Wednesday, December 31, 2008

wednesday weigh in

Alright people.

This is it.

The last day of 2008.

Last night while I sat polishing off the box of chocolate covered Joe-Joe's and noticed that there were 150 calories PER cookie, I decided that this hibernation I've been enjoying must come to an end. So this morning I did yoga. This afternoon I'm going for a jog. I have a 5K race with my friend Lorie in a month that I must get ready for.

This Saturday, the running group I had been a part of earlier this summer is starting up again. And I'm going to do my best to be there. I need that commitment every week. I need to know that people are waiting for me. I need to be held accountable. If this past month has taught me anything, it's that when I have no goals or aspirations, I am very much the kind of person that will hide in a bathroom and eat a half a box of peppermint bark.

This morning during breakfast, I told Charlie that one of my goals for 2009 is to be physically active every day. I will do yoga. Or swim. Or bicycle. Or walk. Or run. Or jump rope. Or lift free weights. Every day, I will do something. Maybe it will only be 15 minutes. Or maybe it will be three hours.

But every day, I will do something.

I will eat fresh fruit and/or vegetables every day.

I will drink a lot of water.

I will get sleep.

I will cherish this body of mine.

I told Charlie that I'm not really that concerned with reaching a target weight because I think it's more important that I feel good about myself. Then I made the mistake of asking my husband if he thought I needed to lose weight. His eyes diverted and he said, "I think you look great."

At first I thought how sweet his response was. But then I realized he hadn't answered the question. So I prompted him again. His nostrils flared like they do when he is trying to suppress laughter and he repeated, "I think you look great."

And although he didn't say it, I imagined he was thinking, "Considering you have consumed five boxes of Joe-Joe's over the past month and two gallons of egg nog. Oink. Oink." Holding a syrup-coated pancake on my fork I threatened, "Charlie. ANSWER THE QUESTION."

He gave me the look of a deer in the headlights that said, "Don't do this to me!" Then, when he could see I wasn't going to relent, he shrugged and said, "Well. I think we could ALL stand to lose a little weight. We could all stand to be a little healthier."

I retorted, "Oh yeah? Well I'm not talking about all of us. I'm talking about me. Where could I stand to lose weight?" Fearing that he was going to point out some area I hadn't even recognized before ... like my shoulder blades ... my husband sweetly pointed to the top of his head and to the bottom of his feet and said, "I think we could both tighten up from here to here."

You've got until midnight tonight.

Tell me how you are doing with your goals.

Tell me why you are proud of yourself.

Share how you are going to make 2009 the best year ever.

And Henry, who at 17-months old, enjoys sitting with his sisters dolls while listening to Meat Loaf on my iPod, will help me to select a winner of a new personalized Product Red iPod shuffle.

They are so cool. You really need one.

(iPod that is. Although toddlers that play with their sisters dolls are even more scrumptious than chocolate covered Joe-Joe's.)

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

my holiday vacation

The past few days have been a whirlwind of activity for us.

There are, of course, four small children that tend to keep us busy.

Four small children who like to ride around in a clothes basket while hollering, "Ready Rudolph? LET'S GO UP, UP AND AWAY!!"

And there's playing with all the new Christmas toys in our home.

There are the holiday activities like eating all the leftover cookies, ham, turkey and consuming vast quantities of egg nog before it expires. And enjoying elegant meals.

But mostly, we've been doing a whole lot of nothing except sitting near a warm fire and loving on our children.

As a family, we've been going to bed late and waking up late. Except today, we woke up early to see the Holiday Bowl parade. And what a grand parade it was. It has been dubbed America's largest balloon parade.

Although the balloons were great, what I enjoyed the most were all of the bands. The Marine Band was there. And the Navy Band. And there were the bands from the two schools that are playing in the Holiday Bowl, scheduled for tomorrow night.

There was the band from the University of Oregon (GO DUCKS!)

And the band from Oklahoma State University (GO COWBOYS!)

There were also bands from high schools across the United States.

You know, sometimes the funniest things set me off.

Like today, when I was watching all of the bands marching down Harbor Boulevard, I could feel a lump rise up in my throat. There were a few high schools from Pennsylvania. And a few more from Wisconsin. One from Georgia. Two from Arizona. Three from Illinois. Three from Texas. One from Kansas.

While I was watching all the kids marching past me, I was looking at the little people sitting on my lap and I thought it isn't going to be much longer before they are capable of walking down the street playing a tuba. Or a piccolo.

