Saturday, December 31, 2011

Life through the lens - day 118 to 122

Well, this post gets me completely caught up. Now hopefully I can keep up and not fall behind again. As the year comes to a close, I'm grateful for so many things. One is our freedom and those who sacrifice to keep us free. Here are a few shots from the Community Veterans Memorial in Munster.

Looking back at another wonderful year of life and motherhood

Well, in less than 12 hours, 2011 will be a thing of the past. I logged on to Facebook to see so many comments about how the year sucked and how happy people are that it's almost over. A few days ago I was kind of thinking along those lines. I was focusing on the sucky (is that really a word?) things, but so many other things made it a good year.

Have there been some things that have sucked? Sure.

Like when my oldest was in gym class and a classmate was goofing off and lifted him up in the air -- and dropped him on his face on the floor causing two teeth to get knocked out.

Or like when in a frustrated and very animated conversation, he managed to knock his fist through the thin window he was standing next to that necessitated a trip to the ER and several stitches.

Or when my dad fell on some ice outside our house and fractured his ankle.

Or when one of the younger boys decided that he doesn't like to go out to recess because he thinks nobody likes him -- so instead he doesn't turn in homework (that he has already done!) so that he gets to stay in the classroom to do it and avoid going out to recess.

Or seeing my father-in-law recover from lung cancer surgery (following two heart surgeries.)

Or seeing my mom's health decline and her missing several family get-togethers.

Or seeing my dad fall off a ladder, have a seizure in front of me and then force him to go to the hospital where he found out his ribs were cracked and he was diagnosed with diabetes.

Or when the travel section of the paper that I've been writing for for the past decade was cut out in a redesign.

Or when my son got additional ear infections after having his second surgery to put in ear tubes.

Or when my son got his license and then we bought him an old car to drive -- and it only lasted about two months before the engine gave out.

Or when the painting job my teen had been doing after school and on weekends ended.

Or when my writing checks started getting smaller and the cost of gas and groceries kept going higher.

Or when cancer struck more people I know and turned their lives upside down.

Or when friends got divorced and I saw how hard it was on them and their kids.

Or when our roof started leaking and we had to spend thousands of dollars on a new roof.

But, ya know, I've never been a glass half-empty kind of person. When I turned around and looked at the totally outweighs all that sucked this year.

Like when I became a great aunt for the first time to a darling little girl in Australia.

Like when our whole family got together to celebrate my dad's 75th birthday, including his sister who traveled from Minnesota for the occasion.

Like when I got to meet a young lady I'd known only through mail and e-mail, but who I consider one of my heroes -- an Army reservist and mom in her 20's who we'd adopted when she was serving in Iraq. I was able to take her and her son to a Cubs game and it was one of the highlights of my year.

Like when dad's ankle healed faster than expected and didn't require any physical therapy.

Like when my father-in-law's check-up indicated he was cancer free after having part of his lung removed.

Like the times I've been able to spend having lunch with my mom and playing Boggle with her and laughing together.

Like the times I got to see my youngest play t-ball for the first time and how I cherished those last few days on the field knowing that it would be my last time having a little one playing t-ball.

Like when I got to see my son's little league team win their league championship.

Like starting a food blog ( with my sister that has been so much fun.

Like when we took a family vacation to Kentucky and the boys had a ball romping around on the farm we stayed at.

Like when I first looked at my book - in hard cover - the first book I'd had published in 8 years.

Like all the days I spend at one of my favorite places on earth, Wrigley Field, with some of my favorite people - my sons, my dad, my sister.

Like when we all spent a few days in Wisconsin Dells lounging in the water park and seeing the joy on the boys' faces.

Like the excited look on my son's face when he got a gerbil of his own (however, this one could also land on the sucky list as she is CRAZY.)

Like seeing my son's straight A report card and hearing about the fun things he's doing in enrichment class.

Like hearing my kindergartner read bedtime stories to me.

Like going to see Paul McCartney in concert with my son and two nephews.

Like seeing my first children's book in print.

Like having our goofy dog around who I this year FINALLY gave in to and let him up on the sofa. I haven't regretted it. He's a great cuddler.

Like spending my 20th anniversary with the man I love so deeply.

Like taking some day trips with my husband when we now had all our kids in school all day long.

Like an overnight getaway to a B & B with my hubby on the anniversary of our first date 24 years ago.

Like all the days where I've looked at my little men growing and been overwhelmed with emotion and pride and have been so unbelievably grateful that I have had so many days with.

