Thursday, December 31, 2009

Day 365.

It's hard to put to words the mix of emotions I feel as I write this last post. I have completed my journey, my year of gratitude, having not missed one day. This blog started out as a goal, turned into a welcome discipline, and now I admit it was feeling some days as annoying homework. The amazing thing about it, however, has been the blessings that have overflowed from my openness and will to not give this up. Each time I sat down at the computer to do my blog, rolling my eyes, I would end up smiling by the end of my post. I mean it - looking at the bright side really does make you happier. At least writing about it does. Because of my blog, I've had one of the most positive and stress-free years of my adult life. Everything is put in perspective when you focus on gratitude. Even outside of my blog, I would notice myself talking about being grateful so much more than I ever had before. I had developed a whole new gratitude vocabulary.

So, what am I grateful for this last day of 2009? That feels like a lot of pressure, to punctuate this experience with something extra meaningful. So, I'm going to halfway cheat (cause I can do that - it's my blog) and I'm going to have a list.

Things I'm grateful for, looking back at the year 2009...

I am grateful for this blogging experience, this spiritual discipline, and for fulfilling it.

I am grateful for a year full of health for my family.

I am grateful for Jason having a stable job, when many in this country are struggling.

I am grateful for four wonderful parents who love us unconditionally.

I am grateful for siblings (both natural and in-laws) who are fun to be around and who love my children.

I am grateful for my nieces and nephews, who I love and can't get enough time with.

I am grateful for two amazing children who challenge me, make me more patient, give me hugs, and make me laugh every single day.

I am grateful that I am able to stay home with my kids.

I am grateful for my church; it's been a hard year, but things are looking up.

I am grateful for my incredible husband, who is also the best dad I could ever want for my children.

I am grateful for you, all the readers of this blog, who have inspired me and encouraged me to keep writing, even when I felt like I was writing something no one would want to read.

Happy New Year!

P.S. I will continue (or go back to...that blog has been neglected) to post life updates on my Rhodes Family blog (ontherhodes.blogspot.com) and may continue to do some gratitude posts here and there on this blog. Check back for more updates!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Day 364.

I had heard good things about the Wonderland Express, an exhibit at the Chicago Botanic Garden which had several trains running through a nature wonderland. One man had crafted various Chicago landmarks out of different forms of nature and it all worked together seamlessly to form a really cool exhibit! I highly recommend.

I am grateful for family outings.

Whereas I married a homebody, and I have recently admitted how much I love my days at home, I am still a person who LOVES a good outing. I love leaving home to go do something fun. Anything really - going out to eat, to a park, a trip to Target, a museum. It's all pretty fun for me, as long as it's not freezing cold or raining - too times I don't really like outings all that much.

So today we ventured out in the just about 30 degree weather, slightly snowing (only enough to be pretty and not slow traffic too much), and headed to the Botanic Garden. It was a lovely afternoon/evening and even though our first three restaurant attempts did not work out (first one closed, second one 45 minute wait, third one 20 minute wait), we finally found a little quaint Mexican joint to hit up for some much needed chips and salsa and a margarita. Yum!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Day 363.

It snowed in Chicago while we were down at my parents' house for Christmas. So, we came back to plowed roads and trampled sidewalks. BUT, there was still barely enough snow to play, and barely enough snow to go sledding down the side of the viaduct by LakeShore Drive. Yay!

I am grateful that I got both kids home without any major meltdowns.

Snow play is fun stuff. It has to be, because anyone brave enough to put on two pairs of pants, two shirts, snow pants, socks, coat, mittens and hat on two preschoolers better be in for the time of their life. Lucky for me, it didn't disappoint. But there were several moments where I thought...this could turn very, very sour.

For one, I made them walk...I mean DUH, it's two blocks to the park/viaduct we were going to. That is not far. BUT, put on layers of clothing, snowsuits, coats and mittens, and you have a "The Christmas Story" situation, and all the folks passing us on the sidewalk could not contain their amusement. I knew on the way there that the sledding/snow play was bribe enough to get their little feet moving. But when we were done, what would be the cheese luring them home? I spent the way there thinking about the possible bribes I could use to get Noah to walk just one. more. block.

