You’re dead to us now

Today I started a new chapter in my career. I left the business development team at a law firm to take a fundraising role at a charity.

I will really miss my friends from the firm. And they showered me with love today by sending me texts about how quickly my office was cleared out:
“Lights are out, computer removed, name tag tossed in the trash. You are truly dead to us now.” (They meant it with love.)

As for the charity, well, I have been on its board for five years and I consider the staff my extended family. My first day at the new job didn’t feel like work. It felt like home.

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!!

I used to write love notes. But it’s different when you find one in your 7-year-old’s back pack.

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The house that did not sleep

Yesterday I was operating like it was a typical Sunday. I helped the 7-year-old with his homework, and filled out the parent survey and wrote a check for the toddler’s daycare fees. It wasn’t until later on in the evening that I remembered this is a three-day weekend for everyone except the hubs. So, I let the 7-year-old stay up later than usual and the hubs and I agreed to meet on the couch at 11 p.m. to catch up on the shows we had recorded.

I noticed that it was getting colder in the house. I wrapped myself in a blanket and took my place on the couch. The hubs silently walked upstairs, then downstairs, then upstairs, then outside, and back downstairs again. “What are you doing?” I asked.

“The furnace is out,” he said.

“No wonder I’m so cold. I had blamed the chill on the cold glass of milk that tasted so good.”

“I’m going to put the space heaters in the boys’ rooms. It will get pretty cold through the night. Then I’ll join you.”

He came back down and grabbed a blanket of his own. The new “Modern Family” episode was worth the wait. We were 12 minutes into “Grey’s Anatomy” when the fire alarm went off. Before I could even look over at the hubs he was already up a flight of stairs. I jumped up and followed. I didn’t smell or see any smoke. We unplugged the space heaters. The hubs had to unplug three smoke detectors and remove the batteries to get them to stop beeping. The boys slept through the whole thing.

We placed an extra blanket on each kid and returned to our DVR party. It was 11:52 p.m. We finished the Grey’s episode and the “The Office” when we decided to call it a night. It was almost 1 a.m. As we were crawling under our electric blanket, it happened again. Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep!

“You have got to be kidding me,” I said. “I’ll get the baby. You get the alarms.”

I went into the toddler’s room. This time he was awake. “Too loud!” he said. I rubbed his back and tried to get him to fall asleep. “My want Daya!” (That is what he calls the hubs instead of Dada.)

“He is fixing the alarms. Let’s lie down and go to sleep.”

“My Daya!” he cried.

“It’s OK, shhh, don’t cry,” I said as I rubbed his back. The alarm stopped.

“Daya fix it?”

Then…Beep! Beep! Beep! I could hear the hubs getting angry. He yanked the alarms back down again. Ahhh. Quiet.

“All gone,” the toddler said.

“All gone.”

“My want Daya!” he started to cry again. I went to find the hubs. I stopped by the 7-year-old’s room. He was still asleep. The hubs went into the toddler’s room. I took him a sweatshirt before climbing back under the electric blanket. My nose and fingers were freezing cold. The heat from the blanket helped my muscles relaxed. I closed my eyes and enjoyed the warmth. Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Not again! I looked at the clock. It was 1:34 a.m.

I stopped by the 7-year-old’s room. Still asleep. I went into the toddler’s room and he was wide awake. I stayed with him as the hubs yanked the alarms out again. This time the toddler was scared and the dog’s nerves were shot. The dog was shaking and whining at my feet. The toddler wanted me to stay so we camped out on his floor. He eventually fell asleep. I woke up periodically throughout the night to make sure he was covered. My thoughts were still with the electric blanket that was now keeping the hubs warm.

At 6:30 a.m. I went back to my room. The hubs’ alarm clock was going off. I couldn’t take another alarm. “Please turn it off. No more alarms.” A couple of rounds of snoozing the alarm and the hubs was up and off to work. I fell back to sleep. It seemed like minutes but it was two hours later when I heard the garage open and the hubs run up the stairs. He was fiddling with something before I heard…Beep! Beep!

“What’s going on?!” I asked.

The hubs chuckled. “Just testing. I think we have to replace our smoke detector. It’s the one in our bedroom that is malfunctioning and setting off the others. Someone is coming over at 9 a.m. to fix the furnace. And, you have a visitor.”

The 7-year-old came shuffling into our room, wrapped in the blanket that we had added to his bed last night. “What in the world? Why is it so cold in here?” I caught him up on the latest. We flipped on “Scooby Doo” and snuggled under the electric blanket. The toddler woke up and joined us in bed, too. I don’t get many snuggles from my boys so this was the best morning I’ve had in a long time.

The furnace has since been fixed and the house is warming up from its 55 degree low. I made pizza for lunch and found myself lingering in front of the warm oven. As of now, the smoke detectors are still unplugged. They don’t seem to care when I glare at them. I’m sure everyone will turn in early tonight. I hope he house sleeps, too.

*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!

It’s snowing!

Today is the first snow day of 2nd grade. I loved snow days as a kid. They were awesome! I remember thinking, “Ha, ha, teachers! We don’t have to show up today.” But now that my friends are teachers, I get the picture from their news feeds that they are just as happy to not be there. So everyone is happy to not be at school? That doesn’t feel right.

I counted up the number of days my son is in class — not counting snow days. It equals about six months (not including weekends). That doesn’t feel right either.