There's good and bad each year. Everyone has their ups and downs. Their highs and lows. 2011 wasn't so bad. There was much to enjoy and be grateful for. I can't wait to see what 2012 has in store and I hope to have more of what I want the most - time with my loved ones.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

So much for a white Christmas

So, on Christmas Eve as the boys were bubbling with excitement, one exclaims, "This sucks! No snow." We live just outside Chicago. We are supposed to have snow for Christmas. Often we don't. There have been many years in the past decade or so where it has not been white. In fact, it's often raining. One year I remember driving to my sister's for our family celebration as the snow was falling. It was magical. However, now that Christmas is passed, that snow can just pass on us, too, as far as I'm concerned. Although we've had some not so white Christmases, we've had some very white Januaries, Februaries and Marches. Well, white for the brief time when it hits the ground and is untouched, then it quickly turned to mashed, muddy slush. It can skip over us for this season. Last year was a doozie...the second biggest snowfall, I believe. So we paid our dues last year. Bah Humbug!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Life through the lens - day 110 to 117

Ok, still playing catch up. But...since we didn't have a white Christmas, here are some memories of the 2011 Blizzard! 

Do your homework or I'll play some Justin Bieber music

Parenting experts will tell you that a key in getting cooperation from your kids is setting goals and rewarding them or taking away something that has value to them, like video games or an iPod. There is still something else that works -- outright punishment. It doesn't have to be cruel, although my kids might call my method quite cruel. I've learned that teenage and preteen boys dislike Justin Bieber as much as spinach or brussell sprouts. As much as picking their clean socks up off the floor or making their bed. As much as cleaning the bathroom or doing dishes. As much as taking an Algebra test or doing Literature homework. So, when all else fails threaten them with Justin Bieber music. Works like a charm every time.

The lazy days of winter

These lazy days off school and work come at a good time. I'm kinda feeling lately like I want to crawl under a rock and just hide. I always want to hibernate in the winter a bit. Ya know, spend evenings in front of the t.v. with a bag of chips and American Idol. It just seems like this year I've been bombarded and overloaded in lots of ways. And I want to go somewhere that's the opposite of Cheers, where NO ONE knows my name.

Some days I feel like maybe I shouldn't be blogging or writing columns on my family. Maybe I'm just putting too much out there. I've gotten to where I have more than a handful of friends on my Facebook page that I don't know and don't really remember how they got there. Would they notice if I defriend them? Should I do a separate page for those I don't know or don't know well and keep the one I have just for family and closer friends? Yet I do have "fans" who have send requests with nice notes and I add them and I do appreciate their comments and enjoy some of their postings.

Maybe I should stray from Facebook altogether. But on the other hand, if I'm hibernating inside during these cold, icky months then that kind of interaction is more important. Don't think I could give it up cold turkey and the fact is, it is a useful tool for work. I think in the new year I'll be really re-evaluating the work thing. If I'm not enjoying it and it's not paying off in the form of a decent paycheck, why do it? I'm kind of missing my days of working full-time in an office with a close knit group of co-workers and having lunch breaks in the lounge and conversations around the water cooler. It's nice working independently, but sometimes it feels too independent. Like I'm hibernating a little too much. Blah! So, thinking and re-arranging and goal setting are in order. After a little hibernation.

Life through the lens - day 109

From my 6-year-old. Priceless.

By the way, he came home from school and said "I didn't know how much you weigh, so I had to guess." Nice guessing, honey. He did one for Dad, too. He guessed 48-foot tall and 888 for his weight. LOL!

Life through the lens - days 101 to 108

Well, I still have a few more days to catch up. Here are some glimpses from Christmas. And I still can't get the youngest to fess up to how he got that big rug burn in the middle of his forehead.

All is calm, all is bright

Well, I've had a bit of an unintentional hiatus here. The days leading up to the holiday are always frantic and busy, although this year was not as crazy in year's past. Anyway, blogging got swept to the side to deal with the immediate needs of everyone around here. Things were popping into my head that I'd include in blog entries, but I didn't get them down fast enough to remember what they were.

Add into the mix that my computer was barely functioning during that time and getting in articles that had approaching deadlines were forced to the forefront. Programs were freezing. Internet wasn't connecting. Just one thing after another. Then someone didn't show up for a photo shoot I had scheduled. Then I rescheduled. Got there and go to snap a picture. It doesn't go. In my head, I'm thinking "Oh, crap. My memory card is full." That's not it. I get a message that there's a shutter malfunction. On the camera I purchased about six months ago. Wonderful! The gentleman is patient and taking care of other things, so I run home for another camera. Get back. Snap a couple shots. They don't look right. Ah, hah! I fiddle with the settings and they're coming out better -- and the battery is dying. And the spare has completely given out and not yet been replaced. I get what I can and go. Just one of those "Murphy's Law" days.