Then we lost Noah's orange ball that he brought especially to play in the snow. Somewhere it just disappeared among the white fluffy stuff. Luckily as he started crying, I enthusiastically threw out, "Let's come back and look for it when the snow melts!" and he thought that was the most incredible idea EVER (phew). He stopped mid-tear.

Or a meltdown could have ensued from the stupid broken mitten that Noah was wearing on his left hand. The zipper broke (to hold it on) last year and I'm too cheap to replace it (I paid $10 for that pair of child's snowproof mittens!). So, it kept falling off and he was getting a cold, snowy hand. You can just picture how that could go bad, no?

But instead, the worst meltdown of the day? When I had to convince them to go home. Yep, that's right. It was THAT fun.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Day 362.

I blinked. Guess what happened? The baby that was in my womb so snug and warm, who was birthed in less than three hours of labor, who was taken from my arms, who I wasn't allowed to feed, who was so critical...but still mine, YOU are no longer a baby.

I am grateful for growing up.

I am equally sad, nostalgic, and happy for this milestone. This special baby of mine is no longer a baby, and no longer in a crib, but in his very own Big Boy Bed! With a capital B! And not just any bed, but a bunkbed to boot. Noah Quinn, I cannot believe you are big enough for a real bed, but you are. You're happy and healthy and full of life.

Watching your kids grow up is an amazing and wonderful thing. But there are elements of sadness there too, and so while I will happily kiss you goodnight in your bottom bunk tonight, I will also remember the more than a thousand times I've lifted you in and out of that crib. I'll remember your first night in that crib, sharing a room with your big sister. I'll remember how rested I felt the first time you slept all the way through the night (although that did not last). I'll remember when you wouldn't go to sleep unless you'd told me "I want this right here, this right here, and that right there" (arranging your pillows and animals just right). I'll remember when you couldn't be tucked in without us laying down your blanket just right (feet first, then up to neck, in one swoop). I'll remember when you decide no covers was actually the way to go and you forbid any blankets in your crib.

We've never been without a crib in our house for the past five years. It's hard to believe that we've been in "baby" mode for that long. Part of me longs to keep it going, to hold on to the crib for the next go-around. And part of me is happy...content...and grateful, for what is and what is yet to come.

Finally letting them climb on after three hours of putting together...

Their room, with the extra space now that they have bunkbeds (notice my daughter who is disobeying one of the new "bunk bed rules").

Reading peacefully together, all snug in their beds.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Day 361.

We're walkin' in a Winter Wonderland. Why is it that whenever we wake up to a day of travel it starts snowing like crazy? It is beautiful here, and we finally got the snow I'd been hoping for all week...but on the day we are leaving. How inconvenient!

I am grateful for traveling mercies.

At my parent's church a lot of people asked for traveling mercies for family and friends on the roads. When I heard the prayers in church I was thinking how vague it seemed, like a blanket prayer that didn't have as much meaning or something. Now I feel so grateful for the same thing I was judging just hours before.

Sometimes it's hard for me to pray for something that seems generic or vague. Like, "I pray for my family." Or "world peace" or "the situation in the middle east." But while I feel inadequate in these moments of prayer, for not naming something specific, God is lifting my prayers up and holding not only my words but my thoughts and my whole being in his arms. Just because I feel like my prayer is falling short, doesn't mean it actually is.

Lately I have loved the "sitting in God's lap" image to sustain me in times of fear, helplessness and depression. But why can't we "sit in God's lap" in vague and generic times too? Sounds like a safe seat to ride home in.

Day 360.

Saturday, December 26, 2009.

I don't like the day after Christmas much. It's sort of a let down after spiritual highs, fabulous family overload and fun in gift giving and receiving. All the planning and waiting of advent is over. Well, not entirely over...we still have Epiphany, right? But really. I have to be honest here, and it's sad for me. So what is my silver lining today?

