although -- please do not be like me and hang it so that it is facing the right way INSIDE the house... Apparently it looks like a distress signal on the outside... Guess what I'll be doing later!)

This was a great, easy craft project that both of my girls enjoyed doing. The chains were so easy to make that my 10-year-old made a rainbow chain that she draped upstairs in her bedroom, and the girls want us to make paper chains for the Christmas tree this year.