The week of Christmas, a flu bug invaded, hitting one kid. Then a respite for a couple days. On Christmas Eve Eve, a few hours after the school holiday parties, my son throws up. At 3 a.m., I'm in the same boat. By morning, his energy is restored. I feel and look awful. My husband heads off to my family Christmas without me, but with all the boys. I'm so bummed that I am missing out, but happy all the boys can enjoy it. The day is spent nibbling on crackers and sipping ginger ale. And napping in a dark, quiet house. Any other day of the year, I'd be thrilled to be in a dark, quiet house. Any day except Christmas Eve, often one of only a handful of occasions during the year that my parents and siblings get together in one place. I'm still sad I missed out.

The next day, I felt better and we got an invite to my sister-in-law's. My husband was stuck working Christmas, which irritated me a little. How does his shift get stuck with all the major holidays? Fourth of July? He worked. Easter? He worked. Christmas. He worked. And guess where he'll be ringing in the new year? Yes, WORK. He always seems to even get the less celebrated holidays, like Valentine's Day and Memorial Day and Labor Day and Martin Luther King Day. And guess where he'll be on those days next year? Yep, at work. I think he gets a reprieve every fourth year -- when Leap Year occurs. Just seems a tad unfair, but I guess it's not unfair if you're the one who gets all the holidays off. Oh, well. At least he has a job. That's what you've got to tell yourself these days. Anyway, sorry for going off on a tangent, there. Where was I? Oh, yeah, Christmas Day. So, I spent some time there with the boys, still not feeling 100%, but good enough to head out and not feel like I was contagious. It was nice for the kids to see their cousins, especially my two nephews, who are now both in the military.

Next day, we were invited to my in-laws. This time we all made it. We ate, the kids opened some gift envelopes and we watched t.v. and watched the kids play. We don't make it over there often, so it was nice to all be together and just hang out there. My father-in-law has had a rough couple of years. Last year, an aneurysm was discovered, which then led to open heart surgery before it could be repaired and later a discovery of lung cancer and surgery. As the years go on and parents age, each holiday becomes more special because you come to realize more and more that one of these Christmases, they'll be gone. Grandpa is an important part of their lives, so I'm glad we spend Christmas together. By the end of the night, I wasn't feeling so good again and shortly after returning home, my youngest was throwing up. Merry Christmas!

Well, yesterday he was recovered while my general icky-feeling has lingered on. By afternoon I felt good enough to head in to work. The kids had lots of new stuff to play with at home. We had planned to start undecorating the tree last night, but it didn't happen. It didn't happen today either. I'm kind of in a hurry to get it down because our living room is under construction right now and not so festive looking. In the past month or so, my husband and the boys removed a fireplace, carpeting and wood panelling and then put up drywall and a new ceiling. So, my living room has a bare unfinished wood floor and drywall behind our decorated tree. I'm getting anxious to get it out of there so that we can progress farther in finishing the room.

So, the tree stays up one more night. Honestly, I love the lights. I love sitting on the sofa with no other light on, just the glow from the strand on the trees. And I love the calm in the house after the holiday when the novelty of the new toys hasn't worn off yet and there's lots for the kids to do and the bickering is at a minimum. All is calm. All is bright. At least for tonight.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Life through the lens - days 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 100

Ok, obviously someone else took shot this one because I'm in it. :) But, I just love my sisters and wanted to share this one.

I took some newborn pics of a friend's little one. Isn't this just the most adorable picture?

And my youngest one our tree decorating day.

Thinking hard on what to request from the big guy.

And my boys in front of the community Christmas tree after the official lighting ceremony.

Man's (and boy's) best friend

Dear son: Be yourselves

Letter #15

Dear sons:

Throughout your life, you'll encounter people who may not like you the way you are. If it makes you aware of a huge flaw in your character that you've somehow overlooked and that you'd like to correct, by all means, do so. However, if they make you feel bad about something you've been pretty content with already, then the heck with them. Don't change because someone wants you to change to fit their prejudices or petty insecurities. Never compromise yourself to please someone who is not worth it -- and if they expect you to change who you are to be accepted, run like the wind and don't look back.

These scenarios can start so early. They seem to run rampant during junior high and continue during high school, but even in early elementary school you hear the "I won't be your friend if you don't...(fill in the blank)" and in children who haven't yet gotten a handle on handling themselves with confidence, it can be quite hurtful.

Turning you back on someone who pushes you to change or who is downright mean because you might not fit into their clique, isn't an easy thing to do, but it's worth it.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Life through the lens - Days 92, 93, 94

So, I'm not much into abstract work and don't experiment a whole lot with lighting and changing my camera settings around....but I snapped this one without a flash at night. I know it's a bit blurred, but I like that the trees were brightened up a bit because it was really dark.