I’ve heard some school districts discuss adding hours to the school day. Others have discussed extending the school calendar. I may be the most unpopular mom, but I’m all for extending the time that my son spends in class, whether that is more time each day or a longer school year.

The average elementary teacher salary in my school district is $45,500. To ensure that teachers are treated fairly, perhaps we should evaluate how much they make per school day and increase their pay to reflect the additional teaching time. This is a discussion worth having.

Thoughts?

So shiny

Five days after the Newtown tragedy and I am still finding it difficult to come up with posts for my blog, which is supposed to be funny or random or really anything other than broken-hearted sadness. I no longer take one more day with my friends and family for granted. I know how very lucky I am to be able to love and to be loved another day. Any story I can think of to share with you is insignificant, but I’ll give it a go with a story about luck.

I find money. Not a lot of money, mostly coins. Pennies, quarters, dimes, I find them often. I told the hubs that I find money and he just kind of smirked as if he didn’t believe me. I’ve even found money in front of him and that’s the reaction I got. He must not be counting how many times this has happened because it’s more often than stumbling upon a penny every few months. For example, one day I found five coins and each coin was found separately during different times of the day. I’ve decided that since I’m so short, I’m closer to the ground and I notice shiny things more easily. That’s my theory.Gold coin

Well, one day after work I was walking to my car and I saw something gold on the ground. I almost didn’t pick it up because I thought it looked like a car wash token, but it was so shiny. Shiny like a plastic gold piece that would belong to my son’s pirate LEGO set. It was too big to belong to a LEGO set, though. I bent down to pick up. I didn’t recognize the coin so I put it in my pocket and decided to ask my all-knowing husband.

When he got home I showed him the coin. He couldn’t identify it either so he turned to Google. Turns out I found a gold Liberty $2.5 coin valued at no less than $300. My husband believes my metal detecting powers now, but it took a rare find.

What about your luck, you ask? Well apparently Kansas City’s residents have holes in their pockets. Check out Natasha’s blog: http://myhairisbetterthanyours.blogspot.com/2012/12/big-money.html. Keep your eyes peeled to the pavement, KC!

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.

Wrap Me, Tape Me

It all started with a Facebook post. “Done Christmas shopping. Who wants to wrap? It’s out of my skillz range,” she wrote.

Well I do. I like to wrap. So I wrote back and invited her to come over. (The let’s-take-action reply.) Usually this is the point where people don’t take me up on an offer and everyone politely smiles. But she said yes! And then another friend said she wanted to come. And then another.  Now we’re having a Wrap Me, Tape Me party Friday night!

Mom! The dog won't stop licking me!

Mom! The dog won’t stop licking me!

I immediately started thinking about the last time I had my friends over to my house. I think it was for a baby shower four years ago. I meet up with friends, but I rarely ask them over. It’s not that I don’t want them to come over. It’s not that I’m particularly busy with other outside commitments. I spend my evenings cooking less-than-Betty-Crocker-level dinners, playing taxi for evening activities, cleaning, picking up after the kids, reviewing homework, checking in on friends via social media, playing referee for TV programming choices, getting bedtime underway, etc.

Aha! This is exactly why “come over” is not at the top of my list. Do my single, child free friends really want to come over and spend a Friday evening with two unpredictable kids who are often messy and have been known to interrupt every conversation? Maybe they do. Maybe they just don’t know what they are getting into. Shhh! Don’t tell.

Either way, I am really looking forward to having them in my home. It will be disruptive chaos — a big change from our traditional happy hour environment. But the hubs is making some appetizers, a friend is bringing wine, and maybe — just maybe — the Wrap Me, Tape Me party will become a tradition. I know, I’m getting a little over zealous. I’ll try to keep a lid on the enthusiasm. It’s just been so long since I’ve had friends over!

All out

Dance like you mean it!The month of December makes me want to dance like this kid.

From my perspective, December is super sized. It’s not only a holiday extravaganza, but it’s also the month of my birthday. This year when the hubs asked what I would like for my birthday, I said I would like for him to make me dinner. He is a very good cook. Like, mmm….very good.

I thought a tapas dinner would be fun. A couple of days later he sends me an email …

Please choose 5-6 that you would like me to prepare for your birthday dinner:
Patatas Bravas (Fried Potatoes w/ Spicy Sauce)
Braised Chorizo in Red Wine Garlic Sauce
Piquillo Peppers Stuffed with Shrimp Salad OR Goat Cheese & Mint
Croquettes w/ Serrano Ham and Manchego Cheese
Fried Herb Almonds
Chunky White Bean Dip
Grilled Seafood Salad
Steamed Clams in Garlic Saffron Broth
Goat Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms
Cucumber & Feta Tapas
Fried Chickpeas
Spanish Ham with Olives & Oranges 

Dessert Options:
Salted Caramel Six Layer Chocolate Cake
Chocolate Raspberry Tart
Chocolate Cheesecake Squares
Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies w/Ice Cream

I know this seems over the top, but he always goes all out. It’s a kind of running joke on my side of the family — in a loving way.

If your party is BYOB, the hubs will bring a cooler that has every kind of liquor, mixer and garnish you can think of. One Saturday evening in October we were sitting in my cousin’s driveway and he was whipping up mixed cocktails from our blue Coleman.

If you want a tortilla with your eggs in the morning, the hubs will perfectly wrap them  in aluminum foil like they do in restaurants to keep them warm.

And if you are me, you get menus like the ones above and workout routines that leave you sore for days, and days, and days. Oy!

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