My Valentine(s)

A picture of my toddler signing my Valentine’s Day card beats a bouquet of roses any day. The hubs out did himself.

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*Merry* Christmas

My family celebrates Christmas, and this Christmas did not disappoint. We spent time with my husband’s family and my parents, which totaled 14 adults, nine kids, one cat and one dog. Things started and ended equally chaotic. My brother-in-law left all of his shopping for the afternoon before our gift exchange, causing my sister-in-law to delay her hair appointment. When he got home to watch the kids, his wife headed to the salon. But, because it was a couple of days before Christmas, the person who was scheduled to work was a beginner stylist who took nearly four hours to do the job. Needless to say she was running late and her restless husband kept calling and calling to see if the party was starting without him. Meanwhile, my nephew and his mom spent the hours prior to our party in urgent care. 

Everyone did eventually gather in one place. My brother-in-law showed up really mad about the long hair appointment. Really mad. My sister-in-law was also upset about the extended appointment and the fact that her hair didn’t look much different. My nephew and his mom arrived with an antibiotic to treat his double ear infection. 

The first thing we did to get the party started was to dive into the food. Everyone went through the kitchen buffet style. It’s not a gather-around-the-table-and-enjoy-dinner kind of time in our lives. It’s more like half of the adults eat and half feed the kids, then the adults who are done eating take over with the kids and the rest of the adults eat. I have learned that the key to a good dinner is not when you eat but when you get your food. It’s important to get in line for a plate of food right away, even if you have the first shift of kid duty. Otherwise, my brothers-in-law will eat their portion and yours.

Following dinner Santa showed up and gave gifts to the kids. Each kid sat on his lap. They did not like that. There was crying. When Santa left, we exchanged gifts with each other and tried to keep the children from fighting over toys. When we failed at keeping the peace there was more crying. The kids eventually settled down and focused on their own toys…and that is when red wine was spilled on the couch.

The spill disrupted the peaceful seconds of bliss and triggered a domino effect. A few of us stopped what we were doing to clean the red wine spill, my brother-in-law put his gift down to Google how to get red wine out of fabric while bouncing his baby, other parents took this timeout to change poopy diapers, and several of the kids ran out of the room to go play in the basement. My mother-in-law declared, “It’s Christmas. We are not going to worry about red wine on the couch. It’s just a couch. We are having Christmas.” So the adults completed what was left of the gifting session and agreed that we should not cry over spilled wine, especially when we are having our Christmas. 

There is one Christmas tradition that, in hindsight, we should have done first. At the end of the evening we always put the kids in their pajamas and gather them on the couch for a picture. As you know, kids don’t share the same appreciation for tradition. When they are tired, they are tired and there’s no going back — not even for the annual couch photo.

We tried to sit our kids in a line. Most did not want to be there. They were clinging to their parents, crying or asking when they could be done. It was easy to tell that the cute, sweet photo of children smiling at the camera was not going to happen this year. We tried to salvage the moment. This is the best we could do:

Group photo

From our family to yours….Merry Christmas!

Best Gift List

Today’s lunch with colleagues will officially end my birthday celebration. I’ve been trying to decide what my favorite gift was, but it’s a tough decision. The Wrap Me, Tape Me party was awesome and spending time with friends in my home was a wonderful gift. Saturday’s tapas dinner was AMAZING and I enjoyed sharing it with my cousins. The hubs and my son brought home Dairy Queen Blizzards as a surprise. I love DQ! Talking with my parents on the phone is something I treasure. And hearing my phone beep every few minutes with good wishes from friends and family makes me smile. But, I think my favorite gift was when I was pumping gas and my 7-year-old fogged up his window to write “Mom Rocks.”

Together

Obama is right. Newtown, Conn., is not alone. I can barely talk about the tragedy with adults. I did not want to talk about it with my 7-year-old son. I kept the conversation light this weekend and the TV was turned to stations that don’t broadcast the news, but I couldn’t keep it from him.

Our TV was on ESPN and the game was delayed for a moment of silence. My son heard the commentators talk about the lives lost, many of whom were children. He asked the inevitable questions. What happened? How did the guy get in? How did they stop him? Did they find his gun? So I did as the professionals said and answered his questions truthfully. I tried to avoid much detail because despite his grown-up questions he is just a child himself, and frankly I can’t discuss it for long without tearing up.