It's not hard to find, as I look around at my wonderful family, our abundant love and many blessings of health and happiness. What is there NOT to be grateful for.

I am grateful for time, however fast it goes.

This week has sped by. We came on Tuesday to enjoy almost a week with my family. And now it's drawing to a close, while feeling like we just began. But as I moan and sulk about how fast it went, I realize how wonderful it is that we had it at all.

Our kids are making memories that will truly last a lifetime. It's very possible that Dylan and Anya will remember some of this Christmas celebration this year. We have pictures to account for Noah's adorable obsession with baby Nora. I'll remember Evan's free love and hope that he's still telling me "Hilwee, I love you too." (without me saying it first, mind you :)) when he's 15.

These are beautiful times, and so whatever time it is, however fast it goes, I am so happy it was here at all.

Day 359.

Friday, December 25, 2009.

Christmas Day.

I am grateful for Jesus Christ, and for his mother, Mary.

Back to my wonderful devotional book by Jan Richardson. I love Jan's focus during advent on mothers, birth and women in general. Usually I don't focus on Mary all that much during advent. Besides one of my favorite songs being "Breath of Heaven" (which is very Mary focused) - I just kind of fail to dwell on that perspective.

But as a mom, when I start to think about Mary's own journey to motherhood, I am really blown away. I guess for so long I thought of the Christmas story in very abstract ways. I didn't picture an actual mother and father with an actual baby all that often. So I didn't think about that mother as someone with labor pains, with anxieties about her new role, with hopes for her newborn child.

Now I see Mary, and can see all women past, present and future, linked together. And I am so grateful for this deeply felt bond with people I don't even have to know, but whom I can appreciate and be inspired by. I am also grateful for the many wonderful female role models in my life. I am truly blessed.

Day 358.

Thursday, December 24, 2009.

Christmas Eve. The Christmas Eve church service at First Mennonite Champaign-Urbana is a destination. It is always a magical time for me. The pastors change, the people change (but many stay the same), the Christmas carols rotate through, but the Spirit is always there. God is always thickly present in this space.

I am grateful for First Mennonite Church.

This church had a good part in raising me to the person I am today. Our family valued our church community like no other, and we were dedicated to being a part of this body. Now I still feel connected to the church, and especially to the magic of the Christmas Eve service. I am blessed and filled.

Day 357.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009.

I've been struggling with headaches lately (may have something to do with trying to give up caffeine again...or eating trace amounts of dairy?? Don't know). And so this morning when I wanted to be looking forward to going to my parent's cabin with the whole family for the day, I was annoyed to wake up with another headache. Ugghh.

I am grateful for pain medicine.

I am not a huge pill-popper. I would like to think I wait until I really need medication to take it...I'm just wary of medicating for every little thing. This morning, I was all about the pain relief, and I was so glad to have taken it, have it work, and have a happy day with the family at the cabin.

Day 356.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009.

Over the river and through the woods to grandmother's house we go.
The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh through the white and dusty snow.
Over the river and through the woods, oh how the wind does blow.
It stings the nose and bites the toes as over the ground we go.

I don't actually know if those are all the right words, but that's how I remember it. And what's we essentially did this morning as we packed up and left our snowy winter wonderland, better known as Chicago, to head to my folks in Champaign. So snowy and beautiful here...but so exciting to go see family for Christmas!

I am grateful for anticipation.

I have been waiting to see my niece Nora again for three months!! I can't wait to hold her again, to see my other niece and nephew and to be with the rest of the clan. Christmas and the days surrounding it are certainly the most wonderful time of the year (duh, they wrote a song about it).

Monday, December 21, 2009

Day 355.

I wish I still scrapbooked. I mean I try to do it, but golly gee it sure takes a long time. And so I'm almost three years behind on my kid's books - I've just barely done Noah's birth. That makes my blood pressure rise just thinking about all the catch-up I need to do.