See what I mean? This one is pretty boring. :)
And I always love to see the wreaths with all the big bows.
This was the night we picked out our tree. I always tease my husband about picking out a "Griswold" tree that is much too tall for our house. This year, he kept that in mind and gravitated toward ones that would leave enough clearance for the angel on top. However, I was leaning toward the wider ones since it would be shorter and I wanted to be able to fit a LOT of ornaments on it. Well, it is SO wide, it extend way out into our living room and still is too big, even though it's no too tall. Oh, well. Looks pretty.

In the middle

The other day I had an "Aha" moment. (Isn't that what Oprah calls them?) A moment when something clicks and you think "Oh...that's why it's that way!"

In the midst of some middle child crisis, I thought to myself, "This is why some people only want two kids. Or maybe even just one." Well, I'm sure that's not the only criteria and not true for everyone, of course, but I'll bet there are some middle children out there who decided that they didn't want their children to have to suffer through being a middle child and so they decided there wouldn't be a middle child.

I am #4 of 6 kids. So I am a middle child, but there's also a nearly 14-year-gap between me and my older sister. She and my two brothers are much older. So, I was a middle child who was kind of an oldest child and I have twin sisters who are two years younger than I am. So, I picked up some of those oldest child characteristics, like being responsible and independent. However, I have some classic middle child characteristics, like that I was often an attention hog, felt left out and was jealous of my siblings. Perhaps my most horrible display of those middle child feelings was when my mother cut my hair because I got gum in it or something. I selfishly decided that since my flowing, long hair was gone, my sisters should also have short hair. I cut it. And not in a discreet way that it could be easily covered, I severed off an entire ponytail on one of them. My mom had no choice to cut it short, shorter than she'd even cut mine. Looking back now, I can't believe what an awful, evil thing it was to do. But when I was 5 or 6, I felt completely justified.

I have five boys. That makes three middle children. However, #2 is 5 years younger than my oldest. That kind of puts him in the "oldest" category much of the time, because his teenage brother isn't present. He seems much like the older brother, not the middle brother.

Boy #3 is in the true middle. Not so much a middle-kid character, though. Not starved for attention. Not bothered much by being outdone. Doesn't seem to care if his brothers get something he doesn't. Not the jealous type. Again, seems to have the characteristics more of an older brother, not a middle one.

Then there is child #4. He fits the middle thing to a "T." He's more on the sensitive side. His feelings get hurt more easily. He's often the loudest. The most active. The most energetic. He definitely seeks attention and sometimes it's not in the nicest of ways. He is very eager to please. Even when he does something to make you shake your head, you know it's coming from his deep-down desire to be seen and heard and recognized and given approval. He is often trying to make others laugh. Often trying to seek attention and be patted on the back. Sometimes he goes about it in the sweetest manner. Sometimes not. He has yet to cut off his brother's hair, though, so it could always be worse. I find myself often trying to explain the best choices to make and the best ways to get the positive attention he craves.

One day recently, I was driving the boys to school and looked in my rear view mirror to see him wearing a Napoleon Dynamite wig from the bin of Halloween costumes. It caught me by surprise. He had a huge grin on his face. I chuckled. He had gotten my attention. Bingo! That's what he was looking for. Then I told him that he couldn't bring it into school with him. He objected, but removed it. We get to school, the kids file out and as I see him entering the school, the wig is back on. All I could think of was the episode of the Brady Bunch when Jan gets a curly black wig and creates a fake boyfriend all to try and steal some of the spotlight from her older sister, Marcia, and get more attention. Jan, after all, was the epitome of the middle child and several of the shows were centered on her lack of being the center of things and how it made her feel. He was definitely having a "Jan" moment as I was having my "Aha" moment.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Merry Memories

Well, now that we've gotten past Thanksgiving, I can rightfully enjoy the Christmas music. I was hearing "The Little Drummer Boy" and "Silver Bells" on the radio on VETERANS DAY!!! And it had the opposite effect of what it should. It didn't make me merry and bubbly and happy and gay. It made me mad. Too much, too early.

Now that a couple weeks have passed, I can enjoy it. I love Christmas music. Actually, I get really sad when they stop playing it at 11:59 p.m. on Christmas Day. Why do they have to stop so abruptly? Can't they extend it to New Year's? Some of the songs aren't really even "Christmas" related, like Winter Wonderland and Jingle Bells. They are about snowflakes and sleigh rides. We still have those AFTER Christmas. I wish they'd continue the peppy tunes until January. I'd rather ease out of it rather than being bombarded with it from the time we take off the Halloween costumes. Ok, enough of my holiday rant. Remember, I am happy and peppy and merry and all.