When I happened to spot one of the young men playing the drums with tears streaming down his face as he marched along, I could only imagine what this trip must mean for so many of them. I thought of all the hard work that was required for these high school students to have the opportunity to be a part of this event. The training. The fund raising. The practices. And although I'm sure that a few parents came along as chaperones, most of the parents did not. Instead, they were left behind, hoping that their children would be safe as they boarded a plane and flew away from home - for possibly the very first time.

(When I mentioned it to my husband, he thought maybe the drummer had stubbed his toe because teenage boys don't cry because they're away from home. But then I reminded him of the boxes of letters he wrote to HIS mother when he was away at camp and he quickly said, "LOOK! There's Mighty Mouse!")

From the parade, we went on a tour of the USS Midway. This is an aircraft carrier that was taken out of commission and retired from the US Naval Fleet and subsequently opened as a Maritime Museum. As we toured this city upon the water and learned about fighter jets and bomb decks, it was difficult for me to imagine our children in the military.

It is difficult for me to imagine them ever intentionally placing themselves in harms way.

But as we walked around the ship and learned about the people who have served and do serve this country, I am very thankful for the bravery of so many men and women. (And the mother's who let them go.)

Tonight when we came home, I spent four hours on the phone with my family. Add to that the five hours I have spent over the past two days. Talking with this one. And that one. And now my father is in the hospital again because he can't handle the stress.

I can't handle the stress.

So I look to our children and I am reminded that nothing is more important than love.

Things aren't important. People are important. And kindness and respect go a long way.

The length of time that we have on this planet isn't guaranteed. Life is short and days go fast. And if we allow it to happen, we can get so caught up in the minutiae that our lives become far too complex.

But if we allow ourselves to bask in the simpleness of life, we may tap in to joy that we never knew existed.

Note to self: I'll find a whole lot of joy (and more hours to sleep) if I can remember that next year, all the children really need for Christmas are some sturdy cardboard boxes.

Thus far, they've had a wonderful time both playing AND sleeping in them.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

we go together like peas and carrots

Tonight as we were driving home from the pool, Charlie confided in me that one of his New Year Resolutions is to remember all of his siblings, nieces, nephews and in-law birthdays, this coming year.

When I told him that he needed to go buy a few cards because he'd need to send out two within the next few days, he looked at me wide-eyed and asked, "For who?!"

"Well," I replied, "Your sister-in-law Kathy and your niece Alice both share a birthday on January 8th."

He nodded and said, "Oh yeah, that's right. But then, we don't have any more birthdays until my sister Susan in June." And I replied, "Actually, you have your step mother's birthday in February. Your father is in March. Your brother-in-law is in April. I AM IN APRIL. And then your nephew and niece are both in May."

He paused for a moment and then gave me a puzzled look and very seriously asked, "Remind me again how old I am?" And after I laughed for a solid minute, I said, "You turned 42 in November and if you think I am not going to blog about this you are SADLY mistaken."

My God I love this guy.

Not only does he make me laugh more than anyone I've ever met, if not for him, not a single picture would be hung straight in this house. (Not to mention, this pirate ship, this doll house and this easel would be laying around in a million pieces beneath our Christmas tree.)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

'twas the night before Christmas

There was some window shopping ...

And one last sighting of St. Nick, where the children all yelled out, "Be SAFE, Santa!"

There was the message on our answering machine from Uncle Michael Santa that we had to listen to four times because HE CALLED! OUR HOUSE!

There was a beautiful Christmas Eve service at our church and much hugging though out the day.

I've never seen such love among our children. At one point when I was trying to get the children dressed to leave for church and was feeling flustered because they were terribly busy ignoring me, William commented, "Mom. You know. Santa will not bring you a present if you are angwy, only if you are happy. So put on a smile. OK? See my smile?!"

There was the lovely fondue dinner that we ate and the one present we were each allowed to open. And there were the Christmas stories read.

There the cookies that we had planned to bake today, but then ran out of time and were so grateful that we had four boxes of Joe-Joe's on hand. We also placed out a glass of milk and nine carrots. One for each of the reindeer and Rudolph, too.

Did I mention Henry likes him some Joe-Joe's?

He likes him some Joe-Joe's alot.

What do you mean these aren't for me?

That's it. You GO brush your teeth big sister.

I'll just make sure that these are edible for the man in red.

Actually, Santa you're looking a little wide around the girth.

Consider this a favor. From me. To you. To me.