Our school sent texts and emails about the meetings taking place over the weekend to prepare teachers and counselors for today and future days. In the short-term, I feel like all we can do is pray and love, and take care of those around us.  In the long-term, I hope to see that we all become the change that we want to happen. We are in this together. We can make this world a better place.

Donated

On the way home from a weekend road trip,  my 7-year-old  — who had been strangely quiet — asked, “If you hadn’t been donated, would this have even happened?”

“Would what have happened?” I asked, realizing that he was referring to my adoption.

“This. Our family. Everything,” he said. “If you had not been given away, would we all be here together?”

“I don’t know,” I replied. “I met your dad at college so maybe if I had still gone to that same college, everything would be the same.”

He accepted that answer but I know it’s far more complicated than that. It made me think about how all of the small, and sometimes very big, decisions we make shape our lives.

I haven’t been participating in the 30 days of Thankfulness trend on Facebook, so here’s my nod to it. I am grateful for the people who love me, and I love them back.

Grand Old Flag

Zack Lotto, serving our countryYesterday was quite the social scene — two very different scenes. I spent my lunch hour at a nonoprofit fundraising luncheon and  my evening at the Second Grade Veterans Day Music Program.

It was the typical music program with bleachers on stage, and the music teacher in front signaling words and actions for each song. The kids were wearing red, white and blue. Three of the boys standing side by side in the back row conspired to sport mohawks.

The difference with this year’s music program is that my younger son is 2 years old, meaning that he has more to say and he says it louder from his seat in the audience.

The program itself was touching. The kids sang a song for each branch of service. For example, they would sing the Army’s song and the Army veterans in the audience (dads, grandfathers, mothers, etc.) would stand. Some of the vets sang along. The audience clapped for those standing. 

In between each song it would get quiet, and that is when my 2-year-old would insert his thoughts…

Kids singing: And THE ARMY GOES ROLLING ALONG!
Audience claps. The room quiets down for the next song.
2-year-old (loudly): Yay! More party!!

I maybe should have taken him out of the gymnasium, but he became part of the entertainment.

When my 7-year-old got home, he spoke with my mom on the phone. I could hear him telling her, “Nana, could you tell Zack we sang for him tonight?”

Zack is a member of the National Guard and he has been in Kosovo as a part of the Aviation Unit Maintenance or AVUM Company. To Zack, and to everyone who is serving or has served our country, thank you!

Happy Veterans Day!

Cheering section

Last night I was on Facebook and decided to see what my cousins have been up to. I went from page to page “liking” photos and thinking about how long it has been since I’ve seen them. My last stop was my cousin Meghan’s page.

Meghan recently completed a half marathon. Serious kudos to her. It was great to see pictures of her and her family at the event, but what stole the show were the signs her husband made to cheer her on to the finish line:

Push It
Go Meghan
Run like you stole something
Worst parade ever

That’s when I decided it was time to get back on my regular running schedule. If Meghan can run a half marathon, I can run to my kid’s school and back. All I need is a little encouragement. I asked the hubs and my sons to help. Here are their signs:
You can do it
Hayden is faster
Me watch Bubble Guppies
And he was serious. He did not want to be disturbed. In fact, he got so upset with me that he filed a complaint with his father:

I hate signs

Maybe a cheering section isn’t the answer after all.

The family photo

It’s family portrait time and this year we are doing a group photo with everyone on my husband’s side: 12 adults and nine children between the ages of a few weeks old and seven years old.

Our goal is to have a photo that looks like this (but unfortunately no beach)…Picture perfect family photo

However, this is what happens when my family gets in front of the camera….
Too busy

Scary Santa

Photo at the STL arch
Photo booth fail

I scoured the mall, and — with the help of five sales associates — I found four matching green shirts. We will be color coordinated, that much I can promise. The rest, well, I wish the photographer luck.

UPDATE:

We did it!