So, the point to this post was that music makes me happy. Christmas music makes me super happy. I love the vintage voices that I hear on the radio -- old time crooners like Bing Crosby and Burle Ives and Johnny Mathis. I could listen to them all day long, all year round. Sometimes the songs bring back great memories. A friend had this video posted on her Facebook wall today. It made me think of three things:

1) National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. The movie is a classic from the late director John Hughes. We watch it every year....although the part where this song plays gets skipped over when the kids are watching. Remember that part? :)

2) It reminds me of my former boss, Eric Kennedy. He spent every Christmas holiday basking in the sun in Hawaii with his wife. I always envied his winter getaways, but I think I really would miss being away from the wintry Chicago weather on Christmas. We used to play the tune in the office in the days leading up to his trip. It got us all into a peppy mood. And when he returned in January, refreshed and suntanned, he always kindly brought back macadamia nuts or Christmas ornaments or some other thoughtful souvenir.

3) It also makes me think of a family Christmas we spent at my sister and brother-in-law's in the early 90's, one of the last Christmases before his premature death at just age 42. Jerry was always singing and that was one of his favorite holiday tunes. So one year my niece, Kelly, and I fashioned grass skirts out of tissue paper and followed behind, attempting to do a hula dance as he did his best Bing Crosby. I really miss him, especially when we have our family get-togethers.

So, the song is bittersweet. Reminds me of good times, but also makes a little sad to think of people that aren't in my life anymore. But mostly, it brings back memories...merry ones.

Life through the lens - day 91

Well, if you read my blog on occassion, you know that I'm a foodie and I love to take pictures of food - like this big bowl of bursting blueberry muffins. :)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Love is what makes a family

I'm always a bit hesitant to write about hot-button issues, but what the heck. I saw this video today. It's the son of a same-sex couple speaking about his upbringing. He seems well-adjusted to me. Why should anyone outside his family be deciding if what he describes is a proper family?

In my part-time job as a newborn photographer, I'm around new parents all day at work. I've encountered some lesbian couples who were new parents. I'll never forget the first couple that I met. I was getting ready for the photo shoot and the two women were both very involved in taking care of the baby. At first I thought nothing of it. Lots of times, there's a sister, a friend, a mother or an aunt in the room helping mom. As I collected information, I was told there was no father to list on the paperwork and as she went on I finally figured out that there were two mothers. I took some beautiful pictures of the little boy and of the couple with the child. The little boy also had an older sister being raised by the couple. There were two parents who obviously both wanted this baby very much.

The situation was a huge contrast to many of the other parents I'd dealt with. A lot of them were single teenage mothers. Sometimes there was a father in the picture, but it was definitely not an ideal family situation. Here I was in a room with two loving parents that just happened to both be women. I figured this baby had a future that looked much more promising than that of some of the other babies that were conceived the traditional way. This baby was loved and wanted by a family. It might not be everyone's definition of family, but it was a family. At the end of the photo session, they both thanked me for treating them so nicely. They said that some of the hospital staff wasn't so nice and had expressed disapproval at their situation. They even asked if I had a photo studio where they could bring the baby and his big sister to get more photos taken.

I felt privileged to be able to take photos of their family and be part of their first few hours with their new child as I do with every parent I work with. I photograph so many babies that so many just blur together, but this is one I'll remember. I have no doubt that this little boy will grow up being loved as the young man in this video has been.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Steve Jobs Thanksgiving

After everyone was filled up and relaxing, I looked around and realized everyone (who wasn't sleeping) was engaged in some sort of electronic device...mostly Apple products. A few were watching the latest Harry Potter movie on the television. Then there were the young bunch playing Angry Birds on an iPad2.

And after showing photos of her European trip on her laptop, my sister was surfing the net on her iPhone, while my sister and sister-in-law looked at Facebook photos on her phone.

I couldn't get anymore photos to load, but on the other side of the room, was my 12-year-old watching "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes" with my husband on the iPad. Happy Thanksgiving...Steve Jobs-style. :)

Life through the lens: Days 83, 84,85, 86, 87, 88, 89 and 90

Well, I fell way behind on my posts. Catching up today with some yummy Thanksgiving photos.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Thanksgiving meal through a child's eyes

Ok, one thing I always keep in mind when dealing with a picky eater is that I was there once, too. I remember really disliking foods that people seemed to want me to eat when I was a young one and I absolutely hated when my foods ran together. I didn't want anything to touch. If beet juice ran into my mashed potatoes, I was in tears. Yeah, I was kind of a nightmare at the dinner table.