Back in 1999, after my first year of college, I put together a scrapbook of my first year of college. Back then it was fun, four years later it seemed a little ridiculous, and now it's fabulous! I love looking at it and really, it seems like a totally different person from who I am now.

I am grateful for scrapbooks.

Today while packing for Christmas, I found my freshman-in-college scrapbook and showed it to my kids. They had fun trying to find me in all the different pictures. "Mommy, why are you doing that? Why are you making that face?" And I had fun remembering why it's good to do scrapbooks, and now I need to get back on the bandwagon!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Day 354.

I woke up too early this morning, for it was my morning to sleep in (this term is relative now that we are parents - sleeping in is 7:30/8:00 at best). I was wide awake at 7am with my kids running around the house in the background. I wanted to stay in bed but couldn't justify it. So, I got out my devotional book I recently started (eager to begin a new spiritual discipline since this one, my blog, will be ending soon) and decided to do my 2 minute time with God in the morning. It was just what I needed.

Because of Advent, and with the help of this wonderful devotional for women, I've been doing a lot of thinking about waiting. I'm not a very good waiter. I am anxious, impatient, and often annoyed at the waiting. I just want to get it over with and get the good part here...or the bad part over with, depending on what I'm waiting for.

I've also thought a lot of about waiting in regards to our own church conflict and healing. I just want to get it over with...to heal, to welcome, to be done. But the waiting is powerful.

from Sacred Journeys: A Woman's Book of Daily Prayer by Jan L. Richardson:
"We must acknowledge that not all waiting ends in the birth of new life. Babies arrive stillborn. Dreams disperse. Revolutions die.

At these times, community becomes particularly important. Awkwardness and uncertainty may sometimes dull a community's response when a long-awaited birth ends in brokenness. Yet communities with skill in healing know that what sustained us in waiting will sustain us in grief. Our wounds begin to heal as they are bound by strong threads of connection: spirits that recognize and know our inner beings, voices that bless, arms that hold our rage and embrace our sorrow."

I am grateful for the words of Jan Richardson.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Day 353.

I know I already wrote about Dylan's favorite words, but seriously, it is getting better and better.

I am grateful for Dylan's imagination.

Not only is she working "frank" and "damage" into everyday conversation (and all characters in pretend play/dollhouse are named...you guessed it), but she has added some more words to her favorites.

Dylan's Favorite Words, Dec. 19, 2009.
frank
damage
popular
potentially
derek
twist
shout
kiki
laurie
brick

(Yes, Derek, that is you and your wife in there. You have been named often these past few days...not as people, but as the wonderful words that are your names.)

Friday, December 18, 2009

Day 352.

I am a big fan of the "How to Talk So Kids will Listen" book and I often go back to their timeless techniques of parenting and relating to your children. And so right now, I desperately need to be reading their companion book, Siblings without Rivalry. My kids don't fight incessantly, and really it's pretty harmless when they do. But it's annoying. And possibly harmful to their relationship? The bickering is just so YUCK. I'd love to help ease them out of it. So if anyone needs a last minute Christmas gift for me, I'd love that book.

They fight and they bicker and they whine and they sometimes push. But when they play nice, they play SO good together. And for so long! Today they were in their room together (shut the doors on their own to make up a camp or something) for over an hour having a ball. Not one cross word, not one tear, not one raised voice. It was heaven.

I am grateful for moments of sibling bliss.

Do I want another kid? Maybe so.

Day 351.

Thursday, December 17, 2009.

Wrapping presents is one of my favorite traditions of the holidays. A couple of years ago my family decided to get a bunch of fabric and wrap presents in that instead of having 3 or 4 garbage bags full of crumpled paper at the end of Christmas Day. My mom and Lara were the initiators on this and I never got any (probably cause I didn't ask). Now I do wish I had some, solely for the environmental reason. But, I admittedly LOVE wrapping paper...and cloth is not quite the same to wrap with. So, until I do get cloth...

I am grateful for wrapping presents!