There's one cookie waiting for you and eight and a half carrots. And a glass of milk with a 1/2 carrot floating in it.

At the moment, we are tossing around in our beds too giddy to sleep and our mother and father are exhaustedly looking at the clock and hoping that maybe we'll be asleep before ELEVEN, so that they can get to bed before THREE.

But we are ready and waiting, Santa.

And not to worry, the fire will be out by the time you arrive.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

wednesday weigh in

In about eight seven hours, when my husband goes for a strenuous mountain bike ride with our neighbor, I am going to take all four children on a hike. This will be the first "real" exercise I've had in the past several days ... unless you count the work out I have received from shopping.

And running all over town showing our children the lights and sounds of Christmas.

And then I did break a sweat wrapping presents and felt my heart exceed 200 beats a minute when the children recounted to their father EVERYTHING that they saw me wrap, today.

Clearly, they don't understand the meaning of the word, "surprise".

Although I have BIG exercise plans for this weekend, for the past few weeks days, I've been rather sedate. In fact, today, I didn't even bother to leave the house and instead, helped the kids to burn off energy by having them chase a laser beam we named "Rudolph" all through the house.

Next week I'll be announcing the winner of the iPod shuffle. I'm thinking the winner will be selected by taking the top five (or ten?) contestants and placing them up for a vote.

So tell me how you are doing with your goals.

Or if you'd prefer, you can tell me your favorite Christmas song.


Good King Wenceslas by the Skydiggers.

Unfortunately, the only video I could find does this beautiful song no justice. But wow, it's the most moving rendition of this classic I've ever heard (definitely worth the $0.40 cost to download and own it). Listening to this band perform this spiritual tale affects me so profoundly, it actually makes me want to live a better life and be a better person.

And you know, not just have my children chase a laser beam up the wall.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

great tidings of joy

On January 1, 1976, my maternal grandmother - Nana - died.

She was 82 years old.

(I think.)

Because her passing was sudden, my 96-year-old grandfather moved in to our house. Even though he was four years shy of a full century on the planet, he was in remarkably good health. His hearing was sharp, he could see well and although he used a cane at times, he could walk well, too.

Still, he was shocked and saddened by his wife's passing and so in an attempt to make him feel as comfortable as possible, my mother set up a hospital bed for him in our dining room.

I have extremely sharp memories of crawling in to the room where he lay, on my hands and knees, and as quietly as possible, taking Brach butterscotch candies from the bowl near his head. Despite my attempts at remaining silent, he would reach down with his cane and try swiping at me while yelling, "HEY KID!! I hear you down there!! What are you doing?! Are you eating all the CANDY?!!"

And then he'd yell for my mother, "MAAARRRY!!!! COME GET JENNNNNYYYY!!!"

One might think that my grandfather didn't care much for me, the youngest of his 40 grandchildren.

But I know he did.

And I cared for him, too.

Which is why when he fell asleep in a chair while sitting in the sun room, I gently wrapped garland and brightly colored lights that had recently been removed from our Christmas tree, neatly around him. I hung a few ornaments for flare and then plugged the lights in to a socket. And then I stood back and admired my 96-year old grandpa, asleep in a chair, with bright Christmas lights strung around his whole body.

It was such a shock for everyone when my grandfather followed my grandmother to heaven on January 6, 1976 ... a mere five days after she had died. But my grandfather told my mother that now his Margaret was gone, he needed to be with her. So that's just what he did.

His decision to leave this life had nothing to do with me.

(I hope.)

Even though I was only five-years-old, I have such great memories of my grandfather living at our home. It was a short period of time, but the experiences in my mind are sharp and crisp. Whenever I eat a butterscotch candy, I am instantly transported back to that time. I can see him in the chair with flashing lights. I can see him in his bed as I stealthily crawl underneath. I can even feel the whoosh! of the cane, in a futile search for me.

Yesterday, I was reminded of my grandfather when my four-year-old daughter used our coaxial computer cable to decorate our Christmas tree.

I was reminded again this morning when our three four-year-old children used 100 yards of curling ribbon to wrap around anything that didn't move in our house. I knew what they were doing. I just figured that since they weren't hurting anything, I'd let them stay busy so I could finish wrapping their father's presents.

Watching these children, makes me remember what it feels like to be a small child.

The excitement. The joy. The anticipation.

I am caught up in it, with them.