As we celebrate Thanksgiving today with a huge feast, I will enjoy eating just about everything on the table, with the exception of sweet potatoes, which I've never liked. And cranberry sauce. I've never been fond of it. But...load me up with the turkey and carbs. :) I can't get enough of the egg noodles in gravy that are part of our Thanksgiving meal and I could eat mounds of stuffing. Mom's recipe includes lots of celery, including the leaves, which I love.

But there was a time not long ago, when I didn't see a whole lot of appeal in those traditional dishes. My kids are 17, 12, 10, 8 and 6. And when I was the age of my younger set, I probably would have looked at the food and had the following thoughts (I didn't say it out loud, of course, but I was thinking it):

1) Turkey. Ok I can do that, but only the white meat. Who wants to eat meat off an icky bone?
2) Potatoes. I like those, but only if there's not butter on top. I like them plain.
3) Gray. you know what that looks like?
4) Stuffing. I don't think so. What's that green stuff in there?
5) Hawiian salad. Oh, this looks good. Marshmallows. Oranges. Why did they have to go and ruin it with coconut?
6) Waldorf salad. I like apples. But nuts? Yuk! Who put nuts in there?
7) Sweet potatoes. No, thanks. I'll take the regular ones...and I like them plain.
8) Cranberry sauce. That was in a can? Ick. I don't want that slimy stuff that was in a can.
9) Green bean casserole. Green beans are bad enough. Why would someone make it worse by adding mushrooms and onions. Eating that is torture.
10) Corn. Ok, corn is good. As long as there's no butter or pepper on it. Pepper looks like dirt.
11) Jell-o. You can't go wrong with Jell-o. Wait. What the heck are those chunks in there?
12) Cornbread. Ok, maybe, but why does the corn always get stuck in teeth?
13) Biscuits. Ok, best thing so far.
14) Pumpkin pie. You've got to be kidding me. Pumpkin? Blah!!!

So, I likely would have had a sliver or white meat, a scoop of plain potatoes and a biscuit on my plate. I know that's how at least one of my kids' plates will look today. But, I won't bug them to eat the vegetables. Not today. That leaves more for me. :)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

I feel like such a Thanksgiving slacker

I know most of the country is going crazy right now - either out shopping for tomorrow's feast or busy cooking and cleaning and preparing. I feel like such a slacker because I'm off the hook. I'm not hosting Thanksgiving. I'll be heading to my sisters for Thanksgiving dinner and then visiting my sister-in-law for dessert at her place.

Yesterday a friend asked if I was cooking a big dinner. I was almost embarrassed to say "no." Then I admitted that I've never once hosted Thanksgiving for my large family that includes not just my husband and children, but my 5 siblings and their spouses, several nieces and nephews and my parents. Thanksgiving is not my holiday. I've done Christmas. I've done Easter. I do lots of summer barbecues.

It's just that I do not have good mojo with turkeys. I've actually only had one experience with a big full-blown turkey and it was a bad one. I'd just gotten married and had everyone over for Christmas. I luckily had a ham as well because the turkey was a disaster. How was I supposed to know you had to defrost the darn thing for days and remove a bag of gizzards from inside the bird? Ewww! I was a naive newlywed who had always eaten my mother's home cooked turkey for the holiday. I had no clue what I was doing. I've never been brave enough to try again. I've been lucky that it's always been hosted by someone else in my family, usually my sister Pam. On a couple occasions it's been at my brother's. This year my sister, Becky, is having it at her place.

I do, however, usually cook a turkey breast with all the trimmings the weekend after Thanksgiving at home so there are some leftovers to enjoy. So, I'm not a total slacker. I'll just be doing it on a smaller scale a couple days after the fact. And I do contribute to my sister's meal, so she's not doing all the work. Everyone always brings a dish. I'll be bringing at least one and some dessert and some beverages, so I'm pitching in in that respect.

However, I feel like I should be stressing like everyone else who is preparing for tomorrow. I'm not. The kids got home from school early. I've got lots to do, but I have that wave of relief that the work can be put on hold since no one else is working tomorrow and it's not a totally pressing thing. I don't have to worry about homework or packing lunches tomorrow. I don't even have to get up early. The kids are all playing peacefully and it feels like the Thanksgiving holiday should...relaxing with my family and counting all the blessings that are all around me and staring me in the face. Blessings to you all for a wonderful holiday!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

So much to do, so little time

So here I am typing about how little time I have, yet I'm spending time doing this...when I really don't have time to. Sometimes I just have to write it out, though - or type it out - when things start to feel overwhelming. It just seems like everything has fallen behind due to a variety of things. I'm under water desperately trying to catch a breath and I'm not. It's nearing 1 a.m. I know I need to get to sleep. I've been up way too late lately and it does me no good. I try to steal a few extra hours late at night, but I pay for it the next day when I'm dragging until noon and feeling like such a slouch.