I largely underestimated the interest my kids would take in this task this year. Dylan was my "writing girl" who did the names on some of the packages. And Noah was my "tape boy" who got me almost every last piece of tape I needed to wrap around 20 presents. That's a lot of tape! He enjoyed every moment. He also enjoyed rolling out the huge roll of Frosty the Snowman wrapping paper across the whole family room floor and walking all over it and wrinkling it up. And he enjoyed laying down on the paper and asking me to wrap him up. I started to get mad, and then caught myself and actually halfway did it (being careful to keep the paper nice enough to use again!). Dylan enjoyed whining about how she wanted all of the presents for herself and didn't want to give them away. They both enjoyed using the leftover scraps to wrap up little toys of their own themselves and "play Christmas." And I enjoyed it all...even when I was mildly annoyed and impatient.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Day 350.

I'm making arroz con pollo for dinner tonight. It's a dish that both Jason and I love - I had it a lot in Costa Rica when I went on Study Service Term there 8 years ago. This recipe was a little more cuban than Costa Rican, and I see now that I might like the drier Costa Rican version better. But this is still a great meal. It took some time - actually about double the time I accounted for. I planned on dinner at 6 as usual. And at 6:07 I realized it was still another 40 minutes....woops. I am a slow cook and it sometimes is really frustrating as I make my family wait.

I am grateful for the patience of my family.

Often if the kids are hungry they are hanging at my feet whining, "Can I have a snack?" and I just cannot cook like that. So tonight, Jason had the kids in the other room for the last 40 minutes of my cooking and I was listening to Christmas music, checking my recipe twice and sipping Beaujolais. Thank you Jason, because tonight when I said, "40 more minutes" you didn't say "Really?!" You said, "Ok" and took the kids away to play (unintentional Dr. Seuss moment). Thank you thank you thank you.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Day 349.

I am grateful for Christmas books!

I love Christmas books. I guess I have to love them. Both my mom and aunt Jeanie have given me a Christmas book every year that I have been alive - and so my collection is thick (30x2 plus others). It's so much fun to get all my Christmas books out each year and is like a walk down memory lane as we read them, now with my own children.

For bedtime stories, Dylan and Noah have been using the extensive Christmas book collection to pick out their books, and tonight Noah had picked "There Was No Snow on Christmas Eve." It talks about how there wasn't actually snow on Christmas Eve cause Jesus was born in the hot desert, etc. Much more eloquently put in the book of course...and it's a beautifully illustrated one. So anyway, I was about halfway through the book and Noah asks me, "Where is Santa in this book?"

Monday, December 14, 2009

Day 348.

I had a killer headache (no caffeine I realized after the day was over...duh...but good for me to stop drinking it...) all day, so when naptime hit, I demanded that I lay down in Dylan's bed while Noah was trying to fall asleep. Dylan wanted to be near me, so she lay too, and although she tossed and turned and annoyed me for the first 25 minutes, I finally fell asleep for about 5 minutes, abruptly woke up to a phone call, and found her totally zonked. Woops! I didn't mean for her to take a nap...but OK!

So then I leisurely started dinner ahead of schedule so I could leave and take Dylan to violin and come back and have it pretty much ready. I was making Yellow Split Pea Dal with Roasted Cauliflower and Quinoa. One of the main flavors in the dal is fresh ginger, which I had, until I took it out of the fridge to use and it was moldy. Big bummer. I couldn't substitute ground ginger for fresh in this instance, so I called my upstairs neighbor and asked if she had 10 minutes - could I run to the produce market down the street while she sat in my condo for a few minutes while my kids slept?

I am grateful for helpful neighbors.

She said yes! And so 20 minutes later she was down with her twin girls and I was briskly jogging to the store. Score! 74 cents and 6 minutes later, I was back home and back on track with dinner. Thanks, Maggie!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Day 347.

I am grateful for the worship theme today.