This afternoon, when I introduce the children to butterscotch candy for the first time when we decorate our gingerbread house, (where I'm sure I'll be heard saying, "Don't eat all the candy!!") I am going to tell the kids about their great-grandfather. I am going to tell them that because they were born on his 125th birthday, they have a lot of grandpa in them. They are wonderful and the greatest gifts I have ever received.

But I think they are a little payback, too.

Monday, December 22, 2008

these are my people

In the midst of my tough day last week, I called and left a message for my sister, Eileen, who lives in Michigan. When she came home from work, she heard me casually explaining on a voice recording, that it was "my" expectation that in "her" role as Godmother, I can call on her at any time to help with raising our children.

So, she should keep her eyes peeled because within the next day or so - she would be receiving a large cardboard box from California and she needs to open it promptly because the children inside will probably be hungry.

Today, I received this Christmas card from Eileen.

It read, "Wishing you a warm holiday season and a HOT New Year!"

Notice how they are wearing their bathing suits.


I think our children would fit in perfectly fine with Auntie Eileen.

Charlie went shopping today at Trader Joe's. He took two of the children with him, while I stayed home with the other two and tried to made a dent in the 14 loads of laundry that have piled up since we've neglected everything in an effort to get our Christmas cards finished.

Apparently, he no sooner stepped foot in the store and the kids started to have meltdowns. It was just around nap time and they needed to use the potty and they didn't want to walk, they wanted to RIDE in the cart and an innumerable list of other preschooler issues were fiercely working against my husband.

So he ditched the well thought out shopping list I had crafted and bought only those items that he knew he couldn't come home without. Those items which we absolutely need to survive until one of us could get back to the store later this week.

Two loaves of bread.

A gallon of yogurt.

Six bottles of red wine.

A box of candy cane Joe-Joe's.

A box of chocolate covered candy cane Joe-Joe's.

And a box of peppermint bark.

It's cool though. I think the kids had fruit last week.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

winter solstice

The first day of winter perfectly coincided with our children realizing that they were cold.

So they donned a hat and fleece bathrobe over their bathing suits.

This afternoon I rushed about town trying to finish our last minute shopping.

Then, while the children watched a Christmas movie (or three), I tried to complete the 120 Christmas cards I started last week. We would have been done with our cards sooner, if not for the Christmas picture copyright infringement fiasco that cost us two full days.

Charlie finally caved and drove an hour north - spent 45 minutes finding a parking space - another 30 minutes getting in to the mall and purchasing a CD - and another hour driving home.

And then another two hours uploading the pictures to the Costco website and driving over to pick them up once they were completed. If there is nothing else that you take away from this blog, take away that one tidbit.


(Oh and also! Costco sells 100 $0.42 stamps for $41.75.)

I don't know how they do that.

Still, the whole activity of writing Christmas cards, which I always assume we'll be able to finish in a single evening, tends to take us three evenings. And that doesn't even include the time it takes to pick out the Christmas cards or have our pictures taken.

So, we've got one evening to review the "send to" list, figure out who has moved and who we haven't heard from in three years {have they moved? died? read our blog and decided they no longer want to correspond with us?} print labels and go to the store to buy more labels;

One evening to affix send and return labels to envelopes; affix pictures to cards; cut and fold Christmas letters; add stamps;

And finally, one evening to sign all the cards, stuff the cards in to the envelopes and seal.

Once upon a time not so long ago, I wrote an annual Christmas letter that would summarize the highlights of the year in a rhyming poem. But it seems that this blog more than satisfies the writer in me, so instead of spending a few days creating my annual masterpiece, my letter has been reduced to a few lines. This year I wrote,

"May the Spirit of the Season fill your heart with love and your soul with cheer…
May you have an abundance of good health and joy for the coming New Year.
There is a lot more you can learn about us if you don’t already know… Just take a peek at our family blog. Merry Christmas, Ho! Ho! Ho!"

Because I absolutely must get our cards out in the mail tomorrow if there is any hope of them being delivered before Christmas, I couldn't let anything slow me down. Not even the baby that I thought for sure would wean before he hit 18 months old, but at the moment, I question if he'll wean before he is 18 years old. Hence, I unveil my newest skill. Signing Christmas cards while nursing a baby.

I am a multi-tasking extraordinaire.

(edited to add: During a final QA/QC, Charlie just discovered that several of the cards I wrote this afternoon [while nursing] I dated December 2006. As in ... two years ago. So. Uh. Perhaps my multi-tasking skills aren't quite so stellar.)