Family photo (new and improved)

Acting, looking younger than ever

Raising parents is tough. My parents used to be responsible. Now they are out at all hours doing who-knows-what with who-knows-whom. When I’m not worrying about their well-being, I am trying to locate them. When they have been found, my next step is to make sure they have not lost each other. (It happens.)

I was talking on the phone with my dad the other night, just checking up on things. I gave him the stats on my new niece and nephew. When I was done filling him in, he said, “Well, your mom went to the eye doctor today. She has to put drops in one of her eyes now.”

He sounded kind of grim. He went on, “There is a side effect to using these drops.”

“Don’t tell her!” my mom yelled in the background.

“I’m going to tell her. Just hush,” my dad said to my mom.

“So, what is the side effect?” I asked. Somehow my brain’s connections went haywire and I was suddenly fearing kidney failure.

“The drops will make her eyelashes grow longer and she can only use the drops in one eye,” he said.

“I said not to tell her!” my mom yelled.

“She’s been asking me if I will cut her eyelashes,” my dad said.

“He won’t!” she yelled in the background.

“Well, I am not going to cut your eyelashes,” he said to my mom.

“I don’t know what you expect me to do with one set of long eyelashes,” I could hear her saying in the background.

“Tell her to use that product that Brooke Shields advertises…the one that makes eyelashes grow. She can use it on the other side,” I said as I tried to think of the product name.

“Your daughter said to use Brooke Shields’ product to grow out the other side,” he said to her.

“She wants me to look like Brooke Shields?!”

“No,” he said. “Just the eyelashes. You don’t want to look like Brooke Shields. She’s a big girl.”

The name came to me. “Latisse!” I said.

“She doesn’t want to look like Brooke Shields,” he said to me.

“Yeah!” my mom said, sounding insulted. “Why would I want to look like her? She’s a big girl.”

“Dad, just cut her eyelashes,” I said.

“I am not going to do that,” he said.

“He’s never going to cut my eyelashes!” she yelled.

“Here, talk to your mom,” he said, handing the phone over.

“Hi, honey! How are the boys?” she asked.

And just like that, the eyelash stalemate was forgotten. Forgotten for now, until the long eyelashes can no longer be ignored.

Oh, geez. It just dawned on me. I am going to have to cut her eyelashes, aren’t I? Yes, parenting parents is a trip.

Celebrations all around

This is a big week on both sides of my family. On my husband’s side, his sister and his brother’s wife are having a baby. Not together. Two moms. Two babies. This will make me an aunt for the sixth and seventh time. I have the baby thing down. Purchase tiny clothes and diapers, snuggle baby, check on the new mom, and pretend sympathize with the dads who are complaining about lack of sleep after two nights in the hospital. And, today is my mother and father-in-law’s anniversary. Cheers!

Also this week…my dad’s birthday. This one is more difficult. What do I get the man I call dad? He’s special in all the dad ways, but he’s also extra special. He’s the guy who went the extra mile. When I had a sleepover in middle school, my dad would let us rent a scary movie and then he would sneak out of the house, put on a gory mask and bang on the window of the TV room. He scared one of my friends so badly that she couldn’t stop crying and her mom had to pick her up.

He’s also the one who was with me in my dorm room on Valentine’s Day my freshman year in college. Valentine’s fell on a Saturday and it was Dad’s Weekend at my sorority. I told my dad that I had a dinner date that evening but wasn’t sure what time. (My date said he would call.) My dad said he would stick around until then. Time passed. More time passed. We didn’t say anything to each other, but we both knew I was being stood up. So I had dinner with my dad that night. I don’t think I ever shared this part, but the guy did call…at 1:30 a.m. I turned down the booty call, told him he could lose my number and went back to bed.

To top everything off, my dad is good at the sentimental moments, too,…in his own way. When my boyfriend (now my husband) asked for my hand in marriage, my dad said, “Yes, take her and all the bills that go with her.” So now he’s not just my dad. He’s a great father-in-law and a wonderful Papa. In fact, my toddler prefers my dad over me. I can’t say that I blame him.

If you have any birthday ideas for a man who fits this description, please share. (And, Dad, don’t leave an anonymous comment that says you are deserving of a car. You are, but that is not going to happen. Love you.)

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