Rejoice! It felt so refreshing to be joyful today in church. I really needed a positive, happy service that reminded me to embrace joy, for myself and others. I have a lot to be inspired from in the service, and especially Todd's sermon, was very challenging to me. It's one thing to have your own joy and feel joy because of God's presence. It's another thing to assure another person of this joy...to assure them that God is with them...even if they don't feel His comfort or feel joyful.

I hope that this Advent season, and beyond, I am able to reflect joy.

Day 346.


My dear firstborn had her first real violin recital today. She had the spooky suzuki play-in back in October but they didn't actually play anything then, just hold the violin, do some singing, pluck, etc. So today, she played! And she played well, and she looked so old.

I am grateful for my little performer.

I had to hold back the tears as she looked so big up there. REALLY big. I was just so proud of her, and pretty amazed at how far the Suzuki school can take kids so painlessly in three months! Thanks Hyde Park Suzuki Institute!

Day 345.

Friday, December 11, 2009.

TGIF. I love soups in Fall and Winter. So tonight was a soup night. There is just something about having a bowl of soup when it's cold outside...and soups are generally cheaper than other main dish options, so what's not to love?

I am grateful for Tangy Carrot Soup.

Tangy Carrot Soup comes from Simply in Season, a cookbook I use a ton, and one I've mentioned here before. I just love cooking seasonally, and cooking simply. So what's not to love about this cookbook? This one I even got to use my delicious grass fed beef in, so there was another bonus. This tasted like an updated version of vegetable beef soup. But better, cause I actually don't really like vegetable beef soup. And this was good. All in all, a winner.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Day 344.

Today I had big plans, things to do, people to see. Field Museum, DSW shoe return/exchange, haircut for Noah, get new tires installed on my car. And I scrapped them all.

I am grateful for videos, snacks, crafts, books and cuddles.

This is what our day was. We played, we snacked, we read books, we cuddled, we watched some videos (well, THEY watched a Scholastic DVD from the library while I threw in some laundry and caught up on some random projects). It was a good simple day, and I had a nice fresh perspective. Dylan had a really bad night last night where she was up crying for an hour and a half from 10:15-11:45 - just woke up as I was going to bed. It was really frustrating, and even my patient self (don't all laugh at once) couldn't listen to crying for that long from a 4.5 year old. It just was irrational and she couldn't stop herself and I tried everything and AHHHHH! I was seriously going insane. So, today, with a little bit of sleep (not enough) under my belt I vowed to make it up to her. At one point last night she sobbed, "I just don't want you to be angry with me!" Heart sinking now...

Oh Dylan, how can I be MAD at you because your nose is bothering you and you can't stop thinking about it? How can you really help yourself? I'm sorry I lost my patience. I'm sorry I was frustrated. I'm sorry I wasn't nice after about an hour of this back and forth. I was just really tired. And I hope our fun and cuddles together today made up for it...at least a little.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Day 343.

I'm sitting here on my computer, just put the kids down to bed and got the dishes done. Glass of 3 buck chuck shiraz. And what am I listening to? A delightful melody of holiday tunes, thanks to my favorite online music source.

I am grateful for Pandora.

I listen to Pandora throughout the year, but didn't think about it until today in regards to holiday music. I typed in my favorite Christmas song, "Breath of Heaven (Mary's Song)" by Amy Grant, and sure enough, it recognized it as holiday and made me a lovely holiday station full of mellow holiday hits! Yay! I'm grooving to

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Day 342.

When I was growing up I used to have favorite words. I would have words that I just really liked the sound of. They sounded good, they felt good rolling off your tongue. They were good words.

Somehow, that must have been genetically passed along to Dylan, because she has come up with the idea of favorite words all on her own. I had even forgotten that I used to do the same thing until she kept repeating these same words for days and I was thinking, "Those are cool words. I like them too. Whoa...I used to do this too." Kind of funny.

I am grateful for favorite words.

What are Dylan's favorite words you ask?
Frank and Damage (say them now...and I dare you to admit they aren't fun to say)

What were some of my favorite words as a kid?
The only three I can remember: Trenchcoat, Pancake and Barricade.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Day 341.