I am looking forward to the four days off school when I may get a chance to sleep in a bit on one of those days. But then I won't accomplish as much because the kids will be home all day. There's always a trade off. My e-mails are out of control again. Papers are stacking up. Luckily I have gotten the hang of delegating and the kids are keeping up on dishes and laundry. Today was a pretty good day. I did accomplish most of what I wanted to. If I could keep up that pace, I'd be back on track.

For now, I'm going to let it keep stacking up and enjoy the weekend with my family -- which I'm extremely thankful for. Sometimes when I'm feeling glum over such stupid things, like fretting over a pile of laundry or feeling depressed over the cold and rainy weather, I have to kick myself and make an effort to remember how blessed I am. I may not have all the time I'd like, but I have everything I need. I'm a lucky girl.

Life through the lens: Days 81 & 82

So, on Sunday I had to go take some pictures for an assignment for a newspaper at a church. I got a few shots of my subject in different areas. The last was at the piano. She started playing and it sounded so beautiful, I just kept snapping pictures so I could hear her play longer. I zoomed in on her fingers for a couple shots. Some of my favorite pictures I've taken have been hand shots. In babies and young children, I love to see how smal the hands are in comparison with their parents. In the older individuals, I look at the lines and creases and think about all that those pair of hands have seen over the years.

This is another favorite I took a couple years ago of the pilot on a ride in a C-47 World War II plane. I just love the detail it picked up. What a wealth of experience in that fist.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

A little dose of happy for ya

I've been getting daily e-mails from the author of The Happiness Project. Just kinda makes me more concious of what makes me happy...and makes me strive to bring some happy moments into each day and spread that cheer. Sometimes I'll pull up a YouTube video that makes me smile and laugh...and maybe even drop a few happy tears. Here's a away and be happy. :)

Dear sons: Appreciate the arts

Letter #14

Dear sons:

I love music. I love theatre. I love movies. I love to view artwork. I love to read. I love to be entertained.

I love to witness talent. It often brings me to tears...when I watch a school play, when I see someone blossom over the course of the American Idol season, when I read an essay in the newspaper by a local teen.

I realize not everyone shares my interest. Of all of you boys, I know at least one of you would rather eat dirt than go watch a musical with me. Then there's the one of you that I can always count on to attend a show or concert with me.

I had this vision early on of having kids who all played an instrument. So far we've had three attempts at playing instruments, but only one who viewed it as enjoyment rather than misery. Just because music and theatre are my thing, doesn't mean it has to be yours. So, I accepted that and the lessons were halted.

However, I hope that even if you're not as eager as I am to see a ballet or watch Glee, you'll have an appreciation for the arts. And when you give it a chance, you may find it's not as bad or as boring as you think. It allows for such creativity and opportunity for expression. And since I don't have the talent for singing or dancing or drawing or acting, I find it fun to be a bystander and watch the talent of others.

Life through the lens: Day 80

I used to be a little creeped out by cemeteries, now I'm fascinated by them. When we've traveled, we've made stops at old cemeteries and looked at some of the very old headstones. It really makes your mind wander as you look and names and dates and wonder what their lives may have been like and why they died when they did. And some of the stones are so detailed. On a visit to a local cemetery on Veteran's Day, I was drawn to this one that towered over every other one.

To Santa, from Mom

Ok, I am a big-time anti-Christmas cheer until after Thanksgiving kind of person, but since everyone else is jumping on the bandwagon prematurely, I might as well join in. So, sir in the big red suit, here's a little list from me -- a mom --to keep in mind as you're prepping for that Christmas Eve sleigh delivery. It's actually a what-not-to-get-list. Thanks in advance for your cooperation.

1) No playdough
2) No slime
3) No moon sand
4) No clay
5) No goo of any kind that will stick to the floors or furniture
6) No paints
7) No markers
8) No glue
9) No glitter or any kind of medium that will stain fingers or fabrics
10) No toys that make noise
11) No toys that have sirens
12) No toys that blink
13) No toys that flash
14) No toys that require batteries that would cause any sights or sounds that would wake me up prematurely on a Saturday morning
15) No Legos
16) No small blocks
17) No Hot Wheels Cars
18) No Army men
19) No board games with small figures or pieces
20) No 1,000 piece puzzles
21) No teeny-tiny pieces of any kind that will cause me intense pain when I step on them in the dark
22) No toys that require a degree in Aeronautics or Physics to assemble
23) No toys that are secured into cardboard boxes so tightly that they require a 104-piece Craftsman tool set to release them.
24) No electronic devices that will convert them to zombies
25) No video games that involve any violence more intense than throwing a mushroom
26) No musical instruments

Ok, so what's left, you're wondering? Yeah, I can't think of anything myself aside from books and cardboard boxes. Oh, well....good luck with that.