Family. Is there anything more refreshing and easy as being around my family? I cannot wait for our family Christmas get-together coming up in 2 weeks - and so today, having my parents come up for a day of Christmas shopping, was a great foretaste of fun.

I am grateful for family time at Christmas.

I guess I'm counting Christmas-time as now, because it just felt festive and fun and we were Christmas shopping afterall. It was so great to have a day where my parents and I took the kids shopping and I didn't have to brave a mall or any store alone! It was three adults to two kids, and believe me, we felt outnumbered! But the kids really did great, considering we were at the mall for SIX hours. Seriously? How did that even happen? All I know is that I'm exhausted, and while it's a good kind of exhausted, I was definitely hitting the couch with a glass of wine minutes after we walked inside. Ahhh....

Yesterday during Sunday School, Janie prompted us to think about how we in the class were able to find peace in Advent, amongst a busy holiday season. My answer came to me quite easily. For me, I'm just trying to do less. Less parties. Less playdates Less on my to-do list and more family time. I find if I do less, I feel more. I feel like I have more energy for the important things like loving and playing with my children. More time for making playdough and snickerdoodle cookies. And more time for Christmas cards (which I don't find stressful and actually find fun to address, stamp and get off in the mail). So, cheers to less! Less is more during the holidays for me this year, and may less busyness mean more time to recognize my many blessings.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Day 340.

I was invited to join the church choir for today's performance. I've been in it before, but not since pre-Dylan. So wow, it's been almost five years! I don't consciously think about missing it, I just know I had a good time when I would sing. But I got a taste of choir membership again today. So fun!

I am grateful for choral music.

It's so rewarding being a part of a choir, making beautiful music together. There is something so communal about it that I have really missed the past few years. Now that I think about it, these last five years have really been the only time I haven't been in choir my whole life!

So, I'm glad I got a taste of it again today...someday I'll have the time to do it again, when my kids can take care of themselves! Thanks LMC choir for letting me (and Jason!) join you today.

Day 339.

Saturday, December 5, 2009.

I am grateful for Breakfast with Santa.

I remember doing this as a kid every year, and it beats standing in line at a mall to see Santa! So, when I found out that a local catholic school was doing this, we had to get in on the fun. And it was fun! I especially appreciated the low keyness of the event. Well, that is everything except the fact that they were using a microphone to have Santa ask the kids what they wanted for Christmas and shoving the microphone in their face to have them answer. What is that about? What happened to the intimate moment between Santa and child?

But it was fun, and I'm glad the four of us could go together. It was a nice morning and even though Dylan didn't tell Santa what she wanted (she went on with this whole story about her camera but never did tell Santa what she actually wanted this year) and Noah was too scared to come near Santa, let alone sit on his lap...it was still their favorite part of the day.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Day 338.

It's fun to have a four year old, almost five year old. You can do things with an almost five year old that aren't so easy with a younger kid. Like ice skating, for example. (I guess you could do that with a younger kid, but we didn't...)

I am grateful for Mommy and Dylan time.

Jason took Noah to a Kenwood Broncos basketball game, so Dylan and I had to figure out something to do together that was equally special. I came up with ice skating, and she was beyond pumped. She could barely wait all day long until 4:30! Mind you, we did not have a car since Jason was taking it with Noah to the game. So, we walked to the bus stop, took the bus several blocks, then got off the bus and walked four or five more blocks. Not too far really (about 10 minutes of walking), but it was COLD! It felt like winter finally came today, and the temperatures were in the 20's. We had on layers, gloves, hats and scarves, and we were still cold.