Missing the little things

Everyone once in a while this happens. I'm around babies and toddlers again. And I look around at them and they make me smile, but way in the back I feel sad for a moment. Sad that those days are gone...those days of inexperience when we we're muddling our way through together. It's not really that I want to be there again. There are just some things about it that I wish I could recreate where I'm at naptime maybe or the fact that they couldn't reach anything up on the kitchen counters or that they liked to watch tame Disney movies instead of action flicks.

I'm in no way saying that I'm longing for another one. We're completely done. Maybe one day I'll share the story about how done we are and how we thought we were done once before. I can't imagine starting again at my age. I can't believe my parents had twins at my age -- babies #5 and 6. Seeing them raising us in their 50's made me want to be a young parent and have my kids in my 20's. We tired them out too easily.

I try hard to enjoy the moment and the stage my kids are in. Each age and stage comes with its own rewards. But once in a while those little things about being little get me.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Life through the lens - days 77, 78, 79

So, here are three days worth of photos (I'm working ahead by a day.) It's been much easier to post them in groups rather than every day. Another food shot and a couple more flower ones. :) I don't like that the weather is getting icky and cold and I don't want to go anywhere. Soon enough there will be flakes falling and the beauty of the snow to snap and post, but I know it will be short-lived. The snow quickly turns to dirty mush. I just have to remind myself that these next few months of misery are what will make spring beautiful once again. Either that or I need to relocate to somewhere more tropical. :)

Dear sons: Find your passion and follow it

Letter #13

Dear sons:

Everybody has a talent. A gift. Something that they can do well. One thing I try to do as a mother is pay attention to what those things are for each of you because I know you're all different. One of you likes music and theatre, another likes to draw, another is fascinated with science.

I have always tried to expose you to a variety of experiences so you can get a taste of different things and find something you really enjoy - something that you're passionate about. Sometimes it means you have to drudge through a lot of things you may not enjoy to find what you do.

I've urged you to try new things and have gone through numerous extracurriculars in the classes, music classes, karate, basketball, baseball, soccer, bowling, choir, band, etc. Not everything is for everyone.

When I find something you're good at, I encourage you to do it. Sometimes I don't push as hard as maybe I should. Like when one of you (you know who you are) got all excited about being in the school talent show. You practiced singing your song along with dance moves. Then when we went to rehearsals, you froze. You weren't comfortable doing it in front of lots of other kids and you quit. I regret not pushing you a little more. I know you would have enjoyed it and I know you would have felt a tremendous accomplishment in overcoming that fear.

Everyone enjoys different things. I want you to all find something you're passionate about and work hard at it. Many times when you find something enjoyable, it doesn't even feel like work.

Some kids know from a young age what they want to do. I knew I wanted to be a writer as soon as I could write. But there were other things I thought I'd enjoy -- and they weren't the typical ones that would net you a successful career and big paycheck, like a lawyer or a doctor. I liked people. For a long time I wanted to be a cashier or waitress or a secretary. It seemed fun to me. Not very lofty goals, I suppose. I did spend over a dozen years as a secretary. I wasn't earning a lot of money, but I made a decent salary and had good benefits and it was a job I really liked. I worked with people and worked on the computer and enjoyed what I did. Some days it felt like work and others it didn't.

I want you to reach for the stars - to believe anything is possible and that you can be want you want to be, but I want you to know I also want you to follow your passion and you won't let me down if you do. I won't be disappointed if you want to be an auto mechanic instead of an architect or a chef rather than a cardiologist. When you grow up, you'll have to work in some capacity. If it's doing something you don't want to do, it can envelop you in unhappiness. Find what you love to do. Find your passion. Follow it. That's what will make me proud.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Life through the lens: days 74, 75, 76

I love taking photos of food. A lot of them get posted on the food blog I do with my sister, Chicago Foodie Sisters ( Food is so colorful. I guess I'm hungry this morning because I picked out these three as soon as I saw them. (Yes, I got behind again and am playing catch-up with three pictures posted today.

This is Nancy's Pizza. I don't like pepperoni, actually, but it makes a pretty picture.

 Garrett's sinful! Oh, I want some right now!!!

Stuffed peppers that I'd made using the last of the peppers from my father-in-law's garden.