But we made it, had a blast and she did not want to leave. While I was busy worrying about hypothermia (really, my toes were BURNING), she was busy not giving up. I guess I can thank DragonTales for something. "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again!" (You have no idea how often I hear that from my children.) Give up she did not. There was only one point where she crossed her arms and looked frustrated. The rest of the time, she was all smiles and stamina, even through the 100+ falls she took on the ice. That one little moment of frustration, unfortunately, was the ONLY thing I got on my crappy cell phone video camera. I thought I was taking this beautiful sequence of her skating, but apparently I don't know how to use this piece of technology. So, instead I got this.

video

It doesn't reflect any of the wonderful outing except that one negative SECOND. Oh well, I guess we have to go again soon, and it will suit her just fine.

Now for some trivia. In one hour of skating we made it around the rink how many times? Any guesses?

FIVE.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Day 337.

Made a new dish out of Extending the Table tonight, a South African Meatloaf. Very interesting to have a curry flavor to meatloaf, but we liked it! Curry makes almost everything better, if you ask me. And since I'm not really a meatloaf fan, it's actually the first time I've ever made meatloaf in my life. It all was made totally better because of one other important factor.

I am grateful for grass-fed Iowa beef.

Thanks, Steven, for the delicious and better-for-us beef that you sold us. And seriously, the price was about 1/5 of what I would pay for a pound of grass-fed beef in the stores here in Chitown. Pretty awesome stuff. So, while I made room in my freezer for 20 lbs. of ground beef this past weekend and thought...who wants that much beef?!...I am so giddy about the good taste, low fat and happy cows that we are eating.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Day 336.

Noah might be giving up his nap (no nap 3-4 times in the past week). Rewind about a year and a half ago to when Dylan started giving up her nap, and you'll find an over-agitated Hilary, constantly thinking about sleep and determined to get that nap in. I was not afraid to threaten, bribe or beg. Seriously, I thought it was the end of the world if she did not take a nap.

Ok, go back to the present time. Noah gives up his nap? Who. Cares.

Is that really how different it is with the second kid? Am I that much more relaxed?

Definitely a little more relaxed, but more, I think it has to do with the fact that we will have so much more time in the day for fun if he doesn't nap. As it is now, Dylan and I have two hours - make that three hours - by the time we read books, get him down, allow for cuddle wakeup time (which I will miss) etc.). It takes up most of our afternoon, and by the time lunch is over and we've had our nap/quiet time, it's basically time for me to start cooking dinner!

I am grateful for my chillness about naps.

So he takes a nap, so he doesn't. Newsflash: it's just not that big of deal. I won't stop trying, but I also won't start losing sleep over it. I promise this time around not to bribe or whine or beg. I promise that I won't waste my whole afternoon laying down with him just so he'll close his eyes. I promise I won't get angry when he cutely smiles up at me from his crib, puts his hands out and with full drama says, "I just can't sleep!" I promise I won't even get frustrated that he's singing Old MacDonald instead of at least TRYING to sleep. Let's let this one go, and just enjoy having no kids who have to take naps. It only means longer trips to the zoo and more fun in the afternoons! 2:00 playdate anyone?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Day 335.

Growing up, every late November in the Breeze household included a Christmas card photo shoot. Take a trip to my parent's basement and you'll see 22 years of Christmas photo shoots on display that were then made into cards for the yearly family card send-out. It's pretty cool to see them all there.

So, I thought...how hard can THAT be? I remember fondly the bribery of Reese's Pieces for every good picture taken. So, with my candy in tow, I took on the task today at home. Let me just say thank you to my aunt Jeanie was here to be my assistant. I could not have done it (gotten through it without stabbing myself) without you.

How did my parents get 22 years of good pictures?!?! Every click of my camera was another example of how little control I have over my children.

I am grateful for the Christmas photo shoot to be a success.

I didn't come away with a phenomenal picture, but I did get enough decency to go with it. I'm trying to give up on some of my perfectionism when it comes to projects like this. Afterall, those we send this to will never know how much work went into it. I'm letting go.

Here are a few outtakes for fun. Really, this is where I had difficulty choosing just four! Earlier today I looked through all 120 pictures searching desperately for one to use for a card, but outtakes...I have plenty!

looking down instead of up...

overdoing the joy...

a little too much hugging...

we've lost